Full Text Political Transcripts January 28, 2017: President Donald Trump’s First Week of Action

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

President Trump’s First Week of Action

Source: WH, 1-28-17

PRESIDENT TRUMP’S FIRST WEEK OF ACTION

  • 15: Presidential Actions to begin fulfilling his promises to Make America Great Again.
  • 11: Diplomatic conversations with foreign leaders to promote an America First foreign policy.
  • 4: Members of President Trump’s cabinet sworn into office.
  • 3: Stakeholder meetings to get input from both workers and business leaders on jumpstarting job creation.
  • 3: Engagements with members of Congress to discuss his agenda.
  • 3: Visits to federal agencies committed to protecting our homeland and ensuring our national security.
  • 1: Official White House visit by a foreign head of state.
  • 1: Reception to honor law enforcement and first responders.
  • 1: Proclamation supporting National School Choice week.
  • The President’s team followed through on his commitment to action, by:
    • collaborating with 28 federal agencies and departments on a near daily basis.
    • discussing legislative items with at least 75 House members or their staffs and 35 Senators or their staffs.
    • making initial contact with governors in each state and territory, and having in-depth discussions with 32 governors or their staff.
    • discussing issues with 22 state attorneys general.
    • beginning outreach to our nation’s largest municipalities and tribes.

President Trump Used The Power Of His Office To Follow Through On His Promises To The American People

WITHIN HOURS OF HIS INAUGURATION: President Trump moved to protect Americans from ObamaCare, government regulations, and future bailouts.

  • On the evening of his Inauguration, President Trump sought relief for Americans from the cost burdens of ObamaCare.
  • Through a memorandum issued by the Chief of Staff, all new regulations were frozen to protect job creators from the crush of new government rules on their businesses.
  • President Trump put a stop to a reckless action that would have reduced funding for the Federal Housing Authority after it was bailed out by the taxpayers as recently as 2013.

MONDAY: President Trump fulfilled his promise to immediately address trade and jobs by withdrawing from the harmful Trans-Pacific Partnership, put in place a hiring freeze, and protected taxpayer money from funding abortions overseas.

  • President Trump protected American workers by withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
  • To stem the tide of an ever growing government, President Trump put in place a hiring freeze on federal civilian employees.
  • After years of taxpayer money being spent to promote abortions abroad, President Trump reinstated the “Mexico City Policy” to ban such usage.

TUESDAY: President Trump promoted job creation by jumpstarting the construction of two new energy pipelines, requiring the use of American-made materials and equipment in building those pipelines, and reduced the regulatory burden on America’s manufacturing and construction industry.

  • President Trump began the process to finish construction on the Dakota Access Pipeline after a series of delays.
  • After years of delays, President Trump signed a presidential memorandum to revive the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • To make sure Americans benefit from infrastructure projects, the President signed an executive memorandum requiring all new construction and repair of pipelines to use American materials and equipment.
  • President Trump ordered the Commerce Department to streamline and reduce regulations affecting U.S. manufacturing to help bring factories back to America.
  • To jumpstart much needed infrastructure projects, President Trump signed an executive order to speed up the environmental impact review of projects.

WEDNESDAY: President Trump followed through on his pledge to protect America’s borders and end the lack of compliance with immigration laws.

  • Following through on his commitment to protecting the American people, President Trump signed an executive order to improve border security, particularly through the construction of a physical barrier on the southern border.
  • President Trump signed an executive order to ensure that immigration laws are enforced throughout the United States, including halting federal funding for sanctuary cities.

FRIDAY: President Trump followed through on his top priority to keep America safe.

  • President Trump signed an executive order protecting the United States from foreign nationals entering from countries compromised by terrorism, and ensuring a more rigorous vetting process.
  • President Trump issued a presidential memorandum to direct the Secretary of Defense to review our readiness and create plans to rebuild the U.S. military.

President Trump Has Held or Scheduled 11 Conversations With Foreign Leaders To Promote American Interests Around The Globe

  • On Saturday, President Trump spoke with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico and discussed respect for the sovereignty of both nations.
  • On Saturday, President Trump also spoke with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the importance of strong U.S.-Canada ties.
  • On Sunday, President Trump spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to discuss opportunities to strengthen relations.
  • On Monday, President Trump spoke with President Abdel Fattah Al-Sissi of Egypt, expressing his commitment for a new push in bilateral relations.
  • On Tuesday, President Trump spoke with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India to strengthen relations and cooperation.
  • Today, President Trump spoke again with President Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico to discuss bilateral relations, border security and trade.
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of with Japan
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak with President Vladimir Putin of Russia.
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak with President François Hollande of France.
  • Tomorrow, President Trump is scheduled to speak with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia.

Four Of President Trump’s Nominees Were Confirmed By The Senate And Sworn Into Office

  • Last Friday, retired General John Kelly was sworn in as Secretary of Homeland Security.
  • Also last Friday, retired General James Mattis was sworn in as Secretary of Defense.
  • On Monday, former Congressman Mike Pompeo was sworn in as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
  • On Wednesday, former Governor Nikki Haley was sworn in as Ambassador to the United Nations.

Following Through On His Commitment To Job Creation, President Trump Held Stakeholder Meetings With Business And Labor Leaders

  • On Monday, President Trump met with labor leaders to discuss his plans to renegotiate trade deals and put Americans back to work.
  • Later on Monday, President Trump met with manufacturing leaders to discuss how to bring factories and manufacturing jobs back to America.
  • On Tuesday, President Trump met with key industry leaders to discuss how the auto industry can bring back American jobs.

President Trump Held Meetings Or Spoke With Congressional Leaders To Discuss His Agenda

  • On Monday, President Trump hosted Republican and Democrat congressional leaders and chiefs of staff at the White House to discuss the upcoming legislative agenda.
  • On Tuesday, President Trump met with key Senate leaders to discuss his upcoming choice to fill the Supreme Court vacancy.
  • On Thursday, President Trump spoke at the Republican congressional retreat in Philadelphia.

President Trump Spoke At The Headquarters Of The CIA, The Department Of Homeland Security, And The Department Of Defense

  • On Saturday, President Trump spoke at CIA headquarters and told a raucous crowd that he’d have their back as he thanked them for their service to the country.
  • On Wednesday, President Trump visited the Department of Homeland Security to reinforce his strong belief in protecting America’s borders.
  • On Wednesday, President Trump visited the Department of Defense to highlight his commitment to rebuild our military.

President Trump Hosted U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May

  • In hosting his first foreign head of state at the White House, President Trump welcomed Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Theresa May.

As One Of His First Actions After Inauguration Day, President Trump Thanked American Law Enforcement And First Responders

  • On Sunday, President Trump held a White House Reception to honor and thank law enforcement and first responders who helped make his Inauguration safe and successful.

President Trump Proclaimed National School Choice Week

  • On Thursday, President Trump renewed his commitment to expand school choice for Americans by proclaiming January 22 through January 28, 2017, as National School Choice Week.

The President’s Team Is Following Through On His Commitment To Action

President Trump’s team has worked to ensure his team is in place at various departments and agencies and working to implement his agenda:

  • The White House Office of Cabinet Affairs made 140 calls to 28 separate federal departments and agencies to collaborate on various issues.
  • Cabinet Affairs personally met with 10 Cabinet nominees.
  • Cabinet Affairs coordinated the swearing in of four cabinet members this week by the Vice President.

President Trump’s team has worked to ensure his legislative agenda is well-received in Congress:

  • The White House Office of Legislative Affairs met or spoke with 110 congressional offices or elected representatives in 75 House and 35 Senate offices.
  • Vice President Pence had several in-person meetings this week on Capitol Hill.

President Trump’s team began outreach to our nation’s states, municipalities, and tribes:

  • The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs made initial contact with the governor’s offices in all of the states and territories.
  • Intergovernmental Affairs held detailed discussions with the governors or their staff in 32 separate states.
  • Intergovernmental Affairs made initial contact with 22 of the 50 state attorneys general.
  • Intergovernmental Affairs has begun outreach to America’s largest municipalities, such as Los Angeles County and met with the president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
  • Intergovernmental Affairs made contact with the largest tribes in the country and has begun outreach with many leaders.

Full Text Political Transcripts December 13, 2016: President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s speech at 21st Century Cures Act Bill Signing

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and the Vice President at the 21st Century Cures Act Bill Signing

Source: WH, 12-13-16

South Court Auditorium

2:54 P.M. EST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Mr. President, it’s a lousy club, but I’m proud of you.  We’re all proud of you.

Mr. President, my Senate colleagues, all the members of Congress who are here and worked so hard to get this bill done today, just let me say that last week I had the honor of presiding, probably for the last time in the United States Senate, over the Senate as, Mr. President, they moved to pass the 21st Century Cures Act.  And as I said, it’s probably one of the last times that I will get to preside over the Senate, and maybe one of the most important moments in my career.

On behalf of the administration, let me thank all the bipartisan leadership here.  I want to make this clear:  This bill would have never occurred, not for some of the — without the leading voices, Republican voices, in the House and the Senate, as well as Democrats.  It would have never, ever occurred.  And I hope this bodes well for what will come next year, that we’re back working together.  This is a consequential piece of legislation that was extremely important and cost a lot of money, and it was done in the lame duck session.

Without the true bipartisan support, this piece of legislation would have never occurred, and it’s going to help millions of people — millions of people.  As the President and I talked — he’ll talk about this in greater detail in a moment — the 21st Century Cures Act is going to harness America’s best minds of science, medicine and technology to tackle some of our biggest and most complex health challenges of today.

The bill commits $6.3 billion over seven years, dealing with opioid addition, precision medicine, and the BRAIN initiative, and mental illness, Alzheimer’s disease, and so much more.  But, Mr. President, if you’ll excuse as we both have just a done — a point of personal privilege, I want to thank my colleagues.  Of that $6.3 billion, $1.8 billion will go and be invested in cancer research and care.

When the President asked me last year at the State of the Union to head the Cancer Moonshoot, we said we were going to ask you all for significant funding increases at the NIH and the National Cancer Institute.  And you all stepped up again, Republicans and Democrats.  As part of the Moonshoot, we set up what’s called a Blue Ribbon Panel to review what should be the scientific priorities as we tackle this to try to end cancer as we know it.  We’ll try to do in the next five years what ordinarily would take ten years.

These priorities include investing in promising new therapies like immunotherapy, using the body’s own immune system to target and kill cancer cells; enhancing prevention and detection efforts in every community, regardless of the zip code in which you live; supporting research to improve outcomes for children with cancer, and putting us on a path to turn what is currently a devastating cancer diagnosis into either a chronic disease or an absolute cure.

And in the process, it will fundamentally, I believe, change the culture of our fight against cancer, and inject an overwhelmingly sense of the urgency, or, as the President often says, the urgency of now.  Because every single moment counts, as Senator Murray and everybody else who’s worked on this bill knows.  God willing, this bill will literally, not figuratively, literally save lives.

But most of all, what it does — just this mere signing today, Mr. President, as you know better than I do, gives millions of Americans hope.  There’s probably not one of you in this audience or anyone listening to this who hasn’t had a family member or friend or someone touched by cancer.

And I want to particularly thank my colleagues, Senator McConnell and Senator Reid, who moved, Mr. President, as you know, to name this section of the bill after our son, and Jill, who’s here with me today — our son, Beau.  (Applause.)  As we used to say in the Senate, a point of personal privilege, Mr. President — and you know he loved you, and you were wonderful to Beau.  And he spent a year in Iraq, came back a decorated veteran, and he was attorney general of the state, and he never, ever, ever gave up — nor did we.

And we had access to some of the best doctors in the world, including the head of the Department of Neuro-Oncology at MD Anderson — became a great friend of ours — Dr. Al Yung.  Al, thank you for being here.  But, you know, as I said, we never gave up.  But Jill and I realized that we’re not the only family touched by cancer.  And so many are touched who don’t have nearly the support system we’ve had.  And, Mr. President, you lost your mother, and so many other families in here have lost someone to cancer.

And as I said, this legislation is going to give hope.  Every day, millions of people are praying — praying for hope, praying for time, praying that somehow something will happen just to extend their — they’re not even praying for cures most of the time.  Those of you who are doctors in the audience, how many times have you heard a patient say, Doc, can you just give just three more weeks so I can walk her down the aisle, or, just give me another two months, it’s my first grandbaby and I want see him or her born.  It’s all a matter of hours, days, weeks, months.

And what we’re doing here now is — this is going to accelerate exponentially, in my view, the kinds of efforts we can make right now, things that are at our disposal right now to extend life.

Ladies and gentlemen, I believe President Obama and my colleagues in the Senate — as I said, both parties — were motivated by the same commitment that — after whom this Moonshot was named.  I mean, President Kennedy had talked about going to the moon.  The problem is, there was only one moon, and there’s 200-and-some cancers.  But here’s what he said.  Here’s what he said.  He said, we are unwilling to postpone.  We all here are unwilling to postpone — unwilling to postpone another minute, another day.  And doing what we know is within our grasp — it shows the government at its best, Mr. President, and it shows that our politics can still come together to do big, consequential things for the American people.  I see my friend, Senator Hatch, who I worked with for years and years, had stood up in this.  All junior senators, senior senators — everyone came together.

So Jill and I are proud to stand beside you, Mr. President, as you sign this last law of our administration.  I’m proud to have served with you, Mr. President.  And your absolute commitment to changing the way in which we deal with our health care system is going to make a big difference.  And this particular bill is going to allow people to live, live longer, and live healthier.  But, most of all, Mr. President, I think it gives people hope.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I always kid the President that when he asked me to join him on the ticket and my daughter came home at lunch — she’s social worker — and she said, did he call?  Did he call?  And I said, yes.  She said, you said yes, didn’t you, Daddy?  (Laughter.)  And I said, yes, of course I did.  And she said, this is wonderful.  She said, you know how you’re always quoting Seamus Heaney about hope and history rhyming?  And I said, yeah.  She said, this is hope and history.  I’m history, here’s hope.  (Laughter and applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Please, have a seat.  Thank you so much.

Well, welcome to the White House, everyone.  It’s December, so it’s holiday time around here, and we thought it was a good occasion to have one more party.  And this is a celebration worth having.

I want to, first of all, thank Joe Biden and Jill Biden, and their entire family, who have been such extraordinary friends to us.  And what a fitting way for us to be able to signify our partnership as our time comes to an end together.  It makes me feel very good.

I want to thank David and Kate Grubb for sharing their family’s story.  As David said, we have a lot in common, and nothing more than the love of our children, our daughters.  When I first met them in Charleston, their story was, unfortunately, more common than we would have liked.  And I indicated a number of the people on this stage are people who have gone through tough times or have seen their loved ones suffer, either because of opioid addiction or because of cancer; who have bravely shared their story and channeled their passion into increasing the urgency all of us feel around this issue.

And so, more than anything, this is a testimony to them, and an extraordinary commemoration of those that they’ve loved.  So we’re very grateful to them.  Please give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

We’re joined by a whole bunch of members of Congress here today.  And it is wonderful to see how well Democrats and Republicans in the closing days of this Congress came together around a common cause.  (Applause.)  And I think it indicates the power of this issue, and how deeply it touches every family across America.

Over the last eight years, one of my highest priorities as President has been to unleash the full force of American innovation to some of the biggest challenges that we face.  That meant restoring science to its rightful place.  It meant funding the research and development that’s always kept America on the cutting edge.  It’s meant investing in clean energy that’s created a steady stream of good jobs and helped America become the world’s leader in combatting climate change.  It meant investing in the medical breakthroughs that have the power to cure disease and help all of us live healthier, longer lives.

So I started the 2016 State of the Union address by saying we might be able to surprise some cynics and deliver bipartisan action on the opioid epidemic.  And in that same speech, I put Joe in charge of mission control on a new Cancer Moonshot.  And today, with the 21st Century Cures Act, we are making good on both of those efforts.  We are bringing to reality the possibility of new breakthroughs to some of the greatest health challenges of our time.

Joe has already indicated some of the scope of the bill, but let me repeat it, because it’s worth repeating.  First, this legislation is going to combat the heroin and prescription opioid epidemic that is ravaging too many families across the country.  This is an epidemic that can touch anybody — blue collar, white collar, college students, retirees, kids, moms, dads.  I’ve had the chance to meet people from every stage of recovery who are working hard to sustain the progress that they’re making.  And I’ve met parents like the Grubbs, who have worked tirelessly to help a child struggling with addiction.

It could not be clearer that those of us called upon to lead this country have a duty on their behalf, that we have to stand by them; that, all too often, they feel as if they’re fighting this fight alone instead of having the community gather around them and give them the resources and the access and the support that they need.

So today, I could not be prouder that this legislation takes up the charge I laid out in my budget to provide $1 billion in funding so that Americans who want treatment can get started on the path to recovery and don’t have to drive six hours to do it.  It is the right thing to do, and families are ready for the support.  (Applause.)

Second, the Cures Act provides a decade’s worth of support for two innovative initiatives from my administration.  The first is the BRAIN Initiative, which we believe will revolutionize our understanding of the human mind.  And when I sign this bill into law, we’ll give researchers new resources to help identify ways to treat, cure, and potentially prevent brain disorders like Alzheimer’s and epilepsy, traumatic brain injury, and more.

And we’re also going to support what we’ve called our Precision Medicine Initiative, an effort we started to use data to help modernize research and accelerate discoveries so that treatment and health care can be tailored specifically to individual patients.  This spring, with the help of this legislation, the National Institutes of Health plans to launch a groundbreaking research cohort, inviting Americans from across the country to participate to support the scientific breakthroughs of tomorrow.

Number three, the Cures Act improves mental health care.  (Applause.)  It includes bipartisan reforms to address serious mental illness.  It takes steps to make sure that mental health and substance-use disorders are treated fairly by insurance companies, building on the work of my Presidential Task Force.  And it reauthorizes, meaningfully, suicide prevention programs.  Many of these reforms align with my administration’s work to improve our criminal justice system, helping us enhance data collection and take steps so that we’re not unnecessarily incarcerating folks who actually need mental health assistance.

Fourth, we’re building on the FDA’s work to modernize clinical trial design so that we’re updating necessary rules and regulations to protect consumers so that they’re taking into account this genetic biotech age.  And we’re making sure that patients’ voices are incorporated into the drug development process.

And finally, the Cures Act invests in a breakthrough effort that we’ve been calling the Vice President’s Cancer Moonshot.  And I think the Senate came up with a better name when they named it after Beau Biden.  (Applause.)

Joe said Beau loved me.  I loved him back.  And like many of you, I believe that the United States of America should be the country that ends cancer once and for all.  We’re already closer than a lot of folks think, and this bill will bring us even closer, investing in promising new therapies, developing vaccines, and improving cancer detection and prevention.  Ultimately, it will help us reach our goal of getting a decade’s worth of research in half the time.  And as Joe said, that time counts.

In this effort, Joe Biden has rallied not just Congress, but he has rallied a tremendous collection of researchers and doctors, philanthropists, patients.  He’s showing us that with the right investment and the ingenuity of the American people, to quote him, “there isn’t anything we can’t do.”  So I’d like everybody to just please join me in thanking what I consider to be the finest Vice President in history, Joe Biden.  (Applause.)  Go ahead and embarrass Joe.  Go ahead.  (Laughter and applause.)  Hey!

So we’re tackling cancer, brain disease, substance-use disorders, and more.  And none of this work would have been possible without bipartisan cooperation in both houses of Congress.  A lot of people were involved, but there are some folks who deserve a special shout-out.  That includes Senators Alexander and Senators Murphy.  (Applause.)  Representatives Upton, Pallone, and DeGette, and Green.  (Applause.)  And of course, we couldn’t have gotten across the finish line without the leadership of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer, who are here — (applause) — as well as leaders from both houses, Speaker Ryan, Leaders McConnell and Reid, and Senator Patty Murray.  (Applause.)  Not to mention all the members of Congress who are sitting here that I can’t name, otherwise I’m going to be here too long and I will never sign the bill.  (Laughter.)  But you know who you are.

I want to thank all of you on behalf of the American people for this outstanding work.  These efforts build on the work that we’ve done to strengthen our healthcare system over the last eight years — covering preexisting conditions, expanding coverage for mental health and substance-use disorders, helping more than 20 million Americans know the security of health insurance.  Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it means they have access to some of the services that are needed.

I’m hopeful that in the years ahead, Congress keeps working together in a bipartisan fashion to move us forward rather than backward in support of the health of our people.  Because these are gains that have made a real difference for millions of Americans.

So this is a good day.  It’s a bittersweet day.  I think it’s important to acknowledge that it’s not easy for the Grubbs to come up here and talk about Jessie.  It’s not easy for Joe and Jill, I know, to talk about Beau.  Joe mentioned my mother, who died of cancer.  She was two and a half years younger than I am today when she passed away.

And so it’s not always easy to remember, but being able to honor those we’ve lost in this way and to know that we may be able to prevent other families from feeling that same loss, that makes it a good day.  And I’m confident that it will lead to better years and better lives for millions of Americans, the work that you’ve done.  That’s what we got sent here for.  And it’s not always what we do.  It’s a good day to see us doing our jobs.

So with that, I think it’s time for me to sign this bill into law.  (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.)

END
3:16 P.M. EST

Full Text Political Transcripts October 20, 2016: President Barack Obama’s Speech Defending the Affordable Care Act Obamacare

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Affordable Care Act

Source: WH, 10-20-16

Miami Dade College
Miami, Florida

1:51 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Miami!  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Well, everybody have a seat.  Have a seat.  It is good to see all of you!  It’s good to be back at Miami-Dade!  (Applause.) One of my favorite institutions!  (Applause.)  Love this school.

I want to thank your longtime president and great friend, Eduardo J. Padrón.  (Applause.)  And to all the faculty and staff, and of course, most importantly, the students, for hosting me — I want to say how grateful I am.  I want to thank the wonderful elected officials who are here today.  I’m going to just point out two outstanding members of Congress — Debbie Wasserman Schultz — (applause) — and Ted Deutch.  (Applause.)

So this is one of my last visits here as President.  Now, once I’m not President —

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Nooo —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, the good news is, once I’m no longer President I can come more often.  (Applause.)  Right now, usually I can only come to Florida when I’m working.  But when I’m out of office, I can come here for fun.  (Laughter.)

But the first thing I want to say is thank you for your support, and thank you for the opportunity and the privilege you’ve given me to serve these past eight years.  I remember standing just a few blocks north of here in the closing days of the 2008 campaign.  And at that point, we were already realizing that we were in the midst of the worst economic crisis of our lifetimes.  We didn’t know where the bottom would be.  We were still in the middle of two wars.  Over 150,000 of our troops were overseas.  But thanks to the hard work and the determination of the American people, when I come here today the story is different.

Working together, we’ve cut the unemployment rate in Florida by more than half.  Across the country, we turned years of job losses into the longest streak of job creation on record.  We slashed our dependence on foreign oil, doubled our production of renewable energy.  Incomes are rising again — they rose more last year than any time ever recorded.  Poverty is falling — fell more last year than any time since 1968.  Our graduation rates from high school are at record highs.  College enrollment is significantly higher than it was when we came into office.  Marriage equality is a reality in all 50 states.  (Applause.)

So we’ve been busy.  This is why I’ve got gray hair.  (Laughter.)  But we did one other thing.  We fought to make sure that in America, health care is not just a privilege, but a right for every single American.  And that’s what I want to talk about today.  (Applause.)  That’s what I want to talk about here today.

You’ve heard a lot about Obamacare, as it’s come to be known.  You heard a lot about it in the six and a half years since I signed it into law.  And some of the things you heard might even be true.  But one thing I want to start with is just reminding people why it is that we fought for health reform in the first place.  Because it was one of the key motivators in my campaign.

And it wasn’t just because rising health costs were eating into workers’ paychecks and straining budgets for businesses and for governments.  It wasn’t just because, before the law was passed, insurance companies could just drop your coverage because you got sick, right at the time you needed insurance most.

