Full Text Political Transcripts March 6, 2017: American Health Care Act GOP Health Care Bill

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

TRUMP PRESIDENCY & 115TH CONGRESS:

Full-Text American Health Care Act

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Speaker Paul Ryan’s Presentation on the American Health Care Act

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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

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

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama vindicated 7.1 million sign-up for Obamacare reaching White House goal

By Bonnie K. Goodman

A day after the open enrollment period ended to sign-up for health care insurance, President Barack Obama announced on Tuesday, April 1, 2014 at a ceremony held in the White House Rose Garden that the Affordable Care Act reached…READ MORE

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Political Musings March 20, 2014: Obama screens Cesar Chavez at White House pushes economic opportunity program

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama screens Cesar Chavez at White House pushes economic opportunity program

By Bonnie K. Goodman

After sitting a for a series of interview, President Barack Obama capped the day off on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 hosting an advanced screening of the new movie “Cesar Chavez,” the biopic about the founder of the United…READ MORE

Political Musings December 22, 2013: Obama in denial and on the offensive in 2013 year-end press conference

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

After a difficult year that held little accomplishments to boast about, with more “missteps” than any president would be willing to acknowledge, President Barack Obama held his year-end press conference on Friday afternoon, Dec. 20, 2013 at….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 20, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Year-End Press Conference Transcript

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Running transcript: President Obama’s December 20 news conference

Source: Washington Post, 12-20-13

Video: President Obama said during his end-of-the-year news conference Friday that the NSA surveillance program would likely see changes in the year ahead.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: All right. Good afternoon, everybody. I know you are all eager to skip town and spend some time with your families. Not surprisingly, I am too. But you know what they say, it’s the most wonderful press conference of the year — (laughter) — right now. I am eager to take your questions.
But first I just want to say a few words about our economy. In 2013 our businesses created another 2 million jobs, adding up to more than 8 million in just over the past 45 months. This morning we learned that over the summer our economy grew at its strongest pace in nearly two years. The unemployment rate has steadily fallen to its lowest point in five years.Our tax code is fairer and our fiscal situation is firmer, with deficits that are now less than half of what they were when I took office.

For the first time in nearly two decades, we now produce more oil here at home than we buy from the rest of the world, and our all-of- the-above strategy for new American energy means lower energy costs. The Affordable Care Act has helped keep health care costs growing at their slowest rate in 50 years. Combined, that means bigger paychecks for middle class families and bigger savings for businesses looking to invest and hire here in America.

And, for all the challenges we’ve had and all the challenges that we’ve been working on diligently in dealing with both the ACA and the website these past couple months, more than half a million Americans have enrolled through healthcare.gov in the first three weeks of December alone. In California, for example, a state operating its own marketplace, more than 15,000 Americans are enrolling every single day. And in the federal website, tens of thousands are enrolling every single day. Since October 1st, more than 1 million Americans have selected new health insurance plans through the federal and state marketplaces, so all told, millions of Americans, despite the problems with the website, are now poised to be covered by quality affordable health insurance come New Year’s Day.

Now, this holiday season there are mothers and fathers and entrepreneurs and workers who have something new to celebrate: the security of knowing that when the unexpected or misfortune strikes, hardship no longer has to.

And you add that all up and what it means is: We head into next year with an economy that’s stronger than it was when we started the year, more Americans. More Americans are finding work and experiencing the pride of a paycheck.

Our businesses are positioned for new growth and new jobs. And I firmly believe that 2014 can be a breakthrough year for America.

But as I outlined in detail earlier this month, we all know there’s a lot more than we’re going to have to do to restore opportunity and broad-based growth for every American. And that’s going to require some action.

It’s a good start that earlier this week, for the first time in years, both parties in both houses of Congress came together to pass a budget. That unwinds some of the damaging sequester cuts that created headwinds for our economy. It clears the path for businesses and for investments that we need to strengthen our middle class, like education and scientific research. And it means that the American people won’t be exposed to the threat of another reckless shutdown every few months. So that’s a good thing. It’s probably too early to declare an outbreak of bipartisanship, but it’s also fair to say that we’re not condemned to endless gridlock. There are areas where we can work together.

I believe that work should begin with something that Republicans in Congress should have done before leaving town this week, and that’s restoring the temporary insurance that helps folks make ends meet when they are looking for a job. Because Congress didn’t act, more than 1 million of their constituents will lose a vital economic lifeline at Christmastime, leaving a lot of job seekers without any source of income at all. I think we’re a better country than that. We don’t abandon each other when times are tough.

Keep in mind unemployment insurance only goes to folks who are actively looking for work, a mom who needs help feeding her kids when she sends out her resumes or a dad who needs help paying the rent while working part-time and still earning the skills he needs for that new job.

So when Congress comes back to work, their first order of business should be making this right. I know a bipartisan group is working on a three-month extension of this insurance. They should pass it, and I’ll sign it right away.

Let me repeat: I think 2014 needs to be a year of action. We’ve got work to do to create more good jobs, to help more Americans earn the skills and education they need to do those jobs and to make sure that those jobs offer the wages and benefits that let families build a little bit of financial security.

We still have the task of finishing the fix on our broken immigration system. We’ve got to build on the process we’ve painstakingly made over these last five years with respect to our economy and offer the middle class and all those who are looking to join the middle class a better opportunity. And that’s going to be where I focus all of my efforts in the year ahead.

And let me conclude by saying just as we’re strengthening our position here at home, we’re also standing up for our interests around the world. This year we’ve demonstrated that with clear-eyed, principled diplomacy, we can pursue new paths to a world that’s more secure, a future where Iran does not build a nuclear weapon, a future where Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles are destroyed.

By the end of next year, the war in Afghanistan will be over, just as we’ve ended our war in Iraq, and we’ll continue to bring our troops home. And as always, we will remain vigilant to protect our homeland and our personnel overseas from terrorist attacks. Of course, a lot of our men and women in uniform are still overseas, and a lot of them are still spending their Christmas far away from their family and their friends. In some cases, it’s still in harm’s way.

So I want to close by saying to them and their families back home, we want to thank you.

Your country stands united in supporting you and being grateful for your service and your sacrifice. We will keep you in our thoughts and in our prayers during this season of hope.

So before I wish a merry Christmas to all and to all a good night, I will take some questions. Jay prepared a list of who’s naughty and nice — (laughter) — so we’ll see — we’ll see who made it.

Julie must be nice.

Q: (Chuckles.)

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Julie Pace of AP.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Despite all of the data points that you cited in your opening statement, when you look back at this year, very little of the domestic agenda that you outlined in your inaugural address, in your State of the Union has been achieved. Health care rollout obviously had huge problems, and your ratings from the public are near historic lows for you. When you take this all together, has this been the worst year of your presidency?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Chuckles.) I — I got to tell you, Julie, that’s not how I think about it. I have now been in office five years, close to five years, was running for president for two years before that, and for those who’ve covered me during that time, we have had ups and we have had downs. I think this room has probably recorded at least 15 near-death experiences.

And what I’ve been focused on each and every day is, are we moving the ball in helping the American people, families, have more opportunity, have a little more security, to feel as if, if they work hard, they can get ahead.

And if — if I look at this past year, there are areas where there obviously have been some frustrations, where I wish Congress had moved more aggressively. You know, not passing background checks in the wake of Newtown is something that I continue to believe was a mistake.

But then I also look at, because of the debate that occurred, all the work that’s been done at the state levels, to increase gun safety and to make sure that we don’t see tragedies like that happen again.

There’s a lot of focus on legislative activity at the congressional level. But even when Congress doesn’t move on things they should move on, there are a whole bunch of things that we’re still doing. So we don’t always get attention for it, but the ConnectED program that we announced, where we’re going to be initiating wireless capacity in every classroom in America, will make a huge difference for kids all across this country and for teachers; a manufacturing hub that we set up in Youngstown, something that I talked about during the State of the Union, is going to create innovation and connect universities, manufacturers, job training, to help create a renaissance — build on the renaissance that we’re seeing in manufacturing.

When it comes to energy, this year is going to be the first year in a very long time where we’re producing more oil and natural gas here in this country than we’re importing. That’s a big deal.

So I understand the point that you’re getting at, Julie, which is that a lot of our legislative initiatives in Congress have not moved forward as rapidly as I’d like. I completely understand that, which means that I’m going to keep at it. And if you look at, for example, immigration reform, probably the biggest thing that I wanted to get done this year, we saw progress. It passed the Senate with a strong bipartisan vote.

There are indications in the House that even though it did not get completed this year, that there is a commitment on the part of this speaker to try to move forward legislation early next year. And the fact that it didn’t hit the timeline that I’d prefer is obviously frustrating, but it’s not something that I end up brooding a lot about.

Q: But sir, it’s not just your legislative agenda. When you look at — (off mic) — you talk to Americans, they seem to have lost confidence in you, trust in you. Your credibility have taken a hit. Obviously, the health care law was a big part of that. So do you understand that those — that the public has changed, in some way, their view of you over this year?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: But Julie, I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re measuring this by polls, my polls have gone up and down a lot through the course of my career. I mean, if I was interested in polling, I wouldn’t have run for president. I was polling at 70 percent was — when I was in the U.S. Senate. I took this job to deliver for the American people, and I knew and will continue to know that there are going to be ups and downs on it.

You’re right. The health care website problems were a source of great frustration. I think in the last press conference I adequately discussed my frustrations on those. On the other hand, since that time I now have a couple million people, maybe more, who are going to have health care on January 1st. And that is a big deal. That’s why I ran for this office. And as long as I’ve got an opportunity every single day to make sure that in ways large and small I’m creating greater opportunity for people, more kids are able to go to school, get the education they need, more families are able to stabilize their finances, you know, the housing market is continuing to improve, people feel like their wages maybe are inching up a little bit — if those things are happening, I’ll take it.

And you know, I’ve said before, I’ve run my last political race. So at this point, my goal every single day is just to make sure that I can look back and say we’re delivering something, not everything, because this is a long haul.

All right, Mark Felsenthal.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. One of the most significant events of this year was the revelation of the surveillance by the National Security Agency. As you review how to rein in the National Security Agency, a federal judge says that, for example, the government has failed to cite a single instance in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata actually stopped an imminent attack. Are you able to identify any specific examples when it did so? Are you convinced that the collection of that data is useful to national security to continue as it is?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Let me talk more broadly, and then I’ll talk specifically about the program you’re referring to.

As you know, the independent panel that I put together came back with a series of recommendations, 46 in total. I had an extensive meeting with them down in the Situation Room to review all the recommendations that they’ve made. I want to thank them publicly because I think they did an excellent job and took my charge very seriously, which is I told them, I want you to look from top to bottom at what we’re doing and evaluate whether or not the current structures that we have and the current programs that we have are properly addressing both our continuing need to keep ourselves secure and to prevent terrorist attacks or proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or other threats to the homeland, and are we also making sure that we’re taking seriously rule of law and our concerns about privacy and civil liberties.

So what we’re doing now is evaluating all the recommendations that have been made. Over the next several weeks I’m going to assess, based on conversations not just with the intelligence community but others in government and outside of government, how we might apply and incorporate their recommendations. And I’m going to make a pretty definitive statement about all of this in January, where I’ll be able to say, here are the recommendations that we think make sense, here are ones that we think as promising but still need to be refined further, here’s how it relates to the work we’re doing not just — not just internally but also in partnership with other countries.

And so I’m — I’m taking this very seriously, because I think, as I’ve said before, this is debate that needed to be had.

One specific program, the 215 program, is the metadata, the bulk collection of phone numbers and exchanges that have taken place. That has probably gotten the most attention, at least with respect to domestic audiences. And what I’ve said in the past continues to be the case, which is that the NSA, in executing this program, believed, based on experiences from 9/11, that it was important for us to be able to track, if there was a phone number of a known terrorist outside of the United States calling into the United States, where that call might have gone and that having that data in one place and retained for a certain period of time allowed them to be confident in pursuing various investigations of terrorist threats.

And I think it’s important to note that in all the reviews of this program that have been done, in fact, there have not been actual instances where it’s been alleged that the NSA in some ways acted inappropriately in the use of this data. But what is also clear is from the public debate, people are concerned about the prospect, the possibility of abuse. And I think that’s what the judge in the district court suggested. And although his opinion obviously differs from rulings on the FISA Court, we’re taking those into account.

The question we’re going to have to ask is can we accomplish the same goals that this program is intended to accomplish in ways that give the public more confidence that in fact the NSA is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. I have confidence in the fact that the NSA is not engaging in domestic surveillance or snooping around, but I also recognize that as technologies change and people can start running algorithms and programs that map out all the information that we’re downloading on a daily basis into our telephones and our computers that we may have to refine this further to give people more confidence. And I’m going to be working very hard on doing that.

And we’ve got to provide more confidence to the international community. In some ways, what has been more challenging is the fact that we do have a lot of laws and checks and balances and safeguards and audits when it comes to making sure that the NSA and other intelligence agencies are not spying on Americans. We’ve had less legal constraint in terms of what we’re doing internationally.

But I think part of what’s been interesting about this whole exercise is recognizing that in a virtual world, some of these boundaries don’t matter anymore. And just because we can do something doesn’t mean we necessarily should, and the values that we’ve got as Americans are ones that we have to be willing to apply beyond our borders, I think, perhaps more systematically than we’ve done in the past.

OK, Ed Henry.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President.

I want to follow up on that because — and merry Christmas, by the way.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Merry Christmas, Ed.

Q: When Edward Snowden first started leaking the information, you made a statement on June 7th in California. And you claimed to the American people that you had already reformed many of these surveillance programs, that you came to office, quote, “my team evaluated them; we scrubbed them thoroughly; we actually expanded some of the oversight.” And you did expand some of the things.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yes.

Q: You also said, we may have to rebalance some, there may be changes. But you concluded with, quote, “you can complain about Big Brother and how this is a potential program run amok, but when you actually look at the details, then I think we’ve struck the right balance.”

That was only six months ago. Now, there’s judges are saying no; your own panel is saying no; even you’re saying no, we haven’t really struck the right balance, perhaps, that changes have to be made.

My question is, were you wrong then because you were not fully read in, not just on these programs, but on other programs, outside of the ones you just talked about, where we were potentially listening in on the German leaders, the Brazilian leaders and others, that suggest there were abuses, number one?

And number two, if you — if you were fully read in on these programs, is it another example of what Judy was — Julie was getting at, with this question of credibility with the American people, that just like on health care, you like your plan; you can keep it? On surveillance, you looked the American people in the eye six months ago and said, we’ve got the right balance. And six months later, you’re saying, maybe not.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, hold on a second, I — I think it’s important to note that, when it comes to the right balance on surveillance, these are a series of judgment calls that we’re making every single day because we’ve got a whole bunch of folks whose job it is to make sure that the American people are protected.

And that’s a hard job because if something slips, then the question that’s coming from you the next day at a press conference is, Mr. President, why didn’t you catch that; why did the intelligence people allow that to slip; isn’t there a way that we could have found out that in fact this terrorist attack took place.

Q: (Inaudible) — why did you say that you struck the right balance.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: So the — so the point is, Ed, not that my assessment of the 215 program has changed in terms of technically how it works. What is absolutely clear to me is that given the public debate that’s taken place and the disclosures that have taken place over the last several months that this is only going to work if the American people have confidence and trust.

Now, part of the challenge is, is that because of the manner in which these disclosures took place, in dribs and drabs, oftentimes shaded in a particular way, and because of some of the constraints that we’ve had in terms of declassifying information and getting it out there, that that trust in how many safeguards exist and how these programs are run has been diminished. So what’s going to be important is to build that back up. And I take that into account in weighing how we structure these programs.

So let me just be very specific on the 215 program. It is possible, for example, that some of the same information that the intelligence community feels is required to keep people safe can be obtained by having the private phone companies keep these records longer and to create some mechanism where they can be accessed in an effective fashion.

That might cost more. There might need to be different checks on how those requests are made. There may be technological solutions that have to be found to do that.

And the question that we’re asking ourselves now is, does that make sense not only because of the fact that there are concerns about potential abuse down the road with the metadata that’s being kept by a government, rather than private companies, but also does it make sense to do because people right now are concerned that maybe their phone calls are being listened to, even if they’re not, and we’ve got to factor that in.

So I — I — my point is — is that the environment has changed in ways that I think require us to take that into account. But the analysis that I’ve been doing throughout has always been, you know, periodically looking at what we’re doing and asking ourselves, are we doing this in the right way; are we making sure that we’re keeping the American can people safe, number one; are we also being true to our civil liberties and our privacy and our values?

Q: Well, I understand it’s a tough job.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Right.

Q: And God forbid there’s another terror attack. Every one of us is going to be second-guessing you, and that is extremely difficult, to be in the Oval Office.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s OK. I volunteered.

Q: But as you said, you took that on.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Yeah.

Q: You put it on your back. And so my question is, do you have any personal regrets? You’re not addressing the fact the public statements you’ve made to reassure the public — your director of national intelligence, James Clapper, months ago went up, got a question from a Democrat, not a Republican, about whether some of this was going on, and he denied it.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: But does — but Ed —

Q: Doesn’t that undermine the public trust?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: — Ed, you’re conflating, first of all, me and — and Mr. Clapper —

Q: He’s director of national — and he’s still on the job.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I understand. I understand. But what I’m — what I’m saying is this: that yes, these are tough problems that I am glad to have the privilege of tackling.

Your initial question was whether the statements that I made six months ago are ones that I don’t stand by. And what I’m saying is that the statements I made then are entirely consistent with the statements that I make now, which is that we believed that we had scrubbed these programs and struck an appropriate balance, and there had not been evidence, and there continues not to be evidence that the particular program had been abused in how it was used and that it was a useful tool, working with other tools the intelligence community has, to ensure that if we have a thread on a potential terrorist threat, that that can be followed effectively.

What I have also said, though, is that in light of the disclosures that have taken place, it is clear that whatever benefits the configuration of this particular program may have may be outweighed by the concerns that people have on its potential abuse. And if that’s the case, there may be another way of skinning the cat.

