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Obama open to health care tweaking ; Vows to oppose repeal efforts

President Obama ridiculed lingering opposition to his 10-month-old health care law Friday and vowed to oppose efforts to repeal it, underscoring his commitment to his signature legislative achievement despite the new reality of a divided Congress.

Days after delivering a State of the Union message in which he called on Democrats and Republicans to work together, Obama made clear in a speech to supporters that he is open to compromise on the issue only on the margins -- a tweak here or there, but not major changes.

"I am not willing to just refight the battles of the last two years," he said.

The House, with Republicans newly in control after last fall's election, voted to repeal the health care law last week. Republicans have vowed to seek a similar vote in the Senate but are unlikely to prevail, since Democrats still control that chamber. The White House has dismissed the effort as an empty gesture.

Yet, the president is not ignoring the congressional challenge. He stood up for the bill in his State of the Union and reiterated his support with a mocking rebuttal to the GOP on Friday in a speech to the consumer group Families USA, which advocated for the health law.

"You may have heard once or twice that this is a job-crushing, granny-threatening, budget-busting monstrosity. That's about how it's been portrayed by opponents. And that just doesn't match up to the reality," he said.

He argued that since he signed the bill 10 months ago to extend coverage to 30 million uninsured, the economy has grown and small businesses are offering health care to employees, many for the first time, because of tax credits offered in the law.

He said repealing the law would add to the deficit, because the many taxes, fees and Medicare cuts in the law would be lost.

Obama reiterated his support for changing a small-business tax reporting provision that both parties agree is onerous, and he said he also would consider ideas dealing with medical malpractice reform.

As the president spoke, the Health and Human Services Department issued a report saying that a combination of new competitive insurance markets and government subsidies could bring costs down significantly for people who purchase their coverage individually once the law fully takes effect in 2014.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky dismissed the findings.

"More promises of lower premiums for some people at some point in the future is little comfort to the millions who are already seeing higher premiums or won't be able to keep the coverage they have as the president promised," McConnell said.

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