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Obamacare "doing what it's designed to do," president says

2:55 PM, Jul 18, 2013   |    comments
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(CBS NEWS) -- Acknowledging there will be "glitches" in the ongoing rollout of the Affordable Care Act, President Obama on Thursday brought Obamacare supporters to the White House to stress that the law is already saving consumers money.

Obamacare, the president said, is "doing what it's designed to do -- deliver more choices, better benefits, a check on rising costs."

Because of a provision of the health law already in effect, health insurance companies are required to spend at least 80 percent of what consumers pay in premiums on health care expenses, rather than profits or overhead. The "medical loss ratio" rule has saved more than 77 million people as much $3.4 billion up front on their premiums. On top of that, 8.5 million consumers are receiving rebates averaging about $100 per family.

"If [insurance companies] are not spending your premium dollars on your health care, at least 80 percent of it, they've got to give you some money back," Mr. Obama explained.

He added, "I bet if you took a poll, most folks wouldn't know when this check comes in it's because of Obamacare."

In fact, an August 2012 poll from the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that 42 percent of Americans were aware the medical loss ratio is part of the health care law. As many as 62 percent of Americans said they approved of the idea of requiring insurance companies to spend at certain percentage of premiums on actual health care.

Polls from this year have shown that many Americans are still unfamiliar with the main elements of the Affordable Care Act, and the law remains controversial. A March 2013 CBS News poll showed that 35 percent of Americans approve of it, while 44 percent disapprove and 22 percent couldn't say.

The continued uncertainty over the law explains why Republicans are intent on once again making Obamacare a campaign issue and continue efforts to dismantle it. The GOP-led House of Representatives on Wednesday voted to delay for a year two main parts of the law -- including one part, the employer mandate, which the Obama administration has already unilaterally decided to delay. The administration says it's delaying the mandate, which requires businesses with 50 or more employees to provide insurance for their workers, so it can have more time to simplify the reporting requirements.

Mr. Obama on Thursday said the administration is "steadily working through" the complications with the law's implementation, including Republican resistance.

"The same was true when Medicare started," he said. "There were folks who for political reasons resisted implementation, but once it got set up said, 'This is a pretty good deal.'"

The administration on Thursday also released data showing that premiums in the new health insurance exchanges -- online marketplaces where consumers will be able to purchase private insurance for next year -- will be nearly 20 percent lower in 2014 than previously expected. The data is based on information released from 11 states on the individual markets they are setting up in their exchanges, as well as six states that have released information on prices for the small group market. 

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