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  • Chances are you’ve heard of the Affordable Care Act – President Obama’s landmark health reform law that’s holding insurance companies accountable, lowering health care costs, giving Americans more freedom and control in their health care choices, and improving the quality of care.

    One part of the act that you may not be as familiar with, however, is the “80/20 rule” – also known as the Medical Loss Ratio (MLR) rule – which went into effect in 2011.

    The rule generally requires health insurance companies in the individual and small group markets to spend at least 80% of the premium dollars they collect on medical care or activities to improve health care quality. And that increases to 85% for insurance companies in the large group market.

    Today, the Department of Health and Human Services released some new numbers showing just how much this rule has saved consumers over the last few years.

  • Today, President Obama is heading to Los Angeles Trade Technical College, where he's calling for a kind of "economic patriotism" that's based on investing in the things that we know grow the economy for everyone (like education and job training) — not protecting wasteful loopholes for a few at the top.

    And he's calling attention to one kind of corporate merger deal in particular — called an "inversion" — a word you might be seeing in a lot of news headlines lately.

    It's not the most intuitive name for a corporate tax loophole, so we're going to break it down for you.

    Q: So what exactly is an "inversion"?

    A corporate "inversion" is what happens when a U.S.-based multinational with operations in other countries restructures itself so that the U.S. "parent" is replaced by a foreign corporation — and usually one that's in a country with a lower tax rate than the United States. As a result, on the whole, this means that corporate income tax that would otherwise be paid to the United States ends up going overseas.

    In other words, right now, our tax code allows any American company to merge with a foreign company (so long as that company’s shareholders own 20% of the combined firm) — and then “relocate” or “invert” to another country for tax purposes. This maneuver — which changes nothing about the actual operations that continue in the U.S. — allows companies to dramatically reduce the taxes they owe in the U.S. by taking advantage of loopholes in our tax system.

    Meanwhile, they would continue enjoying the benefits and protections of the American economy — provided by our tax dollars. It's a big loophole — and right now, it’s completely legal.

  • This week, President Obama signed an Executive Order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. From the repeal of “Don't Ask, Don’t Tell” to ending the legal defense of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, the Obama administration has made advancing equality and leveling the playing field for the LGBT community a priority.

    On Friday, you're invited to join a conversation on the new Executive Order and steps the Administration has taken to expand opportunity for the LGBT community. Join Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to the President, for a Tumblr Q&A this Friday, July 25 at 1:00 p.m. ET. Here’s how it works:

    The White House uses platforms like Tumblr to connect with people around the country on the issues they care the most about. Last month, the President joined his first-ever Tumblr Q&A live from the White House focused on education. We’re excited to continue the White House Tumblr Q&A series this week, so ask away!

  • Forty-five years ago today, two American astronauts -- Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong -- landed on the moon's Sea of Tranquility, and Neil Armstrong planted the first footprint on the surface of the moon. As he made those first steps, Armstrong uttered that simple phrase we still remember today: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

    Today, President Obama joined all Americans honoring that giant leap forward, by inviting Neil Armstrong's wife, Carol, Michael Collins, the astronaut who piloted the spacecraft that orbited the moon, and Buzz Aldrin, to the White House. Armstrong passed away in 2012.

    President Barack Obama meets with Apollo 11 astronauts

    President Barack Obama meets with Apollo 11 astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins, right, Carol Armstrong, widow of Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, and Patricia Falcone, OSTP Associate Director for National Security and International Affairs, left, in the Oval Office. This week marked the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing. July 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    In the President's statement on today's meeting, he honored the bravery and leadership that these heroes displayed, and acknowledged the influence that their mission has had on mankind:

    The United States of America is stronger today thanks to the vision of President Kennedy, who set us on a course for the moon, the courage of Neil, Buzz, and Michael, who made the journey, and the spirit of service of all who’ve worked not only on the Apollo program, but who’ve dared to push the very boundaries of space and scientific discovery for all humankind.

    As we commemorate that day, we take a look back at the Apollo 11 mission and the extraordinary influence of the U.S. space program.

  • President Barack Obama signs H.R. 803

    President Barack Obama signs H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act after delivering remarks on job training, in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building South Court Auditorium, July 22, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

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    We need to make sure workers in America can find jobs that meet their skills, or get trained with the skills they need for a better job.