It was because of you.  It was because of the stories that I was hearing all around the country, and right here in Florida — hearing from people who had been forced to fight a broken health care system at the same time as they were fighting to get well.

It was about children like Zoe Lihn, who needed heart surgery when she was just 15 hours old — just a baby, just a infant.  And she was halfway to hitting her lifetime insurance cap before she was old enough to walk.  Her parents had no idea how they could possibly make sure that she continued to make progress.  And today, because of the Affordable Care Act, Zoe is in first grade and she’s loving martial arts.  And she’s got a bright future ahead of her.  (Applause.)

We fought so hard for health reform because of women like Amanda Heidel, who lives here in South Florida.  As a girl, she was diagnosed with diabetes — and that’s a disease with costs that can add up quickly if you don’t have insurance, can eat away at your dreams.  But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Amanda got to stay on her parents’ plan after college.  When she turned 26, Amanda went online, she shopped for an affordable health insurance plan that covered her medications.  Today, she’s pursuing a doctorate in psychology.  And Amanda said that the Affordable Care Act “has given me the security and freedom to choose how I live my life.”  The freedom and security to choose how I live my life.  That’s what this was all about.

Zoe and Amanda, the people who I get letters from every single day describing what it meant not to fear that if they got sick, or a member of their family got sick, if they, heaven forbid, were in an accident, that somehow they could lose everything.

So because of this law, because of Obamacare, another 20 million Americans now know the financial security of health insurance.  So do another 3 million children, thanks in large part to the Affordable Care Act and the improvements, the enhancements that we made to the Children’s Health Insurance Program.  And the net result is that never in American history has the uninsured rate been lower than it is today.  Never.  (Applause.)  And that’s true across the board.  It’s dropped among women.  It’s dropped among Latinos and African Americans, every other demographic group.  It’s worked.

Now, that doesn’t mean that it’s perfect.  No law is.  And it’s true that a lot of the noise around the health care debate, ever since we tried to pass this law, has been nothing more than politics.  But we’ve also always known — and I have always said — that for all the good that the Affordable Care Act is doing right now — for as big a step forward as it was — it’s still just a first step.  It’s like building a starter home — or buying a starter home.  It’s a lot better than not having a home, but you hope that over time you make some improvements.

And in fact, since we first signed the law, we’ve already taken a number of steps to improve it.  And we can do even more  — but only if we put aside all the politics rhetoric, all the partisanship, and just be honest about what’s working, what needs fixing and how we fix it.

So that’s what I want to do today.  This isn’t kind of a rah-rah speech.  I might get into the details.  I hope you don’t mind.  (Laughter.)

So let’s start with a basic fact.  The majority of Americans do not — let me repeat — do not get health care through the Affordable Care Act.  Eighty percent or so of Americans get health care on the job, through their employer, or they get health care through Medicaid, or they get health care through Medicare.  And so for most Americans, the Affordable Care Act, Obama, has not affected your coverage — except to make it stronger.

Because of the law, you now have free preventive care.  Insurance companies have to offer that in whatever policy they sell.  Because of the law, you now have free checkups for women. Because of the law, you get free mammograms.  (Applause.)  Because of the law, it is harder for insurance companies to discriminate against you because you’re a woman when you get health insurance.  (Applause.)  Because of the law, doctors are finding better ways to perform heart surgeries and delivering healthier babies, and treating chronic disease, and reducing the number of people that, once they’re in the hospital, end up having to return to the hospital.

So you’re getting better quality even though you don’t know that Obamacare is doing it.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Thanks, Obama.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks, Obama.  (Laughter and applause.)

Because of the law, your annual out-of-pocket spending is capped.  Seniors get discounts on their prescription drugs because of the law.  Young people can stay on their parents’ plan — just like Amanda did — because of the law.  (Applause.)  And Amanda was able to stay on her parents’ plan and then get insurance after she aged out, even though she has what used to be called a preexisting condition — because we made it illegal to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions.  (Applause.)

By the way, before this law, before Obamacare, health insurance rates for everybody — whether you got your insurance on the job, or you were buying it on your own — health insurance rates generally were going up really fast.  This law has actually slowed down the pace of health care inflation.  So, every year premiums have gone up, but they’ve gone up the slowest in 50 years since Obamacare was passed.  In fact, if your family gets insurance through your job, your family is paying, on average, about $3,600 less per year than you would be if the cost trends that had existed before the law were passed had continued.  Think about that.  That’s money in your pocket.

Now, some people may say, well, I’ve seen my copays go up, or my networks have changed.  But these are decisions that are made by your employers.  It’s not because of Obamacare.  They’re not determined by the Affordable Care Act.

So if the Affordable Care Act, if Obamacare hasn’t changed the coverage of the 80 percent of Americans who already had insurance, except to make it a better value, except to make it more reliable, how has the law impacted the other 15 or 20 percent of Americans who didn’t have health insurance through their job, or didn’t qualify for Medicaid, or didn’t qualify for Medicare?

Well, before the Affordable Care Act, frankly, you were probably out of luck.  Either you had to buy health insurance on your own, because you weren’t getting it through the job, and it was wildly expensive, and your premiums were going up all the time, and if you happened to get sick and use the insurance, the insurer the next year could drop you.  And if you had had an illness like cancer or diabetes, or some other chronic disease, you couldn’t buy new insurance because the insurance company’s attitude was, you know what, this is just going to cost us money, we don’t want to insure you.

So if you were trying to buy health insurance on your own, it was either hugely expensive or didn’t provide very effective coverage.  You might buy a policy thinking that it was going to cover you.  It was sort of like when I was young and I bought my first car, I had to buy car insurance.  And I won’t name the insurance company, but I bought the insurance because it was the law, and I got the cheapest one I could get, because I didn’t have any money — and it was a really beat-up car.  (Laughter.)  And I remember somebody rear-ends me, and I call up the insurance company, thinking maybe I can get some help, and they laughed at me.  They’re all like, what, are you kidding?  (Laughter.)  It didn’t provide any coverage other than essentially allowing me to drive.  (Laughter.)

Well, that’s what it was like for a lot of people who didn’t have health insurance on the job.  So that meant that a lot of people just didn’t bother getting health insurance at all.  And when they got sick, they’d have to go to the emergency room.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s true, too.

And so you’re relying on the emergency room, but the emergency room is the most expensive place to get care.  And because you weren’t insured, the hospital would have to give you the care for free, and they would have to then make up for those costs by charging everybody else more money.  So it wasn’t good for anybody.

So what the Affordable Care Act is designed to do is to help those people who were previously either uninsured or underinsured.  And it worked to help those people in two ways.

First, we gave states funding to expand Medicaid to cover more people.  In D.C. and the 31 states that took us up on that, more than 4 million people have coverage who didn’t have it before.  They now have health insurance.

Second, for people who made too much to qualify for Medicaid even after we expanded it, we set up what we call marketplaces on HealthCare.gov, so you could shop for a plan that fits your needs, and then we would give you tax credits to help you buy it.  And most people today can find a plan for less than $75 a month at the HealthCare.gov marketplace when you include the tax credits that government is giving you.  That means it’s less than your cellphone bill — because I know you guys are tweeting a lot — (laughter) — and texting and selfies.  (Laughter.)  And the good news is, is that most people who end up buying their coverage through the marketplaces, using these tax credits, are satisfied with their plans.

So not only did Obamacare do a lot of good for the 80-plus percent of Americans who already had health care, but now it gave a new affordable option to a lot of folks who never had options before.  All told, about another 10 percent of the country now have coverage.

The Affordable Care Act has done what it was designed to do: It gave us affordable health care.

So what’s the problem?  Why is there still such a fuss?  Well, part of the problem is the fact that a Democratic President named Barack Obama passed the law.  (Applause.)  And that’s just the truth.  (Laughter.)  I mean, I worked really, really hard to engage Republicans; took Republican ideas that originally they had praised; said, let’s work together to get this done.  And when they just refused to do anything, we said, all right, we’re going to have to do it with Democrats.  And that’s what we did.

And early on, Republicans just decided to oppose it.  And then they tried to scare people with all kinds of predictions — that it would be a job-killer; that it would force everyone into government-run insurance; that it would lead to rationing; that it would lead to death panels; that it would bankrupt the federal government.  You remember all this.  And despite the fact that all the bad things they predicted have not actually happened — despite the fact that we’ve created more jobs since the bill passed in consecutive months than any time on record — (applause) — despite the fact that the uninsured rate has gone down to its lowest levels ever, despite that fact that it’s actually cost less than anybody anticipated and has shown to be much less disruptive on existing plans that people get through their employers, despite the fact that it saved Medicare over $150 billion — which makes that program more secure — despite all this, it’s been hard, if not impossible, for any Republican to admit it.

They just can’t admit that a lot of good things have happened and the bad things they predicted didn’t happen.  So they just keep on repeating, we’re going to repeal it.  We’re going to repeal it, and we’re going to replace it with something better — even though, six and a half years later, they haven’t  — they still haven’t shown us what it is that they would do that would be better.

But — and this is actually the main reason I’m here — just because a lot of the Republican criticism has proven to be false and politically motivated doesn’t mean that there aren’t some legitimate concerns about how the law is working now.  And the main issue has to do with the folks who still aren’t getting enough help.  Remember, I said 80 percent of people, even before the law passed, already had health insurance.  And then we expanded Medicaid, and we set up the marketplaces, and another 10 percent of people got health insurance.  Well, but that still leaves that last 10 percent.  And the fact that that last 10 percent still has difficulties is something that we’ve got to do something about.

Now, part of the reason for this is, as I already mentioned to you, not every state expanded Medicaid to its citizens, which means that some of the most vulnerable working families that the law was designed to help still haven’t gotten insurance.  As you may have heard, Florida is one of those states.  If your governor could put politics aside —

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  Don’t boo — vote.  (Applause.)

If your governor would just put politics aside and do what’s right, then more than 700,000 Floridians would suddenly have access to coverage.  And, by the way, that would hold down costs for the rest of you, because there would be less uncompensated care in hospitals.  And it means that people who did sign up for the marketplace, who oftentimes may be sicker, qualify for Medicaid and so they’re not raising costs in the marketplace.

In fact, if the 19 states who so far have not expanded Medicaid would just do so, another 4 million people would have coverage right now all across the country.

So that’s step number one.  And that’s, by the way, just completely in the control of these governors.  They could be doing it — right now.  They could do it tomorrow.

Now, the second issue has to do with the marketplaces.  Although the marketplaces are working well in most of the states, there are some states where there’s still not enough competition between insurers.  So if you only have one insurer, they may decide we’re going to jack up rates because we can, because nobody else is offering a better price.

In those states where the governor or legislature is hostile to the ACA, it makes it harder to enroll people because the state is not actively participating in outreach.  And so, as a consequence, in those states enrollment in the plan — especially enrollment of young people — has lagged.

And what that means is that the insurance pool is smaller and it gets a higher percentage of older and sicker people who are signing up — because if you’re sick or you’re old, you’re more likely to say, well, I’m going to sign up, no matter what, because I know I’m going to need it; if you’re young and healthy like you guys, you say, eh, I’m fine, life is good — so you have more older and sicker people signing up, fewer younger and healthier people signing up, and that drives rates up, because the people who use health care most end up being in the insurance pool; people who use it least are not.

And then, in some cases, insurers just set their prices too low at the outset because they didn’t know what the insurance pool was going to look like, and then they started losing money.  And so now they’ve decided to significantly increase premiums in some states.

Now, it’s these premium increases in some of the states in the marketplace that sometimes attracts negative headlines.  Remember, these premium increases won’t impact most of the people who are buying insurance through the marketplace, because even when premiums go up, the tax credits go up to offset the increases.  So people who qualify for tax credits, they may not even notice their premiums went up because the tax credit is covered.

And keep in mind that these premium increases that some of you may have read about have no effect at all if you’re getting health insurance on the job, or through Medicaid or Medicare.  So for the 80 [percent]-plus people who already had health insurance, if your premium is going up, it’s not because of Obamacare.  It’s because of your employer or your insurer — even though sometimes they try to blame Obamacare for why the rates go up.  It’s not because of any policy of the Affordable Care Act that the rates are going up.

But if you are one of the people who doesn’t get health care on the job, doesn’t qualify for Medicaid, doesn’t qualify for Medicare — doesn’t qualify for a tax credit to help you buy insurance,  because maybe you made just a little bit too much money under the law — these premium increases do make insurance less affordable.  And in some states, the premium increases are manageable.  Some are 2 percent or 8 percent, some 20 percent.  But we know there are some states that may see premiums go up by 50 percent or more.

And an extreme example is Arizona, where we expect benchmark premiums will more than double.  Part of this is because Arizona is one of those states that had really low average premiums — among the lowest in the country — so now insurance companies basically are trying to catch up, and they also don’t have a lot of competition there.  And meanwhile, in states like Florida, the failure to expand Medicaid contributes to higher marketplace premiums.  And then there are some other states that just because of the nature of their health care systems, or the fact that they’re rural and people are dispersed, so it’s harder to provide health care, more expensive — they have a tougher time controlling costs generally.

Again, the tax credits in the ACA will protect most consumers from the brunt of these premium increases.  And with the ability to shop around on HealthCare.gov — which works really well now — most people can find plans for prices even lower than this year’s prices.  But there are going to be people who are hurt by premium increases or a lack of competition and choice.  And I don’t want to see anybody left out without health insurance.  I don’t want to see any family having to choose between health insurance now or saving for retirement, or saving for their kids’ college education, or just paying their own bills.

So the question we should be asking is, what do we do about these growing pains in the Affordable Care Act, and how do we get the last 9 percent of Americans covered?  How do we reach those last 9 percent?  And how do we make sure that premiums are more stable going forward, and the marketplace insurance pools are more stable going forward?

Well, I can tell you what will not work.  Repealing the Affordable Care Act will not work.  (Applause.)  That’s a bad idea.  That will not solve the problem.  Because right off the bat, repeal would take away health care from 20 million people.  We’d go back where 80 percent of people had health insurance instead of 90 percent — right off the bat.  And all the reforms that everybody benefits from that I talked about — like young Americans being able to stay on their parents’ plans, or the rules that prevent insurance companies from discriminating against people because of a preexisting condition like diabetes or cancer, or the rule now that you can’t charge somebody more just because they’re a woman — all those reforms would go away for everybody, because that’s part of Obamacare.

All the progress that we’ve made in controlling costs and improving how health care is delivered, progress that’s helped hold growth in the price of health care to the slowest rate in 50 years — all that goes away.  That’s what repeal means.  It would be bad for everybody.  And the majority of Americans, even if they don’t know that they’re benefitting from Obamacare, don’t want to see these benefits and protections taken away from their families now that they have them.  I guarantee you there are people who right now think they hate Obamacare.  And if somebody told them, all right, we’re repealing it, but now your kid who is on your plan is no longer on your plan, or now you’ve got a preexisting condition and you can’t buy health insurance — they’d be shocked.  They’d be — what do you mean?

So repeal is not the answer.  Here is what we can do instead to actually make the Affordable Care Act work even better than it’s working right now.  And I’ve already mentioned one.

Florida and every state should expand Medicaid.  (Applause.)  Cover more people.  It’s easy to do, and it could be done right now.  You’d cover 4 million more Americans, help drive down premiums for folks who buy insurance through the marketplace.  And, by the way, because the federal government pays for almost all of this expansion, you can’t use as an excuse that, well, the state can’t afford it — because the federal government is paying it.  States like Louisiana that just expanded Medicaid — you had a Republican governor replaced by a Democratic governor.  He said, I want that money.  Expanded Medicaid, and found not only does it insure more people, but it’s actually saved the state big money and makes people less dependent on expensive emergency room care.  So that’s step number one.

Step number two.  Since overall health care costs have turned out to be significantly lower than everyone expected since we passed Obamacare, since that’s saved the federal government billions of dollars, we should use some of that money, some of those savings to now provide more tax credits for more middle-income families, for more young adults to help them buy insurance.  It will make their premiums more affordable.  And that’s not just good for them — it’s good for everybody.  Because when more people are in the marketplace, everybody will benefit from lower premiums.  Healthier people, younger people start joining the pool; premiums generally go down.  That would be number two.

The third thing we should do is add what’s called a public plan fallback — (applause) — to give folks more options in those places where there are just not enough insurers to compete.  And that’s especially important in some rural communities and rural states and counties.  If you live in L.A. right now, then it’s working fine.  There are a lot of insurers because it’s a big market, there are a lot of providers.  But if you’re in some remote areas, or you’re near some small towns, it may be that the economics of it just don’t work unless the government is providing an option to make it affordable.  And, by the way, this is not complicated.  Basically, you would just wait and see — if the private insurers are competing for business, then you don’t have to trigger a public option.  But if no private insurers are providing affordable insurance in an area, then the government would step in with a quality plan that people can afford.

And, by the way, this is not a radical idea.  This idea is modeled on something that Republicans championed under George Bush for the Medicare Part D drug benefit program.  It was fine when it was their idea.  The fact that they’re now opposed to it as some socialist scheme is not being consistent, it’s being partisan.

And finally, we should continue to encourage innovation by the states.  What the Affordable Care Act says is, here’s how we propose you insure your populations, but you, the state, can figure out a different way to accomplish the same goal — providing affordable, comprehensive coverage for the same number of residents at the same cost — then go right ahead.  There may be more than one way to skin a cat.  Maybe you’ve got an idea we haven’t thought of.  Just show us, don’t talk about it.  Show us what the plan looks like.

Republicans who claim to care about your health insurance choices and your premiums, but then offer nothing and block common-sense solutions like the ones that I propose to improve them — that’s not right.  And my message to them has been and will continue to be:  Work with us.  Make the system better.  Help the people you serve.  We’re open to good ideas, but they’ve got to be real ideas — not just slogans, not just votes to repeal.  And they’ve got to pass basic muster.  You can’t say, well, if we just do — if we just plant some magic beans — (laughter) — then everybody will have health insurance.  No, we’ve got to have health care economists and experts look at it and see if the thing would actually work.

So that’s where we are.  Number one, Obamacare is helping millions of people right now.  The uninsured rate has never been lower.  It’s helping everybody who already has health insurance, because it makes their policies better.  Number two, there are still too many hardworking people who are not being reached by the law.  Number three, if we tweak the program to reach those people who are not currently benefitting from the law, it will be good for them and it will be good for the country.  Number four, if we repeal this law wholesale that will hurt the people who don’t have coverage right now.  It will hurt the 20 million who are already getting help through the law.  And it will hurt the country as a whole.

So this should be an easy choice.  All it does — all it requires is putting aside ideology, and in good faith trying to implement the law of the land.  And what we’ve learned, by the way, is that when governors and state legislators expand Medicaid for their citizens and they hold insurance companies accountable, and they’re honest with uninsured people about their options, and they’re working with us on outreach, then the marketplace works the way it’s supposed to.  And when they don’t, the marketplaces tend to have more problems.  And that shouldn’t be surprising.  If state leaders purposely try to make something not work, then it’s not going to run as smoothly as if they were trying to make it work.  Common sense.  You don’t even have to go to Miami Dade to figure that out.  (Laughter.)

The point is, now is not the time to move backwards on health care reform.  Now is the time to move forward.  The problems that may have arisen from the Affordable Care Act is not because government is too involved in the process.  The problem is, is that we have not reached everybody and pulled them in.  And think about it.  When one of these companies comes out with a new smartphone and it had a few bugs, what do they do?  They fix it.  They upgrade — unless it catches fire, and they just — (laughter) — then they pull it off the market.  But you don’t go back to using a rotary phone.  (Laughter.)  You don’t say, well, we’re repealing smartphones — we’re just going to do the dial-up thing.  (Laughter.)  That’s not what you do.

Well, the same basic principle applies here.  We’re not going to go back to discriminating against Americans with preexisting conditions.  We’re not going to go back to a time when people’s coverage was dropped when they got sick.  We’re not going to go back to a situation where we’re reinstating lifetime limits in the fine print so that you think you have insurance, and then you get really sick or you kid gets really sick, and you hit the limit that the insurance company set, and next thing you know they’re not covering you anymore, and you got to figure out how you come up with another $100,000 or $200,000 to make sure that your child lives.  We’re not going to go back to that.

I hear Republicans in Congress object, and they’ll say, no, no, no, no, we’ll keep those parts of Obamacare that are popular; we’ll just repeal everything else.  Well, it turns out that the sum of those parts that are popular in Obamacare is Obamacare.  (Applause.)  It’s just people don’t always know it.  And repealing it would make the majority of Americans worse off when it comes to health care.

And as I said, part of this is just — you know, health care is complicated.  Think about this speech — it’s been pretty long, and you’re just — you’re thinking, wow, I just want to take a picture with the President or something.  (Laughter.)  So it’s hard to get people focused on the facts.  And even reporters who have covered this stuff — and they do a good job; they’re trying to follow all the debate.  But a lot of times they just report, “Premium increases.”  And everybody thinks, wow, my insurance rates are going up, it must be Obama’s fault — even though you don’t get health insurance through Obamacare, you get it through your job, and even though your increases have gone up a lot slower.  Or suddenly you’re paying a bigger copay, and, ah, thanks Obama.  (Laughter.)  Well, no, I had nothing to do with that.

So part of it is this is complicated, the way it gets reported.  There’s a lot of hysteria around anything that happens.  And what we need to do is just focus on this very specific problem — how do we make sure that more people are getting coverage, and folks right now who are not getting tax credits, aren’t getting Medicaid, how do we help them, how do we reach them.  And we can do it.

Instead of repealing the law, I believe the next President and the next Congress should take what we’ve learned over the past six years and in a serious way analyze it, figure out what it is that needs to get done, and make the Affordable Care Act better and cover even more people.  But understand, no President can do it alone.  We will need Republicans in Congress and in state governments to act responsibly and put politics aside.  Because I want to remind you, a lot of the Affordable Care Act is built on Republican ideas.

In fact, Bernie Sanders is still mad at me because we didn’t get single-payer passed.  Now, we couldn’t get single-payer passed, and I wanted to make sure that we helped as many people as possible, given the political constraints.  And so we adopted a system that Republicans should like; it’s based on a competitive, market-based system in which people have to a responsibility for themselves by buy insurance.

And maybe now that I’m leaving office, maybe Republicans can stop with the 60-something repeal votes they’ve taken, and stop pretending that they have a serious alternative, and stop pretending that all the terrible things they said would happen have actually happened, when they have not, and just work with the next President to smooth out the kinks.

Because it turns out, no major social innovation in America has ever worked perfectly at the start.  Social Security didn’t. Its benefits were stingy at first.  It left out a whole lot of Americans.  The same was true for Medicare.  The same was true for Medicaid.  The same was true for the prescription drug law.  But what happened was, every year, people of goodwill from both parties tried to make it better.  And that’s what we need to do right now.

And I promise, if Republicans have good ideas to provide more coverage for folks like Amanda, I will be all for it.  I don’t care whose idea it is, I just want it to work.  They can even change the name of the law to ReaganCare.  (Laughter.) Or they can call it Paul Ryan Care.  I don’t care — (laughter) — about credit, I just want it to work because I care about the American people and making sure they’ve got health insurance.

But that brings me to my final point, and that is change does not typically come from the top down, it always comes from the bottom up.  The Affordable Care Act was passed because the American people mobilized, not just to get me elected, but to keep the pressure on me to actually do something about health care and to put pressure on members of Congress to do something about it.  And that’s how change happens in America.  It doesn’t happen on its own.  It doesn’t happen from on high.  It happens from the bottom up.  And breaking gridlock will come only when the American people demand it.

So that’s why I’m here.  Only you can break this stalemate, but educating the public on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, and then pressing your elected officials to do the right this and supporting elected officials who are doing the right things.

