Ahead of major Obamacare rollout, politicking continues

Three years after the passage of the Affordable Care Act -- and two weeks away from the rollout of a key portion of the law -- politicians on Capitol Hill are still debating Obamacare alternatives and amendments and using the law as a campaign issue.

The conservative Republican Study Committee on Wednesday is unveiling a bill designed to repeal and replace Obamacare, called the American Health Care Reform Act. The committee has been working on the legislation for months, and they're announcing it just as Republicans have ratcheted up conversation about dismantling Obamacare as part of ongoing budget discussions.

Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., one of the conservatives unveiling the new legislation Wednesday, said in a statement to CBSNews.com that as a physician, he joined Congress to help shape health care policy.

"Unfortunately, during the ObamaCare debate, no one asked me or any of the other Republican doctors what we thought, despite requesting several meetings with the president because I saw this train wreck coming," he said.

The new bill also comes two days after President Obama slammed Republicans for continuing to rail against his health care law without putting forward any alternatives.

"I'm more than willing to work with them where they've got specific suggestions that they can show will make our health care system work better," the president said at a White House event Monday. "Remember, initially this was like repeal-and-replace, and the replace thing has kind of gone off to the wayside. Now it's just repeal."

The president has long argued that Republicans should learn to live with the law, three years after its passage and more than one year after the Supreme Court upheld most of the law. While the Affordable Care Act remains controversial and continues to confuse many Americans, the administration argues that concerns will be put to rest once the major parts of the law are in place next year.

The new provisions of Obamacare going into effect next year include the opening of the state-based health care exchanges -- online marketplaces where consumers can purchase private insurance coverage. The exchanges should be ready for open enrollment in just two weeks, on Oct. 1.

"On Oct. 1, everybody who's watching who does not have health insurance is gonna be able to go on Healthcare.gov and take a look at the plans that are now gonna be available -- cheap, high quality health care," Mr. Obama said Tuesday in an interview with Telemundo.

He pointed out that thanks to Obamacare, many people will get tax credits to help pay for insurance on the exchanges, and insurance companies will not be able to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions.

"The problem we have is that over the last four years, billions of dollars have been spent misinforming people about what this law is about," he said. "All the horror stories that were talked about have not come true... We're optimistic that... over the course of six months -- because there'll be an open enrollment period from Oct. 1 all the way until March -- what you're gonna see is people seeing for themselves how they can benefit."

White House spokesman Jay Carney on Tuesday said that the campaign to educate the public about the exchanges will begin in earnest in October. Community health centers will conduct outreach, while the government will air public service announcements, coordinating with celebrity advocates and pharmacies like Rite Aid. Insurers alone have said they'll spend $1 billion on advertising, Carney noted.

"So you know, this will be an ongoing effort," Carney said, "and the fact of the matter is... there are significant benefits that will be available to Americans who are uninsured, and until the arrival of the marketplaces, will not have had affordable options available to them."

While the administration begins its public education campaign, Democrats on Capitol Hill are using Republican opposition to the law in their 2014 campaigns.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), the House Democrats' campaign arm, launched a phone campaign on Tuesday against 27 vulnerable House Republicans on the issue. The automated phone calls will tell voters that their congressman and other Republicans are "threatening to shut down the government unless they can eliminate your rights and consumer protections under the Affordable Care Act."

The call then gives voters the phone number to reach their congressman, urging them to call and ask their representative to "stop the nonsense and focus on common sense solutions that protect our health care and grow our economy." The calls will run through the rest of the week, as the budget debate continues.