Obama Blasts Government-Shutdown Threat; GOP Wants Individual-Mandate Delay
WASHINGTON - President Obama used his weekly radio/YouTube address to tout the pending implementation of his signature health-care law and bash the GOP for threatening a government shutdown, while Republicans used theirs to call for a delay in one of the Affordable Care Act's controversial provisions, the so-called "individual mandate."
In October, regional exchanges will begin offering private insurance plans for people who are not covered through their employers, and as the Affordable Care Act's rollout continues, it's being contested by Republicans who want to push the law back or halt it entirely, after the Obama administration delayed by one year the requirement that larger businesses supply health insurance to employees.
Obama listed the law's more popular elements, like free mammograms, the requirement that insurers sell coverage despite "preexisting conditions," and the requirement that insurers let young adults stay on their parents' coverage plans until the age of 26.
"It's OK if you're not a fan of the Affordable Care Act," Obama said. "You can take advantage of these things anyway."
The president blasted Republicans who have effectively threatened a government shutdown if "Obamacare" continues as planned. Conservative lawmakers have pledged to oppose renewed government funding, when the tab comes due to Congress this fall in the form of an expired funding measure, if the next funding bill includes money for the Affordable Care Act.
"A lot of Republicans seem to believe that if they can gum up the works and make this law fail, they'll somehow be sticking it to me. But they'd just be sticking it to you," Obama said, accusing Republicans of wanting either to harm sick Americans or to harm the U.S. economy.
"This is not a game. It's about the economic security of millions of families," Obama said.
In the Republicans' weekly address, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., stumped for a House plan to push back the so-called "individual mandate" by a year, accusing Obama of giving special treatment to big business.
"You and your family deserve the same relief the president gave to big businesses by delaying the employer mandate," Capito said. "It's only fair."
Capito was referring to the administration's decision to push back the employer mandate by a year, scheduling it for 2014 instead of 2013, and its more recent decision to push back caps on out-of-pocket health-care expenses. The latter move was announced this week.
"The president gave big businesses another pass - this time at the behest of insurance companies that say they need more time to comply," Capito said. "Meanwhile, yes, you and your family are expected to adhere to all the prescribed mandates, as scheduled."
Despite Capito's criticism of the White House move, Republicans have opposed the employer mandate and supported its delay: The House passed a bill last month seeking to codify that delay, and in another weekly GOP address earlier this month, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, called for modifications to it.
In July, the House voted 251-174 to delay the individual mandate by a year, until 2015 - a measure unlikely to become law, as Democrats control the Senate and Obama has not shown he has any intention of caving to GOP opposition to his signature domestic law. But with 22 Democrats joining Republicans to support that bill, its passage showed the individual mandate's scheduled implementation to be unpopular among some in the president's own party.
Capito accused Obama of giving preferential treatment to businesses and insurers, and he called on Senate Democrats and the president to approve the House GOP's bill.
"Let's delay this health care law not just for some, but for all Americans. That would only be fair. That would be government working the way it's supposed to," Capito said.