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Obama steps to push health plan as critical date near

World News : Amid delays and a barrage of political criticism of his signature healthcare law, President Barack Obama will play pitchman for the plan on Thursday as a critical enrollment date draws near.

Obama is due give a speech at the White House highlighting how the plan has already benefited the public by lowering insurance costs and will do so in the future, senior administration officials said. He will be accompanied at the event by people who have seen their health insurances costs drop, the officials said.

“What we are beginning to see as we get closer to the open enrollment period beginning … is that the abstraction is evaporating,” one official said. “It’s going away because the facts are being translated to benefits for real people.”

The president is taking to the soapbox just weeks after having to delay a requirement for businesses to offer health coverage in 2014, or pay a fine, because the administration had yet to issue final regulations in time for employers to comply.

Days after that July 2 announcement, the administration said it would delay and loosen requirements for new state online insurance marketplaces to verify the income and health coverage status of people who apply for subsidized coverage.

Congressional Republicans, who have repeatedly sought to repeal the health law, pounced on those delays, urging Obama to also put off requirements that individuals obtain health insurance.

“To say that, ‘well, we’re going to, we’re going to relax this mandate for a year on American business, but we’re going to continue to stick it to individuals and families’ is strictly, and simply, unfair to the American people,” House Speaker John Boehner said on Wednesday.

Administration officials have struggled with the task of launching the new online health insurance exchanges at the heart of the law, sometimes called Obamacare, by an October 1 deadline. Their efforts to implement the law have been hampered by limited staff and financial resources, as well as by steady opposition from congressional Republicans.

Obama is expected to use his speech to spotlight an element of the law, formally called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which will be responsible for sending refund checks to some 8.5 million people as a result of lower insurance costs, officials told reporters on a conference call. Agencies

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