SAN JOSE - Pausing between fundraisers with influential techies in Silicon Valley and a meeting with the Chinese leader in Southern California, President Barack Obama today lauded California's efforts to implement the signature law of his administration, the Affordable Care Act.
Flanked by supporters of the law, the president cited the lower-than-expected prices of health policies that were recently unveiled by the state agency implementing the national health coverage law in California. He noted that of the 6 million Californians who are currently uninsured, 2.6 million will be eligible for federal subsidies to help pay the premiums.
"In states that are working hard to implement this law properly, we're seeing it work for people, for middle class families, for consumers," Obama said during a brief appearance at the Fairmont Hotel.
Covered California, the agency that will operate the online health insurance marketplace that opens in October, last month said policies on a statewide average will range up to $374 a month, depending on age and region. Federal subsidies on a sliding scale will assist those earning up to $94,200 for a family of four. In the Sacramento region, premiums for basic coverage would cost as little as $56 per month to as much as $332 per month. Policies purchased on the online store become effective no sooner than January.
The premiums to be offered by the 13 insurance companies selected by Covered California from 33 that applied came in surprisingly low, and Obama suggested that was due to the market forces that the law spurred.
Competition between insurers and consumer choice "are pushing down costs in the individual market, just like the law was designed to do," he said. He also stressed that all health insurance consumers, however their policies are financed, are enjoying improved coverage and protections afforded by the federal plan, such as for mammograms and preventive care.
"All of that is because of the Affordable Care Act," he said. "By the way, all of this is what the Republican Party has voted 37 times to repeal, at least in the House of Representatives. And my suggestion to them has been, let's stop refighting the old battles and start working ... to make this law work the way it's supposed to."
A California Republican appeared unwilling to take Obama's advice.
Marysville Assemblyman Dan Logue contended that many Californians will pay "significantly" higher premiums than they do now, citing a Forbes report by a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, a libertarian-oriented think tank. "This is hardly something to celebrate," Logue said.
Before his comments, Obama briefly met with leaders of groups that have launched Asegurate - "Get Covered" in Spanish - that will urge uninsured Californians to take advantage of the online marketplace. A particular focus for the coalition will be Latinos because they make up a disproportionate percentage of the uninsured in the state and, as the president noted, many will be eligible for the premium subsidies.
Latinos have learned a great deal about the Affordable Care Act the last two years as a result of outreach with Latino media organizations, said Dr. Robert K. Ross, president and CEO of the California Endowment.
"However, we now need that same group to activate and enroll so that they can experience the benefits of the health law firsthand," Ross said.
During his West Coast swing, Obama will have appeared at four fundraisers, the first two Thursday evening at the home of Flipboard CEO Mike McCue in Palo Alto and of Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla in Portola Valley.
After leaving San Jose, Obama flew to Southern California for two more fundraisers and a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Rancho Mirage.