And this is one of the reasons why I’m so proud of what Miami-Dade College is doing, because it’s making sure that students and faculty, and people throughout this community know about the law, know about how to sign up for health care, and then actually helps people sign up.  And I’m incredibly proud of the leadership Joe Peña and the entire team in encouraging people to sign up.

Thanks to them, Miami-Dade has been hosting enrollment office hours and workshops, even on nights and weekends.  Right here on the Wolfson campus, and on all the Miami-Dade campuses, you can go for a free one-on-one session where a trained expert can walk you through the process and answer any questions you have — and then help you sign up for health care right there and then.  Joe says he doesn’t have a conversation without making sure people know how to get covered.  The more young and healthy people like you who do the smart thing and sign up, then the better it’s going to work for everybody.

And the good news is, in a few days, you can do just that because Open enrollment, the time when you can start signing up, begins on November 1.  And you just need to go to HealthCare.gov, which works really well now.  (Laughter.)

And campuses will be competing to come up with the most creative ways to reach people and get them signed up — and I’m pretty sure that Miami-Dade can set the standard for the rest of the country.  ‘Cause that’s how you do.  (Applause.)  That’s how you do.

So much has changed since I campaigned here in Miami eight Octobers ago.  But one thing has not: this is more than just about health care.  It’s about the character of our country.  It’s about whether we look out for one another.  It’s about whether the wealthiest nation on earth is going to make sure that nobody suffers.  Nobody loses everything they have saved, everything they have worked for because they’re sick.  You stood up for the idea that no American should have to go without the health care they need.

And it’s still true today.  And we’ve proven together that people who love this country can change it — 20 million people out there will testify.  I get letters every day, just saying thank you because it’s made a difference in their lives.  And what true then is true now.  We still need you.  Our work to expand opportunity to all and make our union more perfect is never finished — but the more we work, and organize, and advocate, and fight, the closer we get.

So I hope you are going to be busy this November signing folks up.  But more importantly, I hope, for all the young people here, you never stop working for a better America.  And even though I won’t be President, I’ll keep working right alongside you.

Thank you, everybody.  God bless you.  God bless America.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
2:40 P.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts January 8, 2016: President Barack Obama vetoes GOP Congress’ ObamaCare repeal the Reconciliation Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Veto Message from the President — H.R. 3762

Source: WH, 1-8-16

TO THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES:

I am returning herewith without my approval H.R. 3762, which provides for reconciliation pursuant to section 2002 of the concurrent resolution on the budget for fiscal year 2016, herein referred to as the Reconciliation Act.  This legislation would not only repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act, but would reverse the significant progress we have made in improving health care in America.  The Affordable Care Act includes a set of fairer rules and stronger consumer protections that have made health care coverage more affordable, more attainable, and more patient centered.  And it is working.  About 17.6 million Americans have gained health care coverage as the law’s coverage provisions have taken effect.  The Nation’s uninsured rate now stands at its lowest level ever, and demand for Marketplace coverage during December 2015 was at an all-time high.  Health care costs are lower than expected when the law was passed, and health care quality is higher — with improvements in patient safety saving an estimated 87,000 lives.  Health care has changed for the better, setting this country on a smarter, stronger course.

The Reconciliation Act would reverse that course.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the legislation would increase the number of uninsured Americans by 22 million after 2017.  The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that this reduction in health care coverage could mean, each year, more than 900,000 fewer people getting all their needed care, more than 1.2 million additional people having trouble paying other bills due to higher medical costs, and potentially more than 10,000 additional deaths.  This legislation would cost millions of hard-working middle-class families the security of affordable health coverage they deserve.  Reliable health care coverage  would no longer be a right for everyone:  it would return to being a privilege for a few.

The legislation’s implications extend far beyond those who would become uninsured.  For example, about 150 million Americans with employer-based insurance would be at risk of higher premiums and lower wages.  And it would cause the cost of health coverage for people buying it on their own to skyrocket.

The Reconciliation Act would also effectively defund Planned Parenthood.  Planned Parenthood uses both Federal and non-federal funds to provide a range of important preventive care and health services, including health screenings, vaccinations, and check-ups to millions of men and women who visit their health centers annually.  Longstanding Federal policy already prohibits the use of Federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered.  By eliminating Federal Medicaid funding for a major provider of health care, H.R. 3762 would limit access to health care for men, women, and families across the Nation, and would disproportionately impact low-income individuals.

Republicans in the Congress have attempted to repeal or undermine the Affordable Care Act over 50 times.  Rather than refighting old political battles by once again voting to repeal basic protections that provide security for the middle class, Members of Congress should be working together to grow the economy, strengthen middle-class families, and create new jobs.  Because of the harm this bill would cause to the health and financial security of millions of Americans, it has earned my veto.

Full Text Obama Presidency July 1, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Twitter Chat on Obamacare

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

  1. Gotta go, but this was fun. Let’s keep the health care conversation going – share how the for you or your family.

 

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted Victor Samuda

    people lack info/turned off by political noise. w court case done, let’s focus on getting people signed up.

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted ryan kartune

    pushing to make 2 yrs comm college free; permit refinancing on student loans; push colleges to keep tuition low

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted JustinGreen∞

    respect the nyt, but not buying peas in guac. onions, garlic, hot peppers. classic.

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted natalie

    was listening to outkast/liberation and the black keys/lonely boy this morning.

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted Christina Loucks

    there’s a hardship exemption; fine only applies to folks who can afford insurance but choose not to.

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted Emma’s Politics

    have principles and issues you are passionate about, and act; worry more about doing something than being something.

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted Sable Systems

    EX-IM bank helps US companies export; that means good paying american jobs. optimistic that congress gets it done.

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted Kat Robison

    now’s time to encourage states that held off for political reasons to do the right thing; contact state officials!

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted nathan210

    congratulations! hope you guys are getting sleep. nothing beats babies!

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted Raul Gonzales

    not true – like last year, insurers request premium hikes, but must be approved; expect final increases to be less

    President Obama added,

 

 

  • President Obama retweeted Dylan Green

    we need to encourage states to take advantage of medicaid expansion; could insure 4 mil more people in 22 states!

    President Obama added,

 

 

 

 

 

Full Text Obama Presidency July 1, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks in a Discussion on Obamacare the Affordable Care Act Nashville, TN

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President in a Discussion on the Affordable Care Act — Nashville, TN

Source: WH, 7-3-15

Taylor Stratton Elementary School
Nashville, Tennessee

1:36 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody!  (Applause.)  Everybody, have a seat.  Have a seat.  Well, it’s good to be back in Nashville.  (Applause.)  I like Nashville.  I don’t know if you noticed, I come back here quite a bit.  (Laughter.)

First of all, can everybody please give Kelly a big round of applause?  (Applause.)  In addition to being wonderful and somewhat feisty spirit, as I have learned, she also has the distinction of possibly being the first person ever to be picked up at her house by a presidential motorcade.  (Laughter.)  Which I thought was pretty cool.  Well, it turned out it was so close to the school, so we said, well, we might as well just swing by and get her.  (Laughter.)

I want to thank the school for hosting us here today, because I know it’s a lot of work when we come into town.  Very much appreciate everybody who was involved in that.  You have a great Mayor, Karl Dean, who’s here, so please give Karl a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  There he is with his beautiful family right there.  Family, stand up.  Family, come on.  There’s his family — yay!  (Applause.)  You can’t imagine what a family has to put up with when you’re in public service.  So we really appreciate all of them.

Kelly already mentioned him, but he is somebody who is what you want out of a member of Congress.  He works hard.  He calls it like he sees them.  He’s willing to do courageous stuff even when it’s not popular.  He is a gentleman, one of my favorite people — Jim Cooper.  (Applause.)

Also here is somebody who knows health care well, was a health care professional, a doctor and executive, and knows a little bit about politics because he used to be the former Majority Leader.  When I first came in, in fact, he and I had a chance to work together on a number of things, and he’s been a terrific advocate on behalf of health care for a lot of people — Mr. Bill Frist.  (Applause.)

So, with that, I think I’m going to take off my jacket, get a little more relaxed here.  Part of the reason we came to Tennessee — in addition to me just liking Nashville and liking the state, generally, is that Tennessee has a history of innovation when it comes to health care, doing some very creative stuff — health care professionals, doctors, nurses, hospitals and executives working alongside nonprofits and the public sector to make sure that people are getting the very best health care they can, and also being able to control costs in a sensible way.
And thanks to the Affordable Care Act and the efforts of people like Jim who took some very tough votes, we now have about 166,000 Tennesseans who have health care who didn’t have it before.  Folks like Kelly.  (Applause.)

In addition to the people who are able to buy health insurance through the exchanges, through the marketplaces that were set up through the Affordable Care Act, I think it’s important to remember that everybody who has health insurance benefitted and continues to benefit from this law — even though a lot of folks don’t know it.

So if you have health insurance through the job, you’re able to keep your child on health insurance up until they’re 26 years old because of this law.  (Applause.)  And that’s provided millions of young people across the country with health insurance who may not have had it before.  And that’s especially important as young people are transitioning, getting their first job — they may not always get a job that has full benefits, and this way they’re able to make sure that they stay healthy.

In addition, if you’re a senior citizen, or somebody who’s disabled, it turns out that you are getting discounts on your prescription drugs that you may not have noticed but are saving you potentially hundreds or even thousands of dollars.  And there are millions of people across the country who are benefitting.  That is because of this law.

If you don’t fall under those categories and you’re just somebody who’s got health insurance on the job, you now are protected, so that if you, let’s say, lost that job, or decided to move to a job or just start your own business, you can’t be prohibited from getting health insurance because of a preexisting condition.  That’s a protection that everybody is benefitting from as a consequence of this law.  (Applause.)

If you’re a woman, you can’t be charged just for being a woman as a consequence of this law.  (Applause.)  Last I checked, that’s about over half of the population, so that’s a pretty large constituency.  You’re able to get free preventive care, including mammograms, as a consequence of this law, on your insurance.

So there are a whole host of things that fall under the Affordable Care Act that are benefitting 100 million, 150 million people.  They just may not be aware of it.  But what it’s done is it’s made health care stronger, more secure, and more reliable in America.  You don’t always notice that until you need it — the way Kelly needed it.  And that peace of mind, that understanding that if you get sick you’re not going to lose your job — or you’re not going to lose your house, you’re not going to lose all your savings, that you’re going to be able to get quality care — that is extraordinarily important.

I’ve said before, the scariest day of my life was when Sasha was three months old — my daughter — and she got meningitis.  And the only reason we knew was because we had a great primary care physician and we were able to rush to an emergency room and the doctors and nurses did extraordinary work.  And I was feeling helpless in that situation, but I thought, what would happen if I was in the same situation and I didn’t have health care, and I didn’t have a primary care physician to call in the middle of the night because we noticed she wasn’t crying the same way she usually cried?  Because of the law we passed, there are parents who just aren’t going to have to face that.  And that’s priceless.

Now, the good news is that, contrary to some of the expectations, not only has the law worked better than we expected, not only are 16 million people now getting health insurance that didn’t have it before, not only do we now have the lowest uninsured rate since we started tracking people and how much health insurance they had, but it’s actually ended up costing less than people expected.  And health care costs have been held — the inflation on health care costs have actually proved to be the lowest — since the Affordable Care Act passed  — in the last 50 years.  So we’re actually seeing less health care inflation.

And part of the reason is because the law also encouraged health care providers and doctors, nurses, hospitals to start thinking more creatively about how can we get a better bang for our health care dollar.  How can we make sure that rather than spending a lot of money on unnecessary tests or readmissions, we’re encouraging really high-quality care that’s good for the patient but also good for health care spending.

And this is another area where Tennessee actually has been really innovative.  In fact, it won a $65 million grant for state innovation, where you’ve got hospitals and doctors and nurses and not-for-profits and other groups working together to figure out how can we, for example, identify potential diabetes patients early, make sure that they’re getting healthy quicker, preventing some of the worst elements of it.  And even though it might involve a little extra spending on the front end, it turns out it saves hundreds of thousands of dollars on the back end; improves quality of life, improves quality of care, cuts costs, which is good for our economy, good for patients, and good for America.

So I’m feeling pretty good about how health care is going.  (Applause.)  And the thing I’ve never lost sight of, though, is that this is about people.  This is not about politics, it’s not about Washington.  It’s about families and loved ones, and the struggle and the fear that comes about when you have a serious illness and knowing that you’ve got not just your own family, but also a community that has your back.

And you heard Kelly talk about her story.  Sitting right next to Kelly is a wonderful woman named Natoma Canfield, who came down with me today.  She’s from Ohio, and she wrote a letter to me, pretty similar to Kelly’s, back in — five years ago, so back in 2010, when we were still in the middle of this fight to try to get health care that’s affordable for everybody.  And Natoma had been diagnosed with cancer, had beat it back, then was buying health insurance on the individual market and it turned out that the costs were just skyrocketing so high that she just couldn’t afford it anymore.

And she wrote to me a passionate letter about why we needed to get this done.  And I would always refer back to her letter whenever things got a little bleak and Congress wasn’t behaving as sensibly as Jim Cooper behaves.  (Laughter.)  And when we finally signed that bill, I had Natoma’s letter framed with the pen that I signed the bill with — one of the pen’s that I signed the bill with — just to remind me that this wasn’t about politics, this was about people.

And so I’m so glad Natoma is here, but I’m also glad that all of you are here.  And part of what I’m hoping is that with the Supreme Court case now behind us, what we can do is — (applause) — I’m hoping that what we can do is now focus on how we can make it even better.  Because it’s not as if we’ve solved all the problems in our health care system.  America still spends more on health care than any other advanced nation and our outcomes aren’t particularly better.

And so we know there’s still a lot of waste in the system.  We know that the quality of care isn’t always where it needs to be.  And so my hope is, is that on a bipartisan basis, in places like Tennessee, but all across the country, we can now focus on what have we learned.  What’s working?  What’s not working?  Are there further improvements we can make to improve quality?  Are there more ways we can encourage people to get preventive care so that they don’t get sick in the first place, so that we have a actual health care system instead of a disease care system?  Are there ways that we can do better to provide the support we need for outstanding primary care physicians and nurses, who oftentimes are coming out of school loaded up with debt and aren’t always getting the support that they need and aren’t always able to practice the way they want to practice?

There are huge areas of improvement and, frankly, there’s still a lot of people who aren’t insured.  Part of the design of the Affordable Care Act was that some people were going to buy health care on the marketplace; in some cases, we were going to allow states to expand their coverage through individualized programs in their states.  I think because of politics, not all states have taken advantage of the options that are out there.  Our hope is, is that more of them do.

We still have to sign a bunch of people up.  We’ve covered now about a third of the people who weren’t covered before this law passed, but that means there’s still two-thirds out there who still need some help and they’re still going to the emergency room at the last minute when something goes wrong.

And so we want to educate people.  We want to listen to folks.  We want to hear good ideas from all sources.  We want to think about this in a practical, American way instead of a partisan, political way.  And if we do that, then I think there’s still great strides to be made.

So I want to thank all of you for being here.  And with that, I’m just going to open it up for a bunch of questions.  And you can ask me about anything, but probably you should ask me a couple of questions about health care.  (Laughter.)  I’m also willing to talk about the women’s soccer team and how we’re going to beat whoever it is we’re playing up in Canada.  (Applause.)  I can talk about the NBA free agency.  (Laughter.)  I can talk about the Predators and hockey. (Applause.)  And I can talk about other things other than sports.  (Laughter.)

But the way we’re going to do this is we’re just going to — this is very casual.  I’m just going to call on folks.  The only rules I’m going to lay down are when you raise your hand, if you can wait — are there microphones in the audience?  So wait for a microphone so we can all hear you.  And I’d like you to introduce yourself.  And I’m going to try to make sure that we go boy, girl, boy, girl, so that it’s even.  (Laughter.)  Okay?  All right.

We’re going to start with this young lady right here in front.  You’ve got a microphone right here.  So remember to introduce yourself.  Go ahead and hand her the mic.  Sometimes we tell our folks to hang onto the mic because people keep it for too long.  (Laughter.)  But this looks like a pretty well-behaved group, so go ahead and hand them the mic.

Q    I am a Tennessee volunteer enrolling people in the Affordable Care Act.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Q    Thank you.  (Applause.)  We live in a city with a lot of health care companies and a lot of great medical facilities who can take advantage of some of the things you mentioned.  What do you think ordinary people — people who are volunteers, or ordinary citizens can do to help make our health care system and our health insurance system better?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I want to thank you for volunteering, because so much of our challenge these first couple of years as we’ve gotten this started was just getting people information, because there was so much misinformation out there.
So, for example, a lot of people don’t know that through the exchange, through the Affordable Care Act exchange plan, there is enormous choice of plans.  And Tennessee actually has benefitted from some of the widest range of choices of just about any state. I think there are 70 options to choose from for people throughout the state.  And about 80 percent of people who are purchasing health insurance through these exchanges because they’re getting federal subsidies, they’re spending less than 100 bucks a month for good, quality care.  And that’s true nationwide.

So part of our goal here is just to give people good information.  And in fairness to folks, look, before I started tackling this whole health care thing, when I got a job I didn’t really pay attention to health care benefits.  You go to the job, and somebody from HR hands you a form and says, here, fill this out, and they tell you, well, you need to choose from two or three plans, and you kind of ask them, all right, well, what do you think?  (Laughter.)  They tell you, well, that one is pretty good, and you sign up for it.  Most of us don’t spend a lot of time thinking about health insurance until we get sick, unfortunately.

So getting people information, I think that’s something that is really helpful when it comes from neighbors, friends, coworkers, your church — because you have more trust.  Sometimes people don’t always trust what they see on television, especially on something that became sort of a political football.

I think the other thing is for citizens to share their stories of how it’s helped them not only with their friends, neighbors, coworkers, but also with their state legislators and with their governor, and writing letters and letting them know that this is helping people, it makes a difference — so that they then recognize that this is an important need and it’s worthy of support.

And then you’ve also got to take care of yourself.  But you look really good, so you’re obviously — (laughter) — getting exercise and eating right, and getting regular checkups and all that good stuff.  Because that’s helpful, as well.  That’s part of how we keep costs down, is making sure people are well-informed about what it takes to live a healthy life.

Great question, though.

All right, it’s a gentleman’s turn.  This guy right down here.  You’ve got a good-looking beard.  All right, hold on a second.  Let’s get the mic — like I said, you can just pass it down to him.

Q    It is an honor and a privilege to be here, Mr. President.  I live in Pikeville, Tennessee.  It’s about 50 miles north of Chattanooga.  And I’m here representing the 280,000 people that is uninsurable in the state of Tennessee with the Insure Tennessee Act.  And what we need is — we got no insurance.  We can’t get no insurance.  We don’t make enough to pay for insurance, but still yet we make too much to get a subsidy insurance.  And I would like to know if you are aware of this, or is there anything that — movements or acts that you can make on the part of our problem here?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, first of all, I appreciate your comments.  There is something that can be done, but it’s going to be at the state level.  And I think that it’s important for state legislators to get together and find a uniquely Tennessee solution to the problem.

But understand, the way the law was set up was that states would have the option of expanding existing programs like Medicaid, and then you’d also have people who were buying health insurance on the marketplace and getting subsidies.  And the point you’re making is that if the state hasn’t taken action on one part of the program, then even with the good work that’s being done for people who are getting subsidies and purchasing insurance, you’re still leaving a bunch of folks out.  And here in Tennessee, that’s probably a couple hundred thousand people who could benefit if we really focused on how to fix it.

Now, as I said before, Tennessee has a history of bipartisan, smart, state-specific efforts to expand health insurance.  And I don’t expect that what’s good for Tennessee is automatically going to be the same as what’s good for California or what’s good for my home state of Illinois.  But given the strong history of innovation in health care in Tennessee and given the high quality of doctors and hospitals and nurses and networks that are here, you all should be able to find a solution.  And the federal government is there to help and to work with those states that are ready to get going.

I will tell you the states that have taken full advantage of all the federal options available, they have an even lower uninsured rate, and a healthier population, and more people signing up for the options that are available than those states that have not taken full advantage of those options.  And that’s just a fact.  And it is unfortunate that getting this done got so political.  Washington is kind of a crazy place.  But that doesn’t mean every place has got to be crazy.  (Laughter and applause.)  So I’d like to see some good sense spring forth from the great state of Tennessee, see if we can get this thing done. (Applause.)

All right.  Yes, right there.  Go ahead.

Q    Thank you so much for being here today and sharing with us.  I’m from St. Thomas Health and one of the administrators.  So the work that’s already been done, the exchange, we know we have work to do with expansion.  What would you envision are the next steps that we need to take in health care in general for our country?

THE PRESIDENT:  The areas where I think we can still make the biggest difference, in addition to making sure everybody is signed up for the options that they have, is to really think more about the delivery system of health care.  And this can get real complicated because we got a complicated health care system.  But I can boil it down maybe into layman’s terms.

Right now we spend too much money on the wrong things and not enough money on the right things.  So health care generally is very expensive in this country.  But if you look at how that money is spent, we don’t give enough incentives to health care providers to really focus just on the patient and the quality of care.  First of all, there’s way too much bureaucracy.  There’s way too much paperwork.  That wears out the patient.  It wears out the doctor.  It wears out the nurses.  They don’t like it.

The second problem is that because of the way that we’ve designed the payment system in health care, historically what happened was that, let’s say, a hospital or a doctor had a patient come in, says, I’ve got diabetes or I have I think maybe diabetes.  The hospital or the doctor would get paid to amputate the leg of a patient, but they wouldn’t get reimbursed if they just hired somebody to monitor whether that individual was taking their medicines on a regular basis and monitoring their eating habits, right?  So what ends up happening is, is that you don’t end up helping the patient who might have kept their leg if they were keeping up a regular regiment of looking after themselves.

The doctors don’t feel good about that.  The nurses don’t feel good about it.  But they just don’t have time because of the economics of the health care system.  So one of the things that we’re trying to do across the board — and Tennessee is actually doing some good innovation on this — is let’s reimburse people for the outcomes and the quality of care that people are getting.

So instead of — when that patient comes in, instead of worrying about just, okay, I’m going to bill for this test and I’m going to bill for this surgery, let’s tell them, if that person ends up having a good outcome, then you’re going to get reimbursed.  And the better the outcome, maybe the bigger the reimbursement.

And now it may turn out that it’s a good deal for the doctor to spend an extra half an hour with the patient very carefully going over the medicine they should be getting.  Or the hospital may say, you know what, we’re going to sign you up for a health club and make sure that you’re getting some regular exercise, or we’re going to reimburse you for a smoking-cessation program — and suddenly all that produces a better result.

But we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got a payment system that follows that logic of patient-centered care.  And as I said before, we’re already seeing that happening.  Part of the reason that we’ve actually seen health care costs slow — the inflation of health care slow is because folks are starting to get reimbursed in different ways, and health care groups are starting to organize themselves to focus on the quality of care as opposed to the amount of care.

If we can do that, see, what that does is it — first of all, it frees up resources.  It’s not good for anybody when health care costs go up because not only does the federal government have to pay more, the state of Tennessee has to pay more.  That means there’s less money left over for doctors, nurses, for health education.  It means higher premiums for the patients.  But it also means that if we’re saying — if we just cut 2 percent or 3 percent on the cost of health care, that’s hundreds of billions of dollars that we can now spend on something else.  We can spend that on education.  We can spend that on job training programs.  We can spend that on fixing some potholes.  And it can improve everybody’s quality of life.

So that I think is the area that we’re going to be spending a lot of focus and a lot time, in addition to making sure that people are able to sign up for the care that they need.  Because I want to emphasize, there are still too many people out there who haven’t signed up or can’t sign up for the health care that’s available to them.  And if we can clear away some of the politics, that will help, as well.

Good.  Gentleman, right here.

