Obama continues to defend healthcare law

President Obama said he is "110 percent committed" to his healthcare law, pushing its benefits and urging consumers on Friday to ignore critics who are distorting the truth about the legislation, according to a report in The New York Times.

The law, he said, creates universal health insurance coverage and would especially benefit women by providing access to mammograms and cancer screenings. "No one can be turned away from private insurance plans," he said. "If you're sick, you'll finally have the same chance to buy quality, affordable healthcare as everybody else."

Obama said that despite GOP opposition, his administration would do everything in its power to make sure all Americans have access to care at a price they can afford.  He also cautioned Americans that Republicans are spreading misinformation about the law.

"Some small businesses are being told their costs are going to go up, even though they're exempted from the law or they actually stand to benefit from it," Obama said. "Whenever insurance premiums go up, you're being told it's because of Obamacare, even though there's no evidence that that's the case."

To Americans bewildered by the law, he said, "Don't be bamboozled."

Obama's remarks were made in the wake of the administration's acknowledgement that Kathleen Sebeulis, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, is trying to raise money to fund a campaign to publicize the benefits of the law, reports Reuters.

Sebeulis has been asking healthcare companies, providers, patient advocacy groups, churches and other charitable organizations for donations, according to Reuters. Their financial contributions would help fund an effort to persuade millions of uninsured Americans to obtain health coverage in 2014 through online exchanges. Enrollment for the federally subsidized private insurance is set to begin October 1.

Sebelius was forced to turn to private donations because Republicans in Congress were unwilling to allocate new money to finance government outreach efforts.  "There is a special section in the Public Health Service Act that allows the secretary to support and to encourage others to support non-profit organizations working to provide health information and conduct other public health activities," Jason Young, a spokesman HHS, told Reuters in an email.

But Republicans are vehemently opposed to the law and the House of Representatives is set to vote next week on a measure to repeal the legislation.

Meanwhile, The Register-Guard reports that big employers are waiting to see the outcome of the tussle between the GOP and Obama administration before making a decision about healthcare options for their employees.

Many large employers already offer health insurance to their employees. But under the federal Affordable Care Act, large employers--those with the equivalent of 50 or more full-time employees--must offer quality, affordable health insurance to their employees and employees' children, or face fines. The penalty is $2,000 annually times the number of the company's full-time employees.

Some employers are considering reducing employee hours to make sure they don't work more than 30 hours a week--the law's threshold for a full-time employee to be offered health insurance, The Register-Guard reports.

Jerry Scott, CEO of Portland-­based Elmer's Restaurants, said he doesn't know yet the full financial impact of the changes and how the company will respond. His company used to offer group health insurance to its employees but participation fell below the levels required by insurance carriers so it no longer offers coverage. The company is currently evaluating all its options but he says it won't force employees to cut their hours.

"We don't know what we're going to do," Scott said. "All the regulations haven't been written yet. ... It will be September or October before we make a final decision."

To learn more:
- read about Obama's remarks
- read about Sebelius' fundraising efforts
- read about big employer concerns