On Saturday, for the first time since October 26, Barack Obama's weekly address acknowledged the continuing controversy over the rollout of his signature healthcare reform, the Affordable Care Act.
In the Republican response, the Texas representative Michael Burgess, a doctor and health committee member, kept up the attack, calling Obamacare "a trainwreck for doctors, a trainwreck for patients, and most importantly … a trainwreck for the American people".
Following addresses in which he discussed the need for a budget, marked Veterans Day weekend and promoted his energy policies, on Saturday the president asked the American people to "look beyond the headlines", to acknowledge economic recovery under his administration, and to imagine "both parties … working together".
"Over the past couple months," Obama said, at the start of his address, "most of the political headlines you've read have probably been about the government shutdown and the launch of the Affordable Care Act. And I know that many of you have rightly never been more frustrated with Washington. But if you look beyond those headlines, there are some good things happening in our economy."
After discussing job creation figures, deficit reduction, the auto industry, renewable energy and domestic oil production, however, Obama returned to the vexed subject of the Affordable Care Act.
"We decided to fix a broken healthcare system," he said. "And even though the rollout of the marketplace where you can buy affordable plans has been rough, so far, about 500,000 Americans are poised to gain health coverage starting 1 January. And by the way, healthcare costs are growing at the slowest rate in 50 years."
He added: "Imagine how much farther along we could be if both parties were working together. Think about what we could do if a reckless few didn't hold the economy hostage every few months, or waste time on dozens of votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act rather than try to help us fix it. "
The GOP address indicated that any such co-operation is unlikely in the near future. After citing cases he said had been outlined in letters sent to his office in Texas, including a small-business owner who faced "premiums set to rise by 22%" and a woman with multiple sclerosis who "because of the new law … is about to lose her coverage", Burgess said: "Many Americans are now questioning the White House's credibility, and rightfully so. They are right to expect the president to admit his mistakes and start giving some clear answers.
"As a physician, I know our healthcare system needs improvement – but this law is already failing. The best thing we can do now is scrap it and start over with a step-by-step approach that focuses on lower costs and patient-centered solutions.
"For now though, we will continue to ask the tough questions, and hold this president accountable for his broken promises on this self-inflicted disaster."
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