September 26, 2013

Obama mocks GOP for 'crazy' Obamacare predictions

'What they're worried about is it's going to succeed.'

By Darlene Superville / The Associated Press

LARGO, Md. — With just five days to go before Americans can begin signing up for health care under his signature law, President Barack Obama on Thursday ridiculed Republican opponents for "crazy" doomsday predictions of the impact and forecast that even those who didn't vote for him are going to enroll.

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President Obama speaks about the Affordable Care Act at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Md.: "We are going to see it through. The Affordable Care Act is here."

AP

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With polls showing many Americans still skeptical of the law known as "Obamacare," the president went back to the basics of explaining how nearly 50 million uninsured Americans will be able to buy coverage in new government-run exchanges while mocking Republicans for trying to block its implementation. "The closer we get, the more desperate they get," Obama argued.

"The Republican party has just spun itself up around this issue," Obama said. "And the fact is the Republicans' biggest fear at this point is not that Affordable Care Act will fail. What they're worried about is it's going to succeed."

House Republicans are inserting provisions that undermine the health care law into a short-term spending measure needed to avoid a government shutdown on Oct. 1 and into legislation that would increase the government's borrowing ability, which the Treasury says will hit its limit in mid-October.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor Thursday that Obama is trying to sell the law to a skeptical public.

"It must be frustrating for the president that folks seem to keep tuning out all the happy talk anyway," McConnell said. "This law is a mess. It needs to go. It's way past time to start over."

Obama won loud applause from a friendly audience at Prince George's Community College in the Washington suburbs when he vowed that he wouldn't let Republicans block the law. "We are going to see it through. The Affordable Care Act is here," Obama said.

The six-month enrollment period for the exchanges starts Tuesday, with consumers in most of the country able to comparison shop between plans online. The Obama administration needs millions of Americans — especially young, healthy people — to sign up in order to keep costs low for everyone.

The White House said Prince George's County, Md., has a high rate of uninsured, with about 16 percent of residents under 65 without insurance. Obama's audience was full of the young people he is targeting for enrollment.

Obama acknowledged there would be glitches in getting the exchanges up and running, and even as he was speaking administration officials were quietly telling key interest groups to expect initial problems signing up online for coverage. Small businesses will not be able to enroll online starting Oct. 1 when new health insurance markets go live and will have to enroll by paper, and the Spanish-language version of its healthcare.gov website will be not be ready to handle enrollments for a few weeks. An estimated 10 million Latinos are eligible for coverage.

Three-and-a-half years after Obama signed the bill into law, his nearly hourlong speech showed he's still having to educate consumers about what will be available to them and convince them to sign up. He predicted success once people learn they can save money or get insurance for the first time.

"Even if you didn't vote for me, I'll bet you'll sign up for that health care plan," Obama said.

Obama said Republicans want "to shut this thing down before people find out that they like it."

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