The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

May 10, 2013

Obama wades back into the health care debate

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is launching a new effort to rally the public around his hotly disputed health care law, a strategy aimed at shoring up key components of the sweeping federal overhaul and staving off yet another challenge from Republicans.

The president will specifically target women and young people, groups that backed him overwhelmingly during his presidential campaigns. During a Mother's Day-themed event at the White House on Friday, Obama will promote the benefits of the law for women, including free cancer screenings and contraceptives, and ask moms to urge their uninsured adult children to sign up for the health insurance "exchanges" that open this fall.

The exchanges are the centerpiece of the landmark overhaul of the nation's health insurance system. Three years after it became law, the measure widely known as "Obamacare" remains controversial, with GOP lawmakers resolving anew to overturn it and many Americans unsure how they'll be affected.

White House advisers acknowledge they struggled in explaining the complex law to the public when it passed in 2010. Now, with the final components being implemented, Obama allies see a fresh opportunity to sell the American people on the merits of measures that will be central to the president's legacy.

"We're in the phase for the actual meat of the law to come online," said Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress, a liberal group aligned with the White House. "It's important for the public to recognize that the law has tangible benefits to people so they feel comfortable enrolling."

Beginning Oct. 1, consumers can enroll in coverage through health insurance marketplaces called "exchanges" established by the states or the federal government. Coverage under the private plans begins Jan. 1, and nearly 30 million uninsured Americans are eventually expected to take part.

But in order to keep insurance premiums down, young, healthy people will have to join up in order to counteract the costs from seniors and others with health problems.

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