WASHINGTON Aug 21 President Barack Obama sought
a progress report from state officials on Wednesday on the
rollout of his signature health care law, stepping up his
profile on the issue as the launch of a key provision of the law
nears on Oct. 1.
Obama spoke by videoconference with the officials
responsible for setting up new online health insurance exchanges
that are at the heart of the program. These markets will offer
private coverage at federally subsidized rates to individuals
and families with low-to-moderate incomes.
With the launch date less than five weeks away, the
administration faces a daunting challenge in getting the
programs up and running in all 50 states in the face of steady
opposition from Republicans, who have sought to hold up or cut
funding for parts or all of the law.
"The president recognized that the diligence, creativity,
and commitment of those working in the states to set up the
marketplaces ... have been especially important given the
limitations on time, resources, staff, and in some states,
support from across the political spectrum," the White House
The White House said Obama "heard about the progress they
have made in setting up the new marketplaces" but did not
The reforms, formally called the Affordable Care Act but
also known as Obamacare, constitute the most sweeping new
healthcare laws since the introduction of Medicare and Medicaid
in 1965, and the program faces fierce political opposition. Many
Republicans believe the law is a disaster that will raise,
rather than lower the costs of health care.
The administration has recently delayed an important segment
of the roll-out, raising doubts about implementation at a time
of intensifying attack from Republicans and other foes.
As the enrollment period nears, the president is likely to
devote increasing amounts of time and attention to promoting his
plan. The administration wants 2.7 million younger people
between the ages of 18 and 35 who are currently uninsured to
sign up for health coverage.
The exchanges are expected to provide subsidized health
coverage for 7 million people in 2014 and 22 million by 2016.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that healthcare
costs, as measured by premiums for the coverage employers
provide, have been rising more slowly since the law was passed
than before. He also said that reports showing a jump in hiring
at small businesses contradict claims the health law is a job
"Some might even say that this is evidence that the
Affordable Care Act is having a positive impact on small
businesses, their bottom line, and, of course, their employees,"
Earnest said at a briefing.