So we just keep on going at this stuff and saying, can we do this better? Can we do this more effectively? I think that the panels’ recommendations are consistent with that. So if you — if you had a chance to read the overall recommendations, what they were very clear about is, we need this intelligence. We can’t unilaterally disarm.

There are ways we can do it, potentially, that gives people greater assurance that there are checks and balances — that there’s sufficient oversight and sufficient transparency. Programs like 215 could be redesigned in ways that give you the same information when you need it without creating these potentials for abuse, and that’s exactly what we should be doing, is to evaluate all these things in a very clear, specific way and moving forward on changes.

And that’s what I intend to do.

Q: (Off mic) — you have no regrets?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s what I intend to do.

Jon Karl.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. It’s been a tough year. You may not want to call it the worst year of your presidency, but it’s clearly been a tough year. The polls have gone up and down, but they are at a low point right now. So what I’m asking you — you’ve acknowledged the difficulties with the health care rollout. But when you look back and you look at the decisions that you have made and what you did, what you didn’t do, for you personally, what do you think has been your biggest mistake?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: With respect to health care specifically or just generally?

Q: The whole thing, look back at this tough year.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, there’s no doubt that — that when it — when it came to the health care rollout, even though I was meeting every other week or every three weeks with folks and emphasizing how important it was that consumers had a good experience, an easy experience in getting the information they need and knowing what the choices and options were for them to be able to get high-quality, affordable health care, the fact is it didn’t happen in the first month, the first six weeks, in a way that was at all acceptable. And since I’m in charge, obviously, we screwed it up.

Part of it, as I’ve said before, had to do with how IT procurement generally is done, and it almost predates this year. Part of it obviously had to do with the fact that there were not clear enough lines of authority in terms of who was in charge of the technology and cracking the whip on a whole bunch of contractors. So there are a whole bunch of things that we’ve been taking a look at.

And I’m going to be making appropriate adjustments once we get through this year and we’ve gotten through the initial surge of people who have been signing up.

But, you know, having said all that, the bottom line also is that we’ve got — several million people are going to have health care that works. And it’s not that I don’t engage in a lot of self- reflection here. I promise you, I probably beat myself up, you know, even worse that you or Ed Henry does — (laughter) — on any given day. But I’ve also got to wake up in the morning and make sure that I do better the next day and that we keep moving forward.

And when I look at the landscape for next year, what I say to myself is: We’re poised to do really good things. The economy is stronger than it has been in a very long time. Our next challenge then is to make sure that everybody benefits from that and not just a few folks. And there’s still too many people who haven’t seen a raise and are still feeling financially insecure. We can get immigration reform done. We’ve got a concept that has bipartisan support. Let’s see if we can break through the politics on this.

You know, I think that hopefully folks have learned their lesson in terms of brinksmanship coming out of the — coming out of the government shutdown. You know there have been times where I’ve thought about, were there other ways that I could have prevented that — those three, four weeks that hampered the economy and hurt individuals families who were not getting a paycheck during that time? Absolutely, but I also think that in some ways, given the pattern that we have been going through with House Republicans for a while, we might have needed just a little bit of a bracing sort of recognition that this is not what the American people think is acceptable.

They want us to try to solve problems and be practical, even if we can’t get everything done.

So, you know, the end of the year is always a good time to reflect and see what can you do better next year. That’s how I intend to approach it. I am sure that I will have even better ideas after a couple days of sleep and sun.

Brianna.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. On the debt ceiling, your Treasury secretary has estimated that the U.S. government will lose its ability to pay its bills come late February or early March. House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan has said that Republicans are going to decide what it is they can accomplish out of this debt limit fight — his words. Will you negotiate with House Republicans on the debt ceiling?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Oh, Brianna, you know the answer to his question. No, we’re not going to negotiate for Congress to pay bills that it has accrued.

Here’s the good news. And I want to — I want to emphasize the positive as we enter into this holiday season. I think Congressman Ryan and Senator Murray did a good job in trying to narrow the differences and actually pass a budget that I can sign. It’s not everything that I would like, obviously. It buys back part of these across-the-board cuts, the so-called sequester, but not all of it. So we’re still underfunding research. We’re still underfunding education. We’re still underfunding transportation and other initiatives that would create jobs right now.

But you know, it was an honest conversation. They operated in good faith.

And given how far apart the parties have been on fiscal issues, they should take pride in what they did. And I actually called them after they struck the deal, and I said, congratulations. And I hope that creates a good pattern for next year, where work on, at least, the things we agreed to, even if we agree to disagree on some of the other big-ticket items.

I think immigration potentially falls in that categories, where, let’s — here’s an area where we’ve got bipartisan agreement. There are a few differences here and there, but the truth of the matter is that the Senate bill has the main components of comprehensive immigration reform that would boost our economy, give us an opportunity to attract more investment and high-skilled workers who are doing great things in places like Silicon Valley and around the country. So let’s go ahead and get that done.

Now, I can’t imagine that having seen this possible daylight breaking when it comes to cooperation in Congress, that folks are thinking, actually, about plunging us back into the kinds of brinksmanship and governance by crisis that has done us so much harm over the last couple of years.

To repeat, the debt ceiling is raised simply to pay bills that we have already accrued; it is not something that is a negotiating tool. It’s not leverage. It’s the responsibility of Congress; it’s part of doing their job. I expect them to do their job, although I’m happy to talk to them about any of the issues that they actually want to get done. So if Congressman Ryan is interested in tax reform, let’s go.

I’ve got some proposals on it. If he’s interested in any issue out there, I’m willing to have a constructive conversation of the sort that we just had in resolving the budget issues. But I’ve — I’ve got to assume folks aren’t crazy enough to start that thing all over again.

Q: If I may, just quickly on a more personal note, what is your New Year’s resolution?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: My New Year’s resolution is to be nicer to the White House press corps. (Laughter.) You know? Absolutely.

Q: All right.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Major Garrett.

Q: That’s quite a lead-in, Mr. President. Thank you.

Rick Leggett, who is the head of the NSA task force on Edward Snowden, told “60 Minutes” that it was, quote, “worth having a conversation about granting Edward Snowden amnesty.” To what degree, sir, were you pleased that he floated this trial balloon? And under what circumstances would you consider either a plea agreement or amnesty for Edward Snowden?

And what do you say to Americans, sir, who after possibly being alerted to Judge Leon’s decision earlier this week, reading the panel recommendations, believe Edward Snowden set in motion something that is proper and just in this country about the scope of surveillance, and should not be considered by the government a criminal?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I’ve got to be careful here, Major, because Mr. Snowden is under indictment. He has been charged with — with crimes, and that’s the province of the attorney general and ultimately, a judge and a jury. So I — I can’t weigh in specifically on this case at this point. I’ll — I’ll make — I’ll try to see if I can get at the — the spirit of the question, even if I can’t talk about the specifics.

I have said before and I believe that this is an important conversation that we needed to have. I have also said before that the way in which these disclosures happened have been — have been damaging to the United States and damaging to our intelligence capabilities.

And I think that there was a way for us to have this conversation without that damage.

I’ll give you just one specific example.

The — the fact of the matter is that the United States, for all our warts, is a country that abides by rule of law, that cares deeply about privacy, that cares about civil liberties, that cares about our Constitution. And as a consequence of these disclosures, we’ve got countries who actually do the things that Mr. Snowden says he’s worried about, very explicitly — engaging in surveillance of their own citizens, targeting political dissidents, targeting and suppressing the press, who somehow are able to sit on the sidelines and act as if it’s the United States that has problems when it comes to surveillance and intelligence operations. And that’s a pretty distorted view of what’s going on out there.

So I think that, as important and as necessary as this debate has been, it is also important to keep in mind that this has done unnecessary damage to U.S. intelligence capabilities and U.S. diplomacy. But I will leave it up to the courts and the attorney general to weigh in publicly on the specifics of Mr. Snowden’s case.

Q: But sir, if I could follow up, Mr. Leggett is setting this in motion, at least raising this as a topic of conversation. You, sir, would, I’m certain, be consulted if there was ever going to be a conversation about amnesty or a plea bargain for Edward Snowden.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I said — I think that’s true, Major. And I guess what I’m saying is there’s —

Q: Would you rule it out forever, that you would never consider it?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: What I’m saying is, is that there’s a difference between Mr. Leggett saying something and the president of the United States saying something.

Q: That’s why I’m trying to get you (to say it ?).

PRESIDENT OBAMA: That’s exactly right. (Laughter.)

Chuck Todd.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. And merry Christmas, and happy new year. You’ve talked about the issues with health care and the website rollout, but there have been other issues, the misinformation about people keeping their policies, the extended deadlines, some postponements. We have a new waiver that HHS announced last night. How do you expect Americans to have confidence and certainty in this law if you keep changing it? This one here, this new waiver last night — could argue you might as well have just delayed the mandate.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, no, that’s not true because what we’re talking about is a very specific population that received cancelation notices from insurance companies. The majority of them are either keeping their old plan because the grandfather clause has been extended further or they’re finding a better deal in the marketplace with better insurance or cheaper costs. But there may still be a subset, a significantly smaller subset than some of the numbers that have been advertised, that are still looking for options, are still concerned about what they’re going to be doing next year. And we just wanted to make sure that the hardship provision that was already existing in the law would also potentially apply to somebody who had problems during this transition period. So that’s the specifics of this latest change.

You’re making a broader point that — that I think is fair.

And that is that in a big project like this, that what we are constantly doing is looking — is this working the way it’s supposed to, and if there are adjustments that can be made to smooth out the transition, we should make them.

But they don’t go to the core of the law. First of all, the core of the law is, is that for 85 percent of the population, all they’ve been getting is free preventive care, better consumer protections, the ability to keep their kids on their insurance plan till they’re 26, thousand-dollar or $500 discounts on prescription drugs for seniors on Medicare. So 85 percent of the population, whether they know it or not, over the last three years have benefited from a whole set of the provisions of the law.

And by the way, if it were to be repealed, you would be taking away all those benefits from — from folks who already are enjoying them.

You have this subportion of the population, 15 percent, who either don’t have health insurance or are buying it on the individual market. And that’s still millions of people. And what we’re doing is creating a marketplace where they can buy insurance, and we can provide them some tax credits to help them afford it.

The basic structure of that law is working, despite all the problems. Despite the website problems, despite the messaging problems, despite all that, it’s working. And again, you don’t have to take my word for it. We’ve got a couple million people who are going to have health insurance just in the first three months, despite the fact that probably the first month and a half was lost because of problems with the website and about as bad a bunch of publicity as you could imagine.

And yet, you’ve still got 2 million people who signed up — or more. And so, what that means, then, is that the demand is there, and as I said before, the product is good.

Now, in putting something like this together, there are going to be all kinds of problems that crop up, some of which may have been unanticipated. And what we’ve been trying to do is just respond to them in a common-sense way, and we’re going to continue to try to do that. But that doesn’t negate the fact that, you know, a year from now or two years from now, when we look back, we’re going to be able to say that even more people have health insurance who didn’t have it before.

And that’s not a bad thing; that’s a good thing. That is part of the reason why I pushed so hard to get this law done in the first place. And — you know, I’ve said before that this is a messy process. And I think, sometimes, when I say that, people say, well, A, yeah, it’s real messy, and B, you know, isn’t — isn’t the fact that it’s been so messy some indication that there are more fundamental problems with the law?

And I guess what I’d say to that, Chuck, is, when you try to do something this big affecting this many people, it’s going to be hard. And every instance — whether it’s Social Security, Medicare, the prescription drug plan under President Bush — there hasn’t been an instance where you’ve tried to really have an impact on the American peoples’ lives and well-being, particularly in the health care arena where you don’t end up having some of these challenges.

The question is going to be, ultimately, do we make good decisions trying to help as many people as possible in as efficient a way as possible? And I think that’s what we’re doing.

Q: But with 72 hours to go, you make this change where people are buying the junk — frankly, a junk-type policy that you weren’t — you were trying to get people away from.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, do keep in mind, Chuck, first of all, that the majority of folks are going to have different options. This is essentially an additional net in case folks might have slipped through the cracks. We don’t have precision on those numbers, but we expect it’s going to be a relatively small number because these are folks who want insurance, and the vast majority of them have good options. And in a state like North Carolina, for example, the overwhelming majority of them have just kept their own plans, so — the ones that they had previously.

But we thought and continue to think that it makes sense that as we are transitioning to a system in which insurance standards are higher, people don’t have unpleasant surprises because they thought they had insurance until they hit a limit, and next thing you know they still owe a hundred thousand or 200(,000 dollars) or $300,000 for a hospital visit, that as we transition to higher standards, better insurance, that we also address folks who get caught in that transition and their unintended consequences.

And I’ll — that was the original intent of the grandfather clause that was in the law. Obviously, the problem was it didn’t catch enough people. And you know, we learned from that, and we’re trying not to repeat those mistakes.

Q: But the mandate will be enforced — (off mic) —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Absolutely, yeah.

Let’s see, Phil Mattingly.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. What was the message you were trying to send with not only your decision not to attend the Sochi games, but also with the people you named to the delegation to represent the United States at those games?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, first of all, I haven’t attended Olympics in the past and I suspect that, you know — you know, me attending Olympics, particularly at a time when we’ve got all the other stuff that people have been talking about, is going to be tough, although I would love to do it. I’ll be going to a lot of Olympic Games post- presidency. (Laughter.)

I think the delegation speaks for itself. You’ve got outstanding Americans, outstanding athletes, people who will represent us extraordinarily well. And, you know, the fact that we’ve got folks like Billie Jean King or Brian Boitano, who themselves have been world-class athletes that everybody acknowledges for their excellence but also for their character, who also happen to be members of the LGBT community, you should take that for what it’s worth, that when it comes to the Olympics and athletic performance we don’t make distinctions on the basis of sexual orientation. We judge people on how they perform, both on the court and off the court, on the field and off the field. And that’s a value that I think is at the heart of not just America but American sports.

I’m going to just roll down these last few real quickly: Ari Shapiro, last day at the White House. He deserves a question. (Laughter.)

Q: Thank you very much, Mr. President. Senator Max Baucus was widely seen as the best hope for a large-scale deal to overhaul the tax code. What does your decision to nominate him as ambassador to China say about your hopes for a major tax bill in your second term?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: It says that Max Baucus is going to be an outstanding ambassador to China, and I’d like a swift confirmation.

And my expectation and hope is — is that if both Senate Democrats — or if Democrats and Republicans in the House and the Senate are serious about tax reform, then it’s not going to depend on one guy; it’s going to depend on all of us working together. And my office is ready, willing and eager to engage both parties in having a conversation about how we can simplify the tax code, make it fairer, make it work to create more jobs and do right by middle-class Americans.

Jackie Calmes.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President. And how do you say it in Hawaii? “Mele Kalikimaka.”

PRESIDENT OBAMA: “Mele Kalikimaka.” (Laughter.)

Q: Since we’ve been looking back at the year, I’d like to ask you what your reaction was to the nonpartisan truth-telling group PolitiFact when it said that the Lie of the Year was your statement that if you like your health care plan, you can keep it.

And related to the health care problems that we’ve seen over the past year, the fallout from that seems to be making Democrats, particularly in the Senate, a little rambunctious and independent of you, which is evidenced most clearly in the debate over the Iran sanctions. It looks like Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has expedited consideration of an Iran sanctions bill for January, even as your administration and you have been trying to get them to lay off sanctions while you’re —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Jackie, I got to say, you’re — you’re stringing a bunch of things along here. Let’s — let’s —

Q: Well —

PRESIDENT OBAMA: — let’s see if we can hone in on a question. I mean, I — I —

Q: Two questions.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well — (chuckles) —

Q: That’s a lot less than Ed Henry had. (Laughter, groans.)

Q: Wow! I thought we were trying to get along — (inaudible).

PRESIDENT OBAMA: All right. (Inaudible.) Now I can see who’s —

Q: (Inaudible) — you — (inaudible) — each other.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: (Chuckles.) The — how about I separate out the Iran question separate out the Iran question from the health care question?

On the health care question — look, I think I’ve answered it several times — this is a new iteration of it — but bottom line is that, you know, we are going to continue to work every single day to make sure that implementation of the health care law and the website and all elements of it, including the grandfather clause, work better every single day.

And as I’ve said in previous press conferences — you know, we’re going to make mistakes and we’re going to have problems, but my intentions have been clear throughout, which is, I just want to help as many people as possible feel secure and make sure that they don’t go broke when they get sick. And we’re just going to keep on doing that.

On Iran, there is the possibility of a resolution to a problem that has been a challenge for American national security for over a decade now. And that is getting Iran to, in a verifiable fashion, not pursue a nuclear weapon. Already, even with the interim deal that we struck in Geneva, we have the first halt, and in some cases, some rollback of Iran’s nuclear capabilities — the first time that we’ve seen that in almost decade.

And we now have a structure in which we can have a very serious conversation to see, is it possible for Iran to get right with the international community in a verifiable fashion to give us all confidence that any peaceful nuclear program that they have is not going to be weaponized in a way that threatens us or our allies in the region, including Israel.

And as I’ve said before and I will repeat, it is very important for us to test whether that’s possible, not because it’s guaranteed, but because the alternative is possibly us having to engage in some sort of conflict to resolve the problem, with all kinds of unintended consequences.

Now, I’ve been very clear from the start, I mean what I say. It is my goal to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. But I sure would rather to it diplomatically. I’m keeping all options on the table, but if I can do it diplomatically, that’s how we should do it, and I would think that would be the preference of everybody up on Capitol Hill, because that sure is the preference of the American people.

And we lose nothing during this negotiation period, precisely because there are verification provisions in place. We will have more insight into Iran’s nuclear program over the next six months than we have previously; we’ll know if they are violating the terms of the agreement; they’re not allowed to accelerate their stockpile of enriched uranium; in fact, they have to reduce their stockpile of highly enriched uranium. Ironically, if we did not have this six- month period in which we’re testing whether we can get a comprehensive solution to this problem, they would be advancing even further on their nuclear program.

