Amid continuing confusion over the Affordable Care Act and Republican-led criticism of the law, President Obama on Friday sought to make clear how the three-year-old health care law works and what's left to get done.
"There's a lot that this law's already doing for Americans with insurance and there's a lot more that's going to happen for those who don't have insurance. We've still got a lot of work to do," Mr. Obama said from the East Room of the White House. "And with something as personal as health care, I realize there are people who are anxious, people who are nervous, making sure that we get this done right, so I'm here to tell you I am 110 percent committed to getting it done right."
Tying Friday's event to Mother's Day, the president was joined onstage by mothers -- a constituency that has supported him politically and that is already clearly benefitting from some elements of the health care law, such as the rule giving free access to preventive care like mammograms and birth control.
"If you're one of the nearly 85 percent of Americans who already have health insurance... you don't have to do a thing," Mr. Obama said. "This law already provides you with a wide array of new benefits, tough new consumer protections... and those things are already in place. You're benefiting from it, you just may not know it."
Already, the president noted, the law stops insurance companies from denying coverage for children with pre-existing conditions, and it eases prescription drug costs for seniors. Insurers are now required to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on actual health care, rather than overhead expenses. Children under 26 years old are now able to stay on their parents' insurance plans, enabling 3.1 million more young adults get health insurance.
Still, some of the hardest parts of implementing Obamacare have yet to come. In October, open enrollment is expected to start on the health care exchanges -- state-based, online marketplaces where individuals and small businesses can comparison shop for health insurance.
Given how little the public seems to know about the Affordable Care Act -- as many as 42 percent of Americans were unaware that the ACA is still law, an April poll found -- getting uninsured Americans to use the exchanges is sure to be a daunting task.
Mr. Obama today directly addressed anyone unsure of the law's status.
"It's been nearly a year since the Supreme Court upheld the law under the Constitution," he said. "And, by the way, six months ago the American people went to the polls and decided to keep going in this direction, so the law is here to stay."
Women are expected to play a key role in encouraging insured populations, such as young adults, to use the exchanges. Addressing the women before him, Mr. Obama said, "Those of us who believe that every American deserves access to quality, affordable health care have an obligation that implementation moves forward the way it needs to."
The challenge of setting up the exchanges -- 50 different state programs, some state-run and some federally-fun -- combined with the poor public poll numbers, has prompted even some Democrats to call the implementation a potential "." Republicans, of course have to point out the law's shortcomings and revive their arguments for repealing it.
A super PAC supporting the reelection bid of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is running an ad commending McConnell for his efforts to dismantle and repeal the law.
"On health care, Mitch McConnell's stood with Kentuckians from day one," a narrator says in the ad. "Tell him keep fighting to stop Obamacare in its tracks."
House Republicans, meanwhile, plan on voting for the repeal of Obamacare next week -- for the 38th time. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, defended the move this week, noting that 70 House freshmen haven't had a chance to vote for repeal yet.
The president acknowledged Friday "there's still a lot of political bickering" over the law. He said those who fought the law's passage "tooth and nail" are "still telling tall tales about its impact."
He urged people to find the facts and not be "bamboozled."
The "misinformation will continue at least through the next election day," Mr. Obama said. But, he continued, "This is too important for political games. Most moms and dads don't think about politics when their kids get sick."
The administration, meanwhile, continues to prepare for open enrollment with more plans to educate people. The Health and Human Services Department on Thursday announced it will use $150 million to help community health centers nationwide provide in-person enrollment assistance to uninsured individuals. This initiative will complement other programs aimed at helping people use the exchanges such as the "navigator" program, which will dispatch "navigators" with special training on the health law to help people in their own communities.