Obama: ‘We’re Not Going Back’ On Health Reform

In a speech Tuesday, the president emphasized the importance of the Affordable Care Act and the problems with the status quo.

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 03: U.S. President Barack Obama embraces Monica Weeks, who introduced him and also benefitted from provisions of the Affordable Care Act, before he addressed supporters on the health care legislation in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building December 3, 2013 in Washington, DC. During the event, Obama defended the reasons why the Affordable Care Act was originally implemented and urged patience with problems with the healthcare.gov website. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
National Journal
Sophie Novack
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Sophie Novack
Dec. 3, 2013, 1:42 p.m.

Pres­id­ent Obama has a simple mes­sage for Obama­care crit­ics: “we’re not go­ing back.”

“If I’ve got to fight an­oth­er three years to make sure this law works, then that’s what I’ll do,” he said at an event Tues­day af­ter­noon.

The speech kicked off a new White House cam­paign to re­fo­cus the Obama­care nar­rat­ive on the pos­it­ives of the law, fol­low­ing two months of neg­at­ive cov­er­age of the troubled rol­lout of Health­Care.gov. Now that the con­sumer ex­per­i­ence side of the ex­change web­site is largely fixed, the ad­min­is­tra­tion plans to spend the next three weeks lead­ing up to the first en­roll­ment dead­line on Dec. 23 by pub­li­ciz­ing the be­ne­fits of the Af­ford­able Care Act.

The Pres­id­ent’s speech today was a more force­ful de­fense of the law than has been giv­en in re­cent weeks, and in­dic­ated a clear mes­sage go­ing for­ward: the status quo is not an op­tion.

“If you ask many of the op­pon­ents of this law what ex­actly they’d do dif­fer­ently, their an­swer seems to be, well, let’s go back to the way things used to be,” he said, ex­plain­ing that the law’s op­pon­ents have yet to co­alesce around a vi­able health care al­tern­at­ive.

“If, des­pite all the mil­lions of people who are be­ne­fit­ting from it, you still think this law’s a bad idea, then you’ve got to tell us spe­cific­ally what you’d do dif­fer­ently to cut costs, cov­er more people, make in­sur­ance more se­cure, Obama said. “You can’t just say that the sys­tem was work­ing with 41 mil­lion people without health in­sur­ance.”

The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s strategy is to set up this di­cho­tomy between what is avail­able un­der Obama­care, and what was wrong with the status quo — the de­fault com­par­is­on met­ric since Re­pub­lic­ans have been heavy on calls for re­peal without op­tions to re­place it. 

Obama said the ACA is work­ing and will con­tin­ue to work bet­ter. While he wel­comed sug­ges­tions for how to im­prove the law, he in­sisted re­peal is not go­ing to hap­pen.

“Look, I’ve al­ways said I will work with any­body to im­ple­ment and im­prove this law ef­fect­ively,” he con­tin­ued. “But we’re not re­peal­ing it as long as I’m pres­id­ent. I want every­body to be clear about that. We will make it work for all Amer­ic­ans.”

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