‘America is stronger’: Obama defends Affordable Care Act ahead of GOP House vote

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President Barack Obama signs the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the East Room of the White House in Washington seven years ago. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
President Barack Obama signs the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act in the East Room of the White House in Washington seven years ago. (Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Former President Barack Obama released a statement on the seventh anniversary of having signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law — providing an impassioned defense of his landmark health care bill as it’s under fierce attack.

The statement from the Office of Barack and Michelle Obama was sent out Thursday morning, ahead of an expected House Republicans vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which would essentially repeal and replace the 2010 law commonly known as Obamacare. The vote ended up being postponed to an unspecified later date.

“The Affordable Care Act is law only because millions of Americans mobilized, and organized, and decided that this fight was about more than health care — it was about the character of our country,” the former president said. “It was about whether the wealthiest nation on Earth would make sure that neither illness nor twist of fate would rob us of everything we’ve worked so hard to build. It was about whether we look out for one another, as neighbors, and fellow citizens, who care about each other’s success. This fight is still about all that today. And Americans who love their country still have the power to change it.”

Obama said that when he took office, millions of Americans were locked out of the U.S. health care system and that he had taken up the cause of reform as many past presidents had. He said that after a century of debate, the U.S. had finally declared with the ACA that health care should be a right for all — not a privilege for a few.

He touted some of the ACA’s record, though Democrats and Republicans disagree about how extensive its accomplishments go. The law expanded coverage to about 20 million more Americans by setting up state exchanges, where people could buy insurance with subsidies based on their income, and by giving states federal money to expand Medicaid to more of their populations. State exchanges have not attracted as many people as Democrats originally predicted, and some plans come with high deductibles that stick people with a big bill for care. Democrats argue that these problems could be fixed with a few tweaks, while Republicans have put forward their plan to gut and replace the subsidy system with an age-based tax credit.

Many high-ranking Republicans, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Trump, have been opposed to Obamacare since the beginning. Trump reportedly warned Republican lawmakers that they could lose their seats if they do not pass the AHCA.

Among their many arguments is that the system is untenable and will wreak havoc on the entire health care market if left alone — a position Obama rejects outright.

“And reality continues to discredit the false claim that this law is in a ‘death spiral,’ because while it’s true that some premiums have risen, the vast majority of Marketplace enrollees have experienced no average premium hike at all,” Obama said. “And so long as the law is properly administered, this market will remain stable.”

Obama also contested the Republican argument that the ACA is a “job killer” citing the “record-breaking streak of job growth” for U.S. businesses in the seven years since it was signed into law. He said there will always be work to do to reduce costs, stabilize markets, improve quality and help the uninsured and that Americans of both parties should work toward lowering costs and expanding coverage.

He said that he’s always wanted Democrats and Republicans to build upon and improve the ACA, just as they have done for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

“So the reality is clear: America is stronger because of the Affordable Care Act,” Obama said.

Additional contributions by Liz Goodwin

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