Health Care


Now, President Obama touted those lower-than-expected health insurance premiums during an appearance in New York yesterday with former President Bill Clinton. It's the start of a six-month push by the administration to encourage uninsured people to sign up for coverage and also to counter fierce opposition to the law. Here's NPR's Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama's health care law has so far survived challenges in Congress and the courts. But its biggest test could begin next week. That's when the online marketplaces offering health care coverage to the uninsured are set to start signing people up. The question is: Will they come?

Of the uninsured surveyed by NBC and the Wall Street Journal this month, only about one in three said they're likely to use the exchanges. Obama is trying to make the argument that signing up is a good deal.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: In many states across the country, if you're, say, a 27-year-old young woman, don't have health insurance, you get on that exchange, you're going to be able to purchase high-quality health insurance for less than the cost of your cell phone bill.

HORSLEY: The White House is enlisting nurses, ministers, celebrities, even radio DJs to help spread that message. Yesterday, Obama got some help from former President Bill Clinton. The two leaders sat side by side in a pair of overstuffed armchairs at the Clinton Global Initiative for a televised, if somewhat wonky conversation about health care economics.


PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: This only works, for example, if young people show up. We've got to have them in the pools, because otherwise, all these projected low costs cannot be held if older people with pre-existing conditions are disproportionately represented in any given state.

HORSLEY: Clinton understands those economics, having launched his own, unsuccessful push for universal coverage 20 years ago this week. Obama got further, pushing his bill through Congress, but he notes the battle to implement the law is far from over.


OBAMA: Let's face it, it's been a little political, this whole Obamacare thing.

HORSLEY: The administration's now using social media and other tactics honed during the president's re-election campaign to promote enrollment in the health care exchanges. Obama acknowledges they're battling a multimillion-dollar advertising blitz mounted by the president's critics.


OBAMA: Those who have opposed the idea of universal health care in the first place, and have fought this thing tooth and nail through Congress and through the courts and so forth, have been trying to scare and discourage people from getting a good deal.

HORSLEY: Congressional Republicans also continue to challenge the law, which was passed over their unanimous opposition in 2010. Despite the battle being waged within the Republican ranks right now over tactics like the filibuster and a threatened government shutdown, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell says his party is united in its opposition to the health care overhaul.


SENATOR MITCH MCCONNELL: Obamacare hasn't even been fully implemented yet, but we can already see the train wreck headed our way. Major companies have been dropping the health care plans their employees have and like. And every week, it seems there are new reports about glitches.

HORSLEY: The administration has been forced to delay some elements of the law, including a requirement that large employers provide health care coverage or pay a penalty. On the plus side, Clinton noted yesterday the growth in health care costs has slowed dramatically in recent years, though analysts are unsure what's behind the change. Obama says if U.S. health care costs could be brought in line with other countries, it would largely fix the federal deficit and make U.S. employers more competitive.


OBAMA: This has everything to do with the economy, in addition to what I consider to be the moral imperative that a mom should not have to go bankrupt if her son or daughter gets sick.

HORSLEY: Obama plans to deliver another health care speech tomorrow, as the countdown to enrollment continues. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House.

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