Obama touts law, downplays $1.76 trillion cost

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
Font Size:

President Barack Obama quickly used the Supreme Court’s stunning decision — and its prestige — to tout his health care reform law as beneficial to many Americans.

The court’s decision, Obama said in a midday statement from the White House, “reaffirmed the fundamental principle that here in America, in the wealthiest nation on earth, no illness or accident should lead to any family’s ruin.”

Yet Obama also acknowledged his political weakness in a stalled economy, by trying to argue the health care debate is over.

“Now is the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time:  putting people back to work, paying down our debt, and building an economy where people can have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead,” Obama said.

Republicans and many swing-voters, however, are not likely to accede to Obama’s call for acceptance of the law.

Most of Obama’s short statement was used to tout relatively popular features of the law, which is estimated to cost $1.76 billion by 2022.

They include features allowing adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until they reach age 26, barring companies form excluding would-be customers with existing medical problems and forcing companies to get government approval for cost increases.

His campaign manager, Jim Messina, pushed the same pitch shortly afterward in an email to the media.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s “promise to repeal the law would give insurance companies free rein to exploit Americans through the worst industry abuses, strip 86 million Americans of often life-saving preventive care, cost 3.1 million young Americans of their coverage by kicking them off their parents’ plans, allow insurance companies to discriminate against kids with preexisting conditions, and increase prescription drug costs for seniors on Medicare,” said Messina’s email.

On the campaign trail, those talking points will be used to shift voters’ attention from the law’s huge cost and its far-reaching regulation of Amricans’ medical services.

In his own midday statement, shortly before Obama’s statement, Romney portrayed the law as a big-government drag on the economy, and as an intrusion into Americans’ private medical treatments.

“Obamacare raises taxes on the American people by approximately $500 billion dollars [and] cuts Medicare by approximately $500 billion dollars,” he said in a TV statement with Congress in the background.

It adds “billions to our national debt and pushes obligations to oncoming generations… Obamacare is a job killer,” he said.

“If we want good jobs and bright economic future for ourselves and for our kids, we must replace Obamacare… Help us defeat Obamacare. Help us defeat the liberal agenda that makes government too big, too intrusive and is killing jobs across this country,” he concluded.

But Romney also indirectly validated Obama’s claims that some parts of the law are popular among voters.

“We have to make sure people who want to keep their current insurance will be able to do so…  we’ve got to make sure that those people who have preexisting conditions know that they will be able to be insured… We also have to assure that we do our very best to help each state in their efforts to assure that every American has access to affordable health care,” he said.

Follow Neil on Twitter