Going on the offensive, Obama to tout Affordable Care Act Thursday

President Obama will tout a key financial benefit of the Affordable Care Act in a White House speech Thursday, highlighting a provision that requires health insurers to devote at least 80 percent of their spending on medical care and health care quality improvement or give rebates to consumers.

The move, which comes as companies are mailing out cash rebates to 8.5 million U.S. households averaging $100 each, offers a contrast to the barrage of arguments congressional Republicans continue to make against the health-care law, better known as Obamacare. On Wednesday night, House Republicans voted the 38th and 39th time to repeal or change the law.

“This is just one of the many ways the Affordable Care Act is giving consumers a better value for their health care dollar and making our health care system stronger,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said Wednesday.

Obama will also highlight new estimates from states suggesting insurance premiums for 2014 in states operating their own health insurance marketplaces will drop by significant margins. Carney cited new reports that 2014 premiums for some New Yorkers are expected to be up to 50 percent cheaper when the state’s health insurance marketplace opens on Oct. 1. The Department of Health and Human Services will issue an analysis of premium estimates in 11 states Thursday, according to senior administration officials, saying the lowest-cost silver plan in the individual market in those states for next year is, on average, 18 percent less expensive than the HHS estimate of the premium that was assumed by the Congressional Budget Office when the Act was passed.

“Competition and transparency in the marketplaces, plus the hard effort by those committed to making the law work, are leading to affordable, new, and better choices for families,” Carney told reporters Wednesday.

A senior administration official who briefed reporters Wednesday but asked not to be identified because the president had not delivered his speech yet, said Obama would be surrounded by "a group of people who have already benefited from this provision in the law."

The law "has just been defined as a political football between Democrats and Republicans without a real tangible effect on their lives," the official said. "The abstraction is evaporating, it’s going away because the facts are being translated into benefits for real people."

Republicans, who have seized upon the Obama administration’s recent decision to delay a provision of the law requiring employers with at least 50 full-time employees provide insurance for their workers until 2015, criticized House Democrats who voted Wednesday against providing the same one-year extension for the law’s individual mandate.

In a press release, National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Andrea Bozek questioned why Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) would support imposing the individual mandate in 2014 when employers would get an extra year to comply.

“It’s unconscionable that Democrats like Jim Himes would give big business a break from the ‘train wreck’ that is ObamaCare, while leaving Connecticut families behind,” Bozek said. “It’s time Washington give all Americans a fair shot, not pick more winners and losers.”

Juliet Eilperin is a White House correspondent for The Washington Post, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.
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