Category Archives: health

President Obama Speaks to Insurance Company Executives, 11/15/13

The President:

“I want to welcome the executives who are here from a lot of the insurance companies that are participating in the marketplace. We all share a similar value, which is we want to make sure that Americans have good, solid coverage that gives them the security they need for themselves and their family members if and when they get sick.

And we know the demand is out there for that. We had, despite all the problems with the website, over a million people apply. Many multiples of that wanted to see what options were available. Obviously because of the problems with the website some folks have been blocked from seeing the well-priced benefits that are available in the marketplace, and so we’re working 24/7 to get it fixed. The website is working a lot better now than it was a couple of weeks ago.

And what we’re going to be doing is brainstorming on how do we make sure that everybody understands what their options are. Because of choice and competition, a whole lot of Americans who’ve always seen health insurance out of reach are going to be in a position to purchase it. And because of the law, we’re also going to be able to provide them help even if they are still having trouble purchasing that insurance. But they’ve got to know what those options are in order to be successful.

So I appreciate all these folks coming in. We’re going to be soliciting ideas from them. There’s going to be a collaborative process. We want to make sure that we get this done so that in the years to come every American is going to have the kind of affordable health care that they all deserve.

Thank you very much for being here.”

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West Wing Week 11/15/13 or, “We Will Stand By Your Side”

Welcome to the West Wing Week, your guide to everything that’s happening at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and beyond. This week, the First and Second Families honored Veterans Day, the President traveled to New Orleans and to Cleveland to speak on the importance of infrastructure to job creation, signed the EpiPen Law, discussed immigration reform with Faith Leaders and attended the 5th Annual Tribal Nations Conference. That’s November 8th to November 14th or “We Will Stand By Your Side.”

President Obama Speaks on the Affordable Care Act, 11/14/13; Q&A and Fact Sheet

The President:

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.”

Complete transcript with Q & A: http://1.usa.gov/1ctfp0e

FACT SHEET: New Administration Proposal To Help Consumers Facing Cancellations http://1.usa.gov/18xBN63

President Obama Speaks at the 2013 Tribal Nations Conference, 11/13/13

The President:

“Now, most of all, I want to thank all of you, especially the tribal leaders who are here today. And I understand, actually, we’ve got more tribal leaders here than we ever have at any of these conferences. So it just keeps on growing each year, which is wonderful news. (Applause.) You represent more than 300 tribal nations, each of you with your own extraordinary heritage, each a vital part of a shared American family. And as a proud adopted member of the Crow Nation, let me say kaheé — welcome — to all of you.

Now, after I became President, I said that given the painful chapters and broken promises in our shared history, I’d make sure this country kept its promises to you. I promised that tribal nations would have a stronger voice in Washington –- that as long as I was in the White House, it would be your house, too. And for the past five years, my administration has worked hard to keep that promise –- to build a new relationship with you based on trust and respect.

And this new relationship wasn’t just about learning from the past. It was also about the here and now –- recognizing the contributions that your communities make to enrich the United States every single day. Native Americans are doctors and teachers and businessmen and women, and veterans and service members. And they get up every morning and help make America stronger and more prosperous and more just.

And I want to build on our true government-to-government relationship as well. So I’m proud to have Native Americans serving with dedication in my administration, including Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Indian Affairs, Kevin Washburn of the Chickasaw Nation; my Senior Advisor for Native American Affairs, Jodi Gillette of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe — (applause) — our [inter]governmental affairs office, we’ve got Charlie Galbraith of the Navajo Nation….

And while we should be proud of what we’ve achieved together in recent years, we also should be focused on all the work that we still have to do.

I know we’ve got members of the Iroquois nation here today. And I think we could learn from the Iroquois Confederacy, just as our Founding Fathers did when they laid the groundwork for our democracy. The Iroquois called their network of alliances with other tribes and European nations a “covenant chain.” Each link represented a bond of peace and friendship. But that covenant chain didn’t sustain itself. It needed constant care, so that it would stay strong. And that’s what we’re called to do, to keep the covenant between us for this generation and for future generations. And there are four areas in particular where I think we need to focus.

First, let’s keep our covenant strong by strengthening justice and tribal sovereignty. We’ve worked with you in good faith to resolve longstanding disputes like establishing the Land Buy Back Program to consolidate Indian lands and restore them to tribal trust lands. We’ve reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act, so tribes can prosecute those who commit domestic violence in Indian Country, whether they’re Native American or not. (Applause.) I signed changes to the Stafford Act, to let tribes directly request disaster assistance, because when disasters like floods or fires strike, you shouldn’t have to wait for a middleman to get the help you need. (Applause.)

