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Obama rallies Obamacare troops at ‘critical time’ for program

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President Barack Obama on Thursday urged more than 25,000 volunteers and advocates who dialed in to a White House conference call to pull out the stops to boost the number of people signing up for Obamacare health insurance plans.

Obama warned it will be challenging to overcome the skepticism about the plans given an onslaught of headlines about surging premium prices, but he said the stakes are high.

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“I think we’re at a critical time where we have to show that this program works for people, if they just see what their options are,” he told the volunteers, who work in their communities to encourage and assist enrollment.

Americans who do not receive health insurance through their employer or through Medicare or Medicaid programs shop online for subsidized insurance plans starting Nov. 1 until the end of January.

The average premium for benchmark 2017 plans sold on healthcare.gov rose 25 percent compared with 2016.

Obama said tax credits will help more than seven in 10 shoppers get a plan for less than $75 per month, but said many may not bother looking because they have heard about spiking costs.

“We’re going to have to clear the bugs off the windshield so people can see the road ahead, and that’s where you guys come in,” Obama said.

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The law has been fought by Republicans in Congress, who said it creates unwarranted government intervention in personal healthcare and private industry.

Several big insurers, including UnitedHealth Group Inc , Aetna Inc and Humana Inc , are pulling out of the online marketplaces selling the subsidized plans, citing bigger-than-expected financial losses.

Aetna Chief Executive Mark Bertolini said on Thursday that the earliest his company may return to the marketplaces would be 2019.

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Obama said more young and healthy people need to sign up for plans. That would offset insurers’ costs of covering members with serious illnesses.

Obama has said there are a series of improvements that could be made to his signature domestic policy achievement – the 2010 Affordable Care Act – if Congress and the next president, who will take office on Jan. 20, can work together.

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“Part of what we can do this time is to overcome the skeptics, to prove people wrong, and to provide momentum so that when the next administration comes in, they are starting from a position of strength,” Obama told the conference call.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)


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Trump is a vampire who feeds off his own followers — and no one deserved to be drained more than Jeff Sessions

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Former senator and disgraced former Attorney General Jeff Sessions has finally come, at age 73, to what is almost certainly the end of the road for his villainous political career. On Tuesday night, the right-wing Republican who served as a U.S. senator from 1997 to 2017 lost in his comeback attempt, defeated in the Republican primary for his old seat by Tommy Tuberville, a man whose cartoonish name better suited his previous career as head football coach at Auburn. The runoff election between the two wasn't even close, with the Riverboat Gambler (a silly and self-serious nickname for Tuberville, especially when "The Tubz" was right there for the taking) taking more than 60% of the vote.

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‘Top Gun’ helmet and ‘Alien’ spaceship in Hollywood props auction

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Maverick's fighter jet helmet, Obi-Wan Kenobi's lightsaber, Rocky's boxing gloves and an 11-foot "Alien" spaceship tipped to fetch half a million dollars will go up for auction in Los Angeles next month.

The sale of hundreds of legendary Hollywood movie props will be live-streamed on August 26-27, including items wielded by Indiana Jones and Clint Eastwood's Western outlaw Josey Wales.

A giant model of "Nostromo," the interstellar tug-ship on which Ridley Scott's classic "Alien" takes place, tops the pre-sale estimates at $300,000-500,000.

Constructed mainly of wood and steel, it was personally filmed for the movie's exterior shots by Scott, who had it "repainted dark gray and weathered extensively to imply decades of deep-space travel," said event organizers Prop Store.

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‘Complete and utter moron’: Anti-mask Republican derided after he ‘dismantles himself’ amid grilling from CNN host

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Florida State Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R) is facing a backlash online after appearing Wednesday on CNN to argue against mask mandates, which are intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Sabatini told CNN host Brianna Keilar that mask mandates were a violation of Florida's constitution. "This is something government has never done before. We've never had government telling people what you have to do with your own face," he said.

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