President Obama Defends Healthcare Law at Faneuil Hall
Published: Thursday, October 31, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013 03:10
Yesterday afternoon, President Barack Obama defended the Affordable Care Act (ACA) at Faneuil Hall in Boston. Met by a mix of support, opposition, and confusion, the president discussed the act’s weaknesses and the road ahead. Obama stated he was “not happy” with the problems with online process of purchasing healthcare and addressed concerns many citizens raised about the act.
The president spoke downtown in Faneuil Hall as part of a nationwide tour to defend and discuss the ACA. Faneuil Hall is where Obama’s rival in the 2012 presidential election, former Massachusetts Republican Governor Mitt Romney, signed the state’s landmark healthcare law in 2006, with top Democrats standing by his side. The president’s choice to speak in this location served to reflect a bipartisan effort to work on the healthcare issue, according to officials.
Obama chose to address both the benefits and the difficulties of the healthcare law in Massachusetts, where the state’s healthcare coverage provided the model for the federal health insurance overhaul. The president cited early problems with the Massachusetts law as he tried to lower expectations for the initial enrollment in the federal system.
“There’s no denying it. Right now, the website is too slow, too many people have gotten stuck. And I am not happy about it … There’s no excuse for it. And I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP,” Obama said. “Healthcare reform in this state was a success, that doesn’t mean it worked right away. There were problems that needed to be solved.”
The president highlighted how only about 100 people signed up during the first month of open enrollment in Massachusetts. But that figure ultimately rose, with 36,000 people signing up by the end of the one-year open enrollment.
“All the parade of ‘horribles,’ the worst predictions about healthcare reform in Massachusetts never came true,” he said. “They’re the same arguments that you’re hearing now.”
The president then proceeded to point out benefits already available under the 3-year-old healthcare law, including ending discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions and permission to keep young people on their parents’ insurance plans until they turn 26.
“It’s because you guys had a proven model that we built the Affordable Care Act on this template of proven bipartisan success,” Obama said. “Your law was the model for the nation’s law.”
The president also addressed recent reports that his administration misled the public when he promised Americans who like their healthcare plans would be able to keep them during his push for passage of the bill. “There has been a lot of confusion and misinformation about this,” he said.
“If you have one of those sub-standard plans and you really like that plan, you are able to keep it. That’s what I said when I was running for office. That’s part of the promise we made.”
Obama said a main goal of the Affordable Care Act was not only to help the uninsured, but also the underinsured, meaning there would be minimum requirements that all plans must include. Since the law passed, he said, some Americans with plans that do not meet the new minimum requirements have gotten letters informing them that their plans would be cancelled.
“It is the Massachusetts experience that shows you what happens when people put politics aside and make sure that people are covered,” said David Simas, a White House deputy senior advisor who has overseen aspects of the healthcare rollout. “Faneuil Hall, and that historic setting, is a perfect backdrop to show Democrats and Republicans working together.”
After his speech, Obama also attended a fundraiser for DCCC in Weston, Mass. yesterday to raise funds for the DCCC alongside Steve Israel and Nancy Pelosi at the home of Alan and Susan Solomont. Alan is a major Democratic donor and former ambassador to Spain under Obama.
Also this week, administration officials and Cabinet secretaries will continue a series of appearances across the country to push enrollment in 10 areas with the highest rates of the uninsured.
In addition to Obama’s visit yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testified before Congress on glitches with the government’s healthcare website, according to the Associated Press. Healthcare.gov has been visited more than 20 million times since its launch. Only roughly 700,000 Americans have been able to successfully submit applications, however, according to a weekly address Saturday by Obama.
“Our focus 24/7 right now is just on fixing this website, throwing everything we have at it,” said Simas, also a former aide to Governor Deval Patrick. “That’s what the president’s demanded, and that’s what’s happening.”