NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — President Barack Obama took a step Tuesday toward trying to repair the image of his signature health care law amid its disastrous rollout.
As CBS 2’s Dick Brennan reported, White House aides say the public relations blitz will last three weeks, with an event planned each day to promote the Affordable Care Act.
“We’re not repealing it as long as I’m president,” Obama vowed during a White House event while flanked by people he says have benefited from the law. “If I have to fight another three years to make sure this law works, then that’s what I’ll do.”
Earlier Tuesday, the administration released a 50-state report saying that nearly 1.5 million people were found eligible for Medicaid during October. As website problems depressed sign-ups for subsidized private coverage, that safety-net program for low-income people saw a nearly 16 percent increase in states that have agreed to expand it, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
Despite the website troubles, the White House says it is buoyed by high online traffic. On Monday, officials said, the site received about 1 million visitors, though they would not detail how many of those had actually enrolled for insurance policies.
The White House is trying to cast the health care law in a positive light after the first two months of enrollment for the centerpiece insurance exchanges were marred with technical problems. With the majority of problems with the sign-up website resolved, by the accounting of administration officials, Obama and his team plan to spend much of December trying to remind Americans why the administration fought for the law in the first place.
“We believe that in America, nobody should have to worry about going broke because somebody in their family or they got sick,” Obama said.
The troubled rollout of the insurance exchanges has contributed to a drop in Obama’s overall job approval rating, while also emboldening Republicans and putting Democratic lawmakers facing re-election on edge.
“It’s not just a broken website,” House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday. “This bill was fundamentally flawed, causing people to lose the doctor of their choice, causing them to lose their health plan.”
Despite Obama’s sunny presentation, officials are furiously working behind the scenes to rectify an unresolved issue with enrollment data that could become a significant headache after the first of the year. Insurers say much of the enrollment data they’re receiving is practically useless, meaning some consumers might not be able to get access to benefits on Jan. 1, the date their coverage is scheduled to take effect.
“What we want to avoid is a situation where people think they’re enrolled, but their application has not been processed and their coverage hasn’t actually begun and they don’t find that out until they show up at the doctor’s office,” said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a lobbying group.
And on a day when the White House wanted to control the message about the Affordable Care Act, former President Bill Clinton was again speaking out about it. Last month, Clinton called for Obama to honor his promise that Americans could keep their health plans if they liked them. The former president said in an interview that aired Tuesday the comment was not a political move designed to distance his wife, Hillary, a possible presidential candidate in 2016, from the polarizing law.
“I was trying to be supportive of it,” Clinton told CNN Español. “I don’t think you can find anybody in America who has worked harder for his re-election or supported this bill or went out of his way to explain the bill to the American people more than I did.”
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