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President Obama defends ACA benefits, confronts cancellation claims

October 30, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
President Obama told a crowd in Boston that he is "not happy" about the rocky rollout, but assured Americans the site would be fixed as soon as possible. The president also touted the benefits of the ACA and disputed claims that health care reform has caused some insurance plans to be cancelled.

JUDY WOODRUFF: President Obama hit the road today to stem the tide of growing criticism over the Affordable Care Act and promoting what he sees as its benefits. He stressed that a similar law that went into effect in Massachusetts in 2006 had some bumps along the way, but is now considered a success.

Speaking at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, the president also offered an explanation for why some Americans are receiving cancellation notices for their current insurance plans.

PRESIDENT PRESIDENT OBAMA: Today, the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to abide by some of the strongest consumer protections this country has ever known, a true patient’s bill of rights.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: No more discriminating against kids with preexisting conditions.


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PRESIDENT OBAMA: No more dropping your policy when you get sick and need it most.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: No more lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits. Most plans — most plans now have to cover free preventive care, like mammograms and birth control.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Young people can stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26. All of this is in place right now. It is working right now.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: But let’s face it. We have had a problem. The Web site hasn’t worked the way it’s supposed to over these last couple of weeks. And, as a consequence, a lot of people haven’t had a chance to see just how good the prices for quality health insurance through these marketplaces really are.

Now, ultimately, this Web site,, will be the easiest way to shop for and buy these new plans, because you can see all these plans right next to each other and compare prices and see what kind of coverage it provides.

But, look, there is no denying it. Right now, the Web site is too slow. Too many people have gotten stuck. And I am not happy about it. And neither are a lot of Americans who need health care, and they’re trying to figure out how they can sign up as quickly as possible.

So, there’s no excuse for it. And I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP. We are working overtime to improve it every day.

Now, unfortunately, there are others who are so locked into the politics of this thing that they won’t lift a finger to help their own people.

And that’s leaving millions of Americans uninsured unnecessarily. That’s a shame, because if they put as much energy into making this law work as they did in attacking the law, Americans would be better off.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: Americans would be better off.

If you had one of these substandard plans before the ACA became law and you really like that plan, you are able to keep it. That’s what I said when I was running for office. That was part of the promise we made.

But ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans, what we said under the law is, you got to replace them with quality coverage, because that too was a central premise of the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning.

And, today, that promise means that every plan in the marketplace covers a core set of minimum benefits, like maternity care, and preventive care, and mental health care, and prescription drug benefits, and hospitalization. And they can’t use allergies or pregnancy, or a sports injury, or the fact that you’re a woman to charge you more.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: They can’t do that anymore.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: So, yes, this is hard, because the health care system’s a big system, and it’s complicated.

And if it was hard doing it just in one state, it’s harder to do it in all 50 states, especially when the governors of a bunch of states and half of the Congress aren’t trying to help.

Yes, it’s hard, but it’s worth it. It is the right thing to do, and we are going to keep moving forward.


PRESIDENT OBAMA: We are going to keep working to improve the law, just like you did here in Massachusetts.