Obama: 'We're Going to Have to...Re-market and Re-brand' the Affordable Care Act

November 20, 2013 - 9:08 AM

Obama

President Barack Obama (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)

(CNSNews.com) - President Barack Obama told a gathering of corporate executives Tuesday he's confident that his model of health care will work in the end, but he said he's going to have to "re-brand" it to sell it to a skeptical public.

He didn't use the word "Obamacare" once on Tuesday in talking about his health care law, but he mentioned the "Affordable Care Act" seven times.

"So, look, I am confident that the model that we built, which works off of the existing private insurance system, is one that will succeed," Obama told the Wall Street Journal's CEO Council Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

"We are going to have to, (a) fix the website so everybody feels confident about that. We're going to have to, obviously, re-market and re-brand, and that will be challenging in this political environment."

During a campaign stop in Colorado last year, the president embraced the name that Republicans had given to his health insurance law: "The Affordable Care Act -- also known as Obamacare," Obama said in August 2012. "I actually like the name," he added. "Because I do care -- that's why we fought so hard to make it happen."

Obama isn't the only Democrat moving away from the term "Obamacare."  Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told NBC's David Gregory on Sunday that she has always preferred to call it the "Affordable Care Act." "It -- the Affordable Care Act, as I call it -- Pelosi chuckles -- and have always called it; the Affordable Care Act is right up there with Social Security, Medicare, affordable care for all Americans as a right, not a privilege," she said on "Meet the Press."

In his remarks to corporate executives Tuesday, President Obama insisted that the enrollment website "is getting better each week."

But on the same morning the president spoke, a senior administration IT official was telling Congress that "We still have to build the payment systems, to make payments to issuers in January."

Henry Chao, deputy chief information officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, estimated that 30-40 percent of the entire "federally facilitated marketplace" system still has to be built. He said he was talking about "the back-office systems, the accounting systems, the payment systems," not the healthcare. gov online application system.

President Obama told business executives on Tuesday that the healthcare.gov website "will be functioning for the majority of people who are using it" by the end of this month. "They'll be able to shop, see what their choices are. The prices are good. The prices are not changing during the open enrollment period that goes out until March." The remark seems to suggest that premiums will rise after that.

Asked if he's worried about not reaching the critical mass of sign-ups that are needed to make the marketplace work, Obama said "it's something we have to pay attention to." He pointed to compulsory health insurance in Massachusetts, where people didn't rush to sign up.

"What's also been expressed as a concern is the mix of people that sign up. So we might end up, you know, having millions of people sign up, they're happy with their new coverage, but we've got more people who are older, more likely to get sick than younger and healthier. We've got to monitor that carefully. We always anticipated, though, that younger folks would be the last folks in, just because, you know, it's been a while since you and I were young -- but as I recall, you don't think that you're going to get sick, you know, at that time."