Q    Good afternoon, Mr. President.  My name is Eric Brown from Nashville, Tennessee.  I work for the Children’s Defense Fund and a small, local congregation here.  My question is more for veterans when it comes to health care.  I have a family member who’s a veteran.  She would like to have a female doctor. She’s been rejected about two or three times.  So I just wanted to hear more of your thoughts on that — how to help her to get the health care that she needs, but also have the safety that she needs for it as well.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Well, as most of you know, the VA system is an entirely separate health care system from the private sector health care systems that most of us use.

Here’s the basic principle:  If somebody is wearing our — the uniform of the armed services of this country and sacrificing and putting themselves in harm’s way to protect us, we’ve got to give them good health care when they come home.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to make sure that they get the very best.

Now, the good news is that the overwhelming majority of veterans are very satisfied with the health care they receive once they get into the system.  The bad news is that because a lot of the processing and systems in the VA system are outdated, sometimes it’s taking a long time for folks to get into the system, to get an appointment, to make sure that they’ve got a doctor that they’re comfortable with.  There are areas where there are still shortages — for example, in mental health, with a lot of folks coming back with PTSD — there haven’t been, historically, enough mental health services provided for our veterans.

So my Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald, who is a former — who’s a veteran himself, but also a former CEO of Procter & Gamble, so knows about big companies and big operations — he’s really been doing a good job in revamping how the VA system is organized generally.  It’s going to take some time.  It’s still not where it needs to be.

With respect to your — was it your sister, in particular?

Q    Mother-in-law.

THE PRESIDENT:  Your mother-in-law, in particular — we’ll get your name and your mother-in-law’s name, and we’ll find out what exactly the issue is.  But generally speaking, we’ve actually made an investment in women’s health care in the VA system, reflecting the fact that we now have extraordinary women who are serving in the armed services, and the health care needs of women are not always going to be the same as the health care needs of men.  And so we’ve actually been trying to boost the kinds of specialties and training that are needed to provide health care to women — our women veterans, and we’ve been expanding that.

And that’s something I’m very proud of.  We’ve made a significant inroad in that area.  Tell her thanks for her service.

All right, it’s a young lady’s turn.  Go ahead.  I’ll go here, and — don’t worry, I think I’ll be able to catch everybody.  Go ahead.  But she does have an Obama pin on, so I thought I’d — (laughter) — I figured I had to give her a little props for that.

Q    Thank you.  And thank you, Mr. President, for coming to Tennessee.  And my name is Brenda Gilmore.  I’m a member of the Tennessee General Assembly in the House.  And there are a number of members that are here, so I just wanted you to know that we support you.  We believe that health care is the right thing for everybody, and especially for Tennesseans.

And I wanted to ask you, with your background also being a state senator —

THE PRESIDENT:  State legislator.

Q    — do you have some strategies that you could share with us — (laughter) — that we could encourage our Governor to stay on the journey and to continue to find solutions to present Insure Tennessee, and to bring some of our colleagues over on the other side so that we can take the politics out of it and help them to understand how important this is to the quality of life for Tennesseans?  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I don’t presume to know as much as you do about Tennessee politics, so I will leave the expert advice to folks like Jim Cooper maybe.

But here’s the one thing I do know, is that elected officials respond to public opinion.  I think one of the challenges that we’ve had throughout this fight has been that there’s been a lot of misinformation out there.  And so if you stopped the average Tennessean on the street and you asked them, do you support making sure that insurance companies can’t bar you from getting health insurance because of a preexisting condition, eight out of 10 of them would say, absolutely, I support that.  Overwhelming majority of Republicans would support it just as much as Democrats did.

Now, if you asked them, did you know the Affordable Care Act is what is guaranteeing you don’t get blocked from getting health insurance with a preexisting condition, you’d get an argument with at least half those folks — “no, that’s not what it’s doing.”  So part of it is just providing people good information. That’s really important.  And if ordinary folks feel it’s important, then usually elected officials start responding.

I think the other thing to emphasize, which I know you’re already doing, is recognizing that not every state is the same, and that the truth is, is that there are a lot of different ways that states are approaching this problem.  And if everybody will just acknowledge that people should get health insurance, that they should be able to get affordable care when they need it — if that much is acknowledged, that base principle, then you can say to them, okay, here’s our ideas for how to do it, what are your ideas?  And people can come up with good ideas of their own.

I will say this.  People tend to forget that the Affordable Care Act model, with health care exchanges and buying on the — in the marketplace, and getting subsidies from the federal government — that was originally a model that was embraced by Republicans before I embraced it.  It’s the model that Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts.  It’s the model that conservative organizations like Heritage Foundation thought were a good idea.

So my hope is that maybe now we can return to a constructive conversation about — if folks have better ideas, you should accept them.  My general rule is I have no pride of authorship here.  I just want to make sure Kelly has got health insurance and I want to make sure that Thelma has got health insurance, and I want to make sure this gentleman gets health insurance.  And if there’s a better way of doing it, let me know.

But it turns out that it’s hard.  (Laughter.)  So it’s got to be an idea that actually works.  It can’t be an idea that sounds good, but then doesn’t work.  That’s the only danger.  So if somebody tells you that, well, we’re going to prohibit insurance companies from barring you from getting health insurance if you’ve got a preexisting condition — which is popular — but we’re going to allow people not to get health insurance if they don’t feel like it, then the truth is that doesn’t work.  And the reason it doesn’t work is, if you think about it, if you knew that the insurance company couldn’t prevent you from getting health insurance once you were sick, you wouldn’t pay all those premiums until you got sick.  And then you’d go to your health insurance company and say, there’s a law you got to sell me health insurance — and you’d save a whole lot of money, but, of course, the whole insurance system would collapse.  It wouldn’t work.

So there are just some basic things that — basic realities about the health care system that have to be taken into account. But I think you should be open to other ideas.  Like I said, look, I didn’t mind stealing ideas from Mitt Romney.  (Laughter.) But the bottom line is:  What works?  What works?  And if Republican legislators have better ideas, they should present them.  But they have to be realistic.  They have to be meaningful.  (Applause.)

Okay.  The gentleman right here in the glasses.  Right here.  Yes.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I work with Family and Children Service.  I am versed in the health care system and I help people enroll in the marketplace.  And I want to thank you so much on behalf of the many people I’ve been helping, especially the most vulnerable immigrant people, to get affordable health insurance.  We really thank you very much.

Also, I just want to ask you if you have any plans to expand the Affordable Care Act for sick migrant people, especially the people who don’t have enough documents in this country but they still live and work here for a long time.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we were very clear that the Affordable Care Act did not apply to people who are not here legally.  And that’s the law.  So that’s another example of — there’s a lot of misinformation about this.  The law says that if you are undocumented, if you’re not here legally, you can’t benefit from subsidies and the program that we’ve set up.

The real answer to your question is why don’t we have immigration reform so that people who’ve been here a long time who are otherwise law-abiding citizens, who oftentimes have children who are U.S. citizens, who are contributing to the society and are willing to pay their dues, pay taxes, get a background check — why don’t we give them a pathway so they can be legal.  (Applause.)  If we do that — if we reform the immigration system, which is all broken, then this problem that you just mentioned takes care of itself.

I mean, look, we should not be encouraging illegal immigration.  What we should be doing is setting up a smart, legal immigration system that doesn’t separate families, but does focus on making sure that people who are dangerous, people who are gang-bangers or criminals — that we’re deporting them as quickly as possible, that we’re focusing our resources there; that we’re focusing on a strong border.  We’ve made improvements on all those fronts, but we could be doing even more if we had immigration reform.

And we almost got that done.  We had a bipartisan bill come through the Senate that was very smart and was well-crafted.  It wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but it was a good compromise among a lot of different ideas.  The House of Representatives declined to call it to a vote, even though I think we had a majority of members of the House of Representatives who would be willing to vote for it.

I’ve taken some administrative actions to try to improve the system.  For example, us not deporting some young person who grew up here and been here since they were three or four or five years old, brought here by their parents, hasn’t done anything wrong, are going to school with our kids, or friends with our kids, and suddenly — in some cases, they didn’t even know that they weren’t citizens — and then they’re 18 years old and suddenly they can’t get a college scholarship because it turns out they don’t have the legal documents.

And I said, administratively, that’s not who we are to just send those kids back.  In some cases, they’ve never been to the country that their parents are from, don’t speak the language.  What do you mean we’re going to send them back?  Some of them serving in our military.

So we’ve done a lot administratively.  Ultimately, though, to really find a full solution to the problem we’re going to have to get congressional action.  And I suspect this will be a topic of conversation during the upcoming presidential campaign.

I should note by the way that Michelle is very happy that I cannot run.  (Laughter.)  That is good for the health care of our family.  (Laughter.)

Yes, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Marian Hurst from Mount Juliet, Tennessee.  And thanks to the ACA, I was able to retire and still get health insurance.  My question is, what are your thoughts on how to now manage the premiums?  I don’t know if you’re aware that BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has announced a significant increase after the one that they gave from 2014 to 2015.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, keep in mind that the Affordable Care Act was designed so that there’s competition.  And folks in Tennessee benefitted over these last two years not only of a lot of healthy competition — more insurers came in offering plans than just about any other place — it was really impressive — but Tennessee’s premiums were also substantially lower than a lot of other states, and have been over the last couple of years.  The insurance companies now have come in requesting higher premiums.

The good news for people of Tennessee is this has to be reviewed and approved by the insurance commission.  And if — last year is a good example.  Last year there were a number of states where the insurance companies came in requesting significant spikes in premiums.  And there were a lot stories in the newspaper, just like there are this year, about, oh, premiums are skyrocketing and this is going to be terrible and all that.  When all the dust settled and the commissioners who were empowered to review these rates forced insurance companies to justify what they were seeking, what you discovered was, is that the rates actually didn’t go up as much as people thought.

So I think the key for Tennessee is just making sure that the insurance commissioner does their job in not just passively reviewing the rates, but really asking, okay, what is it that you are looking for here?  Why would you need very high premiums?  And my expectation is, is that they’ll come in significantly lower than what’s being requested.

But I think that this emphasizes the need for us to not let our foot off the gas when it comes to the delivery system reforms that I talked about earlier.  Because part of what’s happening in terms of health care costs is that as technology changes, and there are more cures for more diseases, people utilize them more. And if we aren’t smart about how we spend our health care dollars, if we want everything right away even if it’s not shown to be particularly effective, then that shoots up health care costs and ultimately premiums are going to keep on going up.

So we’ve got to think more carefully about this.  The best example of this, by the way, is prescription drugs.  The biggest spike in health care costs is around prescription drugs.  Now, some of this is just because drugs have gotten better and people are able to now deal with cholesterol or deal with other chronic problems through a drug regimen.  And that’s a good thing.  We should be happy about that.  But when you’ve got a situation where the brand-name drug costs 100 bucks a pill and the generic drug costs 10 bucks a pill, and the generic has been shown to be just as effective as the brand name, it’s good for all of us as consumers to make sure that we’re generally using the generic drug when we can.

And a lot of times — sometimes we’re very insistent because we’ve seen some fancy ad on TV — people are running around looking happy.  (Laughter.)  Until they read that thing about:  “This may cause serious side effects.”  (Laughter.)  Diarrhea, migraines.  (Laughter.)  I always laugh at those ads.  (Laughter.)

But a lot of times, because of the advertising, you’ll have somebody come into their doctor and say, well, I want X because I saw a TV ad, and if the doctor says, well, actually Y works just as well and is a lot cheaper — a lot of times, people’s attitude is no, no, no, I want X.  And if the system is set up where you’re getting X, then that means your premiums are going to go up.  If you want your premiums to stay low, then you have got to base your decisions on your doctor — you want your doctors and your nurses basing decisions on science and what’s proven as opposed to what’s being advertised.

And that’s just one example of how we’ve got to make sure that we continue to save money in the system.  Because if costs keep on going up and everybody wants everything and is not smart about how we’re spending out health care dollars, then, yes, premiums are going to end up going up too high.  But stay on your insurance commissioner, pay attention to what they’re doing.

Okay.  I got time for one more — but I’m going to take two.  (Laughter.)  Yes, sir, this gentlemen right here.

Q    I’m Walter Davis, and I’m a director of the Tennessee Health Care Campaign, which does both enrollment and advocating for Governor Haslam’s Insure Tennessee.  It’s wonderful to hear the success stories here.  But here in the South, we need help from the government and from supportive institutions to talk about the people being left behind.  And I want to make sure you meet Davy Crockett before you leave today.

THE PRESIDENT:  Is this Davy right here?

Q    Right there.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.

Q    Over there with the Tennessee Justice Center.  There are important stories about the people who are left out because of decisions by legislators.  And we love the legislators that are with us, both parties, but the other legislators need to meet people in the gap.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Well, you know what, I think this is like a handoff to Davy here.  (Laughter.)  So we’ll get you the mic here, Davy.  Hold on one second.  Is your name really Davy Crockett?

Q    Yes.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a cool name.  (Laughter.)  But you don’t have that beaver cap.  (Laughter.)

Q    I’ve got one at the house.

THE PRESIDENT:  You do?  (Laughter.)

Q    Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  All right.

Q    My name is James Davy Crockett.  And I live in Bulls Gap, Tennessee.  And I want to know — I’ve been turned down four times for Social Security.  Is there anything that you can do to maybe push it through or something?  (Laughter.)  I mean, I have been turned down and I’d like to be able to get some help.

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  Well, here, I’ll tell you what. Here’s the thing, Davy, I don’t run the Social Security Administration.  It’s the law.  But here’s one thing that does happen.  If I ask a question, I tend to get an answer pretty quick.  So what we’re going to do is we’re going to get your information, Davy, and I’ll make sure the Social Security Administrator takes a look at it and expedites it.  All right?  (Applause.)

Q    Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, thank you.

Davy Crockett!  (Applause.)  You all remember that TV show? Actually, a lot of people are too young here.  (Starts to sing)  Davy, Davy Crockett.  (Laughter.)  I loved that.

Right here.  This young lady is going to get the last question, because she wrote me a letter, and when people tell their stories that reminds me of why I’m doing what I’m doing.

Q    Thank you Mr. President.   My name is Margaret Mackatee (ph) and I’m a retired teacher and school administrator for 38 years in the great state of Ohio.  And I moved to Tennessee to be with my son and my grandchildren.  And my grandson, Patrick, said to say hi to you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Tell Patrick I said hey.  (Laughter.)

Q    Yes, sir.  The letter I wrote was after watching you make a speech to college students.  And at the time, it was after the fact of the death of my son.  And being off of health care  immediately after he graduated from Wright State University, and through the process of his illness and his death, how it affected me economically, and paying COBRA and shots.

And in the context of being a school administrator, as hard as that might have been to me, it was worse for my kids at school, going through much the same thing or worse, with no support system like I had, especially as we went through the economic downturn in the country.  And being a high school principal and watching my kids be homeless and transient and mobile, and much harder to grab ahold of.  And they would be into crime or stealing or whatever for survival on the streets.  And they would show up at school, or they’d get off the bus and come down and say, “Doctor Mackatee (ph), I need to go to the clinic because I’m sick.”

And so our little school clinics became their health care. And sometimes even their parents would come and say, hey, can your nurse check us out.  And at one time, we had one nurse for seven schools.

And so, in terms of people that are lost in the shuffle — especially at the secondary level — transient, homeless children — we had a huge population of homeless children and they kept my head on straight through the grief I felt in our family because they’re so compelling.  They don’t let — teenagers don’t let you sit around and whine.  They pull you forward into life.

And my concern for the school systems in this country is for the massive health care issues that walk in the doors of school systems who don’t have nursing care, who don’t have clinics that are staffed, who don’t have the resources.  And many of the teachers in America take care of the kids out of their pocket.  School cooks feed children — slip them a little bit.  I know for a fact that many of my kids only ate with confidence at school.  That’s one of the reasons I love Mrs. Obama and her notion of — (applause) — of decent school lunch.

I can remember walking into a school system and the lunch they served was a little piece of cheese, a little short pasty breadstick and a tiny little tomato sauce cup.  And that was lunch until Mrs. Obama brought focus to what was being served to our children.

So the kids in the country who are homeless and deprived and transient — as soon as a kid gets 15 or 16, it’s hard to — they come and they show up once in a while, or they go off and they bounce from home to home, or buddy to buddy, or situation to situation.  They’re the ones that I’m worried about falling through the cracks.

And I’m worried about our school system and the focus that we spend more time and effort trying to get what we used to call in Ohio “butts in seats to take tests,” instead of seeing to their health care needs and their mental health care needs and support needs, so that we can wholly educate a child in the United States of America.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s a great comment.  Well, first of all, Margaret, we’re so grateful for you sharing your personal story, because it reminds us of the goodness and generosity of the American people, when somebody like Margaret is going through her own pain but she’s thinking about people other than herself and her family.  That kind of spirit is to be found all across the country.  It’s not unique to one party.  It’s not unique to one region.  There are good people like Margaret everywhere.

A couple of points I’d just pick up on that you’ve mentioned.  Number one — when we talk about the health care system, we have to just remind ourselves of the economic impact of the health care system on families.  It’s not just feeling bad.  Obviously, when you’re sick, your most important concern is getting well.  But what is also true is, is that when you get sick and you don’t have health insurance, then that is draining your resources for other things.

Bankruptcy because of medical expenses is a huge portion of the bankruptcies in America.  When families lose their house, or a parent has to stop working because of an untreated illness, or they miss too many days at work because they can never go to a doctor and then lose their job or lose incomes from those days they don’t work — that can send a household into a spiral.  And then, once a household starts breaking down because they lose a home, or they lose a car, or they lose a job, now, suddenly, you start having people in shelters, and people on the streets.  And that then affects kids and then their capacity to learn.  And you then create cycles of problems that are much harder for people to pull out of.

So part of the reason that it’s important for us to get this health care issue right is so that people have at least a stable base from which to then focus on all the other issues that they’ve got to focus on in their lives.  And if we can, as I said before, continue to do a better job of providing high-quality care to everybody, but in a more efficient way, then that will free up resources so that, for example, we can address the underfunding of schools, and we can make sure that we are having additional resources inside the schools for things like mental health.

The number of under-diagnosed young people who end up getting in trouble or dropping out of school just because they didn’t get the same health care services that better-off families get, it’s substantial.  And once they’ve dropped out, you lose them.  And then they end up in the criminal justice system.  And we then end up paying for their incarceration instead of them paying taxes because they’re able to get a good job and support a family.  And those cycles can build.

One of the most challenging things as President for me is to try to get folks to recognize that investments in people oftentimes save us money over the long term, even if it looks like it costs money in the short term.  And we make this mistake over and over again.

You mentioned school lunches, for example.  We know that children’s grades and test scores tend to go down at the end of the month, on average, in low-income communities.  All right, well, why is that?  It’s because food stamps start running out at the end of the month and kids are hungry and they’re not focused.

Now, it may look smart for us to restrict those benefits, except if even half of those kids end up doing better in school, and didn’t drop out, and were able to get a job, the society would be much wealthier.  If we are focused on mental health services, then we could cut down on the crime rate.  If we invest in early childhood education, we know there are improved outcomes that save the society money as a whole.

And let’s face it, part of what prevents us from making those investments in the short term is, is that we’ve gone through some tough times.  The middle class feels strapped.  People’s incomes and wages haven’t gone up — even after the recovery where we dug ourselves out of the crisis.  We still have growing inequality where a huge amount of the increase in income is still going to folks at the very top.  And so if you’re a middle-class person, and you’re already struggling and things are tight, then sometimes you feel like, well, why am I going to pay more taxes to help folks at the bottom?  Right?  That’s, I think, the mentality that a lot of folks have.  And it’s understandable.

But part of what I’ve been trying to argue — and I know Jim tries to do it, as well — is to recognize that we don’t have to choose between middle-class families working hard and trying to get ahead and low-income families who are working hard and trying to get ahead — if those of us who’ve been extremely blessed are just a little more open-hearted about how we can help everybody. (Applause.)

And I would like us to just reflect the generosity of spirit that Margaret expresses, because if we all had that generosity of spirit, if we all look at every child as a member of our family, if we think of everybody as part of a single community, then we can solve a lot of these problems.  And it won’t end up costing us more money, we won’t necessarily have to pay more taxes, we’ll just be spending it in different ways.

In some ways, health care is a good metaphor for a lot of the problems we have.  We spend things on stuff we don’t need and we neglect the things we do, and we don’t end up healthier as a result.

Well, that’s not just true for the health care system; that’s true for our economy.  We waste a lot of money on stuff we don’t need.  And we under-invest in those things that will make sure that we have a healthy society.  And politics oftentimes gets in the way.  And part of what I’ve tried to encourage my own Democratic Party to do is to recognize that not all the money that we spend at the federal level is smart, and some of it — some programs don’t work and we should end those when they don’t work, and be honest about what’s working and what’s not.

But part of what I’ve also tried to do is to say to the Republican Party:  Open your hearts and think about the people here in Tennessee who are working hard, are struggling, and just need a little bit of help.  And if we give them that help, it’s going to pay off over the long term.  This will be a stronger state.  Employment will be higher.  Folks will be paying taxes.  Everybody is going to prosper.

We’re all in this together.  That’s what I believe.  When America is together and we have a certain generosity of spirit, even if we’re hard-headed about making sure stuff works right and we’re not wasting money, but we’re doing what is needed to give everybody a shot in life, that’s when America grows.  That’s when we prosper.

I know that’s what you believe, too, Margaret.  You showed it in your own life.  We appreciate you very much.

Thank you.  God bless you.  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

END
2:44 P.M. CDT

Full Text Obama Presidency June 25, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Remarks on the Supreme Court’s Ruling in favor of Affordable Care Act Obamacare Federal Subsidies Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Supreme Court’s Ruling of the Affordable Care Act

Source: WH, 6-25-15

Rose Garden

11:34 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  Have a seat.  Five years ago, after nearly a century of talk, decades of trying, a year of bipartisan debate — we finally declared that in America, health care is not a privilege for a few, but a right for all.

Over those five years, as we’ve worked to implement the Affordable Care Act, there have been successes and setbacks.  The setbacks I remember clearly.  (Laughter.)  But as the dust has settled, there can be no doubt that this law is working.  It has changed, and in some cases saved, American lives.  It set this country on a smarter, stronger course.

And today, after more than 50 votes in Congress to repeal or weaken this law; after a presidential election based in part on preserving or repealing this law; after multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court — the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.

This morning, the Court upheld a critical part of this law -– the part that’s made it easier for Americans to afford health insurance regardless of where you live.  If the partisan challenge to this law had succeeded, millions of Americans would have had thousands of dollars’ worth of tax credits taken from them.  For many, insurance would have become unaffordable again.  Many would have become uninsured again.  Ultimately, everyone’s premiums could have gone up.  America would have gone backwards.  And that’s not what we do.  That’s not what America does.  We move forward.

So today is a victory for hardworking Americans all across this country whose lives will continue to become more secure in a changing economy because of this law.

If you’re a parent, you can keep your kids on your plan until they turn 26 — something that has covered millions of young people so far.  That’s because of this law.

If you’re a senior, or an American with a disability, this law gives you discounts on your prescriptions — something that has saved 9 million Americans an average of $1,600 so far.

If you’re a woman, you can’t be charged more than anybody else — even if you’ve had cancer, or your husband had heart disease, or just because you’re a woman.  Your insurer has to offer free preventive services like mammograms.  They can’t place annual or lifetime caps on your care because of this law.

Because of this law, and because of today’s decision, millions of Americans who I hear from every single day will continue to receive the tax credits that have given about eight in ten people who buy insurance on the new marketplaces the choice of a health care plan that costs less than $100 a month.

And when it comes to preexisting conditions — someday, our grandkids will ask us if there was really a time when America discriminated against people who get sick.  Because that is something this law has ended for good.  That affects everybody with health insurance — not just folks who got insurance through the Affordable Care Act.  All of America has protections it didn’t have before.