And in light of all that, what I’ve said to members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, is there is no need for new sanctions legislation, not yet.

Now, if Iran comes back and says, we can’t give you assurances that we’re not going to weaponize, if they’re not willing to address some of their capabilities that we know could end up resulting in them having breakout capacity, it’s not going to be hard for us to turn the dials back, strengthen sanctions even further. I’ll work with members of Congress to put even more pressure on Iran. But there’s no reason to do it right now.

And so I’m not surprised that there’s been some talk from some members of Congress about new sanctions. I think the politics of trying to look tough on Iran are often good when you’re running for office or if you’re in office. But as president of the United States right now who’s been responsible over the last four years, with the help of Congress, in putting together a comprehensive sanctions regime that was specifically designed to put pressure on them and bring them to the table to negotiate, what I’m saying to them, what I’ve said to the international community and what I’ve said to the American people is let’s test it. Now’s the time to try to see if we can get this thing done.

And — and I’ve heard some logic that says, well, Mr. President, we’re — we’re supportive of — of the negotiations, but we think it’s really useful to have this club hanging over Iran’s head. Well, first of all, we still have the existing sanctions already in place that are resulting in Iran losing billions of dollars every month in lost oil sales.

We already have banking and financial sanctions that are still being applied, even as the negotiations are taking place. It’s not as if we’re letting up on that.

So I’ve heard arguments, well, but you know, this way we can assured and the Iranians will know that if negotiations fail even new and harsher sanctions will be put into place. Listen, I don’t think the Iranians have any doubt that Congress would be more than happy to pass more sanctions legislation. We can do that in a — in a day, on a dime.

But if we’re serious about negotiations, we’ve got to create an atmosphere in which Iran in willing to move in ways that are uncomfortable for them and contrary to their ideology and rhetoric and their instincts and their suspicions of us. and we don’t — we don’t help get them to a position where we can actually resolve this by engaging in this kind of — this kind of action.

All right? OK, everybody. I think I’m going to take one more question, Colleen McCain Nelson, and that is it.

Q: Thank you, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: There you go.

Q: Some of your long-time advisers and new folks are coming in. Others are taking on new roles in the west wing. As you reshape your team a bit, how does that change the dynamic here and how does it impact what you think you can accomplish going forward?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: You know, I just had lunch with Pete Rouse, who’s — who’s leaving me. And that’s tough.

Q: He says so?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: He says so, not right now, at least. No, I — you know, I — I love that guy. And — and that will be a significant loss, although he’ll still be in town and hopefully I’ll be able to consult with him on an ongoing basis.

I think the fact that John Podesta’s coming in will be terrific. He may deny it, but I’ve been trying to get him in here for quite some time. He ran my transition office. I asked him when he was running the transition office if he would be willing to join us, and at that time, I think he was still feeling that he wanted to develop CAP and other organizations.

But you know, John’s a great strategist, he is as good as anybody on domestic policy, and I think he’ll be a — a huge boost to us and give us more bandwidth to deal with more issues.

I suspect that we may have additional announcements in the new year. You know, there’s — there’s a natural turnover that takes place. People get tired; people get worn out. Sometimes, you need fresh legs. But what I can tell you is the — the team I have now is tireless and shares my values, and believes the thing that I think I have repeated probably four or five times in this press conference, which is we get this incredible privilege for a pretty short period of time to do as much as we can for as many people as we can to help them live better lives.

And that’s what drives them and that’s the sacrifice they make, being away from families and soccer games and birthdays, and some of them will end up working over Christmas on issues like Iran. And the fact that they make those kinds of sacrifices, I am always grateful for.

And if they then say to me after making those sacrifices for three, four, five years, you know, I need a break, you know, then — then I completely understand.

All right, have a great holiday, everybody. Appreciate you.

Q: Merry Christmas.

Q: Merry Christmas.

Q: Happy new year.

Transcript courtesy of Federal News Service. 

Political Headlines December 20, 2013: Live Coverage of President Obama’s Year-End Press Conference

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Live Coverage of Obama’s News Conference

Source: NYT, 12-20-13

Play video

Saul Loeb/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

LIVE VIDEO  President Obama is answering reporters’ questions during his year-end news conference.

President Obama spoke about the N.S.A., health law signups and the ambitions of his second term….READ MORE

Political Musings December 4, 2013: Obama launches campaign to sell health care law after HealthCare.gov repaired

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama launches campaign to sell health care law after HealthCare.gov repaired

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama launched on Tuesday afternoon, Dec. 3, 2013 a three-week public relations campaign to sell his health care law, the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. After the White House met their Nov. 30 deadline to…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency December 3, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Selling the health Care Law, the Affordable Care Act and the relaunch of HealthCare.gov

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Affordable Care Act

Source: WH, 12-3-13

President Obama Speaks on the Affordable Care Act

President Obama Speaks on the Affordable Care Act

South Court Auditorium
Eisenhower Executive Office Building

2:45 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thanks to Monica, thanks to everybody standing behind me, and thanks for everybody out there who cares deeply about this issue.  Monica’s story is important because for all the day-to-day fights here in Washington around the Affordable Care Act, it’s stories like hers that should remind us why we took on this reform in the first place.

And for too long, few things left working families more vulnerable to the anxieties and insecurities of today’s economy than a broken health care system.  So we took up the fight because we believe that, in America, nobody should have to worry about going broke just because somebody in their family or they get sick.  We believe that nobody should have to choose between putting food on their kids’ table or taking them to see a doctor.  We believe we’re a better country than a country where we allow, every day, 14,000 Americans to lose their health coverage; or where every year, tens of thousands of Americans died because they didn’t have health care; or where out-of-pocket costs drove millions of citizens into poverty in the wealthiest nation on Earth.  We thought we were better than that, and that’s why we took this on.  (Applause.)

And that’s what’s gotten lost a little bit over the last couple of months.  And our focus, rightly, had to shift towards working 24/7 to fix the website, healthcare.gov, for the new marketplaces where people can buy affordable insurance plans.  And today, the website is working well for the vast majority of users.  More problems may pop up, as they always do when you’re launching something new.  And when they do, we’ll fix those, too.  But what we also know is that after just the first month, despite all the problems in the rollout, about half a million people across the country are poised to gain health care coverage through marketplaces and Medicaid beginning on January 1st — some for the very first time.  We know that — half a million people.  (Applause.)  And that number is increasing every day and it is going to keep growing and growing and growing, because we know that there are 41 million people out there without health insurance.  And we know there are a whole bunch of folks out there who are underinsured or don’t have a good deal.  And we know the demand is there and we know that the product on these marketplaces is good and it provides choice and competition for people that allow them, in some cases for the very first time, to have the security that health insurance can provide.

The bottom line is this law is working and will work into the future.  People want the financial stability of health insurance.  And we’re going to keep on working to fix whatever problems come up in any startup, any launch of a project this big that has an impact on one-sixth of our economy, whatever comes up we’re going to just fix it because we know that the ultimate goal, the ultimate aim, is to make sure that people have basic security and the foundation for the good health that they need.

Now, we may never satisfy the law’s opponents.  I think that’s fair to say.  Some of them are rooting for this law to fail — that’s not my opinion, by the way, they say it pretty explicitly.  (Laughter.)  Some have already convinced themselves that the law has failed, regardless of the evidence.  But I would advise them to check with the people who are here today and the people that they represent all across the country whose lives have been changed for the better by the Affordable Care Act.

The other day I got a letter from Julia Walsh in California.  Earlier this year, Julia was diagnosed with leukemia and lymphoma.  “I have a lot of things to worry about,” she wrote.  “But thanks to the [Affordable Care Act], there are lots of things I do not have to worry about, like…whether there will be a lifetime cap on benefits, [or] whether my treatment will bankrupt my family…I can’t begin to tell you how much that peace of mind means…”  That’s what the Affordable Care Act means to Julia.  She already had insurance, by the way, but because this law banned lifetime limits on the care you or your family can receive, she’s never going to have to choose between providing for her kids or getting herself well — she can do both.

Sam Weir, a doctor in North Carolina, emailed me the other day.  “The coming years will be challenging for all of us in family medicine,” he wrote.  “But my colleagues and I draw strength from knowing that beginning with the new year the preventive care many of our current patients have been putting off will be covered and the patients we have not yet seen will finally be able to get the care that they have long needed.”  That’s the difference that the Affordable Care Act will make for many of Dr. Weir’s patients.  Because more than 100 million Americans with insurance have gained access to recommended preventive care like mammograms, or colonoscopies, or flu shots, or contraception to help them stay healthy — at no out-of-pocket cost.  (Applause.)

At the young age of 23, Justine Ula is battling cancer for the second time.  And the other day, her mom, Joann, emailed me from Cleveland University Hospital where Justine is undergoing treatment.  She told me she stopped by the pharmacy to pick up Justine’s medicine.  If Justine were uninsured, it would have cost her $4,500.  But she is insured — because the Affordable Care Act has let her and three million other young people like Monica gain coverage by staying on their parents’ plan until they’re 26.  (Applause.)  And that means Justine’s mom, all she had to cover was the $25 co-pay.

Because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 7 million seniors and Americans with disabilities have saved an average of $1,200 on their prescription medicine.  (Applause.)  This year alone, 8.5 million families have actually gotten an average of $100 back from their insurance company — you don’t hear that very often — (laughter) — because it spent too much on things like overhead, and not enough on their care.  And, by the way, health care costs are rising at the slowest rate in 50 years.  So we’re actually bending the cost of health care overall, which benefits everybody.  (Applause.)

So that’s what this law means to millions of Americans.  And my main message today is:  We’re not going back.  We’re not going to betray Monica, or Julia, or Sam, or Justine, or Joann.  (Applause.)  I mean, that seems to be the only alternative that Obamacare’s critics have is, well, let’s just go back to the status quo — because they sure haven’t presented an alternative.  If you ask many of the opponents of this law what exactly they’d do differently, their answer seems to be, well, let’s go back to the way things used to be.

Just the other day, the Republican Leader in the Senate was asked what benefits people without health care might see from this law.  And he refused to answer, even though there are dozens in this room and tens of thousands in his own state who are already on track to benefit from it.  He just repeated “repeal” over and over and over again.  And obviously we’ve heard that from a lot of folks on that side of the aisle.

Look, I’ve always said I will work with anybody to implement and improve this law effectively.  If you’ve got good ideas, bring them to me.  Let’s go.  But we’re not repealing it as long as I’m President and I want everybody to be clear about that.  (Applause.)

We will make it work for all Americans.  If you don’t like this law — (applause) — so, if despite all the millions of people who are benefitting from it, you still think this law is a bad idea then you’ve got to tell us specifically what you’d do differently to cut costs, cover more people, make insurance more secure.  You can’t just say that the system was working with 41 million people without health insurance.  You can’t just say that the system is working when you’ve got a whole bunch of folks who thought they had decent insurance and then when they got sick, it turned out it wasn’t there for them or they were left with tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs that were impossible for them to pay.

Right now, what that law is doing — (baby talks.)  Yes, you agree with me.  (Laughter.)  Right now, what this law is doing is helping folks and we’re just getting started with the exchanges, just getting started with the marketplaces.  So we’re not going to walk away from it.  If I’ve got to fight another three years to make sure this law works, then that’s what I’ll do.  That’s what we’ll do.  (Applause.)

But what’s important for everybody to remember is not only that the law has already helped millions of people but that there are millions more who stand to be helped.  And we’ve got to make sure they know that.  And I’ve said very clearly that our poor execution in the first couple months on the website clouded the fact that there are a whole bunch of people who stand to benefit.  Now that the website is working for the vast majority of people, we need to make sure that folks refocus on what’s at stake here, which is the capacity for you or your families to be able to have the security of decent health insurance at a reasonable cost through choice and competition on this marketplace and tax credits that you may be eligible for that can save you hundreds of dollars in premium costs every month, potentially.

So we just need people to — now that we are getting the technology fixed — we need you to go back, take a look at what’s actually going on, because it can make a difference in your lives and the lives of your families.  And maybe it won’t make a difference right now if you’re feeling healthy, but I promise you, if somebody in your family — heaven forbid — gets sick, you’ll see the difference.  And it will make all the difference for you and your families.

So I’m going to need some help in spreading the word — I’m going to need some help in spreading the word.  I need you to spread the word about the law, about its benefits, about its protections, about how folks can sign up.  Tell your friends.  Tell your family.  Do not let the initial problems with the website discourage you because it’s working better now and it’s just going to keep on working better over time.  Every day I check to make sure that it’s working better.  (Laughter.)  And we’ve learned not to make wild promises about how perfectly smooth it’s going to be at all time, but if you really want health insurance through the marketplaces, you’re going to be able to get on and find the information that you need for your families at healthcare.gov.

So if you’ve already got health insurance or you’ve already taken advantage of the Affordable Care Act, you’ve got to tell your friends, you’ve got to tell your family.  Tell your coworkers.  Tell your neighbors.  Let’s help our fellow Americans get covered.  Let’s give every American a fighting chance in today’s economy.

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

END
2:59 P.M. EST

Political Musings November 14, 2013: Obama offers health care fix for Americans with cancelled policies is it enough?

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama announced during a press conference in the White House briefing room on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013 that Americans with cancelled insurance would be allowed to keep their policies that do not fit…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency November 14, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Press Conference Announcing Fix for Americans Receiving Health Insurance Cancellation

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

President Obama Announces New Steps to Help Americans Receiving Insurance Cancellation Notices

Source: WH, 11-14-13 

President Barack Obama answers questions at a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White HousePresident Barack Obama answers questions at a news conference in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Nov. 14, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Statement by the President on the Affordable Care Act

Source: WH, 11-14-13

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

12:02 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Today I want to update the American people on our efforts to implement and improve the Affordable Care Act, and I’ll take a couple of your questions.  But before I do, I just want to say a few words about the tragedy that’s unfolded in the Philippines.

Over the past few days, I think all of us have been shaken by the images of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan.  It’s a heartbreaking reminder of how fragile life is, and among the dead are several Americans.  So our prayers are with the Filipino people, and with Filipino Americans across our country who are anxious about their family and friends back home.

One of our core principles is, when friends are in trouble, America helps.  As I told President Aquino earlier this week, the United States will continue to offer whatever assistance we can.  Our military personnel and USAID team do this better than anybody in the world, and they’ve been already on the ground working tirelessly to deliver food, water, medicine, shelter, and to help with airlift.  Today, the aircraft carrier USS George Washington and other ships arrived to help with search- and-rescue, as well as supplies, medical care and logistical support.  And more help is on the way.

America’s strength, of course, has always been more than just about what our government can do –- it’s also about what our citizens can do.  It’s about the big-heartedness of the American people when they see other folks in trouble.  So today, I would encourage everybody who wants to help, to visit WhiteHouse.gov/typhoon — that’s WhiteHouse.gov/typhoon — and that will offer you links to organizations that are working on the ground and ways that you can support their efforts.  Our friends in the Philippines will face a long, hard road ahead, but they’ll continue to have a friend and partner in the United States of America.

Now, switching gears, it has now been six weeks since the Affordable Care Act’s new marketplace has opened for business.  I think it’s fair to say that the rollout has been rough so far.  And I think everybody understands that I’m not happy about the fact that the rollout has been wrought with a whole range of problems that I’ve been deeply concerned about.  But today I want to talk about what we know after these first few weeks and what we’re doing to implement and improve the law.

Yesterday, the White House announced that in the first month, more than 100,000 Americans successfully enrolled in new insurance plans.  Is that as high a number as we’d like?  Absolutely not.  But it does mean that people want affordable health care.  The problems of the website have prevented too many Americans from completing the enrollment process.  And that’s on us, not on them.  But there is no question that there’s real demand for quality, affordable health insurance.

In the first month, nearly a million people successfully completed an application for themselves or their families.  Those applications represent more than 1.5 million people.  Of those 1.5 million people, 106,000 of them have successfully signed up to get covered.

Another 396,000 have the ability to gain access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  That’s been less reported on, but it shouldn’t be.  Americans who are having a difficult time, who are poor, many of them working, may have a disability; they’re Americans like everybody else, and the fact that they are now able to get insurance is going to be critically important.

Later today, I’ll be in Ohio, where Governor Kasich, a Republican, has expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  And as many as 275,000 Ohioans will ultimately be better off because of it.  And if every governor followed suit, another 5.4 million Americans could gain access to health care next year.

So bottom line is, in just one month, despite all the problems that we’ve seen with the website, more than 500,000 Americans could know the security of health care by January 1st — many of them for the first time in their lives.  And that’s life-changing and it’s significant.

That still leaves about 1 million Americans who successfully made it through the website, and now qualify to buy insurance, but haven’t picked a plan yet.  And there’s no question that if the website were working as it’s supposed to, that number would be much higher of people who have actually enrolled.  So that’s problem number one –- making sure that the website works the way it’s supposed to.  It’s gotten a lot better over the last few weeks than it was on the first day, but we’re working 24/7 to get it working for the vast majority of Americans in a smooth, consistent way.

The other problem that has received a lot of attention
concerns Americans who have received letters from their insurers that they may be losing the plans they bought in the old individual market, often because they no longer meet the law’s requirements to cover basic benefits like prescription drugs or doctors’ visits.

Now, as I indicated earlier, I completely get how upsetting this can be for a lot of Americans, particularly after assurances they heard from me that if they had a plan that they liked, they could keep it.  And to those Americans, I hear you loud and clear.  I said that I would do everything we can to fix this problem.  And today I’m offering an idea that will help do it.

Already, people who have plans that predate the Affordable Care Act can keep those plans if they haven’t changed.  That was already in the law.  That’s what’s called a grandfather clause.  It was included in the law.  Today, we’re going to extend that principle both to people whose plans have changed since the law took effect, and to people who bought plans since the law took effect.

