The Battle Heats Up Over ‘Obamacare’

President, GOP exchange words over the Affordable Care Act.

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If it's Friday, it must be time for another fight over "Obamacare," which is re-emerging as the hottest issue in Washington.

Advocacy groups are on the attack. Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for Crossroads GPS, a conservative political action committee, said, "Obamacare's three central promises – that costs would go down, that insurance wouldn't change, and for universal coverage –are all now proven as not true."

But Americans United for Change, a liberal group, is running a cable TV ad titled "Hands Off Obamacare." An announcer in the ad says, "Republicans want to take your benefits away and put insurance companies back in charge."

These battles are setting the stage for the mid-term elections of November 2014, when Obamacare is likely to be a major subject of debate.

[READ: The State of the Union Is Not Strong, Americans Say]

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President Obama fanned the flames Thursday when he chided the Republican-controlled House for voting 38 times to repeal or void key provisions of his health-care law, the Affordable Care Act. The most recent vote for dismantling the law came Wednesday.

Obama argued that it's time to move beyond the "old battles." One of his goals is to encourage young, healthy people to buy health insurance as soon as possible. If they don't, the financial underpinnings of the law could be jeopardized.

And the opposition remains vehement. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said, "Nearly every major promise the president had made [about the health care law] has been shattered. The law is costing American jobs; it's forcing people to give up health plans they like, and it's driving up the cost of care for families across America."

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But Obama defended the law. "What I've heard is just the same song and dance," the president said. "We're just going to blow through that stuff and keep on doing the right thing for the American people."

He said insurance companies are issuing consumer refunds because the Affordable Care Act requires them to spend at least 80 per cent of premiums on health care, or return "excess" money to policyholders. He also underscored a report from New York's state government estimating that individual premiums will decline by at least 50 percent when the law is fully implemented. Republicans hotly disputed that claim.

It was the president's first speech on "Obamacare" since the administration announced that it would delay for one year a provision mandating that businesses with more than 50 employees offer health insurance.

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  • Ken Walsh covers the White House and politics for U.S. News. He writes the daily blog "Ken Walsh's Washington" for usnews.com and "The Presidency" column for the U.S. News Weekly. He is the author of the new book "Prisoners of the White House: The Isolation of America's Presidents and the Crisis of Leadership." Ken Walsh can be reached at kwalsh@usnews.com and on Facebook and Twitter.