As the law’s provisions have gradually taken effect, more than 16 million uninsured Americans have gained coverage so far.  Nearly one in three Americans who was uninsured a few years ago is insured today.  The uninsured rate in America is the lowest since we began to keep records.  And that is something we can all be proud of.

Meanwhile, the law has helped hold the price of health care to its slowest growth in 50 years.  If your family gets insurance through your job — so you’re not using the Affordable Care Act — you’re still paying about $1,800 less per year on average than you would be if we hadn’t done anything.  By one leading measure, what business owners pay out in wages and salaries is now finally growing faster than what they spend on health insurance.  That hasn’t happened in 17 years — and that’s good for workers and it’s good for the economy.

The point is, this is not an abstract thing anymore.  This is not a set of political talking points.  This is reality.  We can see how it is working.  This law is working exactly as it’s supposed to.  In many ways, this law is working better than we expected it to.  For all the misinformation campaigns, all the doomsday predictions, all the talk of death panels and job destruction, for all the repeal attempts — this law is now helping tens of millions of Americans.

And they’ve told me that it has changed their lives for the better.  I’ve had moms come up and say, my son was able to see a doctor and get diagnosed, and catch a tumor early, and he’s alive today because of this law.  This law is working.  And it’s going to keep doing just that.

Five years in, this is no longer about a law.  This is not about the Affordable Care Act as legislation, or Obamacare as a political football.  This is health care in America.

And unlike Social Security or Medicare, a lot of Americans still don’t know what Obamacare is beyond all the political noise in Washington.  Across the country, there remain people who are directly benefitting from the law but don’t even know it.  And that’s okay.  There’s no card that says “Obamacare” when you enroll.  But that’s by design, for this has never been a government takeover of health care, despite cries to the contrary.  This reform remains what it’s always been:  a set of fairer rules and tougher protections that have made health care in America more affordable, more attainable, and more about you — the consumer, the American people.  It’s working.

And with this case behind us, let’s be clear — we’ve still got work to do to make health care in America even better.  We’ll keep working to provide consumers with all the tools you need to make informed choices about your care.  We’ll keep working to increase the use of preventive care that avoids bigger problems down the road.  We’ll keep working to boost the steadily improving quality of care in hospitals, and bring down costs even lower, make the system work even better.  Already we’ve seen reductions, for example, in the number of readmissions at hospitals.  That saves our society money, it saves families money, makes people healthier.

We’re making progress.  We’re going to keep working to get more people covered.  I’m going to work as hard as I can to convince more governors and state legislatures to take advantage of the law, put politics aside, and expand Medicaid and cover their citizens.  We’ve still got states out there that, for political reasons, are not covering millions of people that they could be covering, despite the fact that the federal government is picking up the tab.

So we’ve got more work to do.  But what we’re not going to do is unravel what has now been woven into the fabric of America.  And my greatest hope is that rather than keep refighting battles that have been settled again and again and again, I can work with Republicans and Democrats to move forward.  Let’s join together, make health care in America even better.

Three generations ago, we chose to end an era when seniors were left to languish in poverty.  We passed Social Security, and slowly it was woven into the fabric of America and made a difference in the lives of millions of people.  Two generations ago, we chose to end an age when Americans in their golden years didn’t have the guarantee of health care.  Medicare was passed, and it helped millions of people.

This generation of Americans chose to finish the job — to turn the page on a past when our citizens could be denied coverage just for being sick.  To close the books on a history where tens of millions of Americans had no hope of finding decent, affordable health care; had to hang their chances on fate.  We chose to write a new chapter, where in a new economy, Americans are free to change their jobs or start a business, chase a new idea, raise a family, free from fear, secure in the knowledge that portable, affordable health care is there for us and always will be.  And that if we get sick, we’re not going to lose our home.  That if we get sick, that we’re going to be able to still look after our families.

That’s when America soars -– when we look out for one another.  When we take care of each other.  When we root for one another’s success.  When we strive to do better and to be better than the generation that came before us, and try to build something better for generations to come.  That’s why we do what we do.  That’s the whole point of public service.

So this was a good day for America.  Let’s get back to work.  (Applause.)

END
11:45 A.M. EDT

Full Text Political Transcripts June 25, 2015: King v. Burwell Supreme Court opinion ruling in favor of Obamacare federal subsidies

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

KING ET AL v BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, ET AL

6/25/15 – King v. Burwell

Oral Arguments: March 4, 2015

  Transcript: 14-114. King v. Burwell 03/04/15
 Audio; 14-114. King v. Burwell 03/04/15

Full Text Obama Presidency June 9, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech at the Catholic Health Association Conference defending Obamacare — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the Catholic Health Association Conference

Source: WH, 6-9-15 

Washington Marriott Wardman Park
Washington, D.C.

11:58 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much. (Applause.)  Everybody, please have a seat.  Thank you so much.

Well, I don’t know whether this is appropriate, but I just told Sister Carol I love her.  (Laughter.)  On a big stage.  It is true, though — I do.  She is just wonderful.  Her dedication to doing God’s work here on Earth, her commitment to serving “the least of these,” here steadiness, her strength, her steadfast voice have been an inspiration to me.  We would not have gotten the Affordable Care Act done had it not been for her.  I want to thank the entire Catholic Health Association for the incredible work you do.  (Applause.)

And it’s true, I just love nuns, generally.  (Laughter.)  I’m just saying.  (Laughter.)

It is an honor to join you on your 100th anniversary of bringing hope and healing to so many.  I want to acknowledge Dignity Health and its CEO, Lloyd Dean — (applause) — honored by the Catholic Health Association last night for his outstanding support of our efforts to improve health care in America.  He has been a great friend.

I want to thank Ascension Health, a great provider of care  — that also recently raised its minimum wage.  (Applause.)  I want to thank Secretary Burwell and the members of Congress who are here today, because they have been obviously doing extraordinary work.  (Applause.)

My first job in Chicago when I moved after college to work as a community organizer — my first job was funded by the Campaign for Human Development, an anti-poverty initiative of the Catholic Church.  And my first office was at Holy Rosary Church on the South Side of Chicago, across from Palmer Park.  (Applause.)  You’re clapping there — she knows Holy Rosary.  (Laughter.)  And the task was to work with parishes and neighbors and faith and community leaders to bring low-income people together, to stitch neighborhoods together, clergy and laypeople. And the work was hard, and there were times where it was dispiriting.  We had plenty of setbacks.  There were times where I felt like quitting, where I wondered if the path I’d chosen was too hard.

But despite these challenges, I saw how kindness and compassion and faith can change the arc of people’s lives.  And I saw the power of faith — a shared belief that every human being, made in the image of God, deserves to live in dignity; that all children, no matter who they are or where they come from or how much money they were born into, ought to have the opportunity to achieve their God-given potential; that we are all called, in the words of His Holiness Pope Francis, “to satisfy the demands of justice, fairness, and respect for every human being.”

And at the time, when I had just moved to Chicago, the Cardinal there was Cardinal Bernardin, an extraordinary man.  And he understood that part of that commitment, part of that commitment to the dignity of every human being also meant that we had to care about the health of every human being.  And he articulated that, and the Church articulated that, as we moved at the state level in the Illinois legislature, once I was elected there later on in life, to advance the proposition that health care is not a privilege, it is a right.

And that belief is at the heart of the Catholic Health Association’s mission.  For decades, your member hospitals have been on the front lines, often serving the marginalized, the vulnerable and the sick and the uninsured.  And that belief is at the heart of why we came together more than five years ago to reform our health care system — to guarantee that every American has access to quality, affordable care.

So I’m here today to say thank you for your tireless efforts to make health reform a reality.  Without your commitment to compassionate care, without your moral force, we would not have succeeded.  (Applause.)  We would not have succeeded had it not been for you and the foundation you had laid.  (Applause.)

And pursuing health care reform wasn’t about making good on a campaign promise for me.  It was, remember, in the wake of an economic crisis with a very human toll and it was integral to restoring the basic promise of America — the notion that in this country, if you work hard and you take responsibility, you can get ahead.  You can make it if you try.  Everything we’ve done these past six years and a half years to rebuild our economy on a new foundation — from rescuing and retooling our industries, to reforming our schools, to rethinking the way we produce and use energy, to reducing our deficits — all of that has been in pursuit of that one goal, creating opportunity for all people.  And health reform was a critical part of that effort.

For decades, a major barrier to economic opportunity was our broken health care system.  It exposed working families to the insecurities of a changing economy.  It saddled our businesses with skyrocketing costs that made it hard to hire or pay a good wage.  It threatened our entire nation’s long-term prosperity, was the primary driver of our deficits.

And for hospitals like yours, the fact that so many people didn’t have basic care meant you were scrambling and scratching every single day to try to figure out how do we keep our doors open.

Leaders from Teddy Roosevelt to Teddy Kennedy wanted to reform it.  For as long as there were Americans who couldn’t afford decent health care, as long as there were people who had to choose between paying for medicine or paying the rent, as long as there were parents who had to figure out whether they could sell or borrow to pay for a child’s treatment just a few months more, and beg for God’s mercy to make it work in time — as long as those things were happening, America was not living up to our highest ideals.

And that’s why providers and faith leaders like you called for expanding access to affordable care.  Every day, you saw the very personal suffering of those who go without it.  And it seemed like an insurmountable challenge.  Every time there was enough political will to alleviate that suffering and to reform the health care system — whether it was under Democratic Presidents or Republican Presidents — you had special interests arraying and keeping the status quo in place.  And each year that passed without reform the stakes kept getting higher.

By the time I took office, thousands of Americans were losing their health insurance every single day.  Many people died each year because they didn’t have health insurance.  Many families who thought they had coverage were driven into bankruptcy by out-of-pocket costs.  Tens of millions of our fellow citizens had no coverage at all in this, the wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth.  And despite being the only advanced economy in the world without universal health care, our health care costs grew to be the most expensive in the world with no slowing in sight.  And that trend strained the budgets of families and businesses and our government.

And so we determined that we could not keep kicking that can down the road any longer.  We could not leave that problem for another generation to solve, or another generation after that.

And remember, this was not easy.  (Laughter.)  There were those who thought health care reform was too messy, and too complicated, and too politically risky.  I had pollsters showing me stuff, and 85 percent of folks at any given time had health care and so they weren’t necessarily incentivized to support it. And you could scare the heck out of them about even if they weren’t entirely satisfied with the existing system that somehow it would be terrible to change it.  All kinds of warning signs about how tough this was — bad politics.

But for every politician and pundit who said we should wait, why rush, barely a day went by where I didn’t hear from hardworking Americans who didn’t have a moment left to lose.  These were men and women from all backgrounds, all walks of life, all races, all faiths, in big cities, small towns, red states, blue states.  Middle-class families with coverage that turned out not to be there for them when they needed it.  Moms and dads desperately seeking care for a child with a chronic illness only to be told “no” again and again — or fearful as their child got older, what was there future going to be because they weren’t going to be able to get insurance once they left the house.  Small business owners forced to choose between insuring their employees and keeping the “open” sign hanging in the window.

And every one of these stories tugged at me in a personal way — because I spoke about seeing my mom worry about how she was going to deal with her finances when she got very sick.  And I was reminded of the fear that Michelle and I felt when Sasha was a few months old and we had to race to the hospital, in the emergency room learning that she had meningitis — that we caught only because we had a wonderful pediatrician and regular care.  Never felt so scared or helpless in my life.

We were fortunate enough to have good health insurance.   And I remember looking around in that emergency room and thinking what about the parents who aren’t that lucky?  What about the parents who get hit with a bill of $20,000 or $30,000, and they’ve got no idea how to pay for it?  What about those parents with kids who have a chronic illness like asthma and have to keep going back to the emergency room because they don’t have a regular doctor, and the bills never stop coming?  Who’s going to stand up for them?

Behind every single story was a simple question:  What kind of country do we want to be?  Are we a country that’s defined by values that say access to health care is a commodity awarded to only the highest bidders, or by the values that say health care is a fundamental right?  Do we believe that where you start should determine how far you go, or do we believe that in the greatest nation on Earth, everybody deserves the opportunity to make it — to make of their lives what they will?

The rugged individualism that defines America has always been bound by a shared set of values, an enduring sense that we’re in this together, that America is not a place where we simply turn away from the sick, or turn our backs on the tired, the poor, the huddled masses.  It is a place sustained by the idea:  I am my brother’s keeper.  I am my sister’s keeper — that we have an obligation to put ourselves in our neighbor’s shoes and see each other’s common humanity.

And so, after a century of talk, after decades of trying, after a year of sustained debate, we finally made health care reform a reality here in America.  (Applause.)

And despite the constant doom-and-gloom predictions, the unending Chicken Little warnings that somehow making health insurance fairer and easier to buy would lead to the end of freedom, the end of the American way of life — lo and behold, it did not happen.  None of this came to pass.  In fact, in a lot of ways, the Affordable Care Act worked out better than some of us anticipated.

Nearly one in three uninsured Americans have already been covered — more than 16 million people -– driving our uninsured rate to its lowest level ever.  (Applause.)  Ever.  On top of that, tens of millions more enjoy new protections with the coverage that they’ve already got.  That 85 percent who had health insurance, they may not know that they’ve got a better deal now than they did, but they do.  Americans can no longer be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions — from you having had cancer to you having had a baby.  Women can’t be charged more just for being a woman.  (Applause.)  And they get free preventive services like mammograms.  And there are no more annual or lifetime caps on the care patients receive.

Medicare has been strengthened and protected.  We’ve added 13 years to its actuarial life.  The financial difference for business owners trying to invest and grow, and the families trying to save and spend — that’s real, too.  Health care prices have risen at the lowest rate in 50 years.  Employer premiums are rising at a rate tied for the lowest on record.  The average family premium is $1,800 lower today than it would have been had trends over the decade before the ACA passed continued.

In the years to come, countless Americans who can now buy plans that are portable and affordable on a competitive marketplace will be free to chase their own ideas, unleash new enterprises across the country, knowing they’ll be able to buy health insurance.

And here’s the thing — that security won’t just be there for us.  It will be there for our kids as they go through life.  When they graduate from college, they’re looking for that first job, they can stay on our plans until they’re 26.  When they start a family, pregnancy will no longer count against them as a preexisting condition.  When they change jobs or lose a job, or strike out on their own to start a business, they’ll still be able to get good coverage.  They’ll have that peace of mind all the way until they retire into a Medicare that now has cheaper prescription drugs and wellness visits to make sure that they stay healthy.

And while we were told again and again that Obamacare would be a job-killer — amazingly enough, some critics still peddle this notion — it turns out in reality, America has experienced 63 straight months of private sector job growth — a streak that started the month we passed the Affordable Care Act.  (Applause.) The longest streak of private sector job growth on record — that adds up to 12.6 million new jobs.  (Applause.)

So the critics stubbornly ignore reality.  In reality, there is a self-employed single mom of three who couldn’t afford health insurance until health reform passed and she qualified for Medicaid in her state.  And she was finally able to get a mammogram, which detected early-stage breast cancer and may have saved her life.  That’s the reality, not the mythology.

In reality, there are parents in Texas whose autistic son couldn’t speak.  Even with health insurance, they struggled to pay for his treatment.  But health reform meant they could buy an affordable secondary plan that covered therapy for their son — and today, that little boy can tell his parents that he loves them.  That’s the reality.  (Applause.)

In reality, there’s a self-employed barber from Tennessee — who happens to be a Republican — who couldn’t afford health insurance until our new marketplace opened up.  And once he bought a plan, he finally went to the doctor and was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.  In the old days, without coverage, he wouldn’t have even known that he was sick.  And today, he’s now cancer-free.

So five years in, what we are talking about it is no longer just a law.  It’s no longer just a theory.  This isn’t even just about the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare.  This isn’t about myths or rumors that folks try to sustain.  There is a reality that people on the ground day to day are experiencing.  Their lives are better.

This is now part of the fabric of how we care for one another.  This is health care in America — which is why, once you get outside of Washington and leave behind the Beltway chatter and the politics, Americans support this new reality.  When you talk to people who actually are enrolled in a new marketplace plan, the vast majority of them like their coverage. The vast majority are satisfied with their choice of doctors and hospitals and satisfied with their monthly premiums.  They like their reality.

Now, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have more work to do.  Sister Carol and I were talking backstage — we know we got more work to do.  Like any serious attempt at change, there were disruptions in the rollout, there are policies we can put in place to make health care work even better.  Secretary Burwell is talking about all the things we have to do together around delivery system reform.  We have to protect the coverage that people have now and sign even more people up.  We need more governors and state legislatures to expand Medicaid, which was a central part of the architecture of the overall plan.  We have to continue to improve the quality of care.  And we know we can still bring down costs.

And none of this is going to be easy.  Nobody suggests that somehow our health care system is perfect as a consequence of the law being passed, but it is serving so many more people so much better.  And we’re not going to go backwards.  There’s something, I have to say, just deeply cynical about the ceaseless, endless partisan attempts to roll back progress.  I mean, I understood folks being skeptical or worried before the law passed and there wasn’t a reality there to examine.  But once you see millions of people of having health care, once you see that all the bad things that were predicted didn’t happen, you’d think that it would be time to move one.

Let’s figure out how to make it better.  It seems so cynical to want to take coverage away from millions of people; to take care away from people who need it the most; to punish millions with higher costs of care and unravel what’s now been woven into the fabric of America.

And that kind of cynicism flies in the face of our history.  Our history is one of each generation striving to do better and to be better than the last.  Just as we’ll never go back to a time when seniors were left to languish in poverty or not have any health insurance in their golden years.  There was a generation that didn’t have that guarantee of health care.  We’re not going to go back to a time when our citizens can be denied coverage because of a preexisting condition.  When tens of millions of people couldn’t afford decent, affordable care — that wasn’t a better America.  That’s not freedom.  The freedom to languish in illness, or to be bankrupt because somebody in your family gets stick — that’s not who we are.  That’s not what we’re about.

Debra Lea Oren of Pennsylvania knows that.  Debra suffers from osteoarthritis that was so severe that it put her in a wheelchair.  And for years she couldn’t stand or walk at all, and was in constant pain — through no fault of her own, just the twists and turns of life.  And without health insurance to get treatment, it seemed as though she might never again live a life that was full.  Today, Debra is enrolled in affordable health coverage, was able to have surgery to replace her knees.  She’s back on her feet.  She walks her dogs, shops at the grocery store, gets to her doctor’s appointments.  She’s cooking, she’s exercising, regaining her health.

Debra couldn’t be here today, but she recently wrote to me and she said:  “I walk with my husband Michael and hold hands.  It’s like a whole new world for me.”  Just walking and holding hands — something that one of our fellow Americans for years could not do.

Every day, miracles happen in your hospitals.  But remaking Debra’s world didn’t require a miracle.  It just required that Debra have access to something that she and every other American has a right to expect, which is health care coverage.

And while there are outcomes that we can calculate and enumerate — the number of newly insured families, the number of lives saved — those numbers all add up to success in this reform effort.  But there are also outcomes that are harder to calculate — in the tally of pain and tragedy and bankruptcies that have been averted, but also in the security of a parent who can afford to take her kid to the doctor; or the dignity of a grandfather who can get the preventive care that he needs; or the freedom of an entrepreneur who can start a new venture — or the joy of a wife who thought she’d never again take her husband’s hand and go for a walk.

In the end, that’s why you do what you do.  Isn’t that what this is all about?  Is there any greater measure of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness than those simple pleasures that are afforded because you have good health and you have some security?

More than five years ago, I said that while I was not the first President to take up this cause, I was determined to be the last.  And now it’s up to all of us — the citizens in this room and across the country- — to continue to help make the right to health care a reality for all Americans.  And if we keep faith with one another and keep working for each other to create opportunity for everybody who strives for it, then, in the words of Senator Ted Kennedy, “the dream will be fulfilled for this generation, and preserved and enlarged for generations to come.”
It couldn’t have happened without you.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  God bless you all.  Thank you so much.  (Applause.)

END
12:25 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency March 25, 2015: President Barack Obama’s Speech Marking the Fifth Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 114TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President Marking the Fifth Anniversary of the Affordable Care Act

Source: WH, 3-25-15

South Court Auditorium

10:42 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much, everybody.   Everybody, have a seat.  Thank you, Doctor, for that introduction.  I want to thank Sylvia Burwell, our outstanding head of Health and Human Services.  We’ve got some wonderful members of Congress here today who helped make this happen.  And I want to offer a heartfelt thanks to all of the top medical professionals who are here today.  We’ve got hospital leaders, we’ve got health care CEOs, doctors, patients, advocates, consumer groups, Democrats and Republicans, who have all come together and spent time and effort to make the Affordable Care Act, and America’s health care system, work even better.

What your efforts have meant is the start of a new phase, where professionals like you and organizations like yours come together in one new network with one big goal, and that is to continue to improve the cost and quality of health care in America.

A lot of you have already taken steps on your own.  The American Cancer Society that’s represented here is committed to teaching its members about how new patient-centered approaches can improve cancer care.  Governor Markell of Delaware, who’s here, has set a goal of having 80 percent of his citizens receive care through new and improved payment and delivery models within five years.  And Dr. Glenn Madrid, of Grand Junction, Colorado, is using a new care model that allowed him to hire case coordinators and use better technology so that patients have access to him 24/7.  I don’t know when that lets him sleep — but his patients are sleeping better.

And these are examples of efforts that show we don’t need to reinvent the wheel; you’re already figuring out what works to reduce infections in hospitals or help patients with complicated needs.  What we have to do is to share these best practices, these good ideas, including new ways to pay for care so that we’re rewarding quality.  And that’s what this network is all about.

In fact, just five years in, the Affordable Care Act has already helped improve the quality of health care across the board.  A lot of the attention has been rightly focused on people’s access to care, and that obviously was a huge motivator for us passing the Affordable Care Act — making sure that people who didn’t have health insurance have the security of health insurance.

But what was also a central notion in the Affordable Care Act was we had an inefficient system with a lot of waste that didn’t also deliver the kind of quality that was needed that often put health care providers in a box where they wanted to do better for their patients, but financial incentives were skewed the other way.

And so the work that we’ve been able to do is already spurring the kinds of changes that we had hoped for.  It’s helped reduce hospital readmission rates dramatically.  It’s a major reason why we’ve seen 50,000 fewer preventable patient deaths in hospitals.  And if you want to know what that means, ask Alicia Cole, who suffers — Alicia is right here — who suffers the long-term effects of a hospital-acquired infection.  And she is here today because she doesn’t want anybody else to endure what she has.  And it’s preventable if we set up good practices, and financial incentives, reimbursement incentives, are aligned with those best practices.

So making sure that the Affordable Care Act works as intended, to not only deliver access to care but also to improve the quality of care and the cost of care, that’s something that requires all of us to work together.  That’s part of what the law is all about.  It’s making health coverage more affordable and more effective for all of us.  And in a lot of ways, it’s working better than many of us, including me, anticipated.  (Laughter.)

Wherever you are, here’s why you should care about making this system more efficient, and here’s why you should care that we keep the Affordable Care Act in place.

If you get insurance through your employer, like most Americans do, the ACA gave you new savings and new protections.  If you’ve got a pre-existing condition like diabetes or cancer, if you’ve had heartburn or a heart attack, this law means that you can no longer be charged more or denied coverage because of a preexisting condition, ever.  It’s the end of the discrimination against the sick in America, and all of us are sick sometimes.

If you don’t have health insurance, you can go online to the marketplace and choose from an array of quality, affordable private plans.  Every governor was given the option to expand Medicaid for his or her citizens, although only 28 have chosen to do so — so far.  But after five years of the ACA, more than 16 million uninsured Americans have gained health care coverage — 16 million.  In just over one year, the ranks of the uninsured have dropped by nearly one-third — one-third.