So state insurance commissioners still have the power to decide what plans can and can’t be sold in their states.  But the bottom line is, insurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be canceled into 2014, and Americans whose plans have been canceled can choose to re-enroll in the same kind of plan.

We’re also requiring insurers to extend current plans to inform their customers about two things.  One, that protections — what protections these renewed plans don’t include.  And number two, that the marketplace offers new options with better coverage and tax credits that might help you bring down the cost.

So if you’ve received one of these letters, I’d encourage you to take a look at the marketplace.  Even if the website isn’t working as smoothly as it should be for everybody yet, the plan comparison tool that lets you browse costs for new plans near you is working just fine.

Now, this fix won’t solve every problem for every person.  But it’s going to help a lot of people.  Doing more will require work with Congress.  And I’ve said from the beginning, I’m willing to work with Democrats and Republicans to fix problems as they arise.  This is an example of what I was talking about.  We can always make this law work better.

It is important to understand, though, that the old individual market was not working well.  And it’s important that we don’t pretend that somehow that’s a place worth going back to.  Too often, it works fine as long as you stay healthy; it doesn’t work well when you’re sick.  So year after year, Americans were routinely exposed to financial ruin, or denied coverage due to minor preexisting conditions, or dropped from coverage altogether — even if they paid their premiums on time.

That’s one of the reasons we pursued this reform in the first place.  And that’s why I will not accept proposals that are just another brazen attempt to undermine or repeal the overall law and drag us back into a broken system.  We will continue to make the case, even to folks who choose to keep their own plans, that they should shop around in the new marketplace because there’s a good chance that they’ll be able to buy better insurance at lower cost.

So we’re going to do everything we can to help the Americans who have received these cancellation notices.  But I also want everybody to remember there are still 40 million Americans who don’t have health insurance at all.  I’m not going to walk away from 40 million people who have the chance to get health insurance for the first time.  And I’m not going to walk away from something that has helped the cost of health care grow at its slowest rate in 50 years.

So we’re at the opening weeks of the project to build a better health care system for everybody — a system that will offer real financial security and peace of mind to millions of Americans.  It is a complex process.  There are all kinds of challenges.  I’m sure there will be additional challenges that come up.  And it’s important that we’re honest and straightforward in terms of when we come up with a problem with these reforms and these laws, that we address them.  But we’ve got to move forward on this.

It took 100 years for us to even get to the point where we could start talking about and implementing a law to make sure everybody has got health insurance.  And my pledge to the American people is, is that we’re going to solve the problems that are there, we’re going to get it right, and the Affordable Care Act is going to work for the American people.

So with that, I’m going to take your questions, and I’m going to start with Julie Pace of AP.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  The combination of the website problems and the concerns over the policy cancellations has sparked a lot of worry within your own party, and polls also show that you’re taking some hits with the public on both your overall job approval rating and also on factors like trust and honesty.  Do you feel as though the flawed health care rollout has led to a breach in the public trust and confidence in government?  And if so, how do you plan to resolve that?

THE PRESIDENT:  There is no doubt that people are frustrated.  We just came out of a shutdown and the possibility that for the first time in over 200 years, we wouldn’t pay our bills.  And people breathed a sigh of relief when that finally got done, and the next thing they know is, is that the President’s health care reform can’t get the website to work and that there are these other problems with respect to cancellation notices.

And I understand why folks are frustrated.  I would be, too.  Because sometimes people look at what’s taking place in Washington and they say, not enough is getting done that helps me with my life.  And regardless of what Congress does, ultimately I’m the President of the United States and they expect me to do something about it.

So in terms of how I intend to approach it, I’m just going to keep on working as hard as I can around the priorities that the American people care about.  And I think it’s legitimate for them to expect me to have to win back some credibility on this health care law in particular, and on a whole range of these issues in general.

And that’s on me.  I mean, we fumbled the rollout on this health care law.  There are a whole bunch of things about it that are working really well which people didn’t notice because they weren’t controversial — so making sure kids could stay on their parents’ plans until they were — through the age of 25, and making sure that seniors got more discounts on their prescription drugs.  There were a whole bunch of stuff that we did well over the first three years.

But we always knew that these marketplaces, creating a place where people can shop and through competition get a better deal for the health insurance that their families need, we always knew that that was going to be complicated and everybody was going to be paying a lot of attention to it.  And we should have done a better job getting that right on day one — not on day 28 or on day 40.

I am confident that by the time we look back on this next year, that people are going to say this is working well, and it’s helping a lot of people.  But my intention in terms of winning back the confidence of the American people is just to work as hard as I can; identify the problems that we’ve got, make sure that we’re fixing them.  Whether it’s a website, whether it is making sure that folks who got these cancellation notices get help, we’re just going to keep on chipping away at this until the job is done.

Major Garrett.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  You said while the law was being debated, “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”  You said after the law was implemented or signed, “if you like your plan, you can keep it.”  Americans believed you, sir, when you said that to them over and over.  Do you not believe, sir, the American people deserve a deeper, more transparent accountability from you as to why you said that over and over when your own statistic published in the Federal Register alerted your policy staff — and I presume you — to the fact that millions of Americans would, in fact, probably fall into the very gap you’re trying to administratively fix now?

That’s one question.  Second question.  (Laughter.)  You were informed, or several people in this building were informed two weeks before the launch of the website that it was failing the most basic tests internally, and yet a decision was made to launch the website on October 1st.  Did you, sir, make that test?  And if so, did you regret that?

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, on the website, I was not informed directly that the website would not be working the way it was supposed to.  Had I been informed, I wouldn’t be going out saying, boy, this is going to be great.

I’m accused of a lot of things, but I don’t think I’m stupid enough to go around saying, this is going to be like shopping on Amazon or Travelocity a week before the website opens if I thought that it wasn’t going to work.  So clearly, we and I did not have enough awareness about the problems in the website.  Even a week into it, the thinking was that these were some glitches that would be fixed with patches, as opposed to some broader systemic problems that took much longer to fix and we’re still working on them.

So that doesn’t excuse the fact that they just don’t work.  But I think it’s fair to say that, no, Garrett — Major, we would not have rolled out something knowing very well that it wasn’t going to work the way it was supposed, given all the scrutiny that we knew was going to be on the website.

With respect to the pledge I made that if you like your plan, you can keep it, I think — and I’ve said in interviews — that there is no doubt that the way I put that forward unequivocally ended up not being accurate.  It was not because of my intention not to deliver on that commitment and that promise.  We put a grandfather clause into the law, but it was insufficient.

Keep in mind that the individual market accounts for 5 percent of the population.  So when I said you can keep your health care, I’m looking at folks who’ve got employer-based health care; I’m looking at folks who’ve got Medicare and Medicaid — and that accounts for the vast majority of Americans.  And then for people who don’t have any health insurance at all, obviously that didn’t apply.  My commitment to them was, you’re going to be able to get affordable health care for the first time.

You have an individual market that accounts for about 5 percent of the population.  And our working assumption was — my working assumption was that the majority of those folks would find better policies at lower costs or the same costs in the marketplaces, and that the universe of folks who potentially would not find a better deal in the marketplaces, the grandfather clause would work sufficiently for them.  And it didn’t.  And again, that’s on us.  Which is why we’re — that’s on me.  And that’s why I’m trying to fix it.

And as I said earlier, I guess last week, and I will repeat, that’s something I deeply regret because it’s scary getting a cancellation notice.

Now, it is important to understand that out of that population, typically there is constant churn in that market.  This market is not very stable and reliable for people.  So people have a lot of complaints when they’re in that marketplace.  As long as you’re healthy, things seem to be going pretty good.  And so a lot of people think, I’ve got pretty good insurance — until they get sick — and then suddenly they look at the fine print, and they’ve got a $50,000 out-of-pocket expense that they can’t pay.

We know that on average over the last decade, each year, premiums in that individual market would go up an average of 15 percent a year.  I know that because when we were talking about health care reform, one of the complaints was:  I bought health care in the individual market and I just got a notice from the insurer, they dropped me after I had an illness; or my premium skyrocketed by 20 or 30 percent, why aren’t we doing something about this?

So part of what our goal has been is to make sure that that individual market is stable and fair, and has the kind of consumer protections that make sure that people don’t get a rude surprise when they really need health insurance.  But if you just got a cancellation notice, and so far you’re thinking, my prices are pretty good, you haven’t been sick, and it fits your budget, and now you get this notice — you’re going to be worried about it.  And if the insurer is saying the reason you’re getting this notice is because of the Affordable Care Act, then you’re going to be understandably aggravated about it.

Now, for a big portion of those people, the truth is they might have gotten a notice saying, we’re jacking up your rates by 30 percent.  They might have said, from here on out, we’re not going to cover X, Y and Z illnesses, we’re changing the — because these were all 12-month policies.  The insurance companies were under no obligation to renew the exact same policies that you had before.

But, look, one of the things I understood when we decided to reform that health insurance market, part of the reason why it hasn’t been done before and it’s very difficult to do, is that anything that’s going on that’s tough in the health care market, if you initiated a reform, can be attributed to your law.  And so what we want to do is to be able to say to these folks, you know what, the Affordable Care Act is not going to be the reason why insurers have to cancel your plan.

Now, what folks may find is the insurance companies may still come back and say, we want to charge you 20 percent more than we did last year; or we’re not going to cover prescription drugs now.  But that’s in the nature of the market that existed earlier.

Q    Did you decide, sir, that the simple declaration was something the American people could handle, but this nuanced answer you just gave now was something that you couldn’t handle and you didn’t trust the American people with a fuller truth?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  I think, as I said earlier, Major, my expectation was that for 98 percent of the American people, either it genuinely wouldn’t change at all, or they’d be pleasantly surprised with the options in the marketplace, and that the grandfather clause would cover the rest.

That proved not to be the case.  And that’s on me.  And the American people — those who got cancellation notices do deserve and have received an apology from me.  But they don’t want just words.  What they want is whether we can make sure that they are in a better place, and that we meet that commitment.

And, by the way, I think it’s very important for me to note that there are a whole bunch of folks up in Congress and others who made this statement, and they were entirely sincere about it.  And the fact that you’ve got this percentage of people who have had this impact — I want them to know that their senator or congressman, they were making representations based on what I told them and what this White House and our administrative staff told them.  And so it’s not on them.  It’s on us.  But it is something that we intend to fix.

Steve Collinson.

Q    Do you have reason to believe that Iran would walk away from nuclear talks if Congress draws up new sanctions?  And would a diplomatic breakdown at this stage leave you no option but military action?  And how do you respond to your critics on the Hill who say that it was only tough sanctions that got Iran to the table, but only tougher sanctions will make it capitulate?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me make a couple of points.  Number one, I’ve said before and I will repeat:  We do not want Iran having nuclear weapons.  And it would be not only dangerous to us and our allies, but it would be destabilizing to the entire region, and could trigger a nuclear arms race that would make life much more dangerous for all of us.  So our policy is Iran cannot have nuclear weapons.  And I’m leaving all options on the table to make sure that we meet that goal.

Point number two:  The reason we’ve got such vigorous sanctions is because I and my administration put in place, when I came into office, the international structure to have the most effective sanctions ever.  And so I think it’s fair to say that I know a little bit about sanctions, since we’ve set them up, and made sure that we mobilize the entire international community so that there weren’t a lot of loopholes and they really had bite.

And the intention in setting up those sanctions always was to bring the Iranians to the table so that we could resolve this issue peacefully, because that is my preference.  That’s my preference because any armed conflict has cost to it, but it’s also my preference because the best way to assure that a country does not have nuclear weapons is that they are making a decision not to have nuclear weapons, and we’re in a position to verify that they don’t have nuclear weapons.

So as a consequence of the sanctions that we put in place  — and I appreciate all the help, bipartisan help, that we received from Congress in making that happen — Iran’s economy has been crippled.  They had a -5 percent growth rate last year.  Their currency plummeted.  They’re having significant problems in just the day-to-day economy on the ground in Iran.  And President Rouhani made a decision that he was prepared to come and have a conversation with the international community about what they could do to solve this problem with us.

We’ve now had a series of conversations, and it has never been realistic that we would resolve the entire problem all at once.  What we have done is seen the possibility of an agreement in which Iran would halt advances on its program; that it would dilute some of the highly enriched uranium that makes it easier for them to potentially produce a weapon; that they are subjecting themselves to much more vigorous inspections so that we know exactly what they’re doing at all their various facilities; and that that would then provide time and space for us to test, over a certain period of months, whether or not they are prepared to actually resolve this issue to the satisfaction of the international community — making us confident that, in fact, they’re not pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

In return, the basic structure of what’s been talked about, although not completed, is that we would provide very modest relief at the margins of the sanctions that we’ve set up.  But importantly, we would leave in place the core sanctions that are most effective and have most impact on the Iranian economy, specifically oil sanctions and sanctions with respect to banks and financing.  And what that gives us is the opportunity to test how serious are they, but it also gives us an assurance that if it turns out six months from now that they’re not serious, we can crank — we can dial those sanctions right back up.

So my message to Congress has been that, let’s see if this short-term, phase-one deal can be completed to our satisfaction where we’re absolutely certain that while we’re talking with the Iranians, they’re not busy advancing their program.  We can buy some additional months in terms of their breakout capacity.  Let’s test how willing they are to actually resolve this diplomatically and peacefully.

We will have lost nothing if, at the end of the day, it turns out that they are not prepared to provide the international community the hard proof and assurances necessary for us to know that they’re not pursuing a nuclear weapon.  And if that turns out to be the case, then not only is our entire sanctions infrastructure still in place, not only are they still losing money from the fact that they can’t sell their oil and get revenue from their oil as easily, even throughout these talks, but other options remain.

But what I’ve said to members of Congress is that if, in fact, we’re serious about trying to resolve this diplomatically — because no matter how good our military is, military options are always messy, they’re always difficult, always have unintended consequences, and in this situation are never complete in terms of making us certain that they don’t then go out and pursue even more vigorously nuclear weapons in the future — if we’re serious about pursuing diplomacy, then there’s no need for us to add new sanctions on top of the sanctions that are already very effective and that brought them to the table in the first place.

Now, if it turns out they can’t deliver, they can’t come to the table in a serious way and get this issue resolved, the sanctions can be ramped back up.  And we’ve got that option.

All right.  Roger Runningen.  Roger, it’s his birthday, by the way.  So that’s not the reason you got a question, but I thought it was important to note that.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Happy birthday.

Q    Back to health care.  Can you guarantee for the American people that the health care website is going to be fully operational for all people, not just the vast majority, by November 30?  And second, more broadly, this is your signature domestic piece of legislation.  You hear criticism on the Hill that you and your White House team are too insular.  Is that how this mess came to be?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think there is going to be a lot of evaluation of how we got to this point.  And I assure you that I’ve been asking a lot of questions about that.  The truth is that this is, number one, very complicated.  The website itself is doing a lot of stuff.  There aren’t a lot of websites out there that have to help people compare their possible insurance options, verify income to find out what kind of tax credits they might get, communicate with those insurance companies so they can purchase, make sure that all of it’s verified.  So there’s just a bunch of pieces to it that made it challenging.

And you combine that with the fact that the federal government does a lot of things really well.  One of the things it does not do well is information technology procurement.  This is kind of a systematic problem that we have across the board.  And it is not surprising then that there were going to be some problems.

Now, I think we have to ask ourselves some hard questions inside the White House as opposed to why we didn’t see more of these problems coming earlier on — A, so we could set expectations; B, so that we could look for different ways for people to end up applying.

So ultimately, you’re right.  This is something that’s really important to me, and it’s really important to millions of Americans who have been waiting for a really long time to try to get health care because they don’t have it.  And I am very frustrated, but I’m also somebody who, if I fumbled the ball, I’m going to wait until I get the next play, and then I’m going to try to run as hard as I can and do right by the team.  So ultimately, I’m the head of this team.  We did fumble the ball on it, and what I’m going to do is make sure that we get it fixed.

In terms of what happens on November 30th or December 1st, I think it’s fair to say that the improvement will be marked and noticeable.  The website will work much better on November 30th, December 1st than it worked certainly on October 1st.  That’s a pretty low bar.  It will be working a lot better than it is — it was last week, and it will be working better than it was this week, which means that the majority of people who go to the website will see a website that is working the way it’s supposed to.

I think it is not possible for me to guarantee that 100 percent of the people 100 percent of the time going on this website will have a perfectly seamless, smooth experience.  We’re going to have to continue to improve it even after November 30th, December 1st.  But the majority of people who use it will be able to see it operate the way it was supposed to.

One thing that we’ve discovered, though, that I think is worth noting:  A lot of focus has been on the website and the technology, and that’s partly because that’s how we initially identified it — these are glitches.  What we’re discovering is that part of the problem has been technology — hardware and software — and that’s being upgraded.  But even if we get the hardware and software working exactly the way it’s supposed to with relatively minor glitches, what we’re also discovering is that insurance is complicated to buy.

And another mistake that we made I think was underestimating the difficulties of people purchasing insurance online and shopping for a lot of options with a lot of costs and a lot of different benefits and plans, and somehow expecting that that would be very smooth.  And then they’ve also got to try apply for tax credits on the website.

So what we’re doing even as we’re trying to solve the technical problems is also what can we do to make the application a little bit simpler; what can we do to make it in English as opposed to bureaucratese; are there steps that we can skip while still getting the core information that people need

And part of what we’re realizing is that they are going to be a certain portion of people who are just going to need more help and more handholding in the application process.  And so I guess part of the continuous improvement that I’m looking at is not just a technical issue.  It’s also, can we streamline the application process; what are we doing to give people more assistance in the application process; how do the call centers and the people who are helping folks in-person; how are they trained so that things can go more smoothly.

Because the bottom line ultimately is, I just want people to know what their options are in a clear way.  And buying health insurance is never going to be like buying a song on iTunes.  It’s just a much more complicated transaction.  But I think we can continue to make it better — all of which is to say that on December 1st, November 30th, it will be a lot better, but there will still be some problems.  Some of those will not be because of technological problems — although I’m sure that there will still be some glitches that have to be smoothed out.  Some of it’s going to be how are we making this application process more user-friendly for folks.

