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Democrats launch push to promote Obama health law

Democrats launched a new push on Thursday to promote U.S. President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul, as the first $250 rebates were mailed to seniors to help plug gaps in Medicare prescription drug coverage.
/ Source: Reuters

Democrats launched a new push on Thursday to promote U.S. President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul, as the first $250 rebates were mailed to seniors to help plug gaps in Medicare prescription drug coverage.

Democrats released a 60-second television ad highlighting Republican vows to repeal the healthcare reform bill, which promises to be a flashpoint in the November election battle for control of Congress.

"Republicans want to take it all away," the ad's narrator warns of the overhaul, passed by Democrats in March over unified Republican opposition. "Tell Republicans we can't afford to go back."

Polls show public opinion remains mixed on the law, which was approved after a divisive year-long fight in Congress. While majorities of Americans still oppose it, some polls show attitudes have improved and most say they do not favor the quick repeal pushed by Republicans.

Republicans, pushing to reclaim control of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, hope to use the law as a political weapon against Democratic supporters in conservative states where the law and Obama are unpopular.

"Worried Democrats are still trying to sell it months after the vote," Republican National Committee spokeswoman Katie Wright said. "No media blitz will change the fact that Democrats ignored their constituents and voted for a bill that grows the deficit and endangers Medicare."

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the measure would slightly reduce the budget deficit over 10 years. Once fully implemented in 2014, the law is expected to expand insurance coverage to 32 million uninsured Americans and prohibit certain insurance practices, such as denying coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.

Under the law, the first wave of one-time, tax-free rebate checks were mailed to tens of thousands of the nearly 4 million seniors affected by an existing gap in coverage under the government-run Medicare prescription drug plan, popularly described as the "doughnut hole."

"These checks are a real victory for America's seniors and we will continue working to implement all the provisions in health care reform," said Democratic Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

The Democratic ad and a series of Democratic events around the country also highlighted other features of the law that kick in early, including tax credits for small businesses to buy insurance and bans on denying coverage to the sick.

Democrats have argued that as more provisions take effect and more benefits are felt by the public, the law will become more popular and Republican calls to repeal it will backfire.

"The costs to Republicans may be high because what they are proposing to do will roll back benefits -- like helping seniors afford prescription drugs -- that Americans desperately need," Democratic National Committee spokesman Brad Woodhouse said.