Both campaigns have recently steered the health care debate into an in-the-weeds scuffle over taxes and penalties. But President Obama pulled back the lens in a campaign event Thursday, describing to voters what his signature legislative achievement means for the big picture — namely families who have new access to medical care.
At his first post-Supreme Court ruling campaign stop in Ohio Thursday, Obama showed he is ready to have a fight about his law, and is ready to reset the argument away from the fight about what is or is not a tax.
“I am running because I believe that in America nobody should go bankrupt because they get sick,” Obama told a crowd in Mawmee. “I will work with anybody who wants to work with me to continue to improve our health care system and our health-care laws, but the law that I passed is here to stay.”
Unmentioned in Obama’s rousing defense of the law was the current Republican-driven debate over whether the individual mandate that underpins the president’s reform plan is a tax. Mitt Romney’s campaign has struggled in recent days to separate Romney’s nearly-identical Massachusetts coverage mandate from Obama’s national one, and has turned to the Republican talking point that Obama’s law constitutes a huge tax increase.
Obama’s campaign staff has been pushing back hard on that suggestion, saying the mandate is nothing but a penalty for Americans who can afford to buy insurance but refuse. On the trail Thursday, the president stepped back from the tax fight toward the reforms he signed and their potential to change the way health care in America works.
“Now is not the time to spend four years fighting battles we fought two years ago. Now is the time to move forward and make sure that every American has affordable health insurance and that insurance companies are treating them fairly,” he said. “That is what we fought for. That is what we are going to keep. We are moving forward.”
Even after the Supreme Court decision, Republicans continued to insist that Obama’s reform law is an anchor weighing the president down. But with the GOP struggling to put vocalize its plan to “replace” the law, Obama seems to be relying on the fact that he’s got actual reforms to run on, while the GOP has promises of another drawn-out legislative fight over reforming the nation’s health care system.