And one good example of this, by the way, just to use an analogy — when we came into office, we heard a lot of complaints about the financial aid forms that families have to fill out to get federal financial aid.  And I actually remember applying for some of that stuff and remember how difficult and confusing it was.  And Arne Duncan over at Education worked with a team to see what we could do to simplify it, and it made a big difference.

And that’s part of the process that we’ve got to go through.  And in fact, if we can get some focus groups and we sit down with actual users and see how well is this working, what would improve it, what part of it didn’t you understand —  that all I think is part of what we’re going to be working on in the weeks ahead.

Q    What about the insularity criticism that you hear on the Hill?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve got to say I meet with an awful lot of folks, and I talk to an awful lot of folks every day.  And I have lunches with CEOs and IT venture capitalists and labor leaders and pretty much folks from all walks of life on a whole bunch of topics.  And if you looked at my schedule on any given day, we’re interacting with a whole lot of people.

And I think it’s fair to say that we have a pretty good track record of working with folks on technology and IT from our campaign where, both in 2008 and 2012, we did a pretty darn good job on that.  So it’s not — the idea that somehow we didn’t have access or were interested in people’s ideas, I think isn’t accurate.  What is true is that, as I said before, our IT systems, how we purchase technology in the federal government is cumbersome, complicated, and outdated.

And so this isn’t a situation where on my campaign I could simply say, who are the best folks out there; let’s get them around a table, let’s figure out what we’re doing, and we’re just going to continue to improve it and refine it and work on our goals.  If you’re doing it at the federal government level, you’re going through 40 pages of specs and this and that and the other, and there are all kinds of laws involved, and it makes it more difficult.  It’s part of the reason why, chronically, federal IT programs are over budget, behind schedule.

And one of the — when I do some Monday morning quarterbacking on myself, one of the things that I do recognize is — since I know that the federal government has not been good at this stuff in the past — two years ago, as we were thinking about this, we might have done more to make sure that we were breaking the mold on how we were going to be setting this up.  But that doesn’t help us now.  We’ve got to move forward.

Jeff Mason.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Today’s fix that you just announced leaves it up to state insurance commissioners and insurance companies to ultimately decide whether to allow old policies to be renewed for a year.  How confident are you that they will do that?  And secondly, how concerned are you that this flawed rollout may hurt Democrats’ chances in next year’s midterm elections, and your ability to advance other priorities such as immigration reform?

THE PRESIDENT:  On the first question, traditionally, state insurance commissioners make decisions about what plans can be or cannot be sold, how they interact with insurers.  What we’re essentially saying is the Affordable Care Act is not going to be the factor in what happens with folks in the individual market.  And my guess is right away you’re going to see a number of state insurance commissioners exercise it.

Part of the challenge is the individual markets are different in different states.  There are some states that have individual insurance markets that already have almost all the consumer protections that the Affordable Care Act does.  They match up pretty good.  It’s not some big jump for folks to move into the marketplace.  In others, they’re pretty low standards, so you can sell pretty substandard plans in those markets.  And that’s where people might see a bigger jump in their premiums.

So I think there’s going to be some state-by-state evaluation on how this is handled.  But the key point is, is that it allows us to be able to say to the folks who received these notices:  Look, I, the President of the United States and the insurance –- that the insurance model, the Affordable Care Act, is not going to be getting in the way of you shopping in the individual market that you used to have.  As I said, there are still going to be some folks who over time, I think, are going to find that the marketplaces are better.

One way I described this to — I met with a group of senators when this issue first came up — and it’s not a perfect analogy — but we made a decision as a society that every car has to have a seatbelt or airbags.  And so you pass a regulation.  And there are some additional costs, particularly at the start of increasing the safety and protections, but we make a decision as a society that the costs are outweighed by the benefits of all the lives that are saved.  So what we’re saying now is if you’re buying a new car, you got to have a seatbelt.

Well, the problem with the grandfather clause that we put in place is it’s almost like we said to folks, you got to buy a new car, even if you can’t afford it right now.  And sooner or later, folks are going to start trading in their old cars.  But we don’t need — if their life circumstance is such where, for now at least, they want to keep the old car, even if the new car is better, we should be able to give them that option.  And that’s what we want to do.

And, by the way, that’s what we should have been able to do in drafting the rules in the first place.  So, again, these are two fumbles on something that — on a big game, which — but the game is not over.

With respect to the politics of it, I’ll let you guys do a lot of the work on projecting what this means for various political scenarios.  There is no doubt that our failure to roll out the ACA smoothly has put a burden on Democrats, whether they’re running or not, because they stood up and supported this effort through thick and thin.  And I feel deeply responsible for making it harder for them rather than easier for them to continue to promote the core values that I think led them to support this thing in the first place — which is, in this country, as wealthy as we are, everybody should be able to have the security of affordable health care.  And that’s why I feel so strongly about fixing it.

My first and foremost obligation is the American people, to make sure that they can get what’s there — if we can just get the darn website working and smooth this thing out — which is plans that are affordable, and allow them to take advantage of tax credits and give them a better deal.

But I also do feel an obligation to everybody out there who supported this effort.  When we don’t do a good job on the rollout, we’re letting them down.  And I don’t like doing that.  So my commitment to them is, we’re going to just keep on doing better every day until we get it done.

And in terms of the impact on me — I think to some extent I addressed it when I talked to Julie — there are going to be ups and downs during the course of my presidency.  And I think I said early on when I was running — I am not a perfect man, and I will not be a perfect President, but I’ll wake up every single day working as hard as I can on behalf of Americans out there from every walk of life who are working hard, meeting their responsibilities, but sometimes are struggling because the way the system works isn’t giving them a fair shot.

And that pledge I haven’t broke.  That commitment, that promise, continues to be — continues to hold — the promise that I wouldn’t be perfect, number one, but also the promise that as long as I’ve got the honor of having this office, I’m just going to work as hard as I can to make things better for folks.  And what that means specifically in this health care arena is we can’t go back to the status quo.

I mean, right now everybody is properly focused on us not doing a good job on the rollout, and that’s legitimate and I get it.  There have been times where I thought we were kind of slapped around a little bit unjustly.  This one is deserved.  Right?  It’s on us.

But we can’t lose sight of the fact that the status quo before the Affordable Care Act was not working at all.  If the health care system had been working fine, and everybody had high-quality health insurance at affordable prices, I wouldn’t have made it a priority; we wouldn’t have been fighting this hard to get it done — which is why, when I see sometimes folks up on Capitol Hill, and Republicans in particular, who have been suggesting repeal, repeal, let’s get rid of this thing, I keep on asking what is it that you want to do?  Are you suggesting that the status quo was working?  Because it wasn’t, and everybody knows it.  It wasn’t working in the individual market and it certainly wasn’t working for the 41 million people who didn’t have health insurance.

And so what we did was we chose a path that was the least disruptive, to try to finally make sure that health care is treated in this country like it is in every other advanced country — that it’s not some privilege that just a certain portion of people can have, but it’s something that everybody has some confidence about.  And we didn’t go far left and choose an approach that would have been much more disruptive.  We didn’t adopt some more conservative proposals that would have been much more disruptive.  We tried to choose a way that built off the existing system.  But it is complicated, it is hard, but I make no apologies for us taking this on — because somebody sooner or later had to do it.  I do make apologies for not having executed better over the last several months.

Q    And do you think that execution and the flaws in the rollout will affect your ability to do other things, like immigration reform and other policy priorities?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, look, if it comes to immigration reform, there is no reason for us not to do immigration reform.  And we’ve already got strong bipartisan support for immigration reform out of the Senate.  You’ve got — I met with a number of traditionally very conservative clergy who are deeply committed to immigration reform.  We’ve got the business community entirely behind immigration reform.  So you’ve got a bunch of constituencies that are traditionally much more — have leaned much more heavily towards the Republicans who are behind this.

So if people are looking for an excuse not to do the right thing on immigration reform, they can always find an excuse —  we’ve run out of time, or this is hard, or the list goes on and on.  But my working assumption is people should want to do the right thing.  And when you’ve got an issue that would strengthen borders, make sure that the legal immigration system works the way it’s supposed to, that would go after employers who have been doing the wrong thing when it comes to hiring undocumented workers, and would allow folks who are here illegally to get right with the law and pay a fine, and learn English and get to the back of the line, but ultimately join fully our American community — when you’ve got a law that makes sense, you shouldn’t be looking for an excuse not to do it.  And I’m going to keep on pushing to make sure it gets done.

Am I going to have to do some work to rebuild confidence around some of our initiatives?  Yes.  But part of this job is the things that go right, you guys aren’t going to write about; the things that go wrong get prominent attention.  That’s how it has always been.  That’s not unique to me as President.  And I’m up to the challenge.  We’re going to get this done.

All right?  Thank you, everybody.

END
12:53 P.M. EST

Full Text Obama Presidency October 30, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech on the Health Care Law, on the Affordable Care Act at Faneuil Hall, Boston

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President and Governor Deval Patrick on the Affordable Care Act

Source: WH, 10-30-13

 

U.S. President Barack Obama

Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks on healthcare at Faneuil Hall in Boston on Oct. 30, 2013.

Faneuil Hall
Boston, Massachusetts

3:50 P.M. EDT

GOVERNOR PATRICK:  How are you?  Good afternoon, everybody.  (Applause.)  How’s Red Sox Nation this afternoon?  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, fellow citizens, I have the high honor of introducing to you the President of the United States.  (Applause.)  But, of course, you folks already know him.  (Laughter.)  So as the President is standing just offstage, I want to take my time here at the podium — (laughter) — to introduce all of you to him.

In this storied hall today, Mr. President, are the architects and advocates for health care reform in Massachusetts. (Applause.)  This gathering right here is the broad coalition — providers, payers, patients, consumers, policymakers, academics, business and labor, from both political parties, or no party at all — who came together to invent health care reform in Massachusetts and then, importantly, stuck together to refine it as we moved forward.  (Applause.)

You are the leaders who, when we learned a hard lesson or hit a wall, stuck with it and with each other because of the shared value that health care is a public good and that every citizen deserves access to quality, affordable care.  (Applause.)

Quality, affordable care accessible to all improves lives, and in many cases, saves lives.  It gives peace of mind and economic security to working families.  It increases productivity for large and small employers alike.  It creates jobs and contributes to the strength of the Massachusetts economy.  It is a powerful statement of who we are as a commonwealth.  (Applause.)

And by every reasonable measure, it has been a success for us here in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  (Applause.)  How do we know?  Virtually, every resident in the commonwealth is insured today.  (Applause.)  More private companies offer insurance to their employees than ever before.  Over 90 percent of our residents have a primary care physician.  Preventive care is up and health disparities are down.  (Applause.)  Most important of all, on a whole range of measures, we are healthier both physically and mentally.

Over all these years, expansion itself has added only about 1 percent of state spending to our budget.  And thanks to the collective, continued hard work of this coalition, premiums are finally easing up.  Premium base rates were increasing over 16 percent just a few years ago.  Today, increases average less than 2 percent.  (Applause.)

And thanks to the President, America can look forward to the successes that Massachusetts has experienced these last seven years.  (Applause.)

The truth is policy only matters when and where it touches people.  I know this policy matters because I’ve met people all across the commonwealth, in every walk of life, whose lives have been improved or saved because of the care our reforms made possible.  A couple of them are here today.

Laura Ferreira — where are you, Laura?  There you are.  Owns her own hair salon and is responsible for providing health insurance to her family of five, including her son, Mason, who’s right here with her.  Mason has a rare genetic condition.  Laura is able to afford his medicine because they found coverage through our Connecter, our version of the ACA marketplace.  This policy matters.  (Applause.)

David Gilloran works as a waiter.  Where are you David?  There you are.  Thank you for being here.  Soon after getting coverage through the Connector, David was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  His treatment was covered, and he is back to his old life and swimming for exercise.  God bless you, David.  (Applause.)

Brian Thurber left his law firm job to become an entrepreneur in Massachusetts.  Brian, where are you?  There he is.  Because he was able to access quality insurance directly through the Connector, he is chasing his entrepreneurial dreams and on his way to becoming a creator of jobs for others without  — being exposed to a health emergency along the way.  Keep going.  Good luck to you.  (Applause.)

Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts people don’t fear going bankrupt from medical bills, or being thrown off their insurance if they get really sick, or being declared ineligible for insurance because they were seriously ill sometime in the past.

If policy matters where it touches people, Mr. President, this policy matters a lot.  Health care reform is working for the people of Massachusetts, and it will work for the people of America.  (Applause.)

My Republican predecessor signed the legislation to expand health care reform in Massachusetts right here in this room, on this very stage.  His chief legislative partner was the Democratic state senator, Robert Travaglini, who was here then and is here today.  Where are you, Trav?  Thank you.  (Applause.)

So was our beloved Ted Kennedy.  So were many of the members of the coalition who are here again today.  And they have worked right alongside my team and me these last seven years to refine and improve the means while staying true to the ends.  I am proud of what we and they have accomplished, and I think they’re proud, too, and ought to be.  (Applause.)

But our launch seven years ago was not flawless.  (Laughter.)  We asked an IT staffer who has been at our Connector since the beginning what the start of implementing reform was like.  And this is what he said, and I’m quoting:  “We didn’t have a complicated eligibility process back then, but we did have outages caused by traffic peaks.  We experienced some issues with data mapping of plan detail that carriers called us on.  Our provider searches were not good, and the website was a constant work in progress over the first few years.  But other than that, it was smooth.”  (Laughter.)

Any of this sound familiar, Mr. President?

So we started out with a website that needed work.  We had a lot of people with a lot of reasonable questions and not a good enough way to get them the answers.  But people were patient, we had good leadership, and that same coalition stuck with it and with us to work through the fixes, tech surge and all.  Why?  Why?  Because health reform in Massachusetts, like the Affordable Care Act, is not a website.  It’s a values statement.  (Applause.)  It’s about insuring people against a medical catastrophe.  It’s about being our brothers’ and our sisters’ keeper by helping others help themselves.

The website glitches are inconvenient and annoying.  They must be fixed and I am confident they will be.  But I hope you know, Mr. President, that the same folks who pretend to be outraged about the website not working didn’t want the ACA to work in the first place.  (Applause.)  The urgency of fixing what’s not working is, as we all know, about the American people who need simple, reliable and convenient access to information about coverage — not about silencing critics who will never be silenced.

You and the Congress looked to Massachusetts, Mr. President, as a model for how to insure working people, and through that, how to help them lead better, more productive lives.  As you turn to the vital work of making that federal IT system work, we also want to be a model for how to keep your eye on the prize, and how, working together, you put people first.  (Applause.)  The people here, all in this coalition, totally get that.

So, Mr. President, welcome to the capital of Red Sox Nation. (Applause.)  And welcome, also, to the future of affordable, accessible health care for everybody.  (Applause.)

Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Boston!  (Applause.)  It’s good to be back in Boston.  (Applause.)  It’s good to be back in Boston because one of America’s best governors introduced me — Deval Patrick.  Give him a big round of applause.  (Applause.)

It’s good to see Congressman Bill Keating here.  Give Bill a big round of applause.  (Applause.)  I want to praise somebody who’s not here — I just left him — but he wears his heart on his sleeve.  He loves this city so much, and it shows in what he’s been doing for years now — one of America’s best mayors, Tom Menino.  (Applause.)

And it’s good to see all of you.  I was just at the airport — Deval was kind enough to meet me, along with Mayor Menino.  And Mayor Menino went back to city hall to work so he could wrap up in time for the first pitch.  I understand that.  (Laughter.) I am well aware that a presidential visit is not the biggest thing going on today in Boston.  (Laughter and applause.)  I understand that.  I tried to grow a beard, but Michelle, she wasn’t having it.  (Laughter.)

I am also old enough to remember a time when the Red Sox were not in the World Series three times in 10 years.  (Laughter.)  But I know the chance to win one at home for the first time since 1918 is a pretty special thing.  (Applause.)  So I promise we will be done here in time — (laughter) — for everybody to head over to Fenway and maybe see Big Papi blast another homer.  (Applause.)

And maybe the other Sox will do better next year.  (Laughter.)  You can hope.  You can dream.  (Laughter.)

The reason I’m here, though, is because this is the hall where, seven years ago, Democrats and Republicans came together to make health reform a reality for the people of Massachusetts. It’s where then-Governor Mitt Romney, Democratic legislators, Senator Ted Kennedy, many of the folks who are here today joined forces to connect the progressive vision of health care for all with some ideas about markets and competition that had long been championed by conservatives.

And as Deval just said, it worked.  (Applause.)  It worked. Health reform —

PROTESTORS:  Mr. President — don’t punish me.  For our generation, stop the pipeline!  Mr. President —

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  We’re talking about health care today, but we will —

PROTESTORS:  Mr. President —

AUDIENCE:  Booo —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no, no, it’s okay.  That is the wrong rally.  (Laughter and applause.)  We had the climate change rally back in the summer.  (Laughter.)  This is the health care rally. (Applause.)

So health care reform in this state was a success.  That doesn’t mean it was perfect right away.  There were early problems to solve.  There were changes that had to be made.  Anybody here who was involved in it can tell you that.  As Deval just said, enrollment was extremely slow.  Within a month, only about a hundred people had signed up — a hundred.  But then 2,000 had signed up, and then a few more thousand after that.  And by the end of the year, 36,000 people had signed up.

And the community all came together.  You even had the Red Sox help enlist people to get them covered.  And pretty soon, the number of young uninsured people had plummeted.  When recession struck, the financial security of health care sheltered families from deeper hardship.  And today, there is nearly universal coverage in Massachusetts, and the vast majority of its citizens are happy with their coverage.  (Applause.)