If you’re a woman, you can no longer be charged more just for being a woman.  And you know there are a lot of women.  (Laughter.)  Like more than 50 percent.  (Laughter.)  Preventive care, like routine checkups and immunizations and contraception now come with no additional out-of-pocket costs.

If you’re a young person, you can now stay on your parents’ plan until you turn 26.  And if you want to turn that new idea into a business, if you’re going to try different jobs, even a different career, you now have the freedom to do it because you can buy health care that’s portable and not tied to your employer.  Most people have options that cost less than 100 bucks a month.

If you’re a business owner — because when we put forward the Affordable Care Act, there was a lot of question about how it would affect business; well, it turns out employer premiums rose at a rate tied for the lowest on record.  If premiums had kept growing at the rate we saw in the last decade, then either the average family premium, paid by the family or paid by the business, would be $1,800 higher than it is today.  That’s 1,800 bucks that businesses can use to higher and invest, or that’s 1,800 bucks that stays in that family’s bank account, shows up in their paycheck.

If you’re a senior — more than 9 million seniors and people with disabilities have saved an average of $1,600 on their prescriptions, adding up to over $15 billion in savings.  There were fears promoted that somehow this was going to undermine Medicare.  Well, it turns out the life of the Medicare Trust Fund has been extended by 13 years since this law has passed.

And, relevant to the topic today, we’re moving Medicare toward a payment model that rewards quality of care instead of quantity of care.  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.  We want them, perhaps, to save — to invest some money on the front end to prevent disease and not just on the back end to treat disease.  And so these changes are encouraging doctors and hospitals to focus on getting better outcomes for their patients.

As we speak, Congress is working to fix the Medicare physician payment system.  I’ve got my pen ready to sign a good, bipartisan bill — (applause) — which would be really exciting.  I love when Congress passes bipartisan bills that I can sign.  (Laughter.)  It’s always very encouraging.  And I want to thank everybody here today for their work in supporting new models of care that will benefit all Americans.

But the bottom line is this for the American people:  The Affordable Care Act, this law, is saving money for families and for businesses.  This law is also saving lives — lives that touch all of us.  It’s working despite countless attempts to repeal, undermine, defund, and defame this law.

It’s not the “job-killer” that critics have warned about for five years.  When this law was passed, our businesses began the longest streak of private-sector job growth on record:  60 straight months, five straight years, 12 million new jobs.

It’s not the fiscal disaster critics warned about for five years.  Health care prices are rising at the slowest rate in nearly 50 years, which has helped cut our deficit by two-thirds since I took office.  Before the ACA, health care was the single biggest driver driving up our projected deficits.  Today, health care is the single biggest factor driving those projections down.

I mean, we have been promised a lot of things these past five years that didn’t turn out to be the case:  death panels, doom.  (Laughter.)  A serious alternative from Republicans in Congress.  (Laughter.)

The budget they introduced last week would literally double the number of the uninsured in America.  And in their defense, there are two reasons why coming up with their own alternative has proven to be difficult.

First, it’s because the Affordable Care Act pretty much was their plan before I adopted it — (laughter) — based on conservative, market-based principles developed by the Heritage Foundation and supported by Republicans in Congress, and deployed by a guy named Mitt Romney in Massachusetts to great effect.  If they want to take credit for this law, they can.  I’m happy to share it.  (Laughter.)

And second, it’s because health reform is really hard and the people here who are in the trenches know that.  Good people from both parties have tried and failed to get it done for 100 years, because every public policy has some trade-offs, especially when it affects one-sixth of the American economy and applies to the very personal needs of every individual American.

And we’ve made our share of mistakes since we passed this law.  But we also know beyond a shred of a doubt that the policy has worked.  Coverage is up.  Cost growth is at a historic low.  Deficits have been slashed.  Lives have been saved.  So if anybody wants to join us in the spirit of the people who have put aside differences to come here today and help make the law work even better, come on board.

On the other hand, 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.  Or why forcing millions of families to pay thousands of dollars more will somehow make us more secure.  Or why we should go back to the days when women paid more for coverage than men.  Or a preexisting condition locked so many of us out of insurance.

And if that’s your argument, then you should meet somebody like Anne Ha, who is here.  Anne is 28 years old.  Where’s Anne?  There you are.  Anne runs her own business in Philadelphia.  And she thought what many of us think when we’re young — I no longer qualify — (laughter) — that she was too young, too healthy to bother with health insurance.  She went to the gym every day.  She ate healthy, looks great, felt invincible.  Why pay a doctor just to tell her she’s okay?

But then her mom called, as moms sometimes do, and told Anne to get insured against the “what ifs” of life.  What if you get sick?  What if you get into a car accident?  So Anne, dutiful daughter that she was, went to HealthCare.gov, checked out her options in the marketplace.  And thanks to the tax credits available to her under this law, she got covered for 85 bucks a month.  Four months later, Anne was diagnosed with early-stage stomach cancer.  Anne underwent surgery, endured chemo.  Today, she’s recovering.  She looks great.  She’s here with us at the White House.  She invited me to her wedding.  I told her you don’t want the President at her wedding.  (Laughter.)

“If I didn’t have insurance,” Anne wrote, “my stomach cancer would have gone undiscovered, slowly and silently killing me.  But because I did have insurance, I was given a chance to live a long and happy life.”  (Applause.)

And so in September, Anne is going to be marrying her fiancé, Tom.  And she’s convinced him to get covered, too.  And I do appreciate, Michelle appreciates the invitation.  As I said, we have to mag people at the wedding, and it spoils the fun.  (Laughter.)

But here are two lessons from Anne’s story.  Number one:  Listen to your mom.  (Laughter.)  Number two:  The Affordable Care Act works.  And it’s working not just to make sure that folks like Anne get coverage, but it’s also working to make sure that the system as a whole is providing better quality at a better price, freeing up our providers to do the things that led them to get into health care in the first place — and that’s help people.  It works.

Five years ago, we declared that in the United States of America, the security of quality, affordable health care was a privilege — was not a privilege, but a right.  And today, we’ve got citizens all across the country, all of you here today who are helping make that right a reality for every American, regardless of your political beliefs, or theirs.  And we’re saving money in the process.  And we’re cutting the deficit in the process.  And we’re helping businesses in their bottom lines in the process.  We’re making this country more competitive in the process.

And it’s not going to happen overnight.  There are still all kinds of bumps along the way.  Health care is complicated stuff.  And the hospital executives who are here, and the doctors who are here, and the consumer advocates who are here can tell you — all the complications and the quirks not just to the Affordable Care Act, but just generally making the system more rational and more efficient, it takes some time.  But we’re on our way.  We’re making progress.

And if all of us summon the same focus, the same kind of courage and wisdom and hard work that so many of you in this room display; and if we keep working not against one another, but for one another, with one another, we will not just make progress in health care.  We’re going to keep on making sure that across the board we’re living up to our highest ideals.

So I very much am appreciative of what all of you are doing.  I’m very proud of you.  And why don’t you guys get back to work?  (Laughter.)  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
10:59 A.M. EDT

Political Musings November 7, 2014: Boehner warns Obama he would be “burned” for immigration reform executive action

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Boehner warns Obama he would be “burned” for immigration reform executive action

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH on Thursday, Nov. 6, 2014 had his turn to speak out on the Republican Party regaining control and adding more seats to the Republican majority in the House. The real focus however…READ MORE

Political Musings November 6, 2014: Ever defiant Obama knocks down McConnell olive branch vows executive actions

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Ever defiant Obama knocks down McConnell olive branch vows executive actions

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama held his first post-midterm elections press conference in the White House East Room on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014. The president said he heard voters after his Democratic Party’s historic losses, but with his…READ MORE

Political Musings October 27, 2014: Why are Ebola health care workers purposely trying to spread the disease in US?

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Why are Ebola health care workers purposely trying to spread the disease in US?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The first case of Ebola in New York was made official on Thursday Oct. 23, 2014, with the positive test of a Doctors Without Borders doctor Craig Spencer, 33 who had just returned from Guinea a week before. His diagnosis…READ MORE

Political Musings October 19, 2014: Obama rules out West Africa Congressionally supported travel ban over Ebola

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama rules out West Africa Congressionally supported travel ban over Ebola

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This past week as the Ebola was spreading in health care workers who treated Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, and the Obama Administration, and the Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) responses where criticized, President Barack Obama…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 8, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the Pentagon on the Fight Against ISIS and Ebola Crisis — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the Pentagon

Source: WH, 10-8-14

The Pentagon
Washington, D.C.

4:20 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I want to thank Secretary Hagel, Deputy Secretary Work, Chairman Dempsey, Vice Chairman Winnefeld, and all the outstanding leaders who are here today.  This is a periodic check-in that I have with not only our service commander but also our COCOMs.  And I thought, although usually we do this over the White House, now was a good time for me to come over to the Pentagon and have an opportunity to hear from our top military about the work that they’re doing.

And I’ve said this before and I want to repeat:  We put enormous burdens and enormous strains on our men and women of the armed forces, and each and every time, the members of our armed services, our troops perform in exemplary fashion.  I think at a time when there’s so much turbulence in the world, never during my presidency has it become more apparent how good our military is, but also how they can tackle a wide range of problems and not just a narrow set of problems.  It’s not just the finest military in the history of the world, it’s also just one of the best organizations we’ve ever seen at doing a whole bunch of different stuff.

And so I expressed my gratitude to the leadership, but also asked them to express to those under their command the thanks of the American people.

We had an opportunity to talk about ISIL and the campaign there.  After this meeting, we’ll have a National Security Council meeting in which General Lloyd Austin, who’s leading Central Command, will further brief us on the progress that’s been made by the coalition there.

Our strikes continue alongside our partners.  It remains a difficult mission.  As I’ve indicated from the start, this is not something that is going to be solved overnight.  The good news is, is that there is a broad-based consensus not just in the region but among nations of the world that ISIL is a threat to world peace, security and order, that their barbaric behavior has to be dealt with.  And we’re confident that we will be able to continue to make progress in partnership with the Iraqi government, because ultimately it’s going to be important for them to be able to, with our help, secure their own country and to find the kind of political accommodations that are necessary for long-term prosperity in the region.

We had a chance to talk about the fight against Ebola, and I got a briefing from General Rodriguez.  Our military is essentially building an infrastructure that does not exist in order to facilitate the transport of personnel and equipment and supplies to deal with this deadly epidemic and disease.  And we are doing it in a way that ensures our men and women in uniform are safe.  That has been my top priority, and I’ve instructed folks we’re not going to compromise the health and safety of our armed services.

But what’s true is, we have unique capabilities that nobody else has.  And as a consequence of us getting in early and building that platform, we’re now able to leverage resources from other countries and move with speed and effectiveness to curb that epidemic.

We had a discussion about global security generally, including the work that, with General Breedlove, we’re doing at NATO to mobilize Europe around the increased threats posed by Russian aggression in Ukraine and against some of its neighbors. We had a very successful meeting in Wales that showed the commitment from all 28 NATO countries to redouble the reassurance they can provide to frontline states to invest further in the joint capabilities that are necessary.  And I very much appreciate the leadership that General Breedlove has shown on that front.

And I got a chance to get a briefing from Admiral Locklear of the Pacific Command about the ongoing both challenges and opportunities in the Pacific.  It’s been noted that our alliances in that area have never been stronger.  We are very much welcomed as a Pacific power in the region.  And our ability to continue to maintain a presence that ensures freedom of navigation, that international law is observed is going to be critically important.  And we need to do that in a way that also reflects our interest in cooperation and effective communication with China, which obviously is a major player in the region.

But the anchor of our presence there, our treaties and alliances with key countries like South Korea and Japan, obviously remain critically important.  And thanks to the work of some of the gentlemen sitting around this table and their staffs, those alliances have never been in better shape.

Finally, we had a chance to talk briefly about defense budget and reforms.  We have done some enormous work, and I want to thank everybody sitting around this table to continue to make our forces leaner, meaner, more effective, more tailored to the particular challenges that we’re going to face in the 21st century.

But we also have to make sure that Congress is working with us to avoid, for example, some of the Draconian cuts that are called for in sequestration, and to make sure that if we’re asking this much of our armed forces, that they’ve got the equipment and the technology that’s necessary for them to be able to succeed at their mission, and that we’re supporting their families at a time when, even after ending one war and winding down another, they continue to have enormous demands placed on them each and every day.

So I want to thank everybody around this table.  A special thank-you to General Austin for the enormous amount of work that’s been done by CENTCOM in what is a very challenging situation.  We very much appreciate him.  I want to thank General Rodriguez for the great work in standing up our operations in West Africa.

And finally, I want to say publicly a hearty thank you to Jim Amos, who somewhere between eight to 10 days from now — (laughter) — will be retiring from his command.  He is the 35th Commandant of the Marine Corps, the first aviator to command our Marine Corps.  I know that he could not be prouder of the men and women under his command.  They continue to make us proud.  They certainly make him proud.  We want to thank him and Mrs. Amos and the entire family for the great service that they’ve rendered to our country.

So thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END4:29 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency October 6, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks After Meeting on Ebola Announcing Airport Screening — Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President After Meeting on Ebola

Source: WH, 10-6-14 

Roosevelt Room

4:04 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  I just had an opportunity to get a full briefing from my entire team across administrations — across agencies on the aggressive steps that we are taking to fight the Ebola epidemic, to stop the epidemic at its source in West Africa but also to make sure that we are doing everything we need to do to prevent an outbreak here in the United States.

As I’ve said from the start of this outbreak, I consider this a top national security priority.  This is not just a matter of charity — although obviously the humanitarian toll in countries that are affected in West Africa is extraordinarily significant.  This is an issue about our safety.  It is also an issue with respect to the political stability and the economic stability in this region.

And so it is very important for us to make sure that we are treating this the same way that we would treat any other significant national security threat.  And that’s why we’ve got an all-hands-on-deck approach — from DOD to public health to our development assistance, our science teams — everybody is putting in time and effort to make sure that we are addressing this as aggressively as possible.

I know that the American people are concerned about the possibility of an Ebola outbreak, and Ebola is a very serious disease.  And the ability of people who are infected who could carry that across borders is something that we have to take extremely seriously.  At the same time, it is important for Americans to know the facts, and that is that because of the measures that we’ve put in place, as well as our world-class health system and the nature of the Ebola virus itself — which is difficult to transmit — the chances of an Ebola outbreak in the United States is extremely low.

Procedures are now in place to rapidly evaluate anybody who might be showing symptoms.  We saw that with the response of the airplane in Newark and how several hospitals across the United States have been testing for possible cases.  In recent months we’ve had thousands of travelers arriving here from West Africa, and so far only one case of Ebola has been diagnosed in the United States, and that’s the patient in Dallas.  Our prayers are obviously with him and his family.

We have learned some lessons, though, in terms of what happened in Dallas.  We don’t have a lot of margin for error.  The procedures and protocols that are put in place must be followed.  One of the things that we discussed today was how we could make sure that we’re spreading the word across hospitals, clinics, any place where a patient might first come in contact with a medical worker to make sure that they know what to look out for, and they’re putting in place the protocols and following those protocols strictly.  And so we’re going to be reaching out not only to governors and mayors and public health officials in states all across the country, but we want to continue to figure out how we can get the word out everywhere so that everybody understands exactly what is needed to be done.

Meanwhile, at the federal level, we’re constantly reviewing and evaluating the measures that we already have in place to see if there are additional improvements.  We continue to look at any additional steps that can be taken to make sure that the American people are safe, which is our highest priority.

And finally, we had a discussion about what we’re doing on site in West Africa.  There’s been already extraordinary work done by the Department of Defense in conjunction with the CDC in standing up isolation units and hospital beds.  We are making progress.  The environment is difficult because the public health system there has very few resources and is already extraordinarily fragile.

And I’ll be very honest with you — although we have seen great interest on the part of the international community, we have not seen other countries step up as aggressively as they need to.  And I said at the United Nations, and I will repeat, that this is an area where everybody has to chip in and everybody has to move quickly in order for us to get this under control.  Countries that think that they can sit on the sidelines and just let the United States do it, that will result in a less effective response, a less speedy response, and that means that people die, and it also means that the potential spread of the disease beyond these areas in West Africa becomes more imminent.

So I’m going to be putting a lot of pressure on my fellow heads of state and government around the world to make sure that they are doing everything that they can to join us in this effort.  We’ve got some small countries that are punching above their weight on this, but we’ve got some large countries that aren’t doing enough.  And we want to make sure that they understand that this is not a disease that’s going to discriminate, and this is something that all of us have to be involved in.

So the bottom line is, is that we’re doing everything that we can to make sure, number one, that the American people are safe; I’m confident that we’re going to be able to do that.  But we’re also going to need to make sure that we stop this epidemic at its source.  And we’re profoundly grateful to all our personnel — our medical personnel, our development personnel, our military personnel who are serving in this effort.  It’s because of their professionalism, their dedication and their skill that we are going to be able to get this under control, but this is a faraway place, with roads that in many cases are impassable, areas that don’t have even one hospital.  We’re having to stand up, essentially, a public health infrastructure in many of these areas that haven’t had it before, and that requires an enormous amount of effort.

I’m very grateful for the people who are on the front lines making this work.  It’s a reminder once again of American leadership.  But even with all the dedicated effort that our American personnel are putting in, there are going to be — they need to be joined by professionals from other countries who are putting up similar effort and similar resources.  And so I hope they’re going to be paying attention over the next several weeks so we can get on top of this.

Thank you.

Q    What do you say to the American people who remain nervous in spite of your assurances?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I just explained to them that the nature of this disease — the good news is, is that it’s not an airborne disease.  We are familiar with the protocols that are needed to isolate and greatly reduce the risks of anybody catching this disease, but it requires us to follow those protocols strictly, and that’s exactly what we are in the process of doing.  And the CDC is familiar with dealing with infectious diseases and viruses like this.  We know what has to be done and we’ve got the medical infrastructure to do it.  But this is an extraordinarily virulent disease when you don’t follow the protocols.

And so the key here is just to make sure that each step along the way — whether it’s a hospital admissions desk, whether it is the doctors, the nurses, public health officials — that everybody has the right information.  If they have the right information and they’re following those protocols, then this is something that we’re going to be able to make sure does not have the kind of impact here in the United States that a lot of people are worried about.  But that requires everybody to make sure that they stay informed.  Most particularly, we’ve got to make sure that our health workers are informed.

We’re also going to be working on protocols to do additional passenger screening, both at the source and here in the United States.  All of these things make me confident that here in the United States, at least, the chances of an outbreak, of an epidemic here are extraordinarily low.

But let’s keep in mind that, as we speak, there are children on the streets dying of this disease — thousands of them.  And so obviously my first job is to make sure that we’re taking care of the American people, but we have a larger role than that.  We also have an obligation to make sure that those children and their families are safe as well, because ultimately the best thing we can do for our public health is also to extend the kind of empathy, compassion and effort so that folks in those countries as well can be rid of this disease.

Thank you very much, everybody.

Q    Are you looking to the private sector —

THE PRESIDENT:  A lot of volunteering.  Thank you, everybody.

END
4:15 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency August 26, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Speech to the American Legion National Convention about VA Reform Executive Actions and Improving Mental Health Care for Veterans

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS


OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Remarks by the President to the American Legion National Convention

Source: WH, 8-26-14 

Charlotte Convention Center
Charlotte, North Carolina

12:07 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, have a seat.  Hello, Legionnaires!

AUDIENCE:  Hello!

THE PRESIDENT:  I want to thank Commander Dellinger for the introduction, but more importantly, for your service in the Army.  And as you conclude your tenure as Commander, thank you for your tireless commitment to America’s veterans.

I want to thank the entire leadership team for welcoming me here today, including your National Adjutant, Dan Wheeler; your Executive Director in Washington, Peter Gaytan; Nancy Brown-Park, all the spouses, daughters — (applause) — hey! — sisters of the Auxiliary, and the Sons of the American Legion.  (Applause.)  And let me say that I join you in honoring the memory of a friend to many of you — an Army veteran and a great Legionnaire from North Carolina, Jerry Hedrick.  (Applause.)

To Senators Richard Burr and Kay Hagan, Mayor Dan Clodfelter — thank you for welcoming us to the great state of North Carolina and to Charlotte, and for your great support of our troops and our veterans.

And I do have to mention the President of Boys Nation –Matthew Ellow, from Lacey’s Spring, Alabama.  I welcomed Matthew and all the incredible young people of Boys and Girls Nation to the White House last month.  I was running a little bit late, so they just started singing, filling the White House with patriotic songs.  And then they sang Happy Birthday to me, so I was pretty moved.  And they’re a tribute to the Legion and to our country.

I’ve brought with me today our new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald.  (Applause.)  And for those of you who are not aware, Bob is one of America’s most accomplished business leaders.  He comes from a military family.  He excelled at West Point, served as an Army Airborne Ranger — so he’s got a reputation for jumping into tough situations.  (Laughter.)  And he’s hit the ground running, visiting hospitals and clinics across the country, hearing directly from veterans and helping us change the way the VA does business.  And by the way, Washington doesn’t agree on much these days, but he got confirmed 97 to 0.  (Applause.)  People understand he’s the right man for the job.  He has my full support.  And, Bob, I want to thank you for once again serving your country.  (Applause.)

It’s an honor to be back with the American Legion.  In the story of your service we see the spirit of America.  When your country needed you most, you stepped forward.  You raised your right hand, you swore a solemn oath.  You put on that uniform and earned the title you carry to this day — whether Soldier, Sailor, Airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman.

Among you are proud veterans of World War II; of Korea; of Vietnam; of Desert Storm and the Balkans; and our newest veterans — from Iraq and Afghanistan.  Across the generations, you served with honor.  You made us proud.  And you carry the memory of friends who never came home — our fallen, our prisoners of war, those missing in action — heroes that our nation can never forget.

When you took off that uniform, you earned another title –the title of veteran.  And you never stopped serving.  As Legionnaires, you put on that cap, wore that emblem — “for God and country” — and took care of one another, making sure our veterans receive the care and the benefits that you’ve earned and deserve.

And just as you defended America over there, you helped build America here at home — as leaders and role models in your communities, as entrepreneurs and business owners, as champions for a strong national defense.  You helped the United States of America become what we are today — the greatest democratic, economic, and military force for freedom and human dignity that the world has ever known.

Now, these are challenging times.  I don’t have to tell you that.  Around the world as well as here at home.  You turn on the TV and we’re saturated with heartbreaking images of war and senseless violence and terrorism and tragedy.  And it can be easy to grow cynical or give in to the sense that the future we seek is somehow beyond our reach.  But as men and women who have been tested like few others, you should know better.  You know that cynicism is not the character of a great nation.  And so, even as we face, yes, the hard tasks of our time, we should never lose sight of our progress as a people or the strength of our leadership in the world.

Think about it — six years after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression — in some ways, the crisis had the potential of being worse than the Great Depression — thanks to the decisions we made to rescue our economy, thanks to the determination of the American people, we are stronger at home.  Over the past 53 months, our businesses have added nearly 10 million new jobs — the longest streak of private sector job creation in American history.  Construction and housing are rebounding.  Our auto industry and manufacturing are booming.  Our high school graduation rate is at a record high.  More young people are earning their college degrees than ever before.  Millions more Americans now have quality, affordable health care.  We’ve cut the deficit by more than half.  And now we have to sustain this momentum so more people share in this progress, so our economy works for every working American.

And just as we’re stronger at home, the United States is better positioned to lead in the 21st century than any nation on Earth.  It’s not even close.  We have the most powerful military in history — that’s certainly not close.  From Europe to Asia, our alliances are unrivaled.  Our economy is the most dynamic.  We’ve got the best workers.  We’ve got the best businesses.  We have the best universities and the best scientists.  With our domestic energy revolution, including more renewable energy, we’re more energy independent.  Our technologies connect the world.  Our freedoms and opportunities attract immigrants who “yearn to breathe free.”  Our founding ideals inspire the oppressed across the globe to reach for their own liberty.  That’s who we are.  That’s what America is.

