WASHINGTON — U.S. President Barack Obama is once again defending his signature health care initiative against attempts to have it dismantled, and the fight is far from over. Some Republicans in Congress vow to continue efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare. In addition, the Obama administration has to work out various glitches in the program before its new insurance plans come into effect January 1.
President Obama reminded Americans on Monday that many of them are already benefiting from the new health care law, even though they may not know it.
"Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, preventive care like mammograms and birth control are free through your employers. That’s part of this law. So, there are a wide range of consumer protections and benefits that you already have if you've got health insurance. You may not have noticed them, but you’ve got them, and they’re not going anywhere," said Obama.
Many Americans have expressed frustration about computer bugs that have interfered with their efforts to enroll online for the insurance plans. The president stopped short of apologizing for the failures, but said he is as frustrated with the glitches as everyone else.
He went on to explain the advantages of the program's new health insurance marketplaces over more expensive individual private insurers.
"By enrolling in what we’re calling these marketplaces, you become part of a big group plan -- as if you were working for a big employer -- a statewide group plan that spreads risk between sick people and healthy people, between young and old, and then bargains on your behalf for the best deal on health care. What we’ve done is essentially create a competition where there wasn’t competition before. We created these big group plans, and now insurers are really interested in getting your business. And so insurers have created new health care plans with more choices to be made available through these marketplaces," said Obama during the address.
Janice Baker, the first person in the state of Delaware to enroll in a new plan, joined President Obama at the White House Monday.
"I was able to find a policy I am thrilled with, saving $150 a month, and much lower deductibles than my previous policy that I held through my small business," said Baker.
Uninsured Americans have until March 1 to enroll in an insurance plan of their choice or face a penalty. Adriana Guida from Massachusetts is worried that the enrollment process is too long and complicated.
"It's difficult when the government says you have to do something or else they are going to penalize you for it, and then you can't do the things you need to do. For me that doesn't work," said Guida.
Guida said that she has spent more than an hour on the phone to finalize the application process, and that she now has to wait to see what low-cost insurance plans will be available to her.
Problems afflicting online enrollment for the program have given more ammunition to Republicans who had tried to force the administration to delay or dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Senator Ted Cruz from Texas has vowed to continue the fight.
"What I can tell you is that the fight in my opinion needs to stay focused on stopping the disaster that is Obamacare, because people are hurting," said Cruz.
However, President Obama maintains that all such attempts will fail now and in the future because hardworking middle class families need and support affordable health care.