President Barack Obama kicked off a new push to spotlight the benefits of his signature health care overhaul Tuesday, vowing to keep fighting for the law amid a barrage of criticism over its troubled rollout.
“We’re not going back,” Obama said, flanked by people who the White House said are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act. Obama urged Americans to “refocus on what’s at stake.”
Obama’s brief speech near the White House marked the start of a three-week education campaign ahead of the Dec. 23 deadline for individuals to sign up for insurance coverage beginning Jan. 1. Each day Obama, his political lieutenants and their Democratic allies will tout a different element of the law in an effort to shore up political support.
The public relations push is a bid to move beyond the lacerating criticism of Healthcare.gov, the problem-plagued website the administration had marketed as an easy way to enroll in the law’s insurance exchanges, as well as to call attention to the elements of the law that the administration believes are working. The push, which will include public events and digital outreach, reflects the White House’s belief that individual facets of the law —such as the provision barring insurance companies from denying coverage to patients with pre-existing conditions, other consumer protections, and cost controls — remain broadly popular, even as overall support has sagged.
“What’s important for everybody to remember is not only that the law has helped millions of people,” Obama said, “but also that there are millions more that stand to be helped.”
While Obama stopped short of proclaiming the site’s problems were fixed, the White House says it has met a self-imposed Nov. 30 deadline to resolve most of the bugs that plagued its unveiling. “The website was functioning poorly in October, but it is functioning much better now,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Tuesday.
“Do not let the initial problems with the website discourage you,” Obama implored, arguing that enrolling in coverage “will make all the difference” in the event that people or their families become sick.
The effort to tout the law’s merits is far from the first, and it is unlikely to douse the fiery opposition from political opponents.
Critics of the law reject the administration’s argument that Obamacare’s problems can be patched up. Congressional Republicans, who have tried dozens of times to repeal the law, plan to make it a key issue in next year’s midterm elections. “President Obama and House Democrats are attempting to do in 3 weeks what they couldn’t do in 3 years: convince voters that Obamacare isn’t a massive failure,” said Matt Gorman, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Over the coming months, federal courts will hear a wave of legal challenges to controversial provisions, including a Supreme Court case next year that focuses on whether the law violates the constitutional right to religious liberty by forcing corporations to provide contraceptive coverage as part of their insurance plans.