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Obama defends health care law, slams GOP for "re-fighting" old battles

More than three years after signing a massive health care system reform into law, President Barack Obama on Thursday worked to sell the legislation’s benefits to an American public still largely skeptical about the overhaul.

Highlighting nearly half a billion dollars in insurance rebates going back to consumers due to the law's requirement that insurers spend 80 cents on the dollar towards medical care, Obama said the law is "doing what it's designed to do." 

"Generally speaking, what we've seen is that health care costs have slowed drastically in a lot of areas since we passed the Affordable Care Act," Obama said in remarks at the White House. "We have a lot more work to do, but health care inflation isn't sky-rocketing the way it was."

Noting that there are still many who are "rooting" for the legislation's failure and cheering "glitches" in its implementation, Obama said that the positive effects of the bill are starting to become evident to consumers. 

President Barack Obama delivers a statement in the State Dining Room of the White House July 17, 2013 in Washington, DC.Pool / Getty Images

"You're getting better protections," he said. "You're getting more value for each dollar that you spend on your health care." 

A NBC/WSJ poll last month showed that just 37 percent of the public believes the law is a good idea, compared to 49 percent who say it’s a bad idea.

The president’s remarks at the White House come after the administration announced the delay of one key part of the law – the requirement that larger employers provide health care for workers or pay a fine.

With Republicans arguing that it’s unfair to delay requirements for businesses but not for individual health care buyers, the GOP-led House of Representatives passed a pair of bills Wednesday to push back both the employer and individual “mandates” in the law. But those votes were merely symbolic, with the Senate sure to ignore the House’s actions and the White House promising to veto them.

Flanked by supporters who say they've benefited from falling costs and insurance rebates, Obama slammed congressional Republicans for "re-fighting these old battles" instead of moving forward on other needed legislation. 

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"Maybe they think it’s good politics," he said. "But part of our job here is not to always think about politics."

Obama acknowledged opposition to the health care law but said that opponents have politicized the legislation without taking into account its benefits. 

"Some of them seem to think this law’s about me," he quipped. "It’s not. I already have really good health care." 

In a new report released by the Department of Health and Human Services, the administration says that competition created by the new regulations will lower health care premiums by about 20 percent.

That figure is based on data released by states about proposed premiums for 2014 in the individual and small group health care markets, compared to previous estimates derived from Congressional Budget Office estimates.