WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama on Friday slammed Republicans for their continuing push to repeal his signature health care law, asking why the primary issue uniting the GOP involves kicking tens of tens of millions of people off of health insurance with no alternative plan for providing them coverage.
During a White House press conference, Obama at times appeared incredulous as he described the years-long effort by Republicans to nix the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which has been law since March 2010. House Republicans have voted to repeal the law 40 times.
"The one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment is making sure that 30 million people don't have health care," Obama said, referring to the number of people who will have health insurance as a direct result of the law. "Why is it that my friends in the other party have made the idea of preventing these people from getting health care their holy grail? Their number one priority?"
The president chuckled as he said Republicans at least used to say they would replace the law with a better health care proposal. Not anymore, he said.
"There's not even a pretense now that they're going to replace it with something better," Obama said. "The notion is simply that those 30 million people, or the 150 million who are benefiting from other aspects of affordable care, will be better off without it. That's their assertion. Not backed by fact. Not backed by any evidence. It's just become an ideological fixation."
A key part of the law begins on Oct. 1, when insurance exchanges start. Under that provision, the 15 percent of Americans still without health insurance will, for the first time, be able to sign up for coverage at a significantly cheaper rate than what they can buy on the individual market. Those who still can't afford insurance at those reduced rates can get a tax credit under Obamacare.
The Oct. 1 start date for the exchanges coincides with the date that Congress needs to pass a temporary spending bill to keep the government running. Tea party Republicans have vowed not to pass that spending measure -- and shut down the government in the process -- if the bill includes any funds for Obamacare.
Obama suggested that Republicans who are making those threats are missing the point that what they're doing is hurting the bulk of the country.
"The idea that you would shut down the government unless you prevent 30 million people from getting health care is a bad idea," he said. "You should be thinking about how you can advance and improve ways for middle-class families to have some security so if they work hard, they can get ahead, and their kids can get ahead."