The bill is law, now it’s time to sell it.
Now that health insurance reform is the law of the land, the President is touring the nation building support for it. That may seem backwards but it's the White House response to the Republicans' 'repeal and replace' strategy. The GOP is making the past year's contentious debate the focus of virtually all Congressional elections this Fall and the campaigning has already begun. A Republican National Committee statement released today charged 'government run health care is crushing job creators,' citing charges that Honeywell, Lockheed -Martin and Goodrich are taking against first quarter earnings as a result of the bill. The charges mark the end of the companies' ability to deduct the subsidy they receive for their retirees prescription drug coverage, in addition to the cost they pay for the coverage itself.
Traveling with the President to an appearance in Portland, Maine, Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton said it was the second in a series of events Mr. Obama will hold, that are 'designed to dispel the rumors and myths and underscore the benefits' of the health insurance reforms. Last week, in Iowa, he showcased parts of the bill that take effect this year, like banning the insurance companies' ability to deny coverage to children based on pre-existing conditions and extending the ability of parents to keep children on family coverage to the age of 26. His goal was to challenge Republican assertions that the tax hikes and other painful elements of the bill take effect long before the benefits.
On this day his focus was small business benefits. The White House says three and a half million small businesses with 25 or fewer employees, will get tax credits this year if they provide their workers with health insurance. Those credits will increase by 2014 and the requirement that large companies provide insurance or pay a fine won't kick in until then. President Obama said of the Republicans 'platform of repeal...go for it.' He went on, 'I don't believe the American people are going to put the insurance industry back in the driver's seat.'
But outside the convention hall, the reason for the Republicans' strategy and the reason the President has a busy time ahead was on full display; an equal number of protesters, for and against the health reform bill. One critic carried a sign reading 'Democrats, killing the USA, 1 bill at a time.' Recent polls suggest most people don't think the new health reform law will help them, personally, and the country is evenly divided over whether it will improve the nation's health care system overall or not. Mr. Obama shrugged off the numbers saying 'Well, yeah. It’s only been a week,' but he may be privately troubled by a Rasmussen Reports poll that indicates support for repealing the law has grown in the week since it passed.
After his speech, the President was traveling to Boston for a more overtly political purpose, two Democratic National Committee fundraisers. Aides say he plans an active campaign schedule. His own public approval ratings are more than twice those of Congress and he's a prodigious campaign fundraiser. But on the way into Portland, Mr. Obama noted his motorcade passed a man who gave him the thumbs down. Free expression, the President said, is what's great about the United States.
Wendell Goler serves as a senior White House and foreign affairs correspondent for Fox News Channel (FNC), joining the network in 1996.