Obama Says Public Doesn’t Know Benefits of His Health Care Law

President Barack Obama gathered women and their families at the White House two days before Mother’s Day to promote benefits in his signature health care law such as free mammograms and birth control.

“Moms take care of us,” Obama said at the White House today. Women “know the unfairness of being charged more for their health care just because they are a woman,” and the law makes that illegal, he said. One part of the law bans gender discrimination in insurance premiums.

The White House has stepped up efforts to market the law as it approaches the Oct. 1 debut of health-insurance exchanges, at which millions of Americans will begin purchasing coverage.

“With something as personal as health care, it’s understandable that people are anxious, people are nervous,” Obama said. “Don’t be bamboozled” by the critics, he said.

Republicans at the same time have ramped up attacks on the law as full implementation nears, with the Republican-controlled House scheduled to vote next week on another attempt to repeal it. The House has approved legislation to partly or fully repeal the health care overhaul more than 30 times.

“The law is here to stay,” Obama said today, citing a Supreme Court decision that upheld most of its provisions. “For three years now, this law has provided real and tangible benefits” such as allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance until they reach age 27, yet many people don’t know about them, he said.

The White House is emphasizing benefits in the law for people who already have insurance, such as coverage without co-payments for mammograms and contraceptives. The administration is also working to motivate uninsured Americans to sign up for health-care coverage.

Implementation

The race to implement the Affordable Care Act -- which is expected to expand health coverage to about 27 million uninsured Americans -- is the latest challenge to a law that was passed in 2010 after a yearlong debate without a single Republican vote.

Republicans have been working to undermine it ever since, going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. While the justices upheld the law, they ruled that states don’t have to participate in a fundamental provision, an expansion of Medicaid to all Americans earning near-poverty wages.

So far, only 16 states have agreed to set up health-insurance exchanges, forcing the federal government to step in and do it. Republican lawmakers have blocked funding. And a poll shows 42 percent of Americans don’t even know the law was enacted. Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat and an architect of the statute, said he sees “a huge train wreck” coming.

Reassurance

Obama offered reassurance at an April 30 news conference.

“For the 85 and 90 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, this thing’s already happened, and their only impact is that their insurance is stronger, better and more secure than it was before,” Obama said at the news conference.

He also highlighted the administration’s efforts to respond to criticism that the new system is overly complicated. Obama said a 21-page form that applicants were to be required to fill out when seeking coverage would be streamlined to three pages, because “people aren’t going to have the patience to sit there for hours on end.”

The White House is concentrating enrollment efforts on young, healthy people. Without their participation, premiums will rise as the insurance pool becomes too skewed toward the chronically ill with high medical costs. One provision of the law bars insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

The administration has spent months combing through U.S. Census and other data to determine where the uninsured live and who they are, said a White House aide. He said one-third of all healthy 18-34-year-olds without coverage live in Florida, Texas and California. Targeted messages will go out closer to the time when people can take action by buying subsidized coverage.

To contact the reporter on this story: Mike Dorning in Washington D.C. at mdorning@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net.

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