Obama finds himself pushing health care message... again

10:13 AM, May 10, 2013   |    comments
President Obama (Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta, AP)
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(CBS News) -- President Barack Obama makes a new push on Friday for the health care law with an event at the White House. But the law, which has long been a target of Republicans, is now getting pushback from Democrats.

Getting the new health care law successfully launched is the key to Mr. Obama's legacy. But there's a lot of confusion about just how that's going to happen, so you'll see the president talking about it a lot for the next several months, reports CBS News White House correspondent Bill Plante.

On Friday, he'll highlight benefits for women that are already in place -- and urge mothers of young adults to get them signed up when enrollment begins this fall.

"We are pushing very hard to make sure that we're hitting all the deadlines and the benchmarks," Mr. Obama said last month.

The president's health care law goes into effect at the beginning of next year, with signup beginning Oct. 1. But a lot of uncertainty about the plan remains -- and the Obama administration is taking bipartisan critical fire.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said, "The president needs to get out in front of this train wreck before Americans, men and women alike, are completely blindsided by it."

And Democrats have used the phrase, too. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said recently, "I just see a huge train wreck coming down."

The importance of the health care overhaul to the Obama administration can't be overstated, as Vice President Biden summed it up the day the bill became law: "This is a big (expletive) deal." But there are fears that health insurance costs for small businesses may rise as the law goes into effect. And there's a concern that rules governing the new law are still being written, even though it goes into effect Jan. 1.

But for the White House, the biggest concern is that uninsured Americans won't sign up for coverage. In a speech in April, the president said, "If Americans don't know how to access the new benefits and protections that they're going to receive as we implement this law, then health care reform won't make much of a difference in their lives."

A recent poll by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation shows that four in 10 Americans do not even know the Affordable Care Act was coming into effect, so some states have begun advertising campaigns promoting it. The Department of Health and Human Services has also announced $150 million to help community health centers to enroll more people into the Affordable Care Act.

Meanwhile, the House of Representatives is about to vote again to repeal Obamacare for the 38th time. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, says he's holding the vote because there about 70 freshman House Republicans who haven't yet gotten to express their opinion.

This signature issue of Mr. Obama's presidency is something he now has to sell to the American people for both policy and political reasons, CBS News political director John Dickerson explained on "CTM." "On the policy front, he needs more people to sign up because that will keep costs lower, particularly younger Americans," Dickerson said. "If those younger Americans don't join these new exchanges, the premiums will go up because the people who do join the exchanges will be the chronically ill. So he's got to sell it to make it work better, so that's the policy piece. And politically, Republicans are gunning for this for the 2014 elections. They're hoping to run against all Democrats on this, so the president has to goes out there and provide cover, explain why there are good parts of it and get out there and sort of rebut the attacks as best he can."

As implementation of the ACA goes forward, Mr. Obama's explanations are all the more immediate, according to Dickerson. "This is not a pretty piece of legislation," he said. "Remember how it was put together. This is not a sleek operation with Swiss watch timing, and so it's going to be bumpy and it's going to be ugly as it gets implemented. The best thing the president can do is try and accentuate the best parts of it and also educate people because there's no better voice for educating than the president of the United States."

"All legislation is pretty ugly and this was particularly ugly because of the way it was put together and it had to be jammed through at the end," Dickerson added. "It's complicated -- it's dealing with bringing millions of new people into this insurance system. It's forcing people to change the way they do things, and so it's got lots and lots of different moving parts. And also, by the way, when Democrats talk about 'train wreck' here, what they're saying, some of them, is Republicans have not funded this as much as we, the Democrats, would like and also Republicans governors are dragging their feet. So there's some opposition that's constant here."


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