Obama talks up health care law's rebates

President Barack Obama stands with families who benefitted from the health care law provision that provides consumers with a refund if their insurance company doesn’t spend the majority of premium dollars on medical care as he speaks about health care reform and the Affordable Care Act in the East Room at the White House in Washington, Thursday, July 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

DARLENE SUPERVILLE, The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama says his health care law is working and cutting costs for consumers, despite what the law's Republican critics say.

At the White House Thursday, Obama emphasized half a billion dollars in rebates going to nearly 9 million people under a provision of the law he says is holding insurance companies accountable.

Insurers must spend at least 80 cents of every dollar on medical care or quality improvement, or refund the difference. That's the $500 million consumers are getting in rebates averaging about $100.

Obama pitched the plan a day after the Republican-controlled House voted to delay two key provisions.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell says free money sounds great but won't remove the sting of new health care taxes that will begin costing consumers next year.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Eager to counter Republicans intent on repealing his health care law, President Barack Obama will argue that it's working and hold up as proof half a billion dollars in rebates insurance companies are sending to some 8.5 million consumers as a result.

At the White House on Thursday, Obama will argue that his Affordable Care Act is holding insurance companies accountable and putting money back into consumers' pockets. The rebates average about $100, spokesman Jay Carney said.

Obama was making his pitch a day after the Republican-controlled House voted for the 38th time to eliminate, cut funding or scale back the 3-year-old law since the GOP took control of the House in January 2011.

Carney also seized on reports that some states, including New York, California and Oregon, already are anticipating lower premiums because of health insurance marketplaces that are being set up under the law so consumers can comparison shop for the coverage they will be required to by next year.

"Competition and transparency in the marketplaces, plus the hard effort by those committed to making the law work, are leading to affordable, new and better choices for families," he said.

The Affordable Care Act requires insurers to spend at least 80 cents of every dollar on medical care or quality improvement instead of administrative costs, or refund the difference. That's the $500 million consumers will collect this summer, half the $1.1 billion insurers gave back in 2012.

Republicans say the law is unworkable and must be repealed, arguing it will hurt the economy and force employers to cut much-needed jobs. They say proof that the law is unworkable lies in the administration's recent, unexpected decision to delay for one year, until after the 2014 elections, a requirement that businesses with 50 or more employees provide them with health care coverage or pay a penalty.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said free money sounds great but won't remove the sting of new health care taxes kicking in next year that will cost consumers many times more than the rebates.

"This is just another sad attempt by the administration to spin them into wanting a law they don't want," McConnell said on the Senate floor Thursday, before Obama spoke.

The GOP-controlled House on Wednesday passed, mostly along party lines, two bills to amend the law.

The House voted 264-161 to affirm the administration's decision to delay what's known as the employer mandate, the requirement that businesses of a specific size offer health care coverage to their workers. It also voted 251-174 to extend a similar delay to individuals who will be required to obtain health care coverage starting Jan. 1, or face fines.

The votes were held to score political points. The House measures have no chance of clearing the Democratic-controlled Senate and the White House has said Obama would veto both if they were to reach his desk.

The goal of the health care law is to provide coverage to nearly 50 million uninsured people and lower skyrocketing costs, but the public remains skeptical about how their coverage may be affected. The administration's decision to delay the employer mandate only served to fuel more doubts.




Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.





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