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Obama Pushes Back Against Efforts To Undermine Health Law


From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.


And I'm Melissa Block. It is marketing season at the White House when it comes to President Obama's health care law. He's stepping up efforts to convince the country that the law is already helping consumers and spread the word that starting this fall, millions of people can sign up online for insurance. NPR's national political correspondent Mara Liasson reports.

MARA LIASSON, BYLINE: More than any legislative battle with Congress, the implementation of Obamacare will determine the success or failure of the Obama presidency. So today, the president appeared in the East Room with families the law has already helped, including Morgan Theriot of Silver Spring, Maryland. Self-employed, she buys an insurance policy on the individual market and says it was like sending money into a black hole.

MORGAN THERIOT: Then, last summer, I got a rebate check for $267. It turned out that because of the Affordable Care Act, they had to spend at least 80 percent of my money on health care. When they fell short of that goal, they had to reimburse me for the difference.

LIASSON: The president said 13 million people got similar rebates and 8.5 million would get them this summer.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: This is just an example of how the Affordable Care Act is doing what it's designed to do, deliver more choices, better benefits, a check on rising costs, and higher quality health care.

LIASSON: But even as the law goes forward, the political battle isn't over. The law is still unpopular and Republicans haven't stopped trying to get rid of it. The president complained that yesterday the House voted to dismantle it for the 39th time.

OBAMA: There's a lot of work that Congress needs to do. Get a farm bill passed, get immigration reform done, make sure we've got a budget in place that invests in our children and in our future. And yet, instead, we're refighting these old battles.

LIASSON: While the president pointed to states where premiums are coming down, Republicans were quick to point out states where the law is causing other premiums to rise. Here's how Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell responded to the president's speech.

SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Sounds great, doesn't it? Free money. But as they say, most things in life that sound too good to be true very often are. And in this case it's not so much that people will be getting free money as that most people will be paying many dollars more for their health care and maybe, just maybe, getting a few bucks back.

LIASSON: As the White House and its allies plan a massive marketing and education campaign to sell the law, its opponents are also waging a campaign-style effort to undermine it. Crossroads GPS, the deep-pocketed Republican superPAC, is running this ad.


LIASSON: Republicans say Obamacare will be a top campaign issue next year, as their House members run for reelection in mostly conservative districts and their Senate candidates target Democrats in red states. But President Obama said despite glitches in the beginning, Obamacare, in the long run, will be like Social Security and Medicare.

OBAMA: There were folks who, for political reasons, resisted implementation, but once it got set up, people started saying this is a pretty good deal. It gives me a little more security. It's part of that basic bargain that if you work hard, if you're doing the right thing, that you can get ahead in this country and that you can provide some basic protections for your family.

LIASSON: But first, the White House has to pull off a huge and complicated mission, making sure the new health care law is up and fully functional in all 50 states. Mara Liasson, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mara Liasson is a national political correspondent for NPR. Her reports can be heard regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazine programs Morning Edition and All Things Considered. Liasson provides extensive coverage of politics and policy from Washington, DC — focusing on the White House and Congress — and also reports on political trends beyond the Beltway.