Politics

Obama touts $100 middle-class rebates as Obamacare buckles

Katie McHugh Associate Editor

As his administration comes under fire for the staggered implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), President Barack Obama pushed back against opponents’ criticisms by displaying families who received rebates from insurance companies.

Insurance companies must send customers rebate checks if their total profits, plus administrative costs, exceed 20 percent of their total assets — money they might otherwise use to pay employees and grow their businesses.

Now, under the Obamacare, those companies must redistribute profits the administration considers excessive.

“Today, because of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies have to spend at least 80 percent of every dollar you pay in premiums on your healthcare. Not on overhead. Not on profits, but on you,” the president said.

The president criticized House Republicans’ most recent attempt to repeal the law in full.

“Despite all the evidence that the law is working the way it was supposed to for middle class Americans, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted for nearly the fortieth time to dismantle it,” Obama said as the audience laughed. “We’ve got a lot of problems in this country and there’s a lot of work that Congress needs to do. Get a farm bill passed, immigration reform done, make sure we have a budget in place that invests in our children and our future. And yet, instead we’re refighting these old battles. Sometimes, I just try to figure out why.”

The battle over Obamacare’s implementation is far from over, however. The White House announced July 3 it would delay the employer mandate portion of the bill until after the 2014 midterm elections, giving businesses more time to figure out how to comply with the law and Democrats a chance to avoid electoral fallout from a messy implementation.

Obama, however, touted the small rebates averaging $100 that nearly 8.5 million Americans would receive after his administration clamped down on insurance companies.

The president gestured toward the woman who introduced him, Morgan Theriot, echoing her sentiments.

“After she got her rebate for the first time, and I’m quoting Morgan now, ‘It felt like someone was actually being held accountable for the dollars I was spending on health care.’ That’s one of the core principles of the ACA,” Obama said. “Holding insurance companies and providers accountable so that we all get a better deal.”

Obama ridiculed the idea that insurance companies were fit to decide how to allocate their assets.

“I’m curious, what do opponents of this law think the folks here today should do with the money they were reimbursed?” Obama asked rhetorically. “Should they send it back to the insurance companies? Do they think that was a bad idea, to make sure insurance companies are being held accountable?”

“I know that’s not what these folks think,” he continued, referring to the families standing on bleachers behind him.

Critics of the law wrongfully centered their focus on him, Obama continued.

“I recognize there are still a lot of folks, in this town at least, that are rooting for this law to fail. Some of them seem to think this law is about me. It’s not. I already have really good health care,” Obama joked.

The president is not the first in his administration to employ a heated defense of his signature legislation. On Tuesday, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius compared the struggle to implement Obamacare to the civil rights battle in a speech to the NAACP, implying the law’s opponents were akin to segregationists.

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