WASHINGTON -- Facing public doubts and embarrassing setbacks to his signature health care law, President Barack Obama stepped forward yesterday to extol the program's benefits, emphasizing that some Americans already are receiving insurance rebates and lower premiums.
Obama said the program is working the way it was supposed to, with "better benefits, stronger protections, more bang for your buck." The assertion was ridiculed by Republicans, with House Speaker John Boehner calling the Affordable Care Act "a train wreck" that he will keep working to repeal.
Obama dismissed the GOP's so-far-futile votes -- the House logged its 38th attempt to repeal or scale back the law on Wednesday -- with an exasperated sigh and shake of his head during a White House speech.
"What I've heard is just the same old song and dance," Obama said of his critics. "We're just going to blow through that stuff and just keep on doing the right thing for the American people."
While the fate of the health care law will play a major role in defining his legacy, Obama has not devoted much time or energy to selling it to the country, speaking on the subject only occasionally as Republicans have pressed a determined campaign to undermine the program. Obama is returning to the subject now because enrollment begins Oct. 1 for subsidized private coverage through new online markets.
Goals of the overhaul are to provide coverage to nearly 50 million uninsured people and restrain skyrocketing costs, but Americans remain skeptical about how their coverage may be affected. Even Obama's allies in the labor unions have turned around their former support of the law out of fears it will jeopardize benefits for millions of members by increasing costs.
Union leaders also say companies are scaling back work time to avoid providing coverage required for employees working 30 hours or more. Now some labor leaders are calling for repeal or reform of the law.
The president launched an impassioned defense of the law at the White House in front of several families that have received refund checks under a provision that requires insurers to spend at least 80 cents of every premium dollar on medical care and quality improvement or reimburse the difference.
Obama said rebates are being sent for 8.5 million Americans this summer, averaging $100 each. Much of the money, however, goes to employers who provide insurance and are required to use the money to benefit employees in some way.