WASHINGTON (AP) - President Barack Obama is promoting his health care law's benefits for small businesses as he tries to rally public support for the massive overhaul.
During a speech Thursday in Portland, Maine - the second stop in a series of appearances to sell the reforms - Obama was to focus on the plan's short- and long-term impacts on small businesses, many of which have suffered during the economic downturn.
Under the plan, businesses with 25 or fewer employees with average annual wages of less than $50,000 will receive tax credits this year if they provide health care coverage to their workers. Those credits are expected to increase by 2014, with 3.6 million small businesses benefiting, according to Democrats.
Also starting in 2014, companies with up to 100 employees will be able to buy insurance through new state-based purchasing pools, or exchanges, with the goal of giving small businesses the same kind of purchasing power as employees at larger companies. Twenty-two million self-employed Americans will also be able to purchase insurance through the exchanges.
Overall, the 10-year, nearly $1 trillion overhaul Obama signed into law last week will extend coverage to 32 million people who are currently uninsured and will shape how almost every American receives and pays for medical treatment.
The law doesn't require businesses to offer insurance, but hits employers with 50 or more workers with an annual fee if the companies don't insure them and the government ends up subsidizing workers' coverage. Those fines have troubled critics of the overhaul, who argue that the increased costs could bankrupt companies already trying to recover from the recession.
Many Republicans are predicting that the overhaul will prove devastating in the November elections for Democrats who voted for it. Some in the GOP are calling for the revisions to be repealed.
But in Maine, Obama will be preaching to the choir in a state that has been a leader on health care reform, establishing programs to lower prescription drug costs and extend health insurance to the working poor.
After speaking in Maine, Obama planned to travel to Boston to attend two fundraisers for the Democratic National Committee.
--- Associated Press writer David Sharp in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.