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Congress tries to kill health care law again

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President Barack Obama on Wednesday remained upbeat and defiant against his health care reform law's naysayers during a White House event to celebrate the controversial law's fifth birthday.

“In a lot of ways it's working, better than many of us, including me, anticipated,” the president said. “We have been promised a lot of things these past five years that didn't turn out to be the case: death panels, doom, a serious alternative from Republicans in Congress.”

His comments came as the law again is facing a repeal vote on Capitol Hill and the U.S. Supreme Court could soon issue a ruling that would cut millions of insured off from premiums subsidies.

His remarks garnered big laughs of approval from the White House audience composed of providers, payers, patient advocates and other health care stakeholders.

The White House gathering took place just hours before House Republicans were scheduled to vote on a budget bill that would, among other things, repeal the health reform law. President Obama expressed optimism that it would remain the law of the land.

The contrast at the two ends of Pennsylvania Avenue show how deep and lasting the divide over the law remains five years after its enactment.

The president ticked off the law's achievements, including more than 16 million people gaining health insurance coverage.

Health and Human Services released that figure, which includes just over 14 million adults who got insurance from an exchanges or through expanded access to Medicaid. Another 2 million young adults under age 26 obtained health insurance because of a provision that allows their parents to keep them on their health insurance plans.

Other highlighted impacts of the law include the end of discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions, no lifetime cap coverage and the fact that health care prices have risen at the slowest rate in nearly 50 years.

“For folks who are basing their entire political agenda on repealing the law, you've got to explain how kicking millions of families off their insurance is somehow going to make us more free,” President Obama said.

The president also threw his support around the Health Care Payment Learning and Action Network, a network that aims to help the CMS tie 30% of Medicare payments to alternative payment models by the end of 2016. The group held its first meeting Wednesday in Washington. Notable members include Dignity Health, Health Care Service Corp., Cigna and Catholic Health Initiatives.

The network will serve as a forum where stakeholders can discuss, track and share best practices on how to adopt models that emphasize value. More than 2,800 stakeholders have registered to participate, according to HHS.

“We don't want the incentives to be skewed so that providers feel obliged to do more tests, we want them to do the right tests,” President Obama said. “So making sure that the Affordable Care Act works as intended is not only about access to care, but also to improving the quality of care and the cost of care, and that's something that requires all of us to work together.”

Virgil Dickson writes for Modern Healthcare, a sister publication of Business Insurance.