    That's why, in this year's State of the Union address, President Obama tasked Vice President Biden with leading a review of our country's job-training programs to make sure that they have one mission: training our workers with the skills employers need, and matching them to good jobs that need to be filled right now.

    The effort to make our federal training programs more job-driven was also bolstered by the bipartisan passage of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which President Obama signed into law this afternoon.

  • President Barack Obama visits the Embassy of the Netherlands

    President Barack Obama visits the Embassy of the Netherlands in Washington, D.C., July 22, 2014, to sign a condolence book honoring those who were lost in the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 in Ukraine. Standing with President Obama is Peter Mollema, the deputy chief of mission for the Netherlands Embassy. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    President Obama visited the Embassy of the Netherlands this morning, signing a condolence book for those killed in the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 in Ukraine. In the condolence book, the President wrote:

    On behalf of the American people, I extend our deepest condolences to the people of the Netherlands as they mourn the loss of so many family and friends. No words can adequately express the sorrow the world feels over this loss. It is made more acute by the deep ties of friendship between our two countries. Bound by that friendship, we will not rest until we are certain that justice is done.

  • Last week, we had the privilege of meeting with President Obama, members of his Cabinet, and 24 other state, local, and tribal leaders for the fourth and final meeting of the President’s Task Force on Climate Preparedness and Resilience. It was an important milestone in a productive and collaborative process.

    We discussed the Task Force’s draft recommendations, including many steps that we hope federal agencies will take to help states and communities like ours get ready for climate change, and the Administration announced bold new actions it is taking to support climate preparedness.

    Sitting there together, we recalled how the partnership between Vermont and Fort Collins, Colorado, began in far less auspicious circumstances. In September 2013, floods devastated many Colorado communities along the front range. Vermont, having recently rebuilt hundreds of bridges, roads, and homes after the record-setting Tropical Storm Irene, sent a team led by Vermont’s former recovery officer and current transportation Deputy Sue Minter, to provide advice and support to Colorado leaders as they faced the epic challenge of organizing a swift recovery. 

    The experience of a severe disaster in both our jurisdictions, and our deep concern that the risk of such events is worsening with climate change, has galvanized our determination to strengthen the resilience of our state and city, and to work together with leaders across the country as we “bounce forward," and make our communities safe and prosperous during a time of increased climate-related risks.

  • This afternoon, President Obama visited the Walker Jones Education Campus in Washington, D.C. to participate in a town hall with youth, and to announce new commitments in support of the My Brother’s Keeper Initiative.

    As the President said today, "We want fewer young men in jail; we want more of them in college. We want fewer young men on the streets; we want more in the boardrooms. We want everybody to have a chance to succeed in America. And it’s possible if we’ve got the kind of team that we set up today."

    Watch President Obama answer questions during today’s town hall:

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    At a ceremony at the White House this afternoon, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Staff Sergeant Ryan M. Pitts for his unwavering courage in one of the fiercest battles of the Afghanistan war.

    In the summer of 2008, when our forces in Afghanistan were stretched thin across isolated outposts, Ryan was serving alongside 48 American soldiers charged with using little resources to defend a post with significant vulnerabilities. Mountains stood sky-high on every side of the village of Wanat, diverting aerial surveillance and delaying the heavy equipment they needed for their defense. 

    In the pre-dawn darkness of one fateful July morning, while manning this small, unfinished base, Ryan and his fellow soldiers were attacked by 200 assailants who were determined to take their post. “Those 200 insurgents were firing from ridges and from the village and from trees,” President Obama said. “Down at the base, a vehicle exploded—scattering its missiles, back at our soldiers. It was, said a soldier, ‘hell on earth.’”

  • President Barack Obama delivers remarks before he signs an executive order regarding further amendments to Executive Order 11478

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks before he signs an executive order regarding further amendments to Executive Order 11478, Equal Employment Opportunity in the Federal Government, and Executive Order 11246, Equal Employment Opportunity, to protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination, in the East Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon) July 21, 2014.

