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Saturday, December 3, 2016

If you want an example of how the Affordable Care Act should work, President Obama hopes you’ll look to California.

Speaking in San Jose on Friday, the president heralded California’s implementation of his signature legislative accomplishment, which has resulted in an insurance marketplace that’s offering rates lower than anyone expected. Similar results have also been seen in Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

“You can listen to a bunch of political talk out there, negative ads and fearmongering geared toward the next election, or alternatively you can look at what’s happening in states like California right now,” Obama said.

A total of 2.6 million Californians — anyone who earns less than 400 percent of the federal poverty level — will receive tax credits to help them pay for insurance. Those earning 133 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible for California’s Medicaid program, as the state has chosen to accept expansion offered by the federal government. You can figure out if you’re eligible for a subsidy by using this calculator.

“In states that are working hard to implement this law properly, we’re seeing it work for people — for middle-class families, for consumers,” the president said.

California was the first state to set up a health care marketplace. From 33 applications, the state accepted 13 insurers whose rates were published last week.

The state also has the most uninsured residents in the nation — so if the reform works there, it could work in any state.

The Republican campaign to misinform about and repeal Obamacare has been effective. A recent poll said 42 percent of Americans weren’t sure it was law, and a poll released Thursday showed record unpopularity for the law.

The president sought to combat the constant misinformation with two simple messages: 1. About 85 percent of Americans will not be affected by Obamacare, except to have more benefits and protections in their existing insurance, and 2. Those who are buying insurance will benefit from competition and government tax credits and/or breaks that will help them afford it.

“This doesn’t mean everything will go perfectly right away,” said Obama. He then made the moral argument that underlies the entire massive reform project he has undertaken: “Quality care shouldn’t be a privilege. It should be a right.”

The president also addressed a common Obamacare criticism that in some ways resembles the “if it’s snowing, how could there be global warming?” argument: “If this law is so great, why did my premiums go up?”

The cost of health care is actually growing at a much slower rate over the past three years, the president pointed out.

“The main message I want for Californians and people all across the country, is that starting on October 1st, if you’re in the individual market, you can get a better deal,” Obama said. “If you’re a small business that’s providing health insurance to your employees, you can get a better deal through these exchanges. You’ve got to sign up, Healthcare.gov, or here in California, CoveredCA.com.”

Open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act begins October 1.

AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

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