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President Obama declared today that his signature health care law is here to stay. That, despite efforts by Republicans in Congress to delay parts of the law or block them entirely. Next week, new online insurance markets will get up and running. And today, at a campaign-style rally outside Washington D.C., the president encouraged uninsured young people to sign up for coverage. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: President Obama seemed relaxed and confident today, making a sales pitch for his health care law at a community college in suburban Maryland.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know, sometimes you just need to escape Beltway politics for a little bit, even if you're just a mile or two outside the Beltway.
HORSLEY: That wasn't far enough for the president to get away from the budget showdown now taking place in Congress. Republicans are threatening to shut down the government next week unless Democrats agree to strip funding for the health care law. Obama says that's not how democracy is supposed to work.
OBAMA: Shutting down the government just because you don't like a law that was passed and found constitutional and because you don't like the idea of giving people new access to affordable health care, what kind of idea is that?
HORSLEY: The president had an even stronger rebuke for Republicans' alternative demand for a delay in the health care law in exchange for raising the debt ceiling. Without that increase, the government will default.
OBAMA: I will not negotiate on anything when it comes to the full faith and credit of the United States of America.
HORSLEY: Meanwhile, the administration is pressing ahead with the health care law. Beginning next week, uninsured individuals can start signing up for coverage through new online exchanges, which friendly state governments like Maryland's are busy promoting.
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HORSLEY: Today's speech by the president is part of this broader promotional push for the exchanges. The White House is eager to sign up a lot of young healthy people like those in the audience today since their insurance premiums will help cover the cost of insuring older, sicker people. Some young people who were already buying health insurance on the individual market will have to pay more under the Affordable Care Act, but the White House notes their policies will now cover more and insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to those with preexisting conditions.
The government's also offering subsidies to help low-income people buy insurance. Obama urged his audience to check out the prices for themselves.
OBAMA: Tell your friends. Tell your classmates. Tell your family members about the new health care choices.
HORSLEY: This PR campaign is important for the White House because polls show many Americans are still unclear about how Obamacare works. The President's also competing with an aggressive campaign by opponents of the health care law, including commercials funded by the billionaire Koch brothers that aim to discourage young people from signing up.
OBAMA: Part of the reason I need your help to make this law work is because there are so many people out there working to make it fail.
HORSLEY: Obama acknowledged there will be glitches as the law takes effect. For example, it was disclosed today that a separate insurance exchange for small businesses won't offer online access until November. Still, the president insists those kinks will be worked out over time and eventually, he says, even the most outspoken critics will embrace the health care law, much as they did with Medicare.
OBAMA: And once it's working really well, I guarantee you they will not call it Obamacare.
HORSLEY: A new CNBC poll found attitudes about the health care law, both positive and negative, are stronger when the president's name is attached to it. Scott Horsley, NPR News, the White House. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.