And by the way, all the parade of horribles, the worst predictions about health care reform in Massachusetts never came true.  They’re the same arguments that you’re hearing now.  Businesses didn’t stop covering workers; the share of employers who offered insurance increased.  People didn’t get left behind; racial disparities decreased.  Care didn’t become unaffordable; costs tracked what was happening in other places that wasn’t covering everybody.

Now, Mitt Romney and I ran a long and spirited campaign against one another, but I’ve always believed that when he was governor here in Massachusetts, he did the right thing on health care.  And then Deval did the right thing by picking up the torch and working to make the law work even better.  And it’s because you guys had a proven model that we built the Affordable Care Act on this template of proven, bipartisan success.  Your law was the model for the nation’s law.  (Applause.)

So let’s look at what’s happened.  Today, the Affordable Care Act requires insurance companies to abide by some of the strongest consumer protections this country has ever known — a true Patient’s Bill of Rights.  (Applause.)  No more discriminating against kids with preexisting conditions.  (Applause.)  No more dropping your policy when you get sick and need it most.  (Applause.)  No more lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits.  (Applause.)  Most plans now have to cover free preventive care like mammograms and birth control.  (Applause.)  Young people can stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26.  All of this is in place right now.  It is working right now.  (Applause.)

Now, the last element of this began on October 1st.  It’s when the Affordable Care Act created a new marketplace for quality, private insurance plans for the 15 percent or so of Americans who don’t have health care, and for the 5 percent of Americans who have to buy it on their own and they’re not part of a group, which means they don’t get as good a deal.

And this new marketplace was built on the Massachusetts model.  It allows these Americans who have been locked out to get a better deal from insurers — they’re pooling their purchasing power as one big group.  And insurers want their business, which means they give them a better deal, and they compete for that business.  And as a result, insurers in the marketplace, they can’t use your medical history to charge you more.  If you’ve been sick, you finally have the same chance to buy quality, affordable health care as everybody else.

A lot of people will qualify for new tax credits under this law that will bring down costs even further, so that if you lose your job, or you start a new business, or you’re self-employed, or you’re a young person trying several jobs until you find that one that sticks, you’re going to be able to be insured — insurance that goes with you and gives you freedom to pursue whatever you want, without fear that accident or illness will derail your dreams.

Now, this marketplace is open now.  Insurance companies are competing for that business.  The deal is good; the prices are low.  But, let’s face it, we’ve had a problem.  The website hasn’t worked the way it’s supposed to over these last couple of weeks.  And as a consequence, a lot of people haven’t had a chance to see just how good the prices for quality health insurance through these marketplaces really are.

Now, ultimately, this website, healthcare.gov, will be the easiest way to shop for and buy these new plans, because you can see all these plans right next to each other and compare prices and see what kind of coverage it provides.  But, look, there’s no denying it, right now, the website is too slow, too many people have gotten stuck.  And I am not happy about it.  And neither are a lot of Americans who need health care, and they’re trying to figure out how they can sign up as quickly as possible.  So there’s no excuse for it.  And I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP.  We are working overtime to improve it every day.  (Applause.)  Every day.

And more people are successfully buying these new plans online than they were a couple of weeks ago, and I expect more people will be able to buy conveniently online every single day as we move forward.  We’re going to get these problems resolved.

Now, in the meantime, you can still apply for coverage over the phone, or by mail, or in person, because those plans are waiting and you’re still able to get the kind of affordable, reliable health insurance that’s been out of reach for too many people for too long.

So I am old enough to remember when there was not such a thing as a website.  (Laughter.)  I know that’s shocking to people.  (Laughter.)  But the point is I’m confident these marketplaces will work, because Massachusetts has shown that the model works and we know what’s being offered by these insurers.  (Applause.)  We know it’s going to work.

And so far, choice and competition in the new national marketplaces have helped keep costs lower than even we projected. In fact, nearly half of all single, uninsured 18-to-34-year-olds may be able to buy insurance for 50 bucks a month or less.  Less than your cellphone bill, less than your cable bill.  (Applause.) And one study shows that nearly 6 in 10 uninsured Americans may find coverage for 100 bucks a month or less, even if they’re older than 34.

And, frankly, if every governor was working as hard as Deval, or Governor O’Malley in Maryland, or Governor Cuomo in New York, to make this law work for their citizens, as opposed to thinking politically, about 8 in 10 Americans would be getting health insurance for less than 100 bucks a month.  (Applause.)

And, by the way, it’s not just in Massachusetts.  Look at Kentucky.  Governor Steve Beshear, who’s a Democrat, is like a man possessed with helping more people get covered.  He thinks it’s the right thing to do.  Keep in mind I did not win in Kentucky.  (Laughter.)  But there are a lot of uninsured people in Kentucky, and they’re signing up.

Oregon has covered 10 percent of its uninsured citizens already because of the Affordable Care Act.  Ten percent of the uninsured have already gotten coverage.  (Applause.)

Arkansas — I didn’t win that state either — (laughter) — has covered almost 14 percent of its uninsured already.  (Applause.)  That’s already happened.

And you’ve got some Republican governors, like Governor Kasich of Ohio, who’ve put politics aside and they’re expanding Medicaid through this law to cover millions of people.

Now, unfortunately, there are others that are so locked in to the politics of this thing that they won’t lift a finger to help their own people, and that’s leaving millions of Americans uninsured unnecessarily.  That’s a shame.  Because if they put as much energy into making this law work as they do in attacking the law, Americans would be better off.  (Applause.)  Americans would be better off.

So that’s the Affordable Care Act:  Better protections for Americans with insurance; a new marketplace for Americans without insurance; new tax credits to help folks afford it; more choice, more competition; real health care security not just for the uninsured or underinsured, but for all of us — because we pay more in premiums and taxes when Americans without good insurance visit the emergency room.  (Applause.)  We get taxed.

And since we all benefit, there are parts of this law that also require everybody to contribute, that require everybody to take some measure of responsibility.  So, to help pay for the law, the wealthiest Americans –- families who make more than $250,000 a year –- they’ve got to pay a little bit more.  The most expensive employer health insurance plans no longer qualify for unlimited tax breaks.  Some folks aren’t happy about that, but it’s the right thing to do.

Just like in Massachusetts, most people who can afford health insurance have to take responsibility to buy health insurance, or pay a penalty.  And employers with more than 50 employees are required to either provide health insurance to their workers or pay a penalty — again, because they shouldn’t just dump off those costs onto the rest of us.  Everybody has got some responsibilities.

Now, it is also true that some Americans who have health insurance plans that they bought on their own through the old individual market are getting notices from their insurance companies suggesting that somehow, because of the Affordable Care Act, they may be losing their existing health insurance plan.  This has been the latest flurry in the news.  Because there’s been a lot of confusion and misinformation about this, I want to explain just what’s going on.

One of the things health reform was designed to do was to help not only the uninsured, but also the underinsured.  And there are a number of Americans –- fewer than 5 percent of Americans -– who’ve got cut-rate plans that don’t offer real financial protection in the event of a serious illness or an accident.  Remember, before the Affordable Care Act, these bad-apple insurers had free rein every single year to limit the care that you received, or use minor preexisting conditions to jack up your premiums or bill you into bankruptcy.  So a lot of people thought they were buying coverage, and it turned out not to be so good.

Before the Affordable Care Act, the worst of these plans routinely dropped thousands of Americans every single year.  And on average, premiums for folks who stayed in their plans for more than a year shot up about 15 percent a year.  This wasn’t just bad for those folks who had these policies, it was bad for all of us — because, again, when tragedy strikes and folks can’t pay their medical bills, everybody else picks up the tab.

Now, if you had one of these substandard plans before the Affordable Care Act became law and you really liked that plan, you’re able to keep it.  That’s what I said when I was running for office.  That was part of the promise we made.  But ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans, what we said under the law is you’ve got to replace them with quality, comprehensive coverage  — because that, too, was a central premise of the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning.

And today, that promise means that every plan in the marketplace covers a core set of minimum benefits, like maternity care, and preventive care, and mental health care, and prescription drug benefits, and hospitalization.  And they can’t use allergies or pregnancy or a sports injury or the fact that you’re a woman to charge you more.  They can’t do that anymore.  (Applause.)  They can’t do that anymore.

If you couldn’t afford coverage because your child had asthma, well, he’s now covered.  If you’re one of the 45 million Americans with a mental illness, you’re now covered.  If you’re a young couple expecting a baby, you’re covered.  You’re safer.  The system is more secure for you and it’s more secure for everybody.

So if you’re getting one of these letters, just shop around in the new marketplace.  That’s what it’s for.  Because of the tax credits we’re offering, and the competition —

PROTESTOR:  Mr. President, ban the Keystone Pipeline!  For our generation, you need to do this!

THE PRESIDENT:  Because of the tax credits that we’re offering and the competition between insurers, most people are going to be able to get better, comprehensive health care plans for the same price or even cheaper than projected.  You’re going to get a better deal.

Now, there’s a fraction of Americans with higher incomes who will pay more on the front end for better insurance with better benefits and protections like the Patient’s Bill of Rights.  And that will actually save them from financial ruin if they get sick.  But nobody is losing their right to health care coverage. And no insurance company will ever be able to deny you coverage, or drop you as a customer altogether.  Those days are over.  And that’s the truth.  (Applause.)  That is the truth.

So for people without health insurance, they’re finally going to be able to get it.  For the vast majority of people who have health insurance that works, you can keep it.  For the fewer than 5 percent of Americans who buy insurance on your own, you will be getting a better deal.

So anyone peddling the notion that insurers are cancelling people’s plan without mentioning that almost all the insurers are encouraging people to join better plans with the same carrier, and stronger benefits and stronger protections, while others will be able to get better plans with new carriers through the marketplace, and that many will get new help to pay for these better plans and make them actually cheaper — if you leave that stuff out, you’re being grossly misleading, to say the least.  (Applause.)

But, frankly, look, you saw this in Massachusetts — this is one of the challenges of health care form.  Health care is complicated and it’s very personal, and it’s easy to scare folks. And it’s no surprise that some of the same folks trying to scare people now are the same folks who’ve been trying to sink the Affordable Care Act from the beginning.  (Applause.)  And frankly, I don’t understand it.  Providing people with health care, that should be a no-brainer.  (Applause.)  Giving people a chance to get health care should be a no-brainer.  (Applause.)

And I’ve said before, if folks had actually good ideas, better ideas than what’s happening in Massachusetts or what we’ve proposed for providing people with health insurance, I’d be happy to listen.  But that’s not what’s happening.  And anyone defending the remnants of the old, broken system as if it was working for people, anybody who thinks we shouldn’t finish the job of making the health care system work for everybody -– especially when these folks offer no plan for the uninsured or the underinsured, or folks who lose their insurance each year — those folks should have to explain themselves.  (Applause.)

Because I don’t think we should go back to discriminating against kids with preexisting conditions.  (Applause.)  I don’t think we should go back to dropping coverage for people when they get sick, or because they make a mistake on their application.  (Applause.)  I don’t think we should go back to the daily cruelties and indignities and constant insecurity of a broken health care system.  And I’m confident most Americans agree with me.  (Applause.)

So, yes, this is hard, because the health care system is a big system, and it’s complicated.  And if it was hard doing it just in one state, it’s harder to do it in all 50 states — especially when the governors of a bunch of states and half of the Congress aren’t trying to help.  Yes, it’s hard.  But it’s worth it.  (Applause.)  It is the right thing to do, and we’re going to keep moving forward.  (Applause.)  We are going to keep working to improve the law, just like you did here in Massachusetts.  (Applause.)

We are just going to keep on working at it.  We’re going to grind it out, just like you did here in Massachusetts — and, by the way, just like we did when the prescription drug program for seniors known as Medicare Part D was passed by a Republican President a decade ago.  That health care law had some early challenges as well.  There were even problems with the website.  (Laughter.)  And Democrats weren’t happy with a lot of the aspects of the law because, in part, it added hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit, it wasn’t paid for — unlike the Affordable Care Act, which will actually help lower the deficit.  (Applause.)

But, you know what, once it was the law, everybody pitched in to try to make it work.  Democrats weren’t about to punish millions of seniors just to try to make a point or settle a score.  So Democrats worked with Republicans to make it work.  And I’m proud of Democrats for having done that.  It was the right thing to do.  (Applause.)  Because now, about 90 percent of seniors like what they have.  They’ve gotten a better deal.

Both parties working together to get the job done –- that’s what we need in Washington right now.  (Applause.)  That’s what we need in Washington right now.

You know, if Republicans in Congress were as eager to help Americans get covered as some Republican governors have shown themselves to be, we’d make a lot of progress.  I’m not asking them to agree with me on everything, but if they’d work with us like Mitt Romney did, working with Democrats in Massachusetts, or like Ted Kennedy often did with Republicans in Congress, including on the prescription drug bill, we’d be a lot further along.  (Applause.)

So the point is, we may have political disagreements — we do, deep ones.  In some cases, we’ve got fundamentally different visions about where we should take the country.  But the people who elect us to serve, they shouldn’t pay the price for those disagreements.  Most Americans don’t see things through a political lens or an ideological lens.  This debate has never been about right or left.  It’s been about the helplessness that a parent feels when she can’t cover a sick child, or the impossible choices a small business faces between covering his employees or keeping his doors open.

I want to give you just — I want to close with an example. A person named Alan Schaeffer, from Prattsburgh, New York, and he’s got a story to tell about sacrifice, about giving up his own health care to save the woman he loves.  So Alan wrote to me last week, and he told me his story.

Four years ago, his wife, Jan, who happens to be a nurse, was struck with cancer, and she had to stop working.  And then halfway through her chemo, her employer dropped coverage for both of them.  And Alan is self-employed; he’s got an antique business.  So he had to make sure his wife had coverage, obviously, in the middle of cancer treatments, so he went without insurance.

Now, the great news is, today, Jan is cancer-free.  She’s on Medicare, but Alan’s been uninsured ever since.  Until last week — (applause) — when he sat down at a computer and — I’m sure after multiple tries — (laughter) — signed up for a new plan under the Affordable Care Act, coverage that can never be taken away if he gets sick.  (Applause.)

So I just want to read you what he said in this letter.  He says, “I’ve got to tell you I’ve never been so happy to pay a bill in my entire life.”  (Laughter.)  “When you don’t have insurance at my age, [it can] really feel like a time bomb waiting to go off.  The sense of relief from knowing I can live out my days longer and healthier, that’s just a tremendous weight off my shoulders.”

So two days later, Alan goes over to his buddy Bill’s house. He sits Bill down, and his wife, Diana, at their computer.  And after several tries — (laughter) — Alan helped lift that weight from their shoulders by helping them to sign up for a new plan also.  And compared to their current plan, it costs less than half as much and covers more.

See, that’s why we committed ourselves to this cause — for Alan, and Jan; for Bill, Diana.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Annie.

THE PRESIDENT:  For Annie.  For anyone who wrote letters, and shared stories, and knocked on doors because they believed what could happen here in Massachusetts could happen all across the country.  (Applause.)  And for them, and for you, we are going to see this through.  (Applause.)  We’re going to see this through.  (Applause.)  We are going to see this through.  (Applause.)

This hall is home to some of the earliest debates over the nature of our government, the appropriate size, the appropriate role of government.  And those debates continue today, and that’s healthy.  They’re debates about the role of the individual and society, and our rugged individualism, and our sense of self-reliance, our devotion to the kind of freedoms whose first shot rang out not far from here.  But they are also debates tempered by a recognition that we’re all in this together, and that when hardship strikes — and it could strike any of us at any moment  — we’re there for one another; and that as a country, we can accomplish great things that we can’t accomplish alone.  (Applause.)  We believe that.  We believe that.  (Applause.)

And those sentiments are expressed in a painting right here in this very hall:  “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable.”  That’s the value statement Deval was talking about.  That’s what health care reform is about.  That’s what America is about.  We are in this together, and we are going to see it through.  (Applause.)

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

Political Musings October 29, 2013: Obama, GOP weekly addresses focus on HealthCare.gov sign up glitches

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama, GOP weekly addresses focus on HealthCare.gov sign up glitches (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama sought to reassure Americans in his weekly address released Saturday morning, Oct. 26, 2013 about his new health care law, the Affordable Care Act. This past week the insurance exchange website HealthCare.gov referred to as the…

READ MORE

Political Musings October 29, 2013: House committee conducts hearing into health care website problems

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

House committee conducts hearing into health care website problems

By Bonnie K. Goodman

The House Energy and Commerce Committee started on Thursday, Oct. 24, 2013 holding hearings related to the problems with the HealthCare.gov website. The contractors responsible for developing the site testified on the first day of hearings, and denied…READ MORE

Political Musings October 29, 2013: HealthCare.gov website problems leads to bipartisan calls for Obamacare delays

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

HealthCare.gov website problems leads to bipartisan calls for Obamacare delays

By Bonnie K. Goodman

This past week the insurance exchange website HealthCare.gov referred to as the Marketplace has been in the spotlight over major glitches; the website is part of the rollout of President Barack Obama’s new health care law, the…READ MORE

Political Musings October 28, 2013: President Obama continues selling health care law as rollout problems persist

POLITICAL MUSINGS

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

OP-EDS & ARTICLES

Obama continues selling health care law as rollout problems persist (Video)

By Bonnie K. Goodman

President Barack Obama has been fervently trying to sell his health care law, the Affordable Care Act this past week, as problems continued to persist with the law’s Marketplace, HealthCare.gov. The President gave his first address reassuring…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency July 18, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech the Health Care Law, the Affordable Care Act

POLITICAL TRANSCRIPTS

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

Remarks by the President on the Affordable Care Act

Source: WH, 7-18-13

President Barack Obama delivers remarks on the Affordable Care Act's Medical Loss Ratio RefundsPresident Barack Obama delivers remarks on the Affordable Care Act’s Medical Loss Ratio Refunds, in the East Room of the White House, July 18, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

East Room

11:30 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  (Applause.)  Thank you very much.  Thank you so much, everybody.  I want to thank Morgan for that introduction.  And I want to thank all of you for being here.  There are a couple of people that I want to make sure to especially acknowledge.