And moreover, nobody else can do what we do.  No other nation does more to underwrite the security and prosperity on which the world depends.  In times of crisis, no other nation can rally such broad coalitions to stand up for international norms and peace.  In times of disaster, no other nation has the capabilities to deliver so much so quickly.  No nation does more to help citizens claim their rights and build their democracies.  No nation does more to help people in the far corners of the Earth escape poverty and hunger and disease, and realize their dignity.  Even countries that criticize us, when the chips are down and they need help, they know who to call — they call us.  That’s what American leadership looks like.  That’s why the United States is and will remain the one indispensable nation in the world.

Now, sustaining our leadership, keeping America strong and secure, means we have to use our power wisely.  History teaches us of the dangers of overreaching, and spreading ourselves too thin, and trying to go it alone without international support, or rushing into military adventures without thinking through the consequences.  And nobody knows this better than our veterans and our families — our veteran families, because you’re the ones who bear the wages of war.  You’re the ones who carry the scars.  You know that we should never send America’s sons and daughters into harm’s way unless it is absolutely necessary and we have a plan, and we are resourcing it and prepared to see it through.  (Applause.)  You know the United States has to lead with strength and confidence and wisdom.

And that’s why, after incredible sacrifice by so many of our men and women in uniform, we removed more than 140,000 troops from Iraq and welcomed those troops home.  It was the right thing to do.  It’s why we refocused our efforts in Afghanistan and went after al Qaeda’s leadership in the tribal regions in Afghanistan and Pakistan, driving the Taliban out of its strongholds, and training Afghan forces, which are now in the lead for their own security.  In just four months, we will complete our combat mission in Afghanistan and America’s longest war will come to a responsible end.  And we honor every American who served to make this progress possible — (applause) — every single one, especially the more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan to keep us safe.

And now, as Afghans continue to work towards the first democratic transfer of power in their history, Afghan leaders need to make the hard compromises that are necessary to give the Afghan people a future of security and progress.  And as we go forward, we’ll continue to partner with Afghans so their country can never again be used to launch attacks against the United States.  (Applause.)

Now, as I’ve always made clear, the blows we’ve struck against al Qaeda’s leadership don’t mean the end to the terrorist threat.  Al Qaeda affiliates still target our homeland — we’ve seen that in Yemen.  Other extremists threaten our citizens abroad, as we’ve seen most recently in Iraq and Syria.  As Commander-in-Chief, the security of the American people is my highest priority, and that’s why, with the brutal terrorist group ISIL advancing in Iraq, I have authorized targeted strikes to protect our diplomats and military advisors who are there.  (Applause.)

And let me say it again:  American combat troops will not be returning to fight in Iraq.  I will not allow the United States to be dragged back into another ground war in Iraq.  Because ultimately, it is up to the Iraqis to bridge their differences and secure themselves.  (Applause.)  The limited strikes we’re conducting have been necessary to protect our people, and have helped Iraqi forces begin to push back these terrorists.  We’ve also been able to rescue thousands of men and women and children who were trapped on a mountain.  And our airdrops of food and water and medicine show American leadership at our best.  And we salute the brave pilots and crews who are making us proud in the skies of Iraq every single day.  (Applause.)

And more broadly, the crisis in Iraq underscores how we have to meet today’s evolving terrorist threat.  The answer is not to send in large-scale military deployments that overstretch our military, and lead for us occupying countries for a long period of time, and end up feeding extremism.  Rather, our military action in Iraq has to be part of a broader strategy to protect our people and support our partners to take the fight to ISIL.

So we’re strengthening our partners — more military assistance to government and Kurdish forces in Iraq and moderate opposition in Syria.  We’re urging Iraqis to forge the kind of inclusive government that can deliver on national unity, and strong security forces and good governance that are ultimately going to be the antidote against terrorists.  And we’re urging countries in the region and building an international coalition, including our closest allies, to support Iraqis as they take the fight to these barbaric terrorists.

Today, our prayers are with the Foley family in New Hampshire as they continue to grieve the brutal murder of their son and brother Jim.  But our message to anyone who harms our people is simple:  America does not forget.  Our reach is long.  We are patient.  Justice will be done.  We have proved time and time again we will do what’s necessary to capture those who harm Americans — (applause) — to go after those who harm Americans.  (Applause.)

And we’ll continue to take direct action where needed to protect our people and to defend our homeland.  And rooting out a cancer like ISIL won’t be easy and it won’t be quick.  But tyrants and murderers before them should recognize that kind of hateful vision ultimately is no match for the strength and hopes of people who stand together for the security and dignity and freedom that is the birthright of every human being.

So even as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end, we will stay vigilant.  We will continue to make sure that our military has what it needs.  And as today’s generation of servicemembers keeps us safe, and as they come home, we also have to meet our responsibilities to them, just as they meet their responsibilities to America.  (Applause.)

When I was here at the Legion three years ago, I said that the bond between our forces and our citizens has to be a sacred trust, and that for me, for my administration, upholding our trust with our veterans is not just a matter of policy, it is a moral obligation.

And working together, we have made real progress.  Think about it.  Working with the Legion and other veterans service organizations, we’ve been able to accomplish historic increases to veterans funding.  We’ve protected veterans health care from Washington politics with advanced appropriations.  We’ve been able to make VA benefits available to more than 2 million veterans who didn’t have them before, including more Vietnam vets who were exposed to Agent Orange.  (Applause.)  We’ve dedicated major new resources for mental health care.  We’ve helped more than 1 million veterans and their families pursue their education under the Post-9/11 GI Bill.

And moreover, as the Legion and other veterans groups have said, once veterans get in the door the care you receive from the VA is often very good.  The specialized care is among the best in the world.  And many of the hardworking folks at the VA are veterans themselves — veterans serving veterans.  And we can never thank them enough for their good work.

But what we’ve come to learn is that the misconduct we’ve seen at too many facilities — with long wait times, and veterans denied care, and folks cooking the books — is outrageous and inexcusable.  (Applause.)

As soon as it was disclosed, I got before the American people and I said we would not tolerate it.  And we will not.  And I know the Legion has been on the frontlines, fanning out across the country, helping veterans who’ve been affected.  And I know Bob is going to give you an update on the actions that we’re taking.  But what I want you to know, directly from me, is that we’re focused on this at the highest levels.  We are going to get to the bottom of these problems.  We’re going to fix what is wrong.  We’re going to do right by you, and we are going to do right by your families.  And that is a solemn pledge and commitment that I’m making to you here.  (Applause.)

Already we’re making sure that those responsible for manipulating or falsifying records are held accountable.  We’re reaching out to veterans — more than a quarter million so far  — to get them off wait lists and into clinics.  We’re moving ahead with reforms at the Veterans Health Administration.  And to help get that done, you supported, and Congress passed, and I signed into law the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act, which means more resources to help the VA hire more doctors and nurses and staff.  It means if you live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, or your VA doctors can’t see you fast enough, we’ll help you go to a doctor outside the VA.

And we’re instituting a new culture of accountability.  Bob doesn’t play.  Bob likes to recall a cadet prayer from West Point, which should be the ethos of all of us:  “Choose the harder right instead of the easier wrong.”  And with the new legislation that I signed into law, Bob and the VA now have the authority to more quickly remove senior executives who don’t meet our high standards.  If you engage in unethical practices, or cover up a serious problem, you should be and will be fired.  (Applause.)

And by the way, if you blow the whistle on higher-ups because you’ve identified a legitimate problem, you shouldn’t be punished, you should be protected.  (Applause.)

So my bottom line is this:  Despite all the good work that the VA does every day, despite all the progress that we’ve made over the last several years, we are very clear-eyed about the problems that are still there.  And those problems require us to regain the trust of our veterans, and live up to our vision of a VA that is more effective and more efficient and that truly puts veterans first.  And I will not be satisfied until that happens.  (Applause.)

And we’re in the midst of a new wave of veterans — more than a million servicemembers returning to civilian life.  So we have to do more to uphold that sacred trust not just this year or next year, but for decades to come.  We’re going to have to stay focused on the five priorities that I outlined last year.  And I just want to reiterate them for you just so you know what it is that we’re committing to.

Number one, we need to make sure our veterans have the resources you deserve.  And the new funding we just helped — we just passed with the help of Senators Burr and Kay, that helps.  But as you know, it’s not enough.  Even in these tough fiscal times, I’ve, therefore, proposed another increase in veterans funding for next year.  And I’ll continue to resist any effort to exploit the recent problems at the VA to turn veterans health care into a voucher system.  We don’t need vouchers.  You need VA health care that you have earned and that you can depend on.  (Applause.)  We need to make the system work.

Second, we need to make sure veterans are actually getting the health care you need when you need it.  Reforming the VHA and more doctors and staff is a good step.  But with this new wave of veterans, we’ve got to deliver the care our newest veterans need most.  And that includes tailored care that treats our women veterans with respect and dignity.  (Applause.)  It means doing even more to help veterans from all wars who are struggling with traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress.  And we have to end this tragedy of suicide among our troops and veterans.  (Applause.)  As a country, we can’t stand idly by on such tragedy.

So we’re doing even more — more than ever — more awareness, more outreach, more access to mental health care.  So long as any servicemember or veteran is suffering, or feels like they have nowhere to turn, or doesn’t get the support that they need, that means we haven’t done enough.  And we all know we need to do more.  Veterans called for it.  We heard you — which is why today I’m announcing 19 new executive actions to help improve mental health care for those American heroes and their families.  (Applause.)

So just one example:  We’re expanding suicide prevention training across the military and the VA, so colleagues and clinicians can spot the warning signs and encourage our troops and veterans to seek help.  We’ll improve access to care, with more peer support — veterans counseling veterans — at VA hospitals and clinics.  We’re calling on Congress to help us ensure that our troops get coverage for mental health care that’s on par with the coverage for other medical conditions.  And we’re going to make it easier for servicemembers being treated for mental health conditions to continue their care as they transition to the VA, so automatically connecting them with the support they need, making sure they don’t lose access to any medications they may be taking.

And maybe most of all, we’re going to keep saying loud and clear to anyone out there who’s hurting, it is not a sign of weakness to ask for help; it is a sign of strength.  Talk to a friend.  Pick up the phone.  You are not alone.  We are here for you.  And every American needs to know if you see someone in uniform or a veteran who is struggling, reach out and help them to get help.  They were there for America.  We now need to be there for them.  (Applause.)

Our third priority:  We have to keep attacking the disability claims backlog.  Now, the good news is, since its peak last year, we’ve worked with you to slash the backlog by more than 50 percent.  There had been a surge in the backlog in part because of an influx of new veterans; in part because we opened it up for folks who had PTSD, folks with Agent Orange symptoms.  And now we’ve had to work that backlog back down.  The trend lines are good.  But we don’t just want those claims processed fast; we need to make sure they get processed right.

So we’re going to keep at this until we end this backlog once and for all.  And as we do, we’re going to keep working to liberate you from those mountains of paper.  We’ve got to move towards a paperless system — electronic health records that our troops and veterans can keep for life, and that could cut down on some of the bureaucratic red tape so that you’re getting the benefits that you’ve earned a little bit faster.  (Applause.)

Number four:  We need to uphold the dignity and rights of every veteran, and that includes ending the tragedy of homelessness among veterans.  (Applause.)  Again, we’ve got good news to report.  Today, I can announce that, working together over the last few years, we have been able to reduce the number of homeless veterans by one-third.  (Applause.)  And that means on any given night, there are 25,000 fewer veterans on the streets or in shelters.  But we’re not going to stop until every veteran who has defended America has a home in America.  That’s a basic commitment that we have to uphold.  (Applause.)

And finally, we need to make sure our troops and veterans have every opportunity to pursue the American Dream.  That includes a home of their own.  You know, under the law, our servicemembers are entitled to reduced mortgage rates, but the burden is on them to ask for it and prove they’re eligible, which means a lot of folks don’t get the low rates they deserve.

So, today, we’re turning that around.  We’re announcing a new partnership in which some of America’s biggest banks and financial institutions will simplify the process, proactively notify servicemembers who qualify for lower rates and make it easier to enroll.  In other words, we’re going to help more of our troops and military families own their own home without a crushing debt.  (Applause.)

We’re also going to keep helping our troops transition to civilian life.  Because of the work we’ve done together, if you already have a military truck driver’s license, every state now waives the skills test so it’s easier for you to get a commercial driver’s license.  (Applause.)  And we’re going to keep pushing more states to recognize the incredible skills and training of our veterans.  If you could do a job in a warzone, if you’re a medic in a warzone, you shouldn’t have to go take nursing 101 to work in a hospital here in the United States.  (Applause.)  If you can handle million-dollar pieces of equipment in a warzone, that should count for something in getting certified back here at home.  If you can do the kinds of jobs so many of you have done in the most extreme circumstances, I’m pretty confident you can do that job right here at home.  (Applause.)

To help our troops and veterans pursue their education, we worked with loan servicers to automatically cap interest rates on student loans to our servicemembers at 6 percent.  For veterans going back to school under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, we’ll keep standing up against dishonest recruiting and predatory practices that target and prey on you and your families.  So far, about 6,000 colleges and universities have pledged to adhere to our principles of excellence, promising to do right by our veterans.  And more than a thousand colleges and universities have adopted our “8 Keys” to make sure that they’re truly welcoming veterans and helping them succeed on campus.  And by the way, every school in America should join them.  You should be proud if you’re educating a veteran, and you should be doing right by them.  (Applause.)

And we’re going to keep helping our veterans find those private sector jobs worthy of your incredible talents.  Our new online Veterans Employment Center is a single one-stop shop connecting veterans and their spouses to more than 1.5 million jobs that are open right now.  And we’re joining with states and local leaders to identify nearly two dozen cities and regions with the most opportunities for veterans.  And with Michelle and Dr. Jill Biden leading the call, America’s businesses are joining forces to hire or train veterans and spouses — more than half a million so far, and growing.

So veterans’ unemployment is going down, and it’s now actually lower than the national average.  It was higher to begin with, and we have been driving it down.  But we’ve got more to go, especially for our post-9/11 veterans.  So we’re going to keep saying to every business in America, if you want somebody who knows how to get the job done, no matter the mission, hire a veteran.  Hire a vet.  (Applause.)

So fixing what’s broken at the VA; ensuring the resources you deserve; delivering the health care that you’ve earned; eliminating the backlog; standing up for your rights and dignity; helping you realize the American Dream that you so honorably defended — these are our commitments to you.  This is what we’re focused on.  This is what we can do together — especially as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end and we welcome home our newest veterans.

There are a lot of them here tonight.  We salute Captain Scott Miller of Indiana, a proud Hoosier and a proud Marine.  In Afghanistan, he went out on dangerous patrols, traveling to remote villages, meeting with tribal elders, building trust, forging partnerships to push back insurgents.  And here at the Legion, he continues to serve by encouraging businesses across America to give back to the veterans who defended our way of life and make our prosperity possible.  So thank you, Scott.  Where is Scott here today?  (Applause.)  We are proud of him.  There here is.

We salute Master Sergeant Carol Barker of Greensboro, North Carolina.  As a first sergeant of her medevac unit, she was responsible for more than a hundred troops, helped save the lives of our wounded warriors in those critical first hours when life so often hung in the balance.  And here at the Legion, she continues to serve, helping homeless veterans come in off the streets, and begin their lives anew with a roof over their heads.  Thank you, Carol.  Where’s Carol?  (Applause.)

We salute Sergeant Joe Grassi, who grew up just outside New York City.  After his hometown was attacked on 9/11, he left his civilian job, he joined the Army.  A squad leader in Afghanistan, he spent most of his time on the flight line, in the 120-degree heat, supplying our helicopter crews.  And here at the Legion, he continues to serve, helping veterans complete their disability claims, and raising his voice in Washington for a strong national defense, because, he says, “Some things are worth fighting for.  America is worth fighting for.”  Thank you, Joe.  We’re proud of you.  Thank you, sir.  (Applause.)

Scott, Carol, Joe — they’re among the patriots here today who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  And I would ask all our Post-9/11 Generation veterans to stand if you are able and accept the thanks of a grateful nation.  I ask these men and women to stand because the American people have to know that even as our war in Afghanistan comes to an end, our obligation to this generation of veterans has only just begun.  And this cannot just be the work of government and veterans groups alone.  I want every American to take this commitment seriously.  Please stand, Post-9/11 Generation, all of you who’ve served in Afghanistan and Iraq.  We’re grateful for you.  (Applause.)

This is not just a job of government.  It’s not just a job of the veterans’ organizations.  Every American needs to join us in taking care of those who’ve taken care of us.  Because only 1 percent of Americans may be fighting our wars, but 100 percent of Americans benefit from that 1 percent.  A hundred percent need to be supporting our troops.  A hundred percent need to be supporting our veterans.  A hundred percent need to be supporting our military families.  (Applause.)

And everybody can do something.  Every American.  Every business.  Every profession.  Every school.  Every community.  Every state.  All of us, as one American team.  That’s how we will truly honor our veterans.  That’s how we will truly say thank you.  That’s how we will uphold the sacred trust with all who’ve served in our name.

God bless you.  God bless our veterans.  God bless the United States of America.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
12:41 P.M. EDT

Full Text Obama Presidency August 7, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at the Signing of the VA Bill, the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President at the Signing of the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act

Source:  WH, 8-7-14

Wallace Theater
Ft. Belvoir, Virginia

12:05 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Fort Belvoir!  (Applause.)  Everybody, have a seat.  I think I’m going to take Sergeant Major McGruder on the road.  (Laughter.)  I’m just going to have him introduce me wherever I go.  (Laughter.)  He got me excited, and I’m being — I get introduced all the time.  So thank you, James, for your incredible service to our country.  Give James a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

I also want to say a big thanks to America’s new Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Bob McDonald, who is here.  Stand up, Bob.  (Applause.)  As some of you may know, Bob headed up one of the biggest, most successful companies in the world.  But he also was a West Point grad, also a Ranger who served valiantly on behalf of his country.  And this a labor of love for him, and he has hit the ground running.  He’s heading out to VA hospitals and clinics around the country, starting with Phoenix tomorrow.  So thank you, Bob, for accepting this charge and this challenge, and making sure that we’re doing right by our veterans.  I know you’re going to do a great job.  Really proud of him.  (Applause.)

I want to thank all the members of Congress who are here today, and I especially want to thank those who led the fight to give Bob and the VA more of the resources and flexibility that they need to make sure every veteran has access to the care and benefits that they have earned.  Senator Bernie Sanders, Senator Richard Burr, Representative Mike Michaud, Representative Jeff Miller — give them a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  That’s for the good work.  (Applause.)

And we are all grateful to our outstanding veterans service organizations for all the work that they do on behalf of our veterans and their families.  So thank you very much to all the veterans service organizations.  Most of all, I want to thank General Buchanan and Sergeant Major Turnbull, and all of you who serve here at Fort Belvoir.

For nearly a century, this base has helped keep America strong and secure.  Seventy years ago, troops from here –- the 29th Infantry Division, the Blue and Gray -– were some of the first to storm Omaha Beach.  And in recent years, many of you have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.  And you’ve risked your lives on multiple tours to defend our nation.  And as a country, we have a sacred obligation to serve you as well as you’ve served us -– an obligation that doesn’t end with your tour of duty.

Every day, hundreds of thousands of dedicated public servants at the VA help us honor that commitment.  At VA hospitals across America, you’ve got doctors and nurses who are delivering world-class care to America’s veterans.  You’ve got millions of veterans and their families who are profoundly grateful for the good work that is done at the VA.  And as Commander-in-Chief, I’m grateful, too.

But over the last few months, we’ve discovered some inexcusable misconduct at some VA health care facilities — stories of our veterans denied the care they needed, long wait times being covered up, cooking the books.  This is wrong.  It was outrageous.  And working together, we set out to fix it and do right by our veterans across the board, no matter how long it took.

And we’ve already taken the first steps to change the way the VA does business.  We’ve held people accountable for misconduct.  Some have already been relieved of their duties, and investigations are ongoing.  We’ve reached out to more than 215,000 veterans so far to make sure that we’re getting them off wait lists and into clinics both inside and outside the VA system.

We’re moving ahead with urgent reforms, including stronger management and leadership and oversight.  And we’re instituting a critical culture of accountability — rebuilding our leadership team, starting at the top with Secretary McDonald.  And one of his first acts is that he’s directed all VA health care facilities to hold town halls to hear directly from the veterans that they serve to make sure that we’re hearing honest assessments about what’s going on.

Now, in a few minutes, we’ll take another step forward when I sign into law the VA reform bill that was passed overwhelmingly, with bipartisan majorities — and that doesn’t happen often in Congress.  It’s a good deal.  (Laughter and applause.)

This bill covers a lot of ground — from expanding survivor benefits and educational opportunities, to improving care for veterans struggling with traumatic brain injury and for victims of sexual assault.  But today, I want to focus on the ways this bill will help us ensure that veterans have access to the care that they’ve earned.

First of all, this will give the VA more of the resources that it needs.  It will help the VA hire more doctors and more nurses and staff more clinics.  As a new generation of veterans returns home from war and transitions into civilian life, we have to make sure the VA system can keep pace with that new demand.  Keep in mind that I have increased funding for the VA since I came into office by extraordinary amounts.  But we also have extraordinary numbers of veterans coming home.  And so the demand, even though we’ve increased the VA budget, is still higher than the resources that we’ve got.  This bill helps to address that.

Second, for veterans who can’t get timely care through the VA, this bill will help them get the care they need someplace else.  And this is particularly important for veterans who are in more remote areas, in rural areas.  If you live more than 40 miles from a VA facility, or if VA doctors can’t see you within a reasonable amount of time, you’ll have the chance to see a doctor outside the VA system.

Now finally, we’re giving the VA Secretary more authority to hold people accountable.  We’ve got to give Bob the authority so that he can move quickly to remove senior executives who fail to meet the standards of conduct and competence that the American people demand.  If you engage in an unethical practice, if you cover up a serious problem, you should be fired.  Period.  It shouldn’t be that difficult.  (Applause.)  And if you blow the whistle on an unethical practice, or bring a problem to the attention of higher-ups, you should be thanked.  You should be protected for doing the right thing.  (Applause.)  You shouldn’t be ignored, and you certainly shouldn’t be punished.

“To care for him [or her] who shall have borne the battle.”  That’s the heart of the VA’s motto.  That’s what the bill I’m about to sign will help us achieve.  But I want to be clear about something:  This will not and cannot be the end of our effort.  Implementing this law will take time.  It’s going to require focus on the part of all of us.  And even as we focus on the urgent reforms we need at the VA right now, particularly around wait lists and the health care system, we can’t lose sight of our long-term goals for our servicemembers and our veterans.

The good news is, we’ve cut the disability claims backlog by more than half.  But let’s now eliminate the backlog.  Let’s get rid of it.  (Applause.)  The good news is, we’ve poured major resources into improving mental health care.  But now, let’s make sure our veterans actually get the care they need when they need it.  The good news is, we’ve helped to get thousands of homeless veterans off the street, made an unprecedented effort to end veterans’ homelessness.  We should have zero tolerance for that.  But we’ve got to — still more work to do in cities and towns across America to get more veterans into the homes they deserve.

We’ve helped more than a million veterans and their spouses and children go to college through the post-9/11 GI bill.  (Applause.)  But now, we’ve got to help even more of them earn their educations, and make sure that they’re getting a good bargain in the schools they enroll in.

We’ve rallied companies to hire hundreds of thousands of veterans and their spouses.  That’s the good news.  With the help of Jill Biden and Michelle Obama — two pretty capable women.  (Laughter.)  They know what they’re doing, and nobody says no to them, including me.  (Laughter.)  But now, we’ve got to help more of our highly skilled veterans find careers in this new economy.

