Politics

Biden marks 12th anniversary of Obamacare by promoting benefits, warning of GOP repeal

President Biden marked the 12th anniversary of the health care law he championed under former President Barack Obama by extolling its reach to more than 30 million Americans and warning Americans that Republicans will try to scrap the program if they win control of Congress.

Mr. Biden said a record-high 14.5 million Americans enrolled in private insurance through Obamacare’s websites during the recent signup period and the 2010 law’s expansion of Medicaid coverage for the poor covers an additional 18.7 million people.

He suggested those numbers could be rolled back if Republicans overtake Democrats in November’s midterm elections.

“We’ve made tremendous progress, but our work is far from over. Over the last 12 years, Republicans in Congress have voted more than 70 times to repeal the [Affordable Care Act], with no real plan to replace it,” Mr. Biden said in a written White House statement. “As Republicans try to raise health care costs for the middle class, congressional Democrats and I will do everything in our power to protect and build on Obamacare’s landmark achievements.”

Mr. Biden boosted enrollment in the program he championed as vice president by using his coronavirus relief bill in early 2021 to supersize subsidies that defray the cost of premiums in the Obamacare marketplace.

The bigger subsidies expire after this year, however, so Mr. Biden is pushing members of his own party to use their narrow majorities to extend the benefits, even though centrists blocked his broader social-welfare package.

“When I ran for president, I promised I would protect and build on Obamacare — and that’s exactly what my administration has done. Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, ACA premiums are at an all-time low, while enrollment is at an all-time high,” Mr. Biden said.

He also extolled parts of the law that require insurers to cover people with preexisting conditions without being charged more — provisions that increased premiums for healthier people in the individual marketplace but are politically popular and caused the GOP to sink into disarray when it tried to repeal and replace Obamacare under former President Donald Trump in 2017.

Democrats used the failed repeal bid as a successful cudgel in the 2018 midterms and are looking to do it again as they face a tough cycle this year.

In recent weeks, Democrats highlighted radio comments by Sen. Ron Johnson, Wisconsin Republican, who this month said the GOP would need to have a plan if it wanted to repeal and replace Obamacare going forward. He later walked it back.

“During a radio interview, I used our failure to repeal and replace Obamacare as an example of how we need to be prepared to deliver on whatever agenda items we decide to run on. I was not suggesting repealing and replacing Obamacare should be one of those priorities,” Mr. Johnson said. “Even when we tried and failed, I consistently said our effort should focus on repairing the damage done by Obamacare and transitioning to a health system that works.”

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