“They have been entirely deficient up until about six months ago,” said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. “All the noise was coming from the other side. We have to ramp it up as to the benefits.”
Obama returned to the issue in a recent speech, standing in the White House with people who have received rebate checks, one of the law’s benefits that Nelson says has not been highlighted. Obama pointed to projected premium decreases in states that have set up health care marketplaces, including New York, where 50 percent drops are possible.
The news is not universally upbeat.
In Florida, where Republican lawmakers refused to participate in setting up the exchanges, individual rates are projected to increase an average of 35 percent, though tax credits people would get to offset any increase are not taken into account. Ohio officials, who also declined to set up a state-run exchange, said rates could go up 41 percent for individual buyers. As in Florida, critics argued the numbers were based on inaccurate assumptions.
Still, Obama handed detractors an opening by delaying for a year implementation of a provision requiring most businesses to provide coverage or face fines. The individual requirement for insurance will go into effect in 2014 as planned.
“If President Obama is willing to grant a waiver to giant corporations, why won’t he grant the same waiver to hard-working American families?” Cruz said Thursday at a news conference ouside the Capitol where opponents outlined their plans to attack the law (as well as immigration reform and the IRS).
Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, said activists will spend August holding town halls across the country and “street rallies,” where people wave signs to passersby. Tea party members will attend meetings held by members of Congress, though lawmakers in both parties are eschewing the traditional format for safer “tele-town halls” conducted over the phone.
Undeterred, the conservative group Heritage Action for America is hosting “defund Obamacare” town halls throughout the month with stops in nine cities, including Tampa on Aug. 21. The meeting will be hosted by former Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina.
Town halls in 2009 became ground zero for the fight over health care reform, with angry crowds showing up to denounce the effort. Rep. Kathy Castor, a Tampa Democrat, made national news becoming overwhelmed by a large group shouting “Tyranny! Tyranny! Tyranny!” and pushing and shoving.
Castor is not holding a town hall this month but plans on small business forums to explain the available tax credits and working with community health centers and nonprofits to publicize the law.
Rep. Rich Nugent, R-Spring Hill, will be talking up flaws of the bill. But Nugent said the Republican assault — punctuated by Friday’s 40th repeal vote in the House — is also flawed. “When you start talking about replacing something, you need to come up with ideas. That’s part of the problem.”
Democrats will try to seize on that as they go after Republicans. Caught off guard in 2009, they have vowed to not let history repeat itself.
Americans United for Change and a group called Protect Your Care have hired staffers in 10 states, including Florida, Texas and North Carolina to coordinate weekly events promoting the law and to conduct “rapid response” to Republican claims.