First of all, the Leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives and somebody who worked harder than just about anybody to get the Affordable Care Act into law, Nancy Pelosi.  (Applause.)

We have some outstanding members of Congress here, some mayors and elected officials who are here.  I want to give a special shout-out — I’m not going to introduce all of them because it would take too much time and I might miss somebody.  But there is one person who’s standing in front — sitting in front, who I want to acknowledge just because he has served for decades, and for decades fought to make sure that everybody had affordable, accessible coverage, and we’re so proud of him — John Dingell.  (Applause.)  Congressman from Michigan.  (Applause.)

So I want to welcome everybody to the White House.  Every day, across the country and certainly here in the White House, there are people who are working as we speak to implement the Affordable Care Act and to deliver the security of quality, affordable health care to more Americans.

The good news is that starting October 1st, new online marketplaces will allow consumers to go online and compare private health care insurance plans just like you’d compare over the Internet the best deal on flat-screen TVs, or cars or any other product that is important to your lives.  And you’re going to see competition in ways that we haven’t seen before.  Insurance companies will compete for your business.  And in states that are working hard to make sure this law delivers for their people, what we’re seeing is that consumers are getting a hint of how much money they’re potentially going to save because of this law.  In states like California, Oregon, Washington, new competition, new choices, market forces are pushing costs down.

Just yesterday, state officials in New York announced that average premiums for consumers who buy insurance in their new marketplace will be at least 50 percent lower next year than they are today.  Think about that — 50 percent lower.  (Applause.)  So for people like Morgan who are self-employed, who have to buy on the individual market, they’re suddenly going to see opportunities not just for the rebates we discussed, but also for even greater savings in their monthly premiums.

So if you already buy insurance on the individual market, meaning that you don’t get insurance through a big group plan through your employer, that could mean thousands of dollars a year that can go towards paying a mortgage, or putting a kid through college, or saving for retirement.  And what this means is that hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers who don’t have insurance will finally be able to afford it — because these exchanges, this big pool is going to reduce the cost, and you may qualify for health care tax credits; middle-class families will potentially qualify for these credits that will bring the cost down even more.

So this is just an example of how the Affordable Care Act is doing what it’s designed to do:  deliver more choices, better benefits, a check on rising costs, and higher quality care.  That’s what it was designed to do, and we’re already seeing those effects take place.

Now, I mention all this because yesterday, despite all the evidence that the law is working the way it was supposed to for middle-class Americans, Republicans in the House of Representatives voted — for nearly the 40th time — (laughter) — to dismantle it.  We’ve got a lot of problems in this country, and there’s a lot of work that Congress needs to do:  get a farm bill passed, get immigration reform done, make sure we’ve got a budget in place that invests in our children and our future.  And yet, instead we’re refighting these old battles.  (Laughter.)  Sometimes I just try to figure out why.  Maybe they think it’s good politics.  But part of our job here is not to always think about politics.  Part of our job here is to sometimes think about getting work done on behalf of the American people, on behalf of the middle class and those who are striving to get into the middle class.  (Applause.)

And so the progress that we’re seeing in California and Washington and Oregon and now New York, that’s progress that we want to make sure we’re seeing all across the country.  Because there are still millions of people out there who not only want to get health insurance, but many who have health insurance who deserve a better deal and deserve the kinds of savings that the Affordable Care Act will offer.

Now, if you’re one of the 85 percent of Americans who already have health insurance — could be through your employer, or through Medicare, or through Medicaid — you already have an array of new benefits in place.  You don’t have to wait until October 1st.  You’re already getting benefits even if you don’t know that it’s because of the Affordable Care Act.  You’re getting better protections.  You’re getting more value for each dollar that you spend on your health care.

And that last point — the issue of getting better value for your buck — is what I want to focus on today.

For years, too many middle-class families saw their health care costs go up and up and up, without much explanation as to why or how their money was being spent.  But today, because of the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies have to spend at least 80 percent of every dollar that you pay in premiums on your health care — not on overhead, not on profits, but on you.

Now, many insurance companies are already exceeding this target, and they’re bringing down premiums and providing better value to their customers.  But those that aren’t now actually have to reimburse you.  If they’re not spending your premium dollars on your health care — at least 80 percent of it — they’ve got to give you some money back.

Last year, millions of Americans opened letters from their insurance companies — but instead of the usual dread that comes from getting a bill — (laughter) — they were pleasantly surprised with a check.  In 2012, 13 million rebates went out, in all 50 states.  Another 8.5 [million] rebates are being sent out this summer, averaging around 100 bucks each.  And for families like Morgan’s that are working hard, every dollar counts.  It makes a difference.

As she said during her introduction, she’d been buying insurance on the individual market in Maryland for years.  After she got a rebate for the first time — and I’m quoting Morgan now — she said, “It felt like someone was actually being held accountable for the dollars I was spending on health care.”  That’s one of core principles of the Affordable Care Act — holding insurance companies and providers accountable so that we all get a better deal.

Dan Hart, who’s here, from Chicago, had read these rebates were happening.  But he didn’t think anything of it until he got a check in the mail for $136.  And Dan is a father of two, and as any parent will tell you, those kids, they suck up a lot of money.  (Laughter.)  Am I right?  (Laughter.)  Absolutely.  So he used his rebate to pay some bills.

Rick Shewell and Claudia Diamond co-own a stationary store in Arlington, Virginia.  They knew about the provisions of the Affordable Care Act, but, Rick said, “I figured we’d never see the money.”  So it was a complete surprise when they got a rebate for $320 — put that money right back into their small business.

And this is happening all across the country, and it’s happening because of the Affordable Care Act.  It hasn’t been reported on a lot.  I bet if you took a poll, most folks wouldn’t know when that check comes in that this was because of Obamacare — (laughter) — that they got this extra money in their pockets.  But that’s what’s happening.

Now, even if you don’t get a rebate, even if you didn’t get a rebate there’s a good chance that these reforms are helping you as well, because one easy way to meet the goal of spending 80 percent of every dollar on care is to charge less for your care.  Now, we’ve got more work to do to get rising health care costs under control.  And some of the gains that we’ve made, some of the progress we’ve made in slowing the rise of health care costs isn’t always passed on to workers.  Sometimes companies may keep it and they are charging their employees a higher co-pay or higher deductible, or in some way shifting some costs onto some workers.

But generally speaking, what we’ve seen is that health care costs have slowed drastically in a lot of areas since we’ve passed the Affordable Care Act.  We’ve got a lot more work to do, but health care inflation is not skyrocketing the way it was.  And because of this new rule, because of the fact that it improves the value of the coverage that you purchase, last year alone, Americans saved $3.4 billion in lower premiums.  That’s $3.4 billion on top of these rebates.

So that’s just one way this law is helping middle-class families.  But it represents everything the Affordable Care Act means for folks who already have insurance:  better benefits, stronger protections, more bang for your buck — the basic notion that you ought to get what you pay for.

Now, I recognize that there are still a lot of folks — in this town, at least — who are rooting for this law to fail.  Some of them seem to think this law is about me.  It’s not.  I already have really good health care.  (Laughter.)

It’s about the dad in Maryland who, for the first time ever, saw his family’s premiums go down instead of up.  It’s about the grandma in Oregon whose free mammogram caught her breast cancer before it had a chance to spread.  It’s about the mom in Arizona who can afford heart surgery for her little girl now that the lifetime cap on her coverage has been lifted.  It’s about the folks here today who got a little bit of relief.

And I’m curious — what do opponents of this law think the folks here today should do with the money they were reimbursed?  Should they send it back to the insurance companies?  Do they think that was a bad idea to make sure that insurance companies are being held accountable?  I know that’s not what these folks think.

So the upshot is the American people deserve a fair shot.  They expect businesses to play by a fair set of rules.  And that’s why this fight is so important.  Our broken health care system threatened the hopes and the dreams of families and businesses across the country who feared that one illness or one accident could cost them everything they’d spent a lifetime building.  And step by step, we’re fixing that system.

It’s hard.  This is a big country, and the health care industry is massive and there are tons of providers.  And so as we implement, there are going to be glitches and there are going to be certain states that for political reasons are resisting implementation.  And we’re just steadily working through all that stuff.

The same was true when Medicare was started.  The same was true when Social Security got started.  There were folks who, for political reasons, resisted implementation.  But once it got set up, people started saying, this is a pretty good deal; it gives me a little more security.  It’s part of that basic bargain that if you work hard, if you’re doing the right thing, that you can get ahead in this country — and that you can provide some basic protections for your family.

And health care is at the heart of it; it’s part of it.  Affordable health care is not some privilege just for the few.  It’s a basic right that everybody should be able to enjoy.

So we’re going to keep fighting to secure that right — to make sure that every American gets the care that they need, when they need it, at a price they can afford.  That’s the America we believe in.  That’s what families deserve.  That’s what we’re going to keep on working to deliver.  We’re going to keep on working to make sure many people around this country who are already paying premiums are getting cheaper prices, that the money is being actually spent on their health care, that you’re not having to worry about the fine print, and that if you don’t have health insurance, you finally are in a position to get some at an affordable price — to give you and your family the kind of security you deserve.

That’s something that everybody should support.  That’s not something that should be subject to politics.  If the folks who have been trying to make political hay out of this thing, if they had some better ideas, I’ve already told them I’m happy to hear them.  But I haven’t heard any so far.  (Laughter.)  What I’ve heard is just the same old song and dance.  We’re just going to blow through that stuff and just keep on doing the right thing for the American people.

So thank you very much.  (Applause.)

END
11:47 A.M. EDT

Political Headlines July 17, 2013: House Votes 264-161 to Delay Health Care Law’s Employer and Individual Mandates by One Year

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

House Votes to Delay Employer and Individual Mandates by One Year

Source: ABC News Radio, 7-17-13

The House of Representatives voted Wednesday evening not only to delay the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate by one year, but also to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate by one year as well.

“This is about basic fairness,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said during a news conference Wednesday. “If the president believes that the employer mandate is too much for the employer community, how about basic fairness for American families and individuals?”…READ MORE

Political Headlines May 8, 2013: Majority Leader Eric Cantor: House Repeal Vote on Health Care Law Next Week

POLITICAL HEADLINES

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OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 113TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

Cantor: House Repeal Vote on Health Care Law Next Week

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-8-13

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

The House of Representatives is set to vote on a full repeal of the Affordable Care Act.

In a tweet Wednesday, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor said the vote would take place next week….READ MORE

Legal Buzz June 28, 2012: Supreme Court Upholds Affordable Care Act Mandate as Tax in 5-4 Vote — Health Care Law Largely Stands, Victory for President Obama

LEGAL BUZZ

COURT AND LEGAL NEWS:

THE HEADLINES….

IN FOCUS: SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS AFFORDABLE CARE ACT IN 5-4 VOTE

National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius — Full Text Opinion — SCOTUS, 6-28-12

Supreme Court Lets Health Law Largely Stand, in Victory for Obama

Source: NYT, 6-28-12
The Supreme Court left standing the basic provisions of the health care overhaul, ruling that the government may use its taxation powers to push people to buy insurance….READ MORE

  • Romney, GOP Pledge to Repeal Health Law: Mitt Romney and congressional Republicans on Thursday pledged a renewed effort to repeal the Obama administration’s health-care overhaul, undeterred by the Supreme Court ruling to uphold the law’s central tenet…. – WSJ, 6-28-12
  • Mitt Romney Can Use Healthcare Against Barack Obama: President Barack Obama’s White House staffers can take pride—his signature legislative achievement passed constitutional muster and they can begin to implement its most controversial provisions…. – US News, World Report, 6-28-12
  • Supreme Court upholds Obama health care mandate: The historic 5-4 decision will affect the way Americans receive and pay for their medical care…. – USA Today, 6-28-12
  • Supreme Court Health Care Ruling: The Mandate Can Stay: The Supreme Court has announced its long-awaited decision on President Obama’s health care law…. – ABC News, 6-28-12
  • Summary of Supreme Court health care decision: The following is an edited text of the Supreme Court health-care decision…. – MarketWatch, 6-28-12
  • Following Supreme Court health-care ruling, House GOP will again try to repeal law: Now that the health-care law has been largely upheld by the Supreme Court, the GOP-controlled House plans to vote to repeal it–again…. – WaPo, 6-28-12
  • What Supreme Court’s health-care ruling means for you: The Supreme Court’s ruling Thursday to uphold the bulk of the health-care law means that some popular provisions — such as requiring insurers to accept people regardless of preexisting conditions and to accept children up to age 26 on parents’ plans…. – MarketWatch, 6-28-12
  • Lawmakers react to Supreme Court decision upholding Obama health care law: The nation’s highest court on Thursday upheld the constitutionality of President Obama’s sweeping health care law, which was celebrated as victory among Democrats, while blasted by Republicans who vowed a repeal…. – Fox News, 6-28-12
  • Supreme Court health care decision: 10 top tweets on SCOTUS confusion: What was not helpful sorting through the Supreme Court’s health care decision on Thursday morning? Twitter. Politicos tweeted about their growing frustration at the varying accounts coming through their feeds in the minutes after the ruling was issued:1…. – Politico, 6-28-12
  • The Supreme Court will uphold Obamacare. Here’s why: The Supreme Court can’t let the public’s already shaky opinion of it get any worse. If Obamacare isn’t upheld, it’s further evidence that the court decides according to partisan politics, rather than legal principle…. – CS Monitor, 6-28-12
  • Supreme Court set to rule on health care reform: The stakes could hardly be higher as the Supreme Court is set to rule on President Obama’s health care law Thursday. The legal challenge highlights two fundamentally different views of the role of government…. – CBS News, 6-28-12
  • Either way Supreme Court rules on ‘Obamacare,’ insurers win: The Supreme Court is shaking up the political chessboard today by ruling on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act – aka “Obamacare” – and there is one player who will win no matter what the decision may be: the insurance industry…. – LAT, 6-28-12
  • Supreme Court to rule Thursday on health-care law: The Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care legislation Thursday morning, a potentially game-changing decision that would define the power of the national government in a presidential election year…. – WaPo, 6-28-12
  • Supreme Court health care decision has Washington awaiting history: The Supreme Court’s decision on the health-care law is the one thing nearly everyone has an opinion on…. – WaPo, 6-27-12
  • Supreme Court health care ruling expected Thursday: The Supreme Court is due to make a ruling on President Obama’s health care law that could affect the political landscape, the economy and the lives of millions of Americans…. – WaPo, 6-25-12

Political Headlines June 23, 2012: GOP Weekly Address: Rep. Bill Cassidy, M.D. on Jobs & Repealing ObamaCare

POLITICAL HEADLINES

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

GOP Address: Rep. Bill Cassidy, M.D. on Jobs & Repealing ObamaCare

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-23-12

In this week’s Republican address, Rep. Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA) describes the Republicans’ goals on fully repealing the president’s health care law, ObamaCare.

Cassidy says, “Unless the court throws out the entire law, we should repeal what is left and implement common-sense, step-by-step reforms that protect Americans’ access to the care they need, from the doctor they choose, at the lowest cost.”

“In this tough economy, the top health care concern of families and small businesses is out-of-control costs. Health care coverage has become too expensive for too many people,” he adds.

Ultimately, Cassidy feels a completely different law needs to be in place “to lower the cost of health care for families and small businesses.”

Political Headlines June 9, 2012: GOP Weekly Address: Rep. Erik Paulsen Urges Full Repeal of Affordable Care Act

POLITICAL HEADLINES

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 112TH CONGRESS:

THE HEADLINES….

GOP Address: Rep. Paulsen Urges Full Repeal of Affordable Care Act

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-9-12

House of Representatives

In this week’s Republican address, Minnesota Congressman Erik Paulsen underscores the House’s focus on job creation, and says President Obama’s policies are only making things worse.

With the U.S. unemployment rate at 8.2 percent, and small businesses finding it more difficult to create jobs, Rep. Paulsen says President Obama’s health care law may be the worst of what is “standing in the way of a stronger economy.”

“His health care law well may be the worst offender, driving up costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire workers,” Paulsen says in the address. “It’s making things worse in our economy, and it needs to be fully repealed.”

But Republicans in Congress, Paulsen contends, are working at “removing government barriers to job creation.”

“One of those initiatives, passed just this week, repeals a massive job killing tax increase on medical device manufacturers that is in the president’s health care law,” he says.

Paulsen claims this particular tax is just another “vivid demonstration of why we need to fully repeal this health care law.”…READ MORE

December 13, 2010: Judge Henry Hudson in Va. Rules Federal Health Care Law Unconstitutional

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor / Features Editor at HNN. She has a Masters in Library and Information Studies from McGill University, and has done graduate work in history at Concordia University.

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & THE 111TH & 112TH CONGRESS:

U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson struck down on Monday a key facet of the federal health-care reform law. 

U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson struck down on Monday a key facet of the federal health-care reform law. (Jay Paul For The Washington Post)

STATS & POLLS

  • Read Judge Hudson’s 42-page health care law rulingDocumentCloud

THE HEADLINES….

