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Obama's Message: Health Care Law Will Prove Itself In Time


It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. Good morning. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Steve Inskeep.

The trouble with an Obamacare website is taking on the never-ending quality of some earlier crises this administration has faced. It resembles, for example, the BP oil spill, where the administration needed a technical solution, and until that arrived, could do nothing but wait.

President Obama's spending his time working to sell the longer-term implications of the Affordable Care Act. The malfunctioning website is supposed to be a portal for millions of Americans to shop for new insurance plans. And the president chose Boston as a place to promote the law, as NPR's Ari Shapiro reports.

ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: The setting for Obama's speech was Boston's historic Faneuil Hall. That's where Mitt Romney signed his state's health care bill into law seven years ago, as governor of Massachusetts.

At the time, Romney noted that it was a bipartisan effort.


MITT ROMNEY: My son said that having Senator Kennedy and me together like this on this stage behind the same piece of landmark legislation will help slow global warming. That's because hell has frozen over.


SHAPIRO: Today, hell has thawed. President Obama says this entire process on the national level - from technical corrections to enrollment - would be much easier if he'd had support from the other party.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If they put as much energy into making this law work as they do in attacking the law, Americans would be better off.

SHAPIRO: There's been plenty to attack these last few weeks. President Obama said the failings of are inexcusable.


OBAMA: Right now, the website is too slow, too many people have gotten stuck, and I am not happy about it.

SHAPIRO: But he said that problem will be fixed. The other major problem right now is with people who get insurance on the individual market. Some have been told they can't keep their plan, even though Obama had promised if you like your plan, you can keep it.

Obama said people need to understand that they may now get a better, in some cases, cheaper plan.


OBAMA: Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad-apple insurers had free rein, every single year, to limit the care that you received, or use minor preexisting conditions to jack up your premiums, or bill you into bankruptcy. So a lot of people thought they were buying coverage, and it turned out not to be so good.

SHAPIRO: Overall, Obama expressed confidence that, like the Massachusetts law, the federal health care law will prove itself in time. But Republicans say comparisons between Romneycare and Obamacare are of limited use.

Josh Archambault is with the Pioneer Institute, a Boston think tank. To take just one example, he points out that nearly everyone in Massachusetts already had insurance before the law passed.

JOSH ARCHAMBAULT: In fact, we started at 92 percent covered. That's a very different starting place from a place like Texas or Arizona or Florida, where you're talking about an uninsured rate of closer to 18 to 25 percent. So it is a different game, or a different beast, if you will, in trying to get those uninsured enrolled.

SHAPIRO: Even the White House's allies agree that this is like comparing an apple to a truck full of oranges.

JOHN KINGSDALE: Our program was so much simpler.

SHAPIRO: Massachusetts health care consultant John Kingsdale spoke on a White House conference call with reporters.

KINGSDALE: We had one state with hundreds of thousands of people, rather than, you know, three-quarters of the country.

SHAPIRO: Obama made this point himself yesterday, saying: If it was hard doing it in one state, it's going to be harder to do it in all 50.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.