President touts Obamacare put cash in 8.5 million pockets
President Barack Obama on Thursday highlighted tangible cost savings being delivered by his signature health-care reform law, arguing that putting extra dollars in middle-class peoples' pockets trumps continued efforts by Republicans to repeal or cripple Obamacare.
"The law is working the way it's supposed to do for middle-class Americans," Obama said in a White House speech where he was flanked by handful of the 8.5 million Americans who this summer are receiving rebates averaging about $100 as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
The new law's rules mandate that insurers either spend at least 80 percent of their premium dollars on health care instead of on overhead, or rebate some of those premiums.
Obama also cited a $3.4 billion reduction in insurance premiums for nearly 78 million consumers in 2012, as well as a significant reduction in the estimates of insurance premiums in the individual plans being offered by 11 new state health care exchanges this fall as evidence the law is delivering "more choices, better benefits, a check on rising costs."
And the president pointed to slowing health-care inflation this year as proof that Obamacare is working as intended.
"Health-care costs aren't skyrocketing because of the Affordable Care Act," he said. "And yet they're waging these old battles," Obama said to laughter from his audience, noting that the day before House Republicans voted for the 38th and 39th respectively to delay key insurance coverage requirements for individuals and businesses.
(Read more: House Republicans vote to delay Obamacare mandates)
"Sometimes I just try to figure out why," Obama said. "Maybe they just they just think it's good politics. But part of your job here is not to think about politics.
"What I've heard is just the same old song and dance. And we're going to blow through that stuff."
A privilege, not a right
"Affordable care is not some sort of privilege for the few. It's a basic right, for everybody," Obama said. "And we're going to to continue to fight to secure that right."
The president's speech came less than 90 days before state health-insurance exchanges begin enrolling millions of currently uninsured people under the provision of the ACA that mandates that all Americans obtain health insurance or face a financial penalty.
(Read more: This could put Obamacare in the ER )
It also comes amid continued criticism of Obamacare not only by Republican congressmen—whose effort to repeal it are blocked by Democratic control of the Senate and Obama's veto power—but also by a decidedly cool or negative opinion of the ACA among nearly half of the general public, according to Wall Street Journal/NBC News polls.
(Read more: Obamacare's jobs diagnosis: What does the data say? )
Earlier this month, in a move that further fueled opposition to Obamacare, the administration granted businesses with more than 50 full-time workers a one-year delay in the mandate to provide affordable health coverage to their employees or face a $2,000 per worker fine.
Republicans are pushing for a one-year delay in the individual mandate that requires the uninsured to obtain coverage on the new state exchanges, which are set to offer competing plans from various insurers at different price points and coverage levels.
But in his speech, the president reiterated that the exchanges will be open for business Oct. 1, and promised that "you're going to see competition in ways that you haven't seen before." He noted to applause that on Wednesday, New York's health insurance exchange revealed premiums that are "50 percent lower than they are today."
"Think about that," said Obama, clearly relishing that statistic. "Fifty percent lower."
Comparison of Pre-Affordable Care Act Small Group Average Premiums for Single Coverage to 2014 Small Group Silver Plans
| Lowest |
| Second |
| % Difference, |
| % Difference,
|| $474|| $391|| $412|| -18%|| -13%|
| $538|| $343|| $343|| -36%|| -36%|
|| $494|| $323|| $410|| -35%|| -17%|
|| $458|| $362|| $369|| -21%|| -20%|
|| $507|| $400|| $440|| -21%|| -13%|
|| $438|| $404|| $413|| -8%|| -6%|
The president also cited a new Health and Human Services Department report issued Thursday morning that indicates that insurance premiums on a number of the new exchanges are lower than had been estimated, suggesting a trend that could be replicated in the majority of the 50 state exchanges once their plan offerings are finalized.
In 11 states—including California, Colorado, New York, Ohio, Florida and Washington, D.C.—proposed premiums in the lowest cost plans on the middle-tier of benefits being offered are 18 percent less expensive than had been originally estimated for 2014 by the Congressional Budget Office, the HHS survey found.
Such plans being offered by six state changes to small employers likewise are 18 percent cheaper than the average premium those employers would be paying for such pre-ACA plans.
"Today's report shows that the Affordable Care Act is working to increase transparency and competition among health insurance plans and drive premiums down," said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sibelius, whose department also noted that since the ACA was passed the rate of double-digit insurance premium increase requests by plans had dropped from 75 percent to just 14 percent.
"The reforms in the health-care law ensure consumers will have access to better coverage at a lower cost in 2014," Sibelius said.
—By CNBC's Dan Mangan. Follow him on Twitter @_DanMangan.