Obama Enlists Support to Counter Health Care Law CriticsLisa Lerer
President Barack Obama urged his most loyal supporters to promote the benefits of his health-care law, as his White House works to stem the political damage caused by weeks of technical failures and criticism.
“I’ve got one more campaign in me: The campaign to make sure this law works for everyone in America,” Obama told a crowd of several hundred people at an event in Washington hosted by Organizing for Action, the former Obama campaign operation that is now a non-profit group promoting the president’s agenda. “I’m asking for your help. We’ve got to make sure all of us stay on it.”
The website for the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges has been plagued by computer problems and delays since it debuted on Oct. 1. The rocky rollout of the president’s signature domestic achievement has complicated Obama’s second-term agenda and risks tarnishing his legacy.
The exchanges are designed to provide health plans for some of the 48 million uninsured Americans and website outages and software errors hindered sign-ups. The administration is seeking to get about 7 million people to buy policies through the exchanges in the open enrollment period that runs through March.
The president pledged that his administration would fix the website, saying those issues have complicated efforts by his volunteers to enroll Americans in the insurance plans.
He encouraged supporters to seek out other ways to sign up new participants before the March 31 deadline, including by mail, telephone or in-person.
“We’re going to fix things that aren’t working the way they should be,” Obama said. “And we’re just going to keep on going. We’ve got to make sure we stay on track to make this work.”
Obama’s appearance in Washington tonight was the latest stop in a campaign by his administration to defend the law.
Later this week, Obama travels to Dallas to meet with volunteers working on enrollment. White House officials and members of Obama’s cabinet, including Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, are also being dispatched to the 10 cities with the highest rates of uninsured residents to promote the insurance plans.
“There’s obviously a big effort under way to make sure that Americans across the country get the information they need, understand what benefits are available to them, including tax credits that are available to them in order to purchase affordable and quality health insurance,” White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters today.
Organizing for Action has started to promote the law with an initiative urging parents to use holiday visits to encourage their older offspring to sign up for coverage.
Today’s event, billed as an “Obamacare summit,” includes the group’s top donors, staff, volunteers and participants from labor unions and non-profits backing the law.
Some members of Congress have urged the administration to take the website off line until it is fully functional.
“It’s pretty clear, I think, to those of us who have been watching this rollout, that the technological base was not sufficient,” Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, said yesterday on CBS “Face the Nation. She said that she told White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough that the administration should take the site down ‘‘until it was right.’’
Last month, Obama drafted former health care executive Jeffrey Zients to help repair the marketplaces. Zients, the former acting director of the Office of Management and Budget, was named by Obama in September to replace Gene Sperling as the director of the National Economic Council starting in January.
Forty-eight percent of Americans said the federal government is doing a ‘‘poor’’ job of implementing the health law, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Nov. 1. The law maintained plurality support in the survey, with about 47 percent saying it should be kept or expanded, compared with 37 percent who said they want it repealed.