But there’s more we can do to return more control to your communities. And that’s why I’m urging Congress to reauthorize the Native American Housing Assistance and Self-Determination Act — because your communities know your affordable housing needs better than Washington does. (Applause.) It’s why we’ll keep pushing Congress to pass the Carcieri fix, so that more tribal nations can put their land into federal trust. (Applause.) And we’ve heard loud and clear your frustrations when it comes to the problem of being fully reimbursed by the federal government for the contracted services you provide, so we’re going to keep working with you and Congress to find a solution. (Applause.) That’s all going to be part of making sure that we’re respecting the nation-to-nation relationship.

Now, second, we’ve got to keep our covenant strong by expanding opportunity for Native Americans. We’ve created jobs building new roads and high-speed Internet to connect more of your communities to the broader economy. We’ve made major investments in job training and tribal colleges and universities. But the fact remains Native Americans face poverty rates that are higher by far than the national average. And that’s more than a statistic, that’s a moral call to action. We’ve got to do better.

So I said to some of you that I met with yesterday, growing our economy, creating new jobs is my top priority. We’ve got to stop the self-inflicted wounds in Washington. Because for many tribal nations, this year’s harmful sequester cuts and last month’s government shutdown made a tough situation worse. Your schools, your police departments, child welfare offices are all feeling the squeeze. That’s why I’m fighting for a responsible budget that invests in the things that we need in order to grow -– things like education, and job training, and affordable housing and transportation, including for Native American communities. And we’re going to work to make sure Native American-owned businesses have greater access to capital and to selling their goods overseas. So we’ve got to build the economy, create more opportunity.

Number three, we’ve got to keep our covenant strong by making sure Native Americans have access to quality, affordable health care just like everybody else. That’s one of the reasons we fought hard to pass the Affordable Care Act, and we’re working overtime to make sure the law works the way it’s supposed to. For Native Americans, this means more access to comprehensive, affordable coverage. It permanently reauthorizes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which provides care to so many in your communities.

And let me just give you one example of how this law is already working for tribal nations. Thanks to the ACA, the Puyallup Tribal Health Authority in Washington State created the country’s first tribal family medicine residency program. Patients are cared for in a culturally sensitive way, often by Native American staff. And we’re seeing results -– a young physician caring for a revered Tribal Elder; a doctor who has delivered babies in the community for years, and now his son is also doing the same. And that’s creating more quality health care, but also sustaining bonds between generations. That’s progress that we need to build on.

And then the fourth area that we’ve got to work on is, let’s keep our covenant strong by being good stewards of native homelands, which are sacred to you and your families. I saw the beauty of Crow Agency, Montana, when I was a candidate for this office. Next year, I’ll make my first trip to Indian Country as President. (Applause.)

The health of tribal nations depends on the health of tribal lands. So it falls on all of us to protect the extraordinary beauty of those lands for future generations. And already, many of your lands have felt the impacts of a changing climate, including more extreme flooding and droughts. That’s why, as part of the Climate Action Plan I announced this year, my administration is partnering with you to identify where your lands are vulnerable to climate change, how we can make them more resilient.

And working together, we want to develop the energy potential of tribal lands in a responsible way and in accordance with tribal wishes. Over the last four years, we’ve more than doubled oil and gas revenues on tribal lands –- a big reason why the United States is now more energy independent. So we’re working with tribes to get more renewable energy projects, like solar and wind, up and running. Your lands and your economies can be a source of renewable energy and the good local jobs that come with it….

And we don’t have to look far for inspiration. Some of you know, Monday obviously was Veterans’ Day, a time to honor all who have worn America’s uniform. (Applause.) I know everyone here is proud that Native Americans have such a high enlistment rate in our military. And we’ve seen generations of patriotic Native Americans who have served with honor and courage, and we draw strength from them all.

We draw strength from the Navajo Code Talkers whose skill helped win the Second World War. (Applause.) We draw strength from Woodrow Wilson Keeble, who many years after his death was finally awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroism in the Korean War. (Applause.) We draw strength from — and I want to make sure I get this right — Lori Piestewa, who during the Iraq war was the first known Native American woman to give her life in combat for the United States. (Applause.) And we draw strength from all our men and women in uniform today, including two pilots I rely on when I step onto Marine One -– Major Paul Bisulca, from the Penobscot Nation, and Major Eli Jones, of the Shoshone Bannock. And those guys are carrying me around, keeping me safe. (Applause.)

So on this Veterans Day week, even though it’s technically not Veterans Day, I want to ask all the veterans in the audience –- including several legendary Navajo Code Talkers who are here
-– if you can, please stand, accept our gratitude. (Applause.)

For generations, these men and women have helped keep our covenant strong. So now we’ve got to keep strong what they’ve built, for this and generations to come. It falls to us to keep America the place where no matter where you come from, what you look like, you can always make it as long as you try, as long as you work hard. And I know that that’s what — all of you are working hard. That’s what you represent as leaders of the communities that are represented here from coast to coast. I want you to know that’s what I’m working for. That’s the partnership that I cherish, and I will cherish as long as I have the honor of serving as your President.

