President Barack Obama on Friday touted his health care law's benefits for women, whose response to the program the White House believes will be key to its success.
"So often [moms] put everything else before themselves," Obama said, tying the event, held in the White House East Room, to Mother's Day. "And that’s particularly true when it comes to things like health care."
Mothers, he said, worry constantly about their children's potential health care bills, but his health care law, officially named the Affordable Care Act, will change all that.
"In a country as wealthy as this one, there was no reason why a family’s security should be determined by the chance of an illness or an accident. We decided to do something about it," he said.
The event helped launch a campaign the White House is undertaking to spread information about the program and get mothers to encourage their adult children to enroll in health care "exchanges."
There's "so much misinformation" surrounding the law, the president said on Friday, that "people may not have a sense of what the law actually does."
He noted that the 85 percent of people who already have insurance will not be affected by the program.
Hispanics and African-Americans will be major target groups for enrollment in the program, which is set to begin in October, a White House senior administration official said on Friday. But the White House believes young people are the single most important group for the success of the health care exchanges—where the noninsured can buy health insurance at competitive rates—which will be established by states and the federal government, the official said.
Stability for the program and the cost of insurance premiums is dependent upon young people: 2.7 million healthy 18- to 35-year-olds are not currently covered by insurance, according to the official. Participation by these young people will offset the higher costs of covering seniors. But the challenge is getting young and presumably healthy people to sign up.
That's where the White House says mothers come in: They'll be key to encouraging their sons and daughters to sign up, the official said.
The White House will conduct outreach at the local level, in part by using tools from the campaign trail, as well as relying on information disseminated by centers for Medicare and Medicaid services, hospitals, community health centers, local churches and community leaders, officials said.
Overall, the Congressional Budget Office projects 7 million enrollees in 2014.
Many Republicans have issued dire predictions about implementation of the law, and some Democrats have added their voices to those expressions of concern.
Obama conceded on Friday that there have been "mistakes and hiccups" already, and specifically identified the original release of a 21-page application as a misstep—one that received a widespread negative reaction. Obama said that the White House, which then released a three-page version, realized "we [could] do better than that."
The White House believes they'll have the upper hand in Republican attacks on Obamacare once people enroll. At that point, the official said, Republicans would look like they were trying to take health care insurance away from Americans.
In the meantime, Republicans are continuing their assault on the controversial program, with House Republicans planning a vote next week on whether to fully repeal the law.
“The president’s health care law is a train wreck for men and women alike, and that’s why a majority of Americans support Republican efforts to repeal it to protect their health care—and their jobs," House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement on Friday. "Next week, the House will act to repeal the law that is increasing health care costs, reducing access to quality health care, and making it harder for small businesses to hire workers. The entire law should be repealed so we can enact a step-by-step, common-sense approach to health care that starts with lowering costs and protecting American jobs.”
The vote in the House, however, is largely political theater.
Republicans have staged dozens of votes to repeal the law in whole or in part in the three years since the measure passed into law. Additionally, if a repeal measure did pass the Republican-controlled House, the Democratic-controlled Senate would kill the effort.
The president's event Friday was promoted in advance by the White House, but ended up being overshadowed by continued questions regarding the administration's handling of the 2011 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and an admission Friday by the IRS that the agency placed more scrutiny on potentially conservative groups among those applying for tax exempt status.