Beset by multiple controversies in Washington, President Obama tried to turn the nation’s attention to his 2010 health care overhaul during a Friday trip to California where he encouraged all Americans who are currently uninsured, and specifically Latinos in the state, to enroll in government-subsidized insurance exchanges.
Flanked by representatives from Spanish-language media outlets Impremedia, Univision and Telemundo, Mr. Obama touted the plan’s provision of coverage for 10.2 million uninsured Latinos and argued that the new law is already resulting in lower premium costs.
“Quality, affordable care is not some earned privilege – it’s a right,” he said during remarks at the Fairmont Hotel in San Jose, Calif.
“Competition and choice are pushing down costs in the individual market, just like the law is designed to do,” he added.
Republicans have dismissed claims the health care law is already resulting in reduced insurance costs, arguing the exact opposite – that it is driving up costs and imposing burdensome new mandates on consumers and businesses alike.
Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., penned an op-ed for the San Jose Mercury News that argued the law would end up harming Americans far more than it helps them.
“The health care law is a maze of new mandates, regulations and tax increases,” he said. “Those tax increases, on everything from medical devices to health insurance plans, will be passed on to consumers. Every item the law requires insurers to provide will add to the cost.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, said once Obama’s health care law comes online Oct.1, experts predict premiums will skyrocket for young men in their twenties and thirties who are already having a tough time finding a job.
“Young men and women are already having a rough enough go of it in the Obama economy,” he said. “Those who make it through college face a highly uncertain future once they get out there in the ‘real world,’ as their parents like to call it.”
After weeks of revelations about the IRS targeting conservative groups for special scrutiny and this week’s news about secret government surveillance of cell phones and internet activity, McConnell said the last thing government should be doing is giving the agency more responsibilities, as well as power to intrude on sensitive personal information.
“I mean, think about it,” he said. “A deeply unpopular law being administered by an agency that’s so betrayed the public trust. The IRS is in charge of administering some of the most important elements of Obamacare. And, for many Americans, that’s going to mean submitting to probing questions about their health insurance.”
California, the largest state with the biggest insurance market in the country and currently six million uninsured residents, will play a critical role in determining the success or failure of the president’s signature health care law and his biggest legislative achievement to date.
The president is specifically targeting young, healthier people across the country in his push to promote enrollment in insurance exchanges because they are critical to stabilize his plan to provide insurance for those with pre-existing conditions and the elderly. Nearly one-third of uninsured young people live in three states: California, Texas and Florida, according to the White House.
The president made a similar pitch for enrollment last month in Texas. His administration wants to ultimately have 30 million people sign up for the insurance exchanges, with a goal of 7 million in the first year. People may enroll from October 1 through March 31 with coverage beginning through the exchanges in January.
Later Friday, Obama will head to the Los Angeles area for a Democratic National Committee fundraiser at a private residence in Santa Monica then travel to Southern California’s desert resorts for private meetings Friday evening and Saturday with Chinese President Xi Jinping at Sunnylands, a sprawling estate in Rancho Mirage built by billionaire philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg.
Obama spent late Thursday evening at a fundraiser in Palo Alto, Calif., home to Stanford University.
Speaking to roughly 75 people gathered at a cottage-style home, he argued that Democrats aren’t the reason for gridlock in Washington.
The party, he claimed, isn’t particularly left-wing right now.
“If you talk to us – it turns out we’re pretty common-sense folks. We believe in the free market…a light tough when it comes to regulations,” he said, blaming Republicans for electing people who believe that “compromise is a dirty word.”
He exhorted the crowd to help him keep the Senate in Democratic control before adding, “Having a Democratic House wouldn’t be bad, either.”