Obama on Obamacare: ‘Reality’ trumps ‘Chicken Little’

     President Barack Obama speaks during Catholic Hospital Association Conference in Washington on Tuesday, June 9, 2015. Obama declared Tuesday that his 5-year-old health care law is firmly established as the 'reality' of health care in America, even as he awaits a Supreme Court ruling that could undermine it. (Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo)

    President Barack Obama speaks during Catholic Hospital Association Conference in Washington on Tuesday, June 9, 2015. Obama declared Tuesday that his 5-year-old health care law is firmly established as the 'reality' of health care in America, even as he awaits a Supreme Court ruling that could undermine it. (Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo)

    Check out the transcript of President Obama’s Tuesday remarks about Obamacare. Do a control-F search for the word reality. You’ll find that he used it 14 times – deservedly so.

    Never before had Obama touted his signature achievement as fervently as he did yesterday. He didn’t spike the ball in the end zone, but with another big Supreme Court ruling on the horizon, and with factual reality clearly in his favor, he took something of a victory lap. His speech to the Catholic Health Association Conference was also replete with ridicule for the Republicans who’ve tried in vain to stop America from joining the rest of the western world – and that was significant, because he knows the game isn’t over.

    Key excerpts:

    And despite the constant doom-and-gloom predictions, the unending Chicken Little warnings that somehow making health insurance fairer and easier to buy would lead to the end of freedom, the end of the American way of life – lo and behold, it did not happen. None of this came to pass. In fact, in a lot of ways, the Affordable Care Act worked out better than some of us anticipated.

    Nearly one in three uninsured Americans have already been covered – more than 16 million people – driving our uninsured rate to its lowest level ever. Ever. On top of that, tens of millions more enjoy new protections with the coverage that they’ve already got. That 85 percent who had health insurance, they may not know that they’ve got a better deal now than they did, but they do.  Americans can no longer be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions – from you having had cancer to you having had a baby. Women can’t be charged more just for being a woman. And they get free preventive services like mammograms.  And there are no more annual or lifetime caps on the care patients receive….

    Health care prices have risen at the lowest rate in 50 years. Employer premiums are rising at a rate tied for the lowest on record. The average family premium is $1,800 lower today than it would have been had trends over the decade before the ACA passed continued….

    When (kids) graduate from college, they’re looking for that first job, they can stay on our plans until they’re 26. When they start a family, pregnancy will no longer count against them as a preexisting condition. When they change jobs or lose a job, or strike out on their own to start a business, they’ll still be able to get good coverage….

    And while we were told again and again that Obamacare would be a job-killer – amazingly enough, some critics still peddle this notion – it turns out in reality, America has experienced 63 straight months of private sector job growth – a streak that started the month we passed the Affordable Care Act. The longest streak of private sector job growth on record – that adds up to 12.6 million new jobs….

    That’s the reality, not the mythology….There is a reality that people on the ground are experiencing….When you talk to people who actually are enrolled in a new marketplace plan, the vast majority of them like their coverage….They like their reality.

    Indeed they do. According to a ’15 Gallup poll, 71 percent of Obamacare customers say that the coverage they’ve obtained through the health exchanges is either good or excellent; only nine percent called it poor. And according to Republican pollster Whit Ayres, “Only 18 percent of Americans want to go back to the system we had before.”

    Stats like those have emboldened Obama to take the offensive in advance of the next high court ruling. Late this month, the five Republican appointees could decide to nix the federal subsidies that have helped 6.4 million Americans buy coverage from the federal HealthCare.gov website. If those judges make the coverage unaffordable, congressional Republicans will face a dilemma: they can either sit on their butts and declare victory (in the GOP mindset, 6.4 million people losing coverage is a victory); or they can help those people by salvaging their coverage via legislation (problem is, congressional Republicans still can’t agree on how, or whether, to help).

    Obama challenged the Republicans to man up for reality – and that was the ultimate purpose of his speech:

    I understood folks being skeptical or worried before the law passed and there wasn’t a reality there to examine. But once you see millions of people having health care, once you see that all the bad things that were predicted didn’t happen, you’d think that it would be time to move on. Let’s figure out how to make (the law) better. It seems so cynical to want to take coverage away from millions of people; to take care away from people who need it the most; to punish millions with higher costs of care and unravel what’s now been woven into the fabric of America.

    Turns out, most Americans agree with Obama; in the latest ABC News-Washington Post poll, 55 percent said the high court should keep the federal subsidies. The fabric of America indeed.

    He framed the key question yesterday: “What kind of country do we want to be? Are we a country that’s defined by values that say access to health care is a commodity awarded to only the highest bidders – or by the values that say health care is a fundamental right?” The latter is now reality.

     

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

    Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

    It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.