President Obama on Wednesday compared the challenges of health care reform to the civil rights movement as he urged young people to do “whatever they can” to help boost enrollment in Obamacare.
In an address to a youth summit hosted at the White House, Obama urged young supporters to not get “discouraged” amid the health care law's rocky rollout and with polls showing declining support for the president's signature achievement.
“Stuff that's worth it is always hard. The civil rights movement was hard. Getting women the right to vote, that was hard. Making sure that workers had the right to organize, that was hard,” said the president.
The rollout of Obamacare has been plagued with troubles, topped by a glitch-ridden healthcare.gov website and millions of Americans being dropped from current plans because of new regulations.
The White House and congressional Democrats have launched a three-week campaign to boost enrollment ahead of the Dec. 23 deadline for receiving insurance coverage at Jan. 1.
The administration says that a “tech surge” has fixed the website and that the vast majority of visitors now experience a smooth registration. But insurers and tech experts say numerous problems exist with the back end of the website.
The rollout has led to Obama sinking to new lows in his approval rating and surveys show young people are losing faith in the health care law. A poll Wednesday from Harvard University's Institute of Politics found that 57 percent of young people disapprove of Obamacare.
For the law to succeed, the administration must convince large numbers of young, healthy adults to sign up to help keep premiums low for all consumers.
The president on Wednesday called on young people to help sign up their friends and family.
“I’m going to need you all to spread the word about how the Affordable Care Act really works,” said Obama.
“For your friends and family, the most important source of information is not going to be me, its going to be you. They are going to trust you if you are taking them to the website, walking them through it, saying look at the price you are able to get, look at the benefits you are able to get,” he added. “That’s what is going to be making a difference.”
“Do whatever you can to help make sure people have the information they need,” urged the president.
Obama also took a shot at his critics, and said that Republicans who oppose the law have yet to provide their own solutions for providing coverage and keeping costs down. He also blasted groups which have launched high-profile campaigns urging the public not to sign up for Obamacare.
“There are actually organizations out there working to convince people not to get health insurance,” said Obama. “That’s a really bizarre way to spend your money, to convince people not to get health insurance.
“If I had that much money I wouldn’t be spending it that way,” he continued.
“Remind your friends and your peers to imagine what happens if you get sick,” said Obama. “The people who run those ads, they aren’t going to pay for your illness.”
Obama said that while the rollout wasn’t done in “tip-top shape,” the administration has been working to fix the problems with the website.
“There will be other things that come up over the course of the next several months because you are starting off a new program that has a big impact on one-sixth of the economy,” he said.
But Obama repeated his vow that “we are not repealing it as long as I’m president.”