  • Judge in Va. strikes down federal health care law: A federal judge declared the foundation of President Barack Obama’s health care law unconstitutional Monday, ruling that the government cannot require Americans to purchase insurance. The case is expected to end up at the Supreme Court.
    U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson rejected the government’s argument that it has the power to enact the requirement under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.
    He wrote that no court had extended the clause to allow regulation of a person’s decision not to buy a product, and that the government’s reasoning could also apply to decisions about transportation, housing or nutrition.
    “At its core, this dispute is not simply about regulating the business of insurance — or crafting a scheme of universal health insurance coverage — it’s about an individual’s right to choose to participate,” Hudson wrote.
    In his order, he said he will allow the law to remain in effect while appeals are heard, meaning there is unlikely to be any immediate impact on other provisions that have already taken effect. The insurance coverage mandate is not scheduled to begin until 2014…. – AP, 12-13-10
  • Judge Voids Key Part of Health Care Law: A federal district judge in Virginia ruled on Monday that the keystone provision in the Obama health care law is unconstitutional, becoming the first court in the country to invalidate any part of the sprawling act and ensuring that appellate courts will receive contradictory opinions from below.
    Judge Henry E. Hudson, who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush, declined the plaintiff’s request to freeze implementation of the law pending appeal, meaning that there should be no immediate effect on the ongoing rollout of the law. But the ruling is likely to create confusion among the public and further destabilize political support for legislation that is under fierce attack from Republicans in Congress and in many statehouses.
    In a 42-page opinion issued in Richmond, Va., Judge Hudson wrote that the law’s central requirement that most Americans obtain health insurance exceeds the regulatory authority granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. The insurance mandate is central to the law’s mission of covering more than 30 million uninsured because insurers argue that only by requiring healthy people to have policies can they afford to treat those with expensive chronic conditions.
    The judge wrote that his survey of case law “yielded no reported decisions from any federal appellate courts extending the Commerce Clause or General Welfare Clause to encompass regulation of a person’s decision not to purchase a product, not withstanding its effect on interstate commerce or role in a global regulatory scheme.”
    Judge Hudson is the third district court judge to reach a determination on the merits in one of the two dozen lawsuits filed against the health care law. The others — in Detroit and Lynchburg, Va. — have upheld the law. Lawyers on both sides said the appellate process could last another two years before the Supreme Court settles the dispute…. – NYT, 12-13-10
  • Virginia health-care ruling strikes down key provision of Obama’s plan: A federal judge in Virginia ruled Monday that a key provision of the nation’s sweeping health-care overhaul is unconstitutional, the most significant legal setback so far for President Obama’s signature domestic initiative.
    U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson found that Congress could not order individuals to buy health insurance.
    In a 42-page opinion, Hudson said the provision of the law that requires most individuals to get insurance or pay a fine by 2014 is an unprecedented expansion of federal power that cannot be supported by Congress’s power to regulate interstate trade.
    “Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market,” he wrote. “In doing so, enactment of the [individual mandate] exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I [of the Constitution.] WaPo, 12-13-10
  • Virginia Judge Rules Major Health Reform Provision Unconstitutional: Federal judge Henry Hudson ruled Monday afternoon that a major provision of the health care reform law is unconstitutional, setting up a legal battle that will likely end at the Supreme Court…. Hudson is the first federal judge to declare the individual mandate unconstitutional — two other judges have sided with the Obama administration.
    “I am gratified we prevailed. This won’t be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution,” Cuccinelli said in a statement.
    Cuccinelli argued that the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which gives the federal government the authority to regulate interstate economic activity, could not be used to justify requiring individuals to buy health insurance.
    “The federal government asked the court to consider as economic activity the decision not to buy health insurance,” he said in a press conference. “This court and this judge rejected that leap of logic.”… – PBS Newshour, 12-13-10
  • Top Republicans praise Va. health care ruling: Top Republicans Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Eric Cantor all oppose President Obama’s health care law. Top Republicans say a Virginia court’s ruling striking down a key part of President Obama’s health care law helps their push to repeal the measure…. – USA Today, 12-13-10
  • WH: Health care case does not create uncertainty: The White House says it disagrees with a Virginia judge’s ruling declaring a key provision of President Barack Obama’s health care law unconstitutional. But officials say it does not create uncertainty about the implementation of the law’s provisions.
    “Our belief is that when all the legal wrangling is done, this is something that will be upheld,” White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said.
    White House health reform director Nancy-Ann DeParle said that while the Virginia judge ruled against the law, the administration is encouraged by two other federal judges that have upheld the law…. – ABC, WRIC, 12-13-10
  • Big legal setback for Obama’s health care overhaul: President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul hit its first major legal roadblock Monday, thrown into doubt by a federal judge’s declaration that the heart of the sweeping legislation is unconstitutional. The decision handed Republican foes ammunition for their repeal effort next year as the law heads for almost certain eventual judgment by the U.S. Supreme Court….. – AP, 12-13-10
  • Judge’s decision on health law conflicts with other cases: A U.S. district judge’s ruling Monday that overthrows a key portion of President Obama’s health care law conflicts with other lower-court rulings and centers on a thorny area of the law at the Supreme Court.
    At issue in the latest ruling on the health care initiative is a provision that requires most Americans to buy health insurance. The legal question is whether a person’s decision not to buy coverage is economic activity that affects interstate commerce and can be regulated by Congress.
    U.S. District Court Judge Henry Hudson ruled Monday that the decision to forgo insurance does not affect interstate commerce. Hudson said the law would penalize a person for not acting, rather than for voluntarily taking part in some economic activity.
    Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Norman Moon, also in Virginia, ruled the opposite, saying a decision to opt out is an “economic” one that ends up affecting the whole system, for example, “by collectively shifting billions of dollars on to other market participants and driving up the prices of insurance policies.”
    At the Supreme Court, where the ultimate fate of the health care overhaul probably rests, the justices’ recent rulings on the power of Congress have been marked by narrow votes and shifting majorities. Yet in one of the most significant disputes, a 2005 case testing federal anti-drug law, the high court broadly interpreted congressional power…. – USA Today, 12-13-10

QUOTES

  • Judge Henry Hudson, Washington Post: “Neither the Supreme Court nor any federal circuit court of appeals has extended Commerce Clause powers to compel an individual to involuntarily enter the stream of commerce by purchasing a commodity in the private market,” he wrote. “In doing so, enactment of the [individual mandate] exceeds the Commerce Clause powers vested in Congress under Article I [of the Constitution.]”
  • Cantor, McDonnell call for expedited Supreme Court review of health-care law: U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) are calling on the Obama administration to join Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R) in fast-tracking Supreme Court consideration of the constitutionality of the federal health-care law.
    Those statements are some of a staggering volume of reaction within Virginia to today’s ruling by U.S. District Court Judge Henry E. Hudson that a central provision of the law requiring that individuals obtain health insurance by 2014 is unconstitutional. The federal government can appeal to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. But Cuccinelli has asked them to consider joining him in requesting immediate Supreme Court review.
    At an afternoon news conference, Cuccinelli said bypassing the appeals court would relieve the country — and its massive health-care market — of the uncertainty of a continued lengthy legal battle. Already, Americans face a confused landscaped including 25 challenges to the law. Some have been dismissed on standing; two other judges have found the same provision of the law to be constitutional.
    Cuccinelli said he would consider asking the Supreme Court to take the case even without Justice Department cooperation, but he has made no decisions on the issue…. – WaPo, 12-13-10
  • John Boehner: A federal judge today ruled that the individual mandate in President Obama’s jobs-killing health care law is unconstitutional. When the new Congress convenes, Republicans will make good on our pledge to America & fight to repeal ObamaCare. We need to start over w/common-sense reforms that will protect jobs & help lower health care costs without unconstitutional mandates, new taxes, & penalties on small businesses.
  • Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R): In a statement, McDonnell said he has asked other governors and governors-elect to sign on to a letter to the Justice Department asking for their cooperation. McDonnell called the legal decision a “victory for the constitution” but said executives like him need a final resolution of the issue as they move ahead with implementing the complicated law. “There must be certainty and finality in order for our businesses and citizens to both know and adhere to the law.”
  • U.S. Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.): Cantor pledged that the new Republican-led House of Representatives would pass a repeal of the act next year, but in the meantime also called for expedited review. “In this challenging environment, we must not burden our states, employers and families with the costs and uncertainty created by this unconstitutional law, and we must take all steps to resolve this issue immediately,” he said.
  • Rep. Eric Cantor, the incoming House majority leader:
    “We must not burden our states, employers and families with the costs and uncertainty created by this unconsitutional law,” said Cantor, R-Va., who vowed that Republicans in the House will push for the law’s repeal when the party takes control in January.
  • Eric Cantor: Today’s ruling is a clear affirmation that President Obama’s health care law is unconstitutional and that the efforts of Governor McDonnell and Attorney General Cuccinelli have raised legitimate concerns. Furthermore, once the new House Republican Majority is sworn into office in January, we will pass a clean repeal of ObamaCare.
  • Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli: “I am gratified we prevailed. This won’t be the final round, as this will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, but today is a critical milestone in the protection of the Constitution,” Cuccinelli said in a statement.
    “The federal government asked the court to consider as economic activity the decision not to buy health insurance,” he said in a press conference. “This court and this judge rejected that leap of logic.”
    “Unfortunately, striking the ‘individual responsibility’ provision could also jeopardize the most popular insurance reform in the statute: preventing insurance companies from denying health coverage to people with pre-existing health conditions. While politically motivated opponents of the Affordable Care Act, like Attorney General Cuccinelli, may applaud this decision, for people with health conditions it could be quite tragic,” he said.
  • Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler in a statement: “We are disappointed in today’s ruling but continue to believe — as other federal courts in Virginia and Michigan have found — that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional.” “We are confident that we will ultimately prevail.”
  • White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in a press conference that the administration would appeal the ruling and that “Our belief is that the health care act will go forward and that it is constitutional.”
  • Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C.: “Today’s ruling should signal the beginning of the end for Obamacare.”:
  • Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, hailed the ruling as “a great day for liberty.” He summed up the issue of the government mandate like this: “If the government can tell you what to buy, then what limits on federal power exist?”
  • Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., the incoming chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee: “This decision strikes a blow for freedom.”
  • On the Democratic side, Rep. Henry Waxman says it’s clear the question of whether the individual mandate is constitutional will be decided by the Supreme Court.
    “When it gets there (to the high court), I am confident that cooler heads will prevail and that the health reform law will be upheld in full,” said Waxman, D-Calif., the current chairman of the commerce committee. He noted that some justices early on ruled that Social Security was illegal.
  • MA Senator Scott Brown lauds unconstitutional ruling on Obama Care: “This shows you the federal mandate of one size fits all is not appropriate,” Brown told the Herald. “It should be left up to the states.” “This also shows the Massachusetts health care law is nothing like the federal mandate,” Brown said. “The federal mandate does not pass constitutional muster. The state’s rights are very important and this ruling proves it.” – Boston Herald, 12-13-10
  • Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects: Today’s Health Care Court Ruling: Today’s narrow ruling in Virginia on the constitutionality of a provision of the Affordable Care Act is just one of many recent rulings on similar cases that have come down in recent months. Since the law passed, opponents of reform have filed more than 20 different legal challenges. Judges have already granted the Administration’s motion to dismiss 12 of these cases. And in two cases, federal judges looked at the merits of the opponents’ arguments, determined that the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and upheld the law.
    We disagree with the ruling issued today in Virginia and the Department of Justice is considering its appeal options.
    We are pleased that Judge Hudson agrees that implementation of the law will continue uninterrupted. In the nine months since the health reform law was passed, we’ve made tremendous progress to strengthen our health care system, including lowering costs and implementing a new patient’s bill of rights to end some of the worst insurance company abuses. That work continues. And we’re confident that when it’s all said and done, the courts will find the Affordable Care Act constitutional.
    History and the facts are on our side. Similar legal challenges to major new laws — including the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act — were all filed and all failed. Contrary to what opponents argue the new law falls well within Congress’s power to regulate economic activity under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the General Welfare Clause.
    Opponents of reform claim that the individual responsibility requirement – the requirement that all Americans carry a minimum level insurance by 2014 –exceeds Congress’ power to regulate interstate commerce because it penalizes economic “inactivity.” Make no mistake — individuals who choose to go without health insurance are actively engaged in economic decision making – the decision to pay for health care out-of-pocket or to seek uncompensated care. Every year millions of those who have chosen to go without health insurance actively seek medical care, which is evident in the billions of dollars spent on uncompensated care every year.
    The Affordable Care Act came into being precisely because of the interconnectedness of our health care costs. People who make an economic decision to forego health insurance do not opt out of the health care market, but instead shift their costs to others when they become ill or are involved in an accident and cannot pay. Those costs – $43 billion in 2008 alone – are borne by doctors, hospitals, insured individuals, taxpayers and small businesses throughout the nation. This cost-shift added on average $1,000 to family premiums in 2009 and roughly $410 to an individual premium.
    This concept is clearly seen in other areas of commerce. For example, in most states, drivers are required to carry a minimum level of auto insurance. Accidents happen and when they do, they need to be paid for quickly and responsibly. Requiring drivers to carry auto insurance accomplishes this goal. Similarly, the Affordable Care Act, through the individual responsibility requirement, will require everyone to carry some form of health insurance since everyone at some point in time participates in the health care system, and incur costs that must be paid for.
    It’s no surprise then, that President Reagan’s Solicitor General Charles Fried recently wrote, “the health care law’s enemies have no ally in the Constitution.” Two federal judges that recently ruled on the challenge to the constitutionality of the reform law in Michigan and Virginia agreed. These lawsuits were dismissed, with the federal judge in Virginia concluding “how and when to pay for health care are activities…in the aggregate…substantially affect[s] the interstate health care market.”
    Two federal judges have agreed with this argument. In an earlier ruling in the Western District of Virginia, a federal judge wrote:
    “I hold that there is a rational basis for Congress to conclude that individuals’ decisions about how and when to pay for health care are activities that in the aggregate substantially affect the interstate health care market…Nearly everyone will require health care services at some point in their lifetimes, and it is not always possible to predict when one will be afflicted by illness or injury and require care…Far from ‘inactivity,’ by choosing to forgo insurance, Plaintiffs are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now, through the purchase of insurance. As Congress found, the total incidence of these economic decisions has a substantial impact on the national market for health care by collectively shifting billions of dollars on to other market participants and driving up the prices of insurance policies.”
    The Affordable Care Act also bans insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions. However, unless every American is required to have insurance, it would be cost prohibitive to cover people with preexisting conditions. Here’s why: If insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to anyone who applies for insurance – especially those who have health problems and are potentially more expensive to cover – then there is nothing stopping someone from waiting until they’re sick or injured to apply for coverage since insurance companies can’t say no. That would lead to double digit premiums increases – up to 20% – for everyone with insurance, and would significantly increase the cost health care spending nationwide. We don’t let people wait until after they’ve been in a car accident to apply for auto insurance and get reimbursed, and we don’t want to do that with healthcare. If we’re going to outlaw discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, the only way to keep people from gaming the system and raising costs on everyone else is to ensure that everyone takes responsibility for their own health insurance.
    There have been many rulings on court cases regarding health reform and we know there will be many more. In the end, the Affordable Care Act will prevail and the American people will enjoy the benefits of reform. WH, 12-13-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Larry J. Sabato Professor of Politics, University of Virginia “Hiccup or heart attack for health care reform? Plus, will White House charm offensive work?”: Let’s see. The Democratic judges who have ruled so far have upheld the health care reform law and the Republican judge has struck down the law’s heart. Very predictable to this point because — despite the claims of many in the judicial branch — the partisan identification and personal ideology of judges matter enormously in cases with strong political overtones. If you knew the backgrounds of the Democratic judges and Republican Judge Henry Hudson, you could have made a bundle betting in Vegas.
    Eventually the controversy will reach the Supreme Court, otherwise known as “Anthony Kennedy,” for its resolution.
  • Mary Frances Berry Professor of American Social Thought and History, U. Penn.: Since the legality of the Health reform law will be at issue until decided by the Supreme Court, it is worth noting that Justice Thomas has repeatedly expressed an interest in curbing the power of Congress under the Commerce Clause. He would revisit decisions dating back to the New Deal. Other justices have shown varying degrees of interest.
    It is, therefore, entirely possible that the health reform individual mandate could be overturned in a 5-4 decision. It is also entirely possible that other recent congressional enactments, under the Commerce Clause, might be affected. Since the individual mandate is the “linchpin” of the health reform law, there is reason for worry.
  • Tevi Troy Visiting Senior Fellow, the Hudson Institute; Former Deputy HHS secretary: President Obama is right to be concerned about oversight investigations, but a charm offensive directed toward the new GOP chairmen may not help him much. With the Democrats controlling both houses of Congress for Obama’s first two years, the White House has not had to worry much about congressional oversight into agency activities. This will change in January, and White House phone calls or tea parties with the GOP chairmen are unlikely to deter them from their investigative efforts.
  • Julian E. Zelizer Professor of History and Public Affairs, Princeton : Many say there wasn’t that much to investigate with President Clinton, but the GOP found a way. As the politics heat up, investigations are likely to come.
  • Kyle Wingfield: Strike one against ObamaCare: Today’s ruling by a federal judge in Virginia, declaring the health-insurance mandate in ObamaCare unconstitutional, is not the last word by any means. But to paraphrase Vice President Biden’s line about the law, it’s a big bleepin’ deal. This isn’t the big states’ lawsuit against the federal government over the law; Georgia and 20 other states are pursuing a lawsuit working its way through federal courts in Florida. It is, however, the lawsuit that addresses the constitutional question that so many conservatives raised during the health-reform debate: Can the federal government compel citizens to buy a particular product (in this case, health insurance)?…. – Atlanta Journal Constitution, 12-13-10
  • Derek Thompson: What if the Supreme Court Strikes Down the Insurance Mandate?: The key provision in the health care reform law that requires all citizens to buy insurance is unconstitutional, according to a Virginia district judge. Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled that the insurance mandate violated the Commerce Clause because it tries to regulate the opposite of commerce — the refusal to purchase health care insurance. Before I start to make a big deal about this story, let’s remember why it’s silly to make a big deal about this story. First, two judges have already ruled that the insurance mandate is constitutional. Second, it could be another two years before the Supreme Court picks up the case against the insurance mandate. Third, the bulk of the health care overhaul doesn’t come online until 2014 anyway, which means we’re debating the legality of provisions that won’t become reality for another two election cycles.
    But in the slim chance that the Supreme Court does strike down the insurance mandate, what would be the options of an Obama administration, or Democratic Party? To get a handle on that question, I spoke with Paul Van de Water at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Here were the four ideas we discussed…. – The Atlantic, 12-13-10
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