So America has to do right by all who serve under our proud flag.  And Congress needs to do more, also.  I urge the Senate, once again, to finally confirm my nominee for Assistant Secretary for Policy at the VA, Linda Schwartz; my nominee to lead the Board of Veterans Appeals, Constance Tobias; my nominee for CFO, Helen Tierney.  Each of them have been waiting for months for a yes-or-no vote — in Constance’s case for more than a year.

They’re ready to serve.  They’re ready to get to work.  It’s not that hard.  It didn’t used to be this hard to just go ahead and get somebody confirmed who is well qualified.  Nobody says they’re not.  It’s just the Senate doesn’t seem to move very fast.  As soon as the Senate gets back in September, they should act to put these outstanding public servants in place.  Our veterans don’t have time for politics.  They need these public servants on the job right now.  (Applause.)

So let me wrap up by saying two months ago, I had the chance to spend some time with some of America’s oldest veterans at Omaha Beach.  Some of you may have seen on television the celebration, the commemoration of those incredible days, the 70th anniversary of D-Day.  And this is my second visit to democracy’s beachhead.  It’s the second time I’ve gone as President.  And it’s a place where it’s impossible not to be moved by the courage and the sacrifice of free men and women who volunteer to lay down their lives for people they’ve never met, ideals that they can’t live without.  That’s why they’re willing to do these things.

And some of these folks that you met, they were 18 at the time.  Some of them were lying about their age.  They were 16, landing either at the beach or sometimes behind the lines.  The casualty rates were unbelievable.  Being there brought back memories of my own grandfather, who marched in Patton’s Army, and then came home.  And like so many veterans of his generation, they went to school and got married and raised families.  And he eventually helped to raise me.

And on that visit to Normandy, I brought some of today’s servicemembers with me because I wanted to introduce them to the veterans of D-Day and to show the veterans of D-Day that their legacy is in good hands, that there’s a direct line between the sacrifices then and the sacrifices that folks have made in remote places today.  Because in more than a decade of war, today’s men and women in uniform — all of you — you’ve met every mission we’ve asked of you.

Today, our troops continue to serve and risk their lives in Afghanistan.  It continues to be a difficult and dangerous mission, as we were tragically reminded again this week in the attack that injured a number of our coalition troops and took the life of a dedicated American soldier, Major General Harold Greene.  Our prayers are with the Greene family, as they are with all the Gold Star families and those who have sacrificed so much for our nation.

Four months from now, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be complete.  Our longest war will come to an honorable end.  In the years to come, many from this generation will step out of uniform, and their legacy will be secure.  But whether or not this country properly repays their heroism, properly repays their patriotism, their service and their sacrifice, that’s in our hands.

I’m committed to seeing that we fulfill that commitment.  Because the men and women of this generation, this 9/11 Generation of servicemembers, are the leaders we need for our time — as community leaders and business leaders, I hope maybe some leaders in our politics, as well.

From the Greatest Generation to the 9/11 Generation, America’s heroes have answered the call to serve.  I have no greater honor than serving as your President and Commander-in-Chief.  And I have no greater privilege than the chance to help make sure that our country keeps the promises that we’ve made to everybody who signs up to serve.  And as long as I hold this office, we’re going to spend each and every day working to do right by you and your families.  I’m grateful to you.

God bless you.  God bless America.  With that, I am going to sign this bill.  Thank you very much, everybody.  (Applause.)

(The bill is signed.)  (Applause.)

END
12:18 P.M. EDT

Political Musings June 5, 2014: Obama hits new approval ratings poll lows on foreign policy, economy, Benghazi

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

A new ABC News/Washington Post poll released on Tuesday, June 3, 2014 gives President Barack Obama the lowest marks of presidency on foreign policy and the handling of the Benghazi Affair. The presidency also keeps getting low approval ratings…Continue

Political Musings May 27, 2014: Obama overcompensates Memorial Day honors as Veterans Affairs scandal heats up

POLITICAL MUSINGS

https://historymusings.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/pol_musings.jpg?w=600

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama overcompensates Memorial Day honors as Veterans Affairs scandal heats up

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Political Musings April 22, 2014: Obama announces at press conference that Obamacare reached 8 million enrollees

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama announces at press conference that Obamacare reached 8 million enrollees

By Bonnie K. Goodman

In a press conference on Thursday afternoon, April 17, 2014 in the White House’s Brady Press Briefing Room President Barack Obama announced that with the majority of numbers tallied the total number of enrollees on the federal marketplace…READ MORE

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Full Text Obama Presidency April 17, 2014: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference on Reaching 8 Million Obamacare Enrollees and the Crisis in Ukraine

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Press Conference by the President, 4/17/14

Source: WH, 4-17-14

REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
AT PRESS CONFERENCE

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

**Please see below for a correction marked with asterisks.

3:40 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  Before I begin I just want to express on behalf of the American people our deepest condolences to the Republic of Korea and the families of all those who’ve seen their loved ones lost when a ferry sank within the last couple of days.

Obviously, information is still coming in.  We know that many of the victims of this terrible tragedy were students.  And American Navy personnel and Marines have already been on the scene helping the search and rescue.  As one of our closest allies, our commitment to South Korea is unwavering in good times and in bad, and that’s something I’ll underscore during my visit to Seoul next week.

Before I take questions I’d also like to say a few words about how the Affordable Care Act is now covering more people at less cost than most would have predicted just a few months ago.

The first open enrollment period under this law ended a little over two weeks ago.  And as more data comes in, we now know that the number of Americans who’ve signed up for private insurance in the marketplaces has grown to 8 million people — 8 million people.  Thirty-five percent of people who enrolled through the federal marketplace are under the age of 35.  All told, independent experts now estimate that millions of Americans who were uninsured have gained coverage this year — with millions more to come next year and the year after.

We’ve also seen signs that the Affordable Care Act is bringing economic security to more Americans.  Before this law added new transparency and competition to the individual market, folks who bought insurance on their own regularly saw double-digit increases in their premiums.  That was the norm.  And while we suspect that premiums will keep rising, as they have for decades, we also know that since the law took effect health care spending has risen more slowly than at any time in the past 50 years.

In the decade before the Affordable Care Act, employer-based insurance rose almost 8 percent a year.  Last year, it grew at half that rate.  Under this law, real Medicare costs per person have nearly stopped growing.  The life of the Medicare Trust Fund has been extended by 10 years.  And the independent Congressional Budget Office now expects premiums for plans on the marketplace to be 15 percent lower than originally predicted.

So those savings add up to more money that families can spend at businesses, more money that businesses can spend hiring new workers.  And the CBO now says that the Affordable Care Act will be cheaper than recently projected.  Lower costs from  coverage provisions will shrink our deficits by an extra $100 billion.

So the bottom line is, under the Affordable Care Act, the share of Americans with insurance is up, the growth of health care costs is down.  Hundreds of millions of Americans who already have insurance now have new benefits and protections from free preventive care to freedom from lifetime caps on your care.  No American with a preexisting condition like asthma or cancer can be denied coverage.  No woman can be charged more just for being a woman.  Those days are over.  And this thing is working.

I’ve said before, this law won’t solve all the problems in our health care system.  We know we’ve got more work to do.  But we now know for a fact that repealing the Affordable Care Act would increase the deficit, raise premiums for millions of Americans, and take insurance away from millions more — which is why, as I’ve said before, I find it strange that the Republican position on this law is still stuck in the same place that it has always been.

They still can’t bring themselves to admit that the Affordable Care Act is working.  They said nobody would sign up; they were wrong about that.  They said it would be unaffordable for the country; they were wrong about that.  They were wrong to keep trying to repeal a law that is working when they have no alternative answer for millions of Americans with preexisting conditions who would be denied coverage again, or every woman who would be charged more for just being a woman again.

I know every American isn’t going to agree with this law.  But I think we can agree that it’s well past time to move on as a country and refocus our energy on the issues that the American people are most concerned about — and that continues to be the economy.  Because these endless, fruitless repeal efforts come at a cost.  The 50 or so votes Republicans have taken to repeal this law could have been 50 votes to create jobs by investing in things like infrastructure or innovation.  Or 50 votes to make it easier for middle-class families to send their kids to college.  Or 50 votes to raise the minimum wage, or restore unemployment insurance that they let expire for folks working hard to find a new job.

The point is the repeal debate is and should be over.  The Affordable Care Act is working.  And I know the American people don’t want us spending the next two and a half years refighting the settled political battles of the last five years.  They sent us here to repair our economy, to rebuild our middle class, and to restore our founding promise of opportunity — not just for a few, but for all.  And as President, that’s exactly what I intend to keep doing as long as I’m in this office.

With that, I’ll take some questions.  Let’s see who we got.  Kathleen Hennessey of the LA Times.

Q    Thanks, Mr. President.  It sounds like there’s been some development in the Ukraine talks in Geneva.  I’m just wondering if you could describe your level of confidence in what this agreement is and how you can be sure that Russia will follow through, given some of the remarks from President Putin this morning.

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t think we can be sure of anything at this point.  I think there is the possibility, the prospect that diplomacy may deescalate the situation and we may be able to move towards what has always been our goal, which is let the Ukrainians make their own decisions about their own lives.

There was a meeting in Geneva — representatives of the Ukrainian government, the Russian government, the EU, as well as the United States.  It was a lengthy, vigorous conversation.  My understanding is, is that the Ukrainian Prime Foreign** Minister gave a detailed and thorough presentation about the reforms that they intend to introduce, including reforms that provide assurances for Ukrainians who live in eastern and southern Ukraine that they will be fully represented, that their rights will be protected, that Russian speakers and Russian natives in Ukraine will have the full protection of the law.  And my understanding, based on what I’ve heard, is that there was an acknowledgement within the meeting that the Ukrainian government in Kyiv had gone out of its way to address a range of the concerns that may have existed in southern and eastern Ukraine.

There was a promising public statement that indicated the need to disarm all irregular forces and militias and groups that have been occupying buildings.  There was an offer of amnesty to those who would willingly lay down their arms, evacuate those buildings, so that law and order could be restored in eastern and southern Ukraine.

The Russians signed on to that statement.  And the question now becomes will, in fact, they use the influence that they’ve exerted in a disruptive way to restore some order so that Ukrainians can carry out an election, move forward with the decentralization reforms that they’ve proposed, stabilize their economy, and start getting back on the path of growth and democracy and that their sovereignty will be respected.

We’re not going to know whether, in fact, there’s follow-through on these statements for several days.  And so today I spoke with Chancellor Merkel; later on in the day I’m going to be speaking to David Cameron.  We’re going to be consulting with our European allies.  Over the last week, we have put in place additional consequences that we can impose on the Russians if we do not see actual improvement of the situation on the ground.  And we are coordinating now with our European allies.

My hope is that we actually do see follow-through over the next several days.  But I don’t think given past performance that we can count on that, and we have to be prepared to potentially respond to what continue to be efforts of interference by the Russians in Eastern and Southern Ukraine.

If, in fact, we do see improvements, then that will obviously be a positive.  In the meantime, we’re going to make sure that we continue to help the Ukrainian government — working with the IMF, the Europeans and others — to stabilize their economy and to start reforming it.  We’re going to continue to work with our NATO allies to make sure that they are assured that we’re going to meet our Article 5 obligations and that they are secure.

And as I’ve said before — I think I had an interview with Major yesterday in which I mentioned this whole exercise by the Russians is not good for Russia either.  There are, I think, a number of articles today indicating the degree to which an economy that was already stuck in the mud is further deteriorating because of these actions.

And in my conversations with President Putin, I’ve emphasized the same thing, that we have no desire to see further deterioration of the Russian economy.  On the other hand, we are going to continue to uphold the basic principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity for all countries; and that there’s a way for Ukraine to be independent, to be sovereign, and to have positive relationships with both the West and the East, with both its European neighbors and its Russian neighbors.  And that’s our primary concern.

Maria Peña, La Opinión.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’ve got a hot spot for you here in the U.S.  House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said — or claimed that you haven’t learned how to work with them.  And he’s angry that you’re attacking the GOP on the lack of movement on immigration reform.  So I was wondering how you respond to that.

And the second part to that, right now you have hunger strikers across the street demanding relief for undocumented immigrants.  And I was wondering if you can dispel the rumors or if there’s a leak from the White House that you will make some sort of announcement in the coming weeks to expand that relief for the undocumented.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I actually had a very pleasant conversation with Mr. Cantor yesterday.

Q    Really?

THE PRESIDENT:  I did.  (Laughter.)  You’re always kind of surprised by the mismatch between press releases and the conversation.  I wished him happy Passover.  And what I said to him privately is something that I would share with him — that I’ve said publicly, which is there is bipartisan support for comprehensive immigration reform.  It would strengthen our economy, it would help with our security, and it would provide relief to families who — many of whom have lived here for years and who have children and family members who are U.S. citizens; and that Congress should act; and that right now what’s holding us back is House Republican leadership not willing to go ahead and let the process move forward.

So it was a pretty friendly conversation.  I think in his press release, I gather he was referring to the observation that we’d made a day earlier that it had now been a year since the Senate had passed a strong bipartisan bill, and that although we had heard a lot of talk about the House Republicans being interested in doing something, nothing had happened yet, and suggesting that we need some urgency here.  I still feel the same way.

I know there are Republicans in the House, as there are Republicans in the Senate, who know this is the right thing to do.  I also know it’s hard politics for Republicans because there are some in their base that are very opposed to this.  But what I also know is that there are families all across the country who are experiencing great hardship and pain because this is not getting resolved.  I also know that there are businesses around the country that could be growing even faster, that our deficits could be coming down faster, that we would have more customers in our shops, if we get this thing resolved.

We know what the right thing to do is.  It’s a matter of political will.  It’s not any longer a matter of policy.  And I’m going to continue to encourage them to get this done.

As far as our actions, Jeh Johnson, our new head of the  Department of Homeland Security, has been talking to everybody  — law enforcement, immigrant rights groups — to do a thorough-going review of our approach towards enforcement.  And we’re doing that in consultation with Democrats and Republicans and with any interested party.

I do think that the system we have right now is broken.  I’m not alone in that opinion.  The only way to truly fix it is through congressional action.  We have already tried to take as many administrative steps as we could.  We’re going to review it one more time to see if there’s more that we can do to make it more consistent with common sense and more consistent with I think the attitudes of the American people, which is we shouldn’t be in the business necessarily of tearing families apart who otherwise are law-abiding.

And so let me —

Q    Do you have a time?

THE PRESIDENT:  I won’t get into timing right now because Mr. Johnson is going to go ahead and do that review.

Tamara Keith.

Q    So you — regarding the Affordable Care Act, I think you —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, let’s talk about that.  (Laughter.)

Q    Since you brought it up.  (Laughter.)  I think everyone agrees that it has flaws.  But Democrats have been sort of reluctant in Congress to reopen the conversation, and Republicans have been more than happy to reopen the conversation but in a different way.  Now that, as you say, it’s here to stay, there are so many people that signed up, in this environment is it possible to do the kind of corrections that the business community and many others would like to see — sort of small, technical corrections?

THE PRESIDENT:  It is absolutely possible, but it will require a change in attitude on the part of the Republicans.

I have always said from the outset that on any large piece of legislation like this, there are going to be things that need to be improved, need to be tweaked.  I said that I think the day I signed the bill.  And I don’t think there’s been any hesitation on our part to consider ideas that would actually improve the legislation.  The challenge we have is, is that if you have certain members in the Republican Party whose view is making it work better is a concession to me, then it’s hard in that environment to actually get it done.

And I recognize that their party is going through the stages of grief — anger and denial and all that stuff — and we’re not at acceptance yet.  But at some point, my assumption is, is that there will be an interest to figure out how do we make this work in the best way possible.

We have 8 million people signed up through the exchanges.  That doesn’t include the 3 million young people who are able to stay on their parents’ plan.  It doesn’t include the 3 million people who benefited from expansions to Medicaid.  So if my math is correct, that’s 14 million right there.  You’ve got another 5 million people who signed up outside of the marketplaces but are part of the same insurance pool.  So we’ve got a sizable part of the U.S. population now in the first — for the first time in many cases, in a position to enjoy the financial security of health insurance.

And I’m meeting them as I’m on the road.  I saw a woman yesterday — young woman, maybe 34, with her mom and her dad, and she’s got two small kids and self-employed husband, and was diagnosed with breast cancer.  And this isn’t an abstraction to her.  She is saving her home.  She is saving her business.  She is saving her parents’ home, potentially, because she’s got health insurance, which she just could not afford.

And the question now becomes if, in fact, this is working for a lot of people but there are still improvements to make, why are we still having a conversation about repealing the whole thing, and why are we having folks say that any efforts to improve it are somehow handing Obama a victory?  This isn’t about me.  And my hope is, is that we start moving beyond that.  My suspicion is that probably will not happen until after November because it seems as if this is the primary agenda item in the Republican political platform.

But here’s what I know:  The American people would much rather see us talk about jobs, would much rather see us talk about high college costs, would much rather see us discussing how we can rebuild our roads and our bridges and our infrastructure and put people back to work.  They’d much rather see us talk about how we’d boost wages and boost incomes and improve their individual family bottom lines.

And if the Republicans want to spend the entire next six months or year talking about repealing a bill that provides millions of people health insurance without providing any meaningful alternative, instead of wanting to talk about jobs and the economic situation of families all across the country, that’s their prerogative.  At some point I think they’ll make the transition.  That’s my hope, anyway.  If not, we’re just going to keep on doing what we’re doing, which is making it work for people all across the country.

I’m sorry, I’m going to say one last thing about this, just because this does frustrate me:  States that have chosen not to expand Medicaid for no other reason than political spite.  You’ve got 5 million people who could be having health insurance right now at no cost to these states — zero cost to these states — other than ideological reasons.  They have chosen not to provide health insurance for their citizens.  That’s wrong.  It should stop.  Those folks should be able to get health insurance like everybody else.

Isaac, from Politico.  Where are you, Isaac?  There you are.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Given all that you were just saying about the Affordable Care Act, do you think it’s time for Democrats to start campaigning loudly and positively on the benefits of Obamacare?  Will you lead that charge?

And on Ukraine, you’ve said in other situations — Iran, for example — that the military option remains on the table even as talks go on.  Is the military option on the table with Russia?  And if so, would that be through NATO forces, through lethal aid to Ukraine?

THE PRESIDENT:  Now, keep in mind I think I’ve been very clear that military options are not on the table in Ukraine because this is not a situation that would be amenable to a clear military solution.  What we have to do is to create an environment in which irregular forces disarm, that the seizing of buildings cease, that a national dialogue by Ukrainians — not by Russians, not by Americans or anybody else, but by Ukrainians — takes place.  They move forward with reforms that meet the interests of the various groups within Ukraine, they move forward with elections, and they start getting their economic house in order.  That’s what’s going to solve the problem.

And so obviously, Russia right now still has its forces amassed along the Ukrainian-Russian border as a gesture of intimidation.  And it is our belief — and not ours alone — but I think broad portions of the international community believe that Russia’s hand is in the disruptions and chaos that we’ve been seeing in southern and eastern Ukraine.  But there is an opportunity for Russia to take a different approach.  We are encouraging them to do so.

In the meantime, we’re going to prepare additional responses should Russia fail to take a different course.  We’ve already had an impact on their economy that is well documented.  It could get significantly worse.  But we don’t have an interest in hurting ordinary Russians just for the sake of it.  Our strong preference would be for Mr. Putin to follow through on what is a glimmer of hope coming out of these Geneva talks.  But we’re not going to count on it until we see it.  And in the meantime, we’re going to prepare what our other options are.

With respect to the Affordable Care Act, my point is that we’ve been having a political fight about this for five years.  We need to move on to something else.  That’s what the American people are interested in.  I think that Democrats should forcefully defend and be proud of the fact that millions of people like the woman I just described who I saw in Pennsylvania yesterday we’re helping because of something we did.  I don’t think we should apologize for it, and I don’t think we should be defensive about it.  I think there is a strong, good, right story to tell.

I think what the other side is doing and what the other side is offering would strip away protections from those families and from hundreds of millions of people who already had health insurance before the law passed, but never knew if the insurance company could drop them when they actually needed it, or women who were getting charged more just because they were a woman.  I’m still puzzled why they’ve made this their sole agenda item when it comes to our politics.  It’s curious.

But what I intend to talk about is what the American people are interested in hearing:  Our plans for putting people back to work; our plans for making sure our economy continues to innovate; our plans to make sure that, as I discussed yesterday, we’re training people for the jobs that are out there right now and making better use of our community colleges and linking them up with businesses; and how we’re going to continue to bring manufacturing back the way we have over the last several years; and how we’re going to put more money in the pockets of ordinary people.

So if they want to — if Republicans want to spend all their time talking about repealing a law that’s working, that’s their business.  I think what Democrats should do is not be defensive, but we need to move on and focus on other things that are really important to the American people right now.

David Jackson.

Q    Yes, sir.  Thank you.  One reason the Republicans talk about it is there are people who object to the law who said they’ve had problems with the law, and there are a significant number of opponents of the law.  I guess my question is, what makes you think a significant majority of the American people, of voters, will accept this law?  Or are we destined to see health care as a 50/50, red state/blue state argument for years to come?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think you’re mixing up two things here, David.  You said there are people who have seen problems with the law.  That’s not 50 percent of the American people.  There may have been folks who have been affected in ways that they weren’t happy about — by the law.  That is a far smaller number than the millions of people who’ve been signed up.  That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be concerned about it.  That’s an area where, as I said to Tamara, we should be open to other ways that we can make it even better.  So that’s objective facts and real problems out there.

The other side of it is just polling, right, what’s the general opinion of the law — which is attached to general opinions about me or about Democrats and partisanship in the country generally.

My view is that the longer we see the law benefiting millions of people, the more we see accusations that the law is hurting millions of people being completely debunked — as some of you in the press have done — and the more the average American who already has health insurance sees that it’s actually not affecting them in an adverse way, then it becomes less of a political football — which is where I want it to be.  This shouldn’t be a political football.  This should be something that we take for granted, that in this country you should be able to get affordable health care regardless of how wealthy you are.

Now, the larger issue about whether we can move past the polarization and sort of the bitter political debates between Democrats and Republicans, of which Obamacare is just one small part, that’s going to take more time.  But it’s not for lack of trying on my part.  And I think that I speak for all Democrats in saying we would much prefer a constructive conversation with the Republicans about how do we get some stuff done, and let’s focus on some areas that the American people really care about.

On jobs, we know that infrastructure would put people back to work right now and it would improve our economy for the long term.  It didn’t used to be a partisan issue.  Why aren’t we coming up with a way to make sure that we’re rebuilding our roads and our bridges, and improving our air traffic control system?  There’s no reason that has to be political.  There really isn’t any ideological disagreement on that.  And I guarantee you after this winter, if you look at the potholes that are the size of canyons all across big chunks of the United States, that people would like to see an infrastructure bill.  Let’s get it done.

Q    How long before health care ceases to become a political football, do you think?  Are we talking years?  Months?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it’s hard to say.  It’s interesting, I spoke at the LBJ Library the other day, and most of us weren’t around to pay real close attention to those debates, or they’re pretty distant now in the past.  Apparently it took several years before people realized, hey, Medicare actually works and it’s lifting a lot of seniors out of despair and poverty.

So we’ve been through this cycle before.  It happens each and every time we make some strides in terms of strengthening our commitments to each other and we expand some of these social insurance programs.

There’s a lot of fear-mongering and a lot of political argument and debate, and a lot of accusations are flung back and forth about socialized medicine and the end of freedom.  And then it turns out that, you know what, it’s working for a lot of folks, and we still live in a free-market society and the Constitution is intact.  And then we move on.  And I don’t know how long it’s going to take.  But in the meantime, how about us focusing on some things that the American people really care about?

Thank you, everybody.

END
4:13 P.M. EDT

 

Political Musings April 2, 2014: Obama vindicated 7.1 million sign-up for Obamacare reaching White House goal

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