SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — President Barack Obama on Friday encouraged the uninsured or those paying high prices for health insurance to sign up for coverage under his health care law and urged opponents to stop wasting time continuing to fighting its implementation.
Obama used a trip to California to highlight how the state is implementing the Affordable Care Act and rebut continuing criticism over his signature legislative achievement. He touted an effort in the state to recruit Hispanics in particular to the health care exchanges that are being created to help millions of now-uninsured consumers afford coverage.
"The main message I want for Californians and people all across the country, starting on Oct. 1, if you're in the individual market, you can get a better deal," Obama said. He said California's online marketplace will allow consumers to shop for private insurance "just like you were going online to compare cars or airline tickets."
California has the country's biggest insurance market and, with 6 million uninsured residents, it is a crucial part of Obama's effort to get consumers to sign up for coverage. Thirteen insurance companies will be offering multiple health plans that vary in coverage and price through California's exchange, even in some of the most rural regions of the state.
In many states, Republican governments are opposing the law's implementation and are leaving oversight of the exchanges to the federal government. Obama noted that the House has voted 37 times to repeal the health care law.
"My suggestion to them has been, let's stop re-fighting the old battles and start working with people like the leaders who are on stage here today to make this law work the way it's supposed to," he said.
"You can listen to a bunch of political talk out there, negative ads and fear-mongering geared toward the next election, or alternatively you can actually look at what's happening in states like California right now," Obama said.
The president said there would be "glitches" and "hiccups" in getting the system up and running. He said current premium increases Americans may experience are not a result of the law, but the result of employers shifting costs to workers or insurers "jacking up prices unnecessarily."
Getting young people to enroll through the exchanges also is critical; they cost insurers less money because they tend to have the best health and don't require a lot of costly medical care.
The Obama administration is looking for about 7 million people to enroll through the exchanges, and 2.6 million of them need to be younger in order to keep costs down for the overall pool of enrollees, White House officials said. Nearly one-third of these young people live in three states: California, Texas and Florida.
Among the private entities working with the state of California to promote enrollment are the Spanish-language TV networks Telemundo and Univision. The White House says the law will give more than 10 million uninsured Latinos across the country the opportunity to afford health insurance coverage.
Obama arrived in California on Thursday evening to attend fundraisers in Palo Alto and Portola Valley to help Senate Democratic candidates.
The fundraising continued Friday with Obama's attendance at a Democratic National Committee lunch and reception for a total of about 130 people at the Santa Monica home of Peter Chernin, officials said. Chernin is a former News Corp. executive and a longtime Obama supporter. Tickets for both events ranged from $10,000 to $32,400.
Obama began by noting that Chernin had given a "pretty exhaustive summary" of the president's first-term accomplishments and the issues pending in his current term.
"I'm not sure I've got a lot to add and yet I feel obligated, since you guys wrote these big checks to the DNC, to say something," Obama joked. He then spoke for another 16 minutes about overcoming government gridlock, working with Republicans, electing more Democrats to Congress and other issues.
"I've run my last campaign so all I care about right now is governance and getting things right so that I can look back at this time, where I had this incredible privilege of leading this country, and say this country is better because of my tenure," Obama said. "That's all I care about."
About three miles away from the fundraiser, a gunman opened fire on the campus of Santa Monica College, police said. The Secret Service said the incident was being treated as a local police matter and had not affected the president's visit.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest said the president would be driven back to the Los Angeles airport to "avoid any impact on the ongoing local response to the shooting." Air Force One flew Obama from San Jose to Los Angeles, where he boarded his helicopter for the trip to Santa Monica.
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