    Earlier today, President Obama signed an Executive Order that prohibits federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The Order also ensures that federal employees – who are already protected on the basis of sexual orientation – will now formally be protected from discrimination based on gender identity as well.

    In response to the President's actions today, many national organizations dedicated to LGBT equality, civil rights, and religious freedom expressed their support.

    Anthony Romero, Executive Director, ACLU:

    This is one of the most important actions ever taken by a president to eradicate LGBT discrimination from America's workplaces. By signing this order, President Obama is building on a bipartisan tradition, dating back over 70 years, of barring discrimination without exception when taxpayer dollars are involved.

  • President Obama signs an executive order on further amendments to EO 11478

    President Barack Obama delivers remarks before he signs an executive order regarding further amendments to Executive Order 11478, Equal Employment Opportunity in the Federal Government, and Executive Order 11246, Equal Employment Opportunity, to protect LGBT employees from workplace discrimination, in the East Room of the White House, July 21, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Amanda Lucidon)

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    "Many of you have worked for a long time to see this day coming."

    Those were President Obama's words to the audience in the East Room of the White House this morning, before he signed an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

    At the signing, the President explained how, because of their "passionate advocacy and the irrefutable rightness of [their] cause, our government -- government of the people, by the people, and for the people -- will become just a little bit fairer."

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    This morning, President Obama made a statement on the current situation in Ukraine, in the wake of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 being shot down last week over territory controlled by Russian-backed separatists in Ukraine.

    Following his press statement on Friday, the President restated today that "our immediate focus is on recovering those who were lost, investigating exactly what happened, and putting forward the facts. We have to make sure that the truth is out and that accountability exists."

    He also noted that international investigators are already on the ground, prepared and organized to conduct "the kinds of protocols and scouring and collecting of evidence that should follow any international incident like this." President Obama then called on Russia -- and President Vladimir Putin in particular -- to "insist that the separatists stop tampering with the evidence, [and] grant investigators who are already on the ground immediate, full, and unimpeded access to the crash site."

  • Ed. note. This is cross-posted from the Let's Move blog. See the original post here.

    Today, the First Lady welcomed fifty-four young chefs from all over the country to the State Dining Room for the 2014 Kids’ State Dinner. These 54 kids were selected from more than 1,500 recipes that were submitted for the Epicurious Healthy Lunchtime Challenge. From the décor to the talent, food, and big smiles, the White House was bustling with our next generation of kids encouraging healthy habits.

    The kids heard from the First Lady, tasted delicious meals, and enjoyed live entertainment all before taking a stroll to the White House Kitchen Garden. There were so many amazing moments from this year’s Kids State Dinner but here’s a “taste” of some of our favorites:

    1. Enjoying the Healthy Lunches

    From Black Bean Burgers to Smoky Southwestern Vegetable Dip, the lunch cooked up by White House chefs of the winning recipes was healthy and scrumptious! Make sure to check out how to cook up these great recipes in your own kitchen at home!

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  • This week, President Obama spoke about the importance of long-term investments in our country's infrastructure in front of Delaware's Interstate 495 Bridge. In his remarks, President Obama discussed how much the economy has rebounded over the past few years and how we've got a "huge opportunity to keep this momentum going...but also to make sure that growth is broadly shared." The President also announced the launch of the Build America Investment Initiative, a government-wide initiative to increase infrastructure investment and economic growth.

    The Build America Investment Initiative will continue to build on the progress our economy is making by creating jobs and expanding opportunity for all hardworking Americans. This initiative  has been hailed by leading stakeholders. Here's a sample of what they're saying: 

    Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber

    Oregon applauds the President’s new “Build America Infrastructure Initiative” announced today. We look forward to working with the new federal inter-agency work group, both here in Oregon and through our three-state partnership, the West Coast Infrastructure Exchange (WCX)."

    BlackRock —  Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO 

    The President's announcement represents a major step forward towards addressing America's infrastructure needs. Our current infrastructure deficit is an economic drag on businesses and consumers alike, and further investment is crucial to fostering economic growth, creating jobs, and keeping us competitive in the global economy.

    As these initiatives recognize, private investment will be crucial to successful infrastructure development, especially in light of fiscal constraints on the government. Nonetheless, Congress should continue to develop a more permanent and comprehensive plan to build the 21st-century infrastructure the nation so badly needs.

