President Barack Obama is stepping up defense of his signature healthcare law, touting the benefits of Obamacare and criticizing its challengers as the Supreme Court prepares a ruling that could unravel its core.
Obama will deliver a speech to Catholic hospitals Tuesday that is the most visible sign of a White House effort to shape the political battleground in the aftermath of the court’s decision — a linchpin moment whether favorable or not, said Ron Pollack, executive director of Families USA, a consumer advocacy group that backs Obamacare, and a White House ally.
"Five years in, what we’re talking about is no longer just a law," Obama is to say Tuesday in a speech to the annual conference of the Catholic Health Association, according to prepared remarks. "This isn’t about the Affordable Care Act. This isn’t about Obamacare. This isn’t about myths or rumors that won’t go away. This is reality. This is healthcare in America."
A court ruling upholding the health law would help accelerate its entrenchment in American society, Pollack said. A ruling against the administration would spark a political fight to pass legislation to fix the law without undermining its goals.
"The president is laying the groundwork," Pollack said.
A decision is expected this month in the suit, King v. Burwell, which challenges the availability of tax credits to discount the cost of insurance in at least 34 states. Opponents of the law say it allows subsidies in no more than 16 states that created insurance marketplaces, called exchanges.
An adverse Supreme Court ruling would throw insurance markets into disarray, Obama said Monday after the Group of Seven meeting in Germany. The suit is the latest challenge to a law that has survived dozens of congressional attempts to repeal it, a 2012 Supreme Court case to determine its constitutionality and an election in which the president’s challengers vowed to overturn it.
More than 6 million consumers risk losing discounts on their monthly premiums if the court rules against the Obama administration.
Obama has said he is confident that will not happen. The Supreme Court probably shouldn’t have taken up the case challenging the federal subsidies, Obama said Monday in Germany. In order to rule against the health-care law the justices would have to make a "contorted" and "twisted" reading of the law, he said.
In his prepared remarks for the speech in Washington, the president made the case that the law is already benefiting millions.
"There are outcomes we can calculate — the number of newly insured families, the number of lives saved," according to the remarks. "And those numbers add up to success."
Accompanying the remarks, the White House released a fact sheet detailing benefits of the healthcare law, including a reduction in the uninsured rate to 11.9 percent in the first quarter of 2015 from 17.1 percent in 2013.
The White House also released a letter written by Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Democrat who pushed for the healthcare legislation before he died in 2009.
"I felt confident in these closing days that while I will not be there when it happens, you will be the president who at long last signs into law the health-care reform that is the great unfinished business of our society," Kennedy wrote in the letter to Obama dated May 12, 2009. He instructed his wife to send it to Obama after his death, about three months later.
While Obama has said Congress could settle the Supreme Court dispute with a "one-sentence" change, some Republicans see the lawsuit as an opportunity to undo the health-care law.
"A one-sentence Band-Aid can’t fix flawed Obamacare, riddled with #BrokenPromises from skyrocketing costs to failing state exchanges," Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican, said Monday on Twitter.
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