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

President Obama speaks in New Orleans on the economy and exports, 11/8/13

The President:

“We should not be injuring ourselves every few months — we should be investing in ourselves. We should be building, not tearing things down. Rather than refighting the same old battles again and again and again, we should be fighting to make sure everybody who works hard in America and hard right here in New Orleans, that they have a chance to get ahead. That’s what we should be focused on. (Applause.)

Which brings me to one of the reasons I’m here at this port. One of the things we should be focused on is helping more businesses sell more products to the rest of the world…. every $1 billion in exports supports nearly 5,000 jobs, including jobs right here at this port. So we’re working on new trade deals that will mean more jobs for our workers, and more business for ports like this one….

Number one, Congress needs to pass a farm bill that helps rural communities grow and protects vulnerable Americans. For decades, Congress found a way to compromise and pass farm bills without fuss. For some reason, now Congress can’t even get that done. Now, this is not something that just benefits farmers. Ports like this one depend on all the products coming down the Mississippi. So let’s do the right thing, pass a farm bill. We can start selling more products. That’s more business for this port. And that means more jobs right here. (Applause.)

Number two, we should fix our broken immigration system. (Applause.) This would be good for our national security, but it would also be good for our economic security. Over the next two decades, it would grow our economy by $1.4 trillion. It would shrink our deficits by nearly a trillion dollars. This should not be a partisan issue. President Bush proposed the broad outlines of common-sense immigration reform almost a decade ago. When I was in the Senate, I joined 23 of my Republican colleagues to back those reforms. This year, the Senate has already passed a bill with broad bipartisan support.

So all we’re doing now is waiting for the House to act. I don’t know what the holdup is. But if there’s a good reason not to do it, I haven’t heard it. There’s no reason both parties can’t come together and get this done this year. Get it done this year. (Applause.)

Number three, Democrats and Republicans should work together on a responsible budget that sets America on a stronger course for the future….

So what we have to do now is do what America has always done: Make some wise investments in our people and in our country that will help us grow over the long term. We should close wasteful tax loopholes that don’t help our jobs, don’t grow our economy, and then invest that money in things that actually do create jobs and grow our economy. And one of those things is building new roads and bridges and schools and ports….

So the bottom line is, New Orleans, we can work together to do these things, because we’ve done them before. We did not become the greatest nation on Earth just by chance, just by accident. We had some advantages — really nice real estate here in the United States. But what we also had were people who despite their differences — and we come from everywhere and look different and have different traditions — we understand that this country works best when we’re working together. And we decided to do what was necessary for our businesses and our families to succeed. And if we did it in the past, we can do it again.”

Complete text: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/11/08/remarks-president-economy-port-new-orleans

First Lady Michelle Obama at White House Kitchen Garden Summer Harvest, 5/28/13

The FLOTUS delivers remarks before joining school children from across the country to harvest the summer crop from the White House Kitchen Garden. For this harvest, the First Lady invited children from two New Jersey communities that were affected by Hurricane Sandy, as well as all the children who helped plant the garden in April so they could see the fruits of their labors.

“Sarah Moore Green Magnet Academy, where are you? (Applause.) Is that a scream? Let’s try that again. Sarah Moore Green Magnet Academy. (Applause.) That’s good. And to your principals, teachers, administrators, parents who are here, let’s here it from you guys as well. (Applause.) That’s some screaming — that’s some screaming.

We’ve got the Arthur D. Healey School from Somerville, Massachusetts — where are you guys? (Applause.) Yes! And where are your teachers, principals, administrators, parents? (Applause.) Welcome. Yes, yes.

And then we’ve got Milton Elementary School from Milton, Vermont. (Applause.) Oh, come on, you guys. Come on, Milton — let me hear it. (Applause.) Are you hungry already? You’re running out of energy?

Well, it’s good to have you guys back. Thank you for being here. You see — how many kids who are here actually helped me plant? All of you guys — you guys — isn’t it amazing how the garden has grown? It’s just terrific.

And then we’ve got my friends from Tubman and Bancroft Schools. (Applause.) Yes! And to all the administrators, teachers, principals, parents, everybody — yay. (Laughter.) It’s good to have you guys….

Another one of the reasons why we wanted to invite you guys is I understand that given all that you guys have been through — because many of your schools got damaged in Sandy, right? — but despite that, you guys are still going to school every day, and you’re working on eating healthy, right? And it hasn’t been that easy, but you guys have managed to get through the school year way on top of the game, and we’re just very proud of you. That’s one of the reasons why we wanted to have you here today. So welcome. It’s good to have you.”