Health-care reform has been the law of the land for three months. Yet President Obama continues to promote his signature piece of domestic legislation so vigorously you’d almost think its fate was still in doubt.
In a way, it is. On Tuesday, Mr. Obama unveiled new regulations that will implement some popular provisions of the law and at the same time warned Republicans not to attempt to repeal the sweeping health-care bill.
“We’re not going back. I refuse to go back,” said Obama Monday at a White House ceremony.
Practically speaking, there is very little chance that health-care reform will be repealed while Obama remains president, since he would veto any repeal bill passed by Congress. The GOP then would have to muster a two-thirds vote in both houses to overcome that veto and roll back bill provisions.
But Republicans aren’t waiting until 2012 to push repeal as a political issue. They’ve drafted repeal legislation and made it a theme of their efforts to retake the House and Senate.
The National Republican Congressional Committee, for instance, maintains a “Code Red” website devoted to repeal that publishes articles critical of the health-care bill and takes aim at individual Democrats who voted for its passage in March.
Some polls show that voters might narrowly approve repeal efforts. A June 13 Gallup/USA Today survey, for instance, found that 50 percent of respondents favored repeal of all or much of the health-care bill. Forty-five percent opposed such a move.
In this context, Obama is playing defense by emphasizing the most broadly popular elements of the bill that take effect this year.
On Tuesday, the administration unveiled what it called a “patient’s bill of rights” – a package of regulations that explains how some of these popular moves will be implemented.
The provisions include a ban on insurers denying coverage to children with preexisting health conditions, a ban on lifetime coverage limits, a prohibition on the cancellation of policies of people who become ill, and the phasing out of annual coverage limits.
“While it will take a few years to fully implement this law, we can already see it taking effect,” said Obama.
Obama also met Tuesday with representatives of insurance companies, and state insurance regulators, in an effort to warn them against jacking up rates in advance of full implementation of the health care bill in 2014.
“We wanted to caution insurance companies that rate increases would be watched very closely,” said Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius in a conference call with reporters.
Republicans dismissed Tuesday’s actions as mere publicity.