Obama Says He Won’t Back Down in Fight Over Health-Care Law

President Barack Obama said he won’t back down against Republicans trying to block his health-care law and said threats to tie their effort to raising the nation’s debt ceiling amount to “blackmail.”

With five days until enrollment begins, Obama said the Republicans in Congress are becoming increasingly “irresponsible” in opposing the law.

“The Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” the president said at Prince George’s Community College in Largo, Maryland, a suburb of Washington. “I will not negotiate on anything when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States.”

It was Obama’s second public appearance this week in a campaign to get millions of uninsured people to sign up for coverage through exchanges during a six-month period starting Oct. 1. At the same time, Republicans are stepping up their attempts to strip funding for or delay the law’s implementation.

The Republican-controlled House has passed a measure that would deny funding for the law as part of a bill to pay for government operations after the Sept. 30 end of the fiscal year. Democratic leaders in the Senate, where they have a majority, plan to block that move.

As an alternative, Republican lawmakers in the House today discussed plans for attaching some proposals to delay or curb the health law to legislation to raise the debt ceiling.

Republican Options

“We have no interest in seeing the government shut down,” House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, said. “There will be options available to us, there aren’t going to be speculations about what we’re going to do, or not do, until the Senate passes their bill.”

Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew told lawmakers yesterday that measures to avoid breaching the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling will be exhausted on Oct. 17.

No Congress has tried “to threaten an economic shutdown, to suggest America not pay its bills just to try to blackmail a president into giving them some concessions on issues that have nothing to do with the budget,” Obama said.

He told his audience that a guarantee of health care is crucial to making sure middle-income Americans prosper.

“There are few things more fundamental to the economic security of the middle class -- and everyone who’s trying to get into the middle class -- than health care,” the president said.

Insurance Exchanges

Government-run health insurance exchanges, the cornerstone of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, open their doors for sales of subsidized bronze, silver, gold or platinum policies, with correspondingly higher costs, on Oct. 1. Coverage begins in January and enrollment lasts through March 2014. Policies can be purchased by phone, on the Internet or through an insurance broker.

“He and everybody else in the administration have got to keep the heat on” to explain a complicated program, said Stephen Hess, a presidential scholar at the Brookings Institution, a public policy research center in Washington. “It’s so incredibility important to him; it’s in effect his legacy.”

Premium Costs

Premiums nationally will be about 16 percent less than the Congressional Budget Office projected in 2012, according to a report released yesterday by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Rates vary widely by state. A family of four earning $50,000 would be able to buy a silver-level plan for $282 a month after subsidies, the HHS data show. A 27-year-old single person earning $25,000 would pay an average of $145 a month in a silver-level program after taking subsidies into account.

In Maryland, where Obama spoke, an average 25-year-old making $25,000 a year could get coverage for as little as $80 a month, and a family of four earning $50,000 a year could get health insurance for as little as $164 a month, the White House said in a statement.

The government provided only a partial picture of premiums, and it didn’t describe policy coverage. Other costs, such as co-pay amounts or deductible levels before coverage kicks in, weren’t disclosed. More details will be available once the exchanges are in operation.

Public Sentiment

A Bloomberg National Poll showed that 60 percent of those surveyed thought their overall health-care costs would go up even with the new law, while 13 percent said costs would drop and 22 percent said they would be unchanged.

Forty percent said they didn’t know enough about the program to say.

Half of those surveyed said lawmakers should stop trying to end funding for the health-care program because it’s the law of the land, while 43 percent said Congress should stick with it until funds are eliminated.

The survey of 1,000 adults, conducted Sept. 20-23, has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Of 50 million uninsured, about 7 million people may buy policies next year, rising to 24 million by 2023, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

Obama’s appearance at a community college underscored the importance of young people to the program.

The sign-up in the exchanges of about 2.7 million healthy adults between 18 and 34 is needed to offset the cost of insuring older, sicker people. If younger people don’t enroll, costs will increase.

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