I posted a bunch of tweets yesterday regarding the White House announcement that eight million Americans have signed up for insurance via the Affordable Care Act exchanges. (Of course, all told, a lot more than eight million Americans have obtained health care via the ACA — this is just the number of obtained private insurance via the exchanges.)
Earlier in the day, President Obama held a half-hour press conference to talk about it. (Once again, conservatives experienced shock as President Obama spoke extemporaneously without a teleprompter, answering unscripted questions.)
One question and answer stood out. Tamara Keith of NPR asked, “Now that, as you say, it’s here to stay, there are so many people that signed up, in this environment, is it possible to do the kind of corrections that — that the business community and many others would like to see, sort of small, technical corrections?”
It is absolutely possible, but it will require a change in attitude on the part of the Republicans. I have always said from the outset that on any large piece of legislation like this, there are going to be things that need to be improved, need to be tweaked. I said that, I think, the day I signed the bill.
And I don’t think there’s been any hesitation on our part to consider ideas that would actually improve the legislation. The challenge we have is, is that if you have certain members in the Republican Party whose view is making it work better is a concession to me, then it’s hard in that environment to actually get it done.
And I recognize that their party is going through, you know, the stages of grief, right? Anger and denial and all that stuff. And we’re not at acceptance yet. But at some point, my assumption is, is that there will be an interest to figure out, how do we make this work in the best way possible?
We have 8 million people signed up through the exchanges. That doesn’t include the 3 million young people who are able to stay on their parent’s plan. It doesn’t include the 3 million people who benefited from expansions in Medicaid. So if my math is correct, that’s 14 million right there. You’ve got another 5 million people who signed up outside of the marketplaces, but are part of the same insurance pool. So we’ve got a sizable part of the U.S. population now that are in the first — for the first time, in many cases, in a position to enjoy the financial security of health insurance.
And I’m meeting them as I’m on the road. Met with — saw a woman yesterday, a young woman, maybe 34, with her mom and her dad, she’s got two small kids, and a self-employed husband, and was — was diagnosed with breast cancer. And this isn’t an abstraction to her. She is saving her home. She is saving her business. She is saving her parents’ home, potentially, because she’s got health insurance, which she just could not afford.
And the question now becomes, if, in fact, this is working for a lot of people, but there are still improvements to make, why are we still having a conversation about repealing the whole thing? And why are we having folks say that any efforts to improve it are somehow handing Obama a victory? This isn’t about me.
And my hope is, is that we start moving beyond that. My suspicion is that probably will not happen until after November, because it seems as if this is the primary agenda item in the Republican political platform.
But here’s what I know: The American people would much rather see us talk about jobs, would much rather see us talk about high college costs, would much rather see us discussing how we can rebuild our roads and our bridges and our infrastructure and put people back to work. They’d much rather see us talk about how we boost wages and boost incomes and, you know, improve their individual family bottom lines.
And if the Republicans want to spend the entire next six months or a year talking about repealing a bill that provides millions of people health insurance without providing any meaningful alternative, instead of wanting to talk about jobs and the economic situation of families all across the country, that’s their prerogative. At some point, I think they’ll make the transition. That’s my hope, anyway. If not, we’re just going to keep on doing what we’re doing, which is making — making it work for people all across the country.
I’m sorry. I’m going to say one last thing about this… (LAUGHTER) … just because this — this does frustrate me, states that have chosen not to expand Medicaid for no other reason than political spite. You got 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now, at no cost to these states — zero cost to these states — other than ideological reasons, they have chosen not to provide health insurance for their citizens. That’s wrong. It should stop. Those folks should be able to get health insurance like everybody else.
Obama asked (rhetorically because, you know, Republicans), Why are we still having a conversation about repealing the whole thing? He answered his own question, of course: “Certain members of Congress” worry that “making it work better is a concession to me.”
For Republicans, that’s what this has always been about, and that’s what it’s still about.