WASHINGTON — President Obama acknowledged "growing pains" with his signature health insurance law on Thursday, offering a number of proposals that he said would expand health insurance and reduce premiums.
In a speech at Miami Dade College in Florida, Obama used a number of analogies to describe the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. He compared it to a "starter home" that needs improvements over time, and even to the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, a smartphone recalled last month after they started catching fire.
But even with the phone's problems, he said, "you don’t go back to using a rotary phone."
Obama spent much of his long-awaited speech on health care — delayed by Hurricane Matthew and the campaign season — arguing with Republican lawmakers who have sought to repeal the law. But he also laid out in greater detail his proposals to improve on Obamacare even as the time limit on his presidency hit the three-month mark. "This isn’t kind of a rah-rah speech," he said. "I might get into the details."
Obama urged Republican governors — in Florida and 18 other states — to expand Medicaid despite a Supreme Court ruling that Congress can't force states to participate. He argued that the federal government pays most of the tab — more than 90% of the cost of new Medicaid enrollments.
He proposed expanding the tax credits for people who buy health insurance on state and federal exchanges, using money saved from Medicaid.
And he pushed for a public option — now re-branded as a "public plan fallback" — that would add a government-run health insurance plan to the list of options offered on federal exchanges. That proposal, he said, is modeled after the Republican-passed Medicare Part D prescription drug benefit signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2003.
"This is not a radical idea," Obama said. "It was fine when it was their idea."
Obama's speech comes as the federal government opens the enrollment window on new health insurance signups in the exchanges. The Department of Health and Human services is aiming for 1.1 million new enrollments, which it hopes will encourage more competition and reduce premiums.