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Shutting down government to defund Obamacare ‘a bad idea’ – Obama

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Republicans have made it their “holy grail, their number one priority” to deny millions of Americans health insurance coverage through the 2010 health care law, President Obama said Friday.

During a White House news conference, Obama also said that the American public would have a hard time understanding why Republicans would choose to shut down the federal government over funding for the health law. Some Republicans are pushing their congressional leaders to not agree to any legislation to fund the government beyond Sept. 30 if it includes any money for the health law’s implementation. Here is the complete video segment and transcript of the health-care related part of the news conference:

QUESTION, ED HENRY, FOX NEWS: I want to ask you about two important dates that are coming up. October 1st you’ve gotta implement your signature health care law. You recently decided on your own to delay a key part of that. And I wonder, if you pick and choose what parts of the law to implement, couldn’t your successor down the road pick and choose whether they’ll implement your law and keep it in place

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I didn’t simply choose to delay this on my own. This was in consultation with businesses all across the country. Many of whom are supportive of the Affordable Care Act, but — and who — many of whom, by the way, are already providing health insurance to their employees but were concerned about the operational details of changing their H.R. operations if they’ve got a lot of employees, which could be costly for them, and them suggesting that there may be easier ways to do this.

Now, what’s true, Ed, is that in a normal political environment, it would have been easier for me to simply call up the speaker and say, “You know what? This is a tweak that doesn’t go to the essence of the law. It has to do with, for example, are we able to simplify the attestation of employers as to whether they’re already providing health insurance or not. It looks like there may be some better ways to do this. Let’s make a technical change to the law.”

That would be the normal thing that I would prefer to do. But, we’re not in a normal atmosphere around here when it comes to, quote/unquote, “Obamacare.” We did have the executive authority to do so and we did so. But this doesn’t go to the core of implementation.

Let me tell you what is the core of implementation. It’s already taken place. As we speak right now, for the 85 percent of Americans who already have health insurance, they are benefiting from being able to keep their kid on their — on their plan if their kid is 26 or younger. That’s benefiting millions of young people around the country, which is why lack of insurance among young people has actually gone down. That’s in large part attributable to the steps that we’ve taken.

You’ve got millions of people who’ve received rebates because part of the Affordable Care Act was to say that if an insurance company isn’t spending 80 percent of your premium on your health care, you get some money back. And lo and behold, people have been getting their money back.

It means that folks who’ve been bumping up — up with lifetime limits on their insurance that leaves them vulnerable, that doesn’t exist. Seniors have been getting discounts on their prescription drugs. That’s happening right now. Free preventive care, mammograms, contraception, that’s happening right now.

I met a young man today on a bill-signing I was doing with the student loan bill who came up to me and said, “thank you.” He couldn’t have been more than 25, 26 years old — “Thank you. I have cancer. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, working with the California program, I was able to get health care and I’m now in remission.” And so, right now, people are already benefiting.

Now, what happens on October 1st, in 53 days, is for the remaining 15 percent of the population that doesn’t have health insurance, they’re going to be able to go on a website or call up a call center and sign up for affordable quality health insurance at a significantly cheaper rate than what they can get right now on the individual market. And if even with lower premiums they still can’t afford it, we’re going to be able to provide them with a tax credit to help them buy it.

And between October 1st into March, there will be an open enrollment period in which millions of Americans for the first time are going to be able to get affordable health care.

Now, I think the really interesting question is why it is that my friends in the other party have made the idea of preventing these people from getting health care their holy grail, their number one priority. The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care. And presumably, repealing all those benefits I just mentioned — kids staying on their parents’ plan; seniors getting discounts on their prescription drugs, I guess a return to lifetime limits on insurance; people with preexisting conditions continuing to be blocked from being able to get health insurance.

That’s hard to understand as an agenda that is going to strengthen our middle class. At least they used to say, “Well, we’re going to replace it with something better.” There’s not even a pretense now that they’re going to replace it with something better. The — the notion is simply that those 30 million people, or the 150 million who are benefiting from the other aspects of affordable care, will be better off without it. That’s their assertion, not backed by fact, not backed by any evidence. It’s just become an ideological fixation.

Well, I tell you what, they’re wrong about that. There is no doubt that in implementing the Affordable Care Act, a program with this significance, there are going to be some glitches. No doubt about it. There are going to be things where we say, “You know what? We should have thought of that earlier”; or “this would work a little bit better”; or “this needs an adjustment.”

That was true of Social Security. That was true of Medicare. That was true of the children’s health insurance program, that was true on prescription drug program Part D that was rolled out by a Republican president and supported by Republicans who are still in the House of Representatives. That’s true, by the way, of a car company rolling out a new car. It’s true of Apple rolling out the new iPad.

So, you know, you will be able to whenever you want during the course of the next six months and probably the next year find occasions where you say, ah-ha, you know what, that could have been done a little better or that thing — they’re kind of making an administrative change. That’s not how it was originally thought this thing was going to work.

Yes. Exactly. Because our goal is to actually deliver high quality health care for people and to reform the system so costs start going down and people start getting a better bang for the buck. I make no apologies for that.

And let me just make one last point about this.

The idea that you would shut down the government unless you prevent 30 million people from getting health care is a bad idea. What you should be thinking about is how can we advance and improve ways for middle class families to have some security so that if they work hard, they can get ahead and their kids can get ahead.

Jessica Yellin.

QUESTION, JESSICA YELLIN, CNN: Thank you, Mr. President.

And following on what you just said, Republicans in the House might give that you choice soon to either allow the government to shut down or see Obamacare defunded. Would you choose to let the government shut down to ensure that Obamacare remains funded?

OBAMA: Well, you know, I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals.

I can tell you that the American people would have difficulty standing why we would weaken our economy, shut down our government, shut down vital services, have people who are not getting paid, who then can’t go to restaurants or shop for clothes or all the other things that we’re doing here, because Republicans have determined that they don’t want to see these folks get health care.

Again, they used to say they had a replacement. That never actually arrived, right?

I’ve been hearing about this whole replace thing for two years. Now I just doesn’t hear about it, because basically they don’t have an agenda to provide health insurance to people at affordable rates.

And the idea that you would shut down the government at a time when the recovery is getting some traction, where we’re growing, although not as fast as we need to, where the housing market is recovering, although not as fast as we would like, that we would precipitate another crisis here in Washington that no economist thinks is a good idea.

I’m assuming that they will not take that path.

I have confidence that common sense in the end will prevail.

QUESTION: And if they do, sir? Do you have to make that choice?

OBAMA: We’ll see what happens. We got a couple months.

QUESTION: When is the last time you spoke to Speaker Boehner about the budget?

OBAMA: Fairly recently. Yeah, probably right before they left.

This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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