Obama urged the Latino community to avoid waiting until the last minute to sign up for coverage, noting that if too many individuals delay until right before the deadline the enrollment website, Healthcare.com, could jam up. He said the deadline, which already has been extended once, will not be extended further.
The law is working well, Obama said, but more states – like Florida and Texas – need to act to expand Medicaid eligibility so that the less affluent can obtain coverage at limited cost.
The town hall was held a day after the Obama administration announced delays in implementing other parts of the law.
Obama found himself in hot water, and the target of criticism, when it was determined late last year that an estimated 1.5 million consumers with substandard plans could lose their coverage – this after the president had promised for months that “those who like their coverage can keep their coverage.”
The administration moved to permit those with substandard policies to keep them for another year. This week the White House extended that for an additional two years, to 2017.
Critics insisted the extension was implemented because the 1.5 million consumers in question could lose their coverage prior to the November election – complicating the political picture for the Democrats. On Thursday, Obama said a complex law like Obamacare simply requires a little “smoothing out.”
Regardless, the president said more than 4 million people have signed up for health insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act thus far and he is “very proud” of the achievement.
“In five years, 10 years from now, people will look back and say that this was the right thing to do,” he said. “And at that point the Republicans won’t call it Obamacare anymore.”
But the GOP is still working to make sure Obamacare doesn’t exist for another 10 years. This week the Republican-controlled House again attempted to derail – at least temporarily – the Affordable Care Act by passing the Suspending the Individual Mandate Penalty Law Equals (SIMPLE) Fairness Act, which provides everyone with a one-year reprieve from the individual mandate.
Obama already has granted a one-year extension to large businesses who, under the law, are required to provide health insurance to their fulltime employees. Republicans have argued that everyone deserves that extension.
“The president has unilaterally rewritten the law to give corporations a pass while leaving the rest of America on the hook for its costly mandates and penalties,” said House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio).
The proposal, expected to go nowhere in the Senate, “extends basic fairness to every American facing a penalty for opting out of this train wreck,” Boehner said. “If the president cannot even implement his own law, how can he ask struggling families to pay for it? The president owes all Americans the same consideration he has granted big businesses and he can start by calling on Senate Democrats to pass this measure so he can sign it immediately.”