WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama declared Tuesday that his 5-year-old health care law is firmly established as the "reality" of health care in America, even as he awaits a Supreme Court ruling that could undermine it.
"This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another," he said.
Obama defended the health care overhaul during an address to the Catholic Health Association Conference in Washington, just days ahead of an anticipated decision by the Supreme Court that could eliminate health care for millions of people.
Obama poked fun at opponents who have issued "unending Chicken Little warnings" about what would happen if the law passed. None of those predictions have come true, Obama argued.
"The critics stubbornly ignore reality," he said.
Anticipating his speech, however, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., dismissed Obama's claims as "jousting with reality again."
"I imagine the families threatened with double-digit premium increases would beg to differ, as would the millions of families who received cancellation notices for the plans they had and wanted to keep," McConnell said.
Obama's remarks amounted to a political argument for the law just ahead of the Supreme Court's ruling on whether Congress authorized federal subsidy payments for health care coverage regardless of where people live, or only for residents of states that created their own insurance marketplaces. Nearly 6.4 million low- and moderate-income Americans could lose coverage if the court rules that people who enrolled through the federal site weren't eligible for the subsidies.
The decision rests on the court's interpretation of a short phrase in the voluminous law. But Obama, wielding statistics, anecdotes and state-by-state data, made a case that the law is so established that it has woven itself into the health care system.
"Five years in, what we are talking about is no longer just a law, it's no longer just a theory. It isn't even about the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare. This isn't about myths or rumors that folks try to sustain," he said.
"There is a reality that people on the ground day to day are experiencing."