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Obama Creates Teachable Moment on SCOTUS Health Care Ruling

President Obama started his remarks on the Affordable Care Act and today’s Supreme Court ruling by saying “there will be a lot of discussion on the politics of this… but that discussion misses the point. Today’s decision was a victory for people all over the country.” And then the President took the opportunity to explain the entire law – on his terms, of course – to a public who largely doesn’t understand it. This, of course, should have been done years ago, according to lots and lots of Democrats. The law has remained unpopular, in part, because those who worked so hard to pass it dropped it like a rock the moment it was signed. So this was an opportunity for the President to reset the debate, to explain what the law means for a variety of populations. And he did a reasonable job of describing that, while leaving out inconvenient facts about how the coverage in the exchanges isn’t all that practical, or how the coverage subsidies aren’t as good as they could be, or the lack of universality, or how enforcement of the law is left largely up to the states. But he did highlight many of the better elements of the law, like leaving children on parent’s coverage up to age 26, or removing annual and lifetime limits, or ending denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, the medical loss ratio which is providing rebates on premiums for many Americans, etc.

President Obama closed with two points. One, he referenced Natoma Canfield, a woman diagnosed with cancer and forced to drop her insurance coverage after years of premium hikes. He said that a letter from Canfield reminded him during the health care fight of all the others who go without coverage.

Finally, there was this:

We will continue to implement this law and we will work to improve it where we can. With today’s announcement, it’s time to move forward. Now’s the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time: putting people back to work, paying down our debt, and making sure that when people work hard, they can get ahead.

I don’t know what paying down the debt has to do with anything, in fact it contradicts the entire first goal of putting people back to work. But it’s illustrative as the strategy for Democrats on this law in the days and weeks and months to come: the Court has spoken, so STFU. That’s the message going forward.

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David Dayen

David Dayen