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Obama’s newest health care pitch: Ignore the ‘political football’


President Obama on Thursday will try to stem a recent tide of negative developments for his health care overhaul, as he looks to drown out Republican criticisms of his signature legislative achievement with a focus on what he considers the real-world benefits of the polarizing law.

The president is stepping up his defense of the Affordable Care Act ahead of open enrollment for Obamacare in October, when the fate of the program could be determined by whether younger, healthier people decide to participate.

The administration recently announced it would delay until 2015 the requirement that employers provide insurance coverage to their workers or pay a fine, giving the GOP a new opening on the issue.

The White House is now asking the public to ignore the simmering debate in Washington.

“It’s been for many just defined as a political football between Democrats and Republicans without a real tangible effect on their daily lives,” a senior administration official said, previewing the president’s remarks. “The abstraction is evaporating: It’s going away.”

The president will focus on what is known as the 80-20 rule, which requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on patient care and quality improvement. If companies don’t spend that amount, they are required to provide a rebate to customers.

Such rebates would average about $100 per family, the White House said.

Obama will tout a new Health and Human Services study released Thursday showing that in the 11 states for which data is available, the lowest individual insurance premiums are 18 percent less expensive on average than was estimated previously by the Congressional Budget Office. The president also will highlight New York regulators who say individual insurance premiums in their state would drop at least 50 percent on average next year. Critics counter that New York already implements some of the provisions outlined in the president’s health care overhaul, and as such, those savings are being exaggerated.

And even some of Obama’s most loyal allies have criticized the president for not doing a better job selling the largest overhaul to the health care system since Medicare was created in 1965. Obamacare supporters worry that the president’s latest health care blitz is too little too late with a public that remains wary of the sweeping changes.

Both Democrats and Republicans are making the same philosophical argument, just with wildly different conclusions. Both sides agree that most Americans aren’t fully aware of the true impact of the health law. Yet, Republicans say that public opposition to the president’s signature legislative achievement will intensify once provisions are fully implemented.

The House passed symbolic bills Wednesday to delay both the individual and employer mandates, a Republican-led move designed to put pressure in particular on red-state Democrats up for re-election in 2014.

“This is about fairness,” said House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio. “If the president’s going to give relief to businesses, he ought to give relief from these harsh mandates to families and individuals, too.”

Obama is scheduled to discuss the Affordable Care Act at 11:25 a.m. Thursday from the East Room of the White House. Administration officials said he would be joined by middle-class families they say have already benefited from the law.