US & Canada

President Obama rallies support for healthcare law

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Media captionObama vowed to keep fighting for his embattled signature healthcare law in the face of ongoing negative publicity

US President Barack Obama has launched a fresh effort to promote his embattled healthcare overhaul law, as problems with its central website persist.

He was joined at the White House by Americans who said they had benefitted from the Affordable Care Act.

The US leader said it was time to "refocus" on improving the American healthcare system following a wave of negative publicity for the law.

"My main message today is we're not going back," he said.

Mr Obama recounted stories of Americans who had already benefitted under the sweeping 2010 reform legislation - but said millions more remained to be helped.

"The bottom line is this law is working," he said. "We're not repealing it as long as I'm president."

Mr Obama added that the new healthcare website, which sells medical insurance, is now working at acceptable levels after a glitch-plagued 1 October launch,

He also sought to remind the American public of the law's most popular provisions: Under the law, young people can remain covered under their parents' health insurance policies until age 26, and beginning next year insurers will no longer be able to deny coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

The act aims to provide health coverage to some 15% of US citizens who lack it and to slow the growth of medical costs.

'Floodgates are open'

The White House is also due to hold a youth summit on Wednesday, in the latest attempt to promote the law among the young and healthy, a demographic crucial to the strategy of reducing overall health insurance costs.

The rallies are part of a multi-pronged effort by the administration to counter the Republican argument that the law has already failed.

The website's problems have sent Mr Obama's job approval ratings plunging and threaten to damage his fellow Democrats in next year's congressional elections.

Elsewhere in Washington DC on Tuesday, the White House chief of staff told a public policy forum that more than one million new visitors had logged on to a day earlier.

Denis McDonough said the website's new queuing system, used in times of high traffic, worked "pretty well".

The administration aims to enrol seven million people in insurance plans before the end of March, when all Americans are required to have coverage or pay a fine.

But problems persist. Insurers say they are receiving enrolment forms that have errors or are duplicated, while others go missing altogether.

"So far we've been able to deal with these issues because there's been relatively low volume," Daniel Durham, of industry lobby group America's Health Insurance Plans, told Reuters news agency.

"But now that the floodgates are open... we're going to see a lot more volume and health plans just don't have the personnel to do all [the technical fixes] manually."

On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor accused the administration of trying to cover up the law's problems.

"What else are they hiding?" he asked at a news conference.

"While the White House wants to claim that is now working, we know that Obamacare is still plagued with problems and every American deserves relief from it."

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Media captionHouse Republican leaders question President Barack Obama's embattled signature healthcare law

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