  • President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, July 11, 2014.

    President Barack Obama tapes the Weekly Address in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, July 11, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    In this week’s address, the President discussed the importance of ensuring that the economic progress we’ve made is shared by all hardworking Americans. Through his opportunity agenda, the President is focused on creating more jobs, educating more kids, and working to make sure hard work pays off with higher wages and better benefits.

    This week, the President will visit a community college in Los Angeles to highlight the need to equip our workers with the skills employers are looking for now and for the good jobs of the future, and he will continue looking for the best way to grow the economy and expand opportunity for more hardworking Americans.

    Transcript | mp4 | mp3

  • This week, President Obama addressed the crash of Flight MH17, talked about investing in our country's infrastructure, and continued to take important steps to respond to a changing climate -- and the First Lady hosted the Kids' State Dinner, featuring 54 delicious recipes from around the country.

    Check out what else you may have missed in this week's wrap up.


    President Obama on the Crash of Flight MH17

    Today, President Obama delivered a statement to the press in the wake of the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17:

    Yesterday, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 took off from Amsterdam and was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border. Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken -- men, women, children, infants -- who had nothing to do with the crisis in Ukraine. Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions.

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    President Obama noted that this was "a global tragedy -- an Asian airliner was destroyed in European skies, filled with citizens from many countries." And as a result, there now needs to be a credible, international investigation into exactly what happened.

  • Welcome to Infrastructure & Transportation Week here at West Wing Week, your guide to everything that's happening infrastructurally and transportationally here at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and beyond.

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    Today, President Obama delivered a statement to the press in the wake of the tragic crash of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 yesterday:

    Yesterday, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 took off from Amsterdam and was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border.  Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken -- men, women, children, infants -- who had nothing to do with the crisis in Ukraine.  Their deaths are an outrage of unspeakable proportions.

    We know at least one American citizen, Quinn Lucas Schansman, was killed.  Our thoughts and prayers are with his family for this terrible loss.

    Yesterday, I spoke with the leaders of Ukraine, Malaysia, and the Netherlands.  I told them that our thoughts and prayers are with all the families and that the American people stand with them during this difficult time.  Later today, I’ll be speaking to Prime Minister Abbott of Australia, which also suffered a terrible loss.

    By far, the country that lost the most people on board the plane was the Netherlands.  From the days of our founding, the Dutch have been close friends and stalwart allies of the United States of America.  And today, I want the Dutch people to know that we stand with you, shoulder to shoulder, in our grief and in our absolute determination to get to the bottom of what happened.

  • This morning at 11:25 a.m. ET, we'll be streaming the 2014 Kids' State Dinner live from the White House.

    And you can watch it all right here.

    More than 1,500 entries were submitted this year, featuring wholesome and tasty ingredients such as squash, ground turkey, salmon, and kale. Watch the winning recipes being selected for the 2014 Kids' State Dinner below -- and tune in to the Kids' State Dinner live today at 11:25 a.m. ET.

    Watch on YouTube

  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted on CNN.com. See the original post here.

    More than 30 years ago, Congress wisely passed the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Yet today, many pregnant women still experience unfair and unnecessary challenges on the job.

    Non-discrimination has been the law of the land for over three decades, yet, in some workplaces, the standard for treatment of pregnant women has remained in the dark ages. Some are fired or demoted, with no hesitation, when a modest accommodation would allow them to continue to work and support their families.

    The stories are heart-wrenching and preventable. There’s the pregnant woman who was terminated when, in violation of company policy, she started carrying a water bottle on advice of her doctor to fight urinary and bladder infections.

    Or the store clerk who was fired when her physician restricted her to lifting only lighter loads due to her pregnancy, even though during the course of work she rarely needed to lift heavier weights. 

    I vividly remember early on in my career when I was eight months pregnant, working literally around the clock, and worrying that each trip to the restroom or my need to catch the occasional catnap was causing my colleagues to question whether I could keep up.

    In so many cases, modest accommodations – adjustments that readily might be made for other employees – are denied pregnant women, forcing expectant moms to choose between their health and that of their pregnancies, and their jobs.

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