Read all posts from August 2009

  • Today is your last chance to enter for the $2,500 prize for flu PSAs through Flu.gov. It’s simple: produce a YouTube video of 15, 30, or 60 seconds in length, then pop it in the online submission form. A panel of celebrity judges will choose the top ten videos submitted, and those will then be presented to the YouTube community to vote on which video is the very best. Learn more from our original post or see the full rules.

  • La Realidad: La verdad sobre la reforma del seguro de salud ahora está disponible en Español.

    No nos podemos dar el lujo de ignorar la reforma del sistema de seguro de salud. Cada día, 14,000 personas pierden su cobertura de seguro de salud, y los costos del seguro de salud en los últimos nueve años se han doblado. Además, un reporte reciente encontró que en solo los últimos tres años las compañías de seguro le han negado cobertura a mas de 12 millones de personas simplemente por que alguien decidió que la persona tenía una condición preexistente.
    WhiteHouse.gov/LaRealidad incluye los hechos sobre lo que verdaderamente haría la reforma del seguro de salud para enfrentar los retos del sistema actual, y por supuesto, lo que no haría. Ya tenemos también un video en español:
     
    Ver este video requiere Adobe Flash Player. Descargue el programa gratis.
    Y el sitio ofrece subtítulos en español para todos los excelentes videos que ya están destacados en el sitio Reality Check. Para dejar claro que la reforma del seguro de salud ofrece mayor seguridad para ustedes, hemos incluído respuestas a preguntas que nos han hecho con frecuencia, y las ocho protecciones que se establecerían para los consumidores de seguro de salud.
    Esta página también le permite acceso a herramientas fáciles de usar para compartir esta información con sus colegas, sus amigos, y su familia, para que los estadounidenses puedan tener un debate completo y sustantivo, basado en los hechos. Esperamos que les sea útil, y les agradecemos el haber tomado el tiempo para visitar el sitio.

    La Realidad: The truth about health insurance reform is now available in Spanish.

    Health Insurance Reform is an issue we cannot afford to ignore. Every day, 14,000 people lose health insurance coverage, and costs of health insurance have doubled in the last nine years. At the same time, a recent report found that in just the last three years insurance companies have denied coverage to more than 12 million people simply because someone decided the person had a preexisting condition.
    WhiteHouse.gov/LaRealidad includes facts about what health insurance reform would actually do to tackle the challenges in our current system, and of course, what it won’t do. We already have one video in Spanish.
    The site also offers captioning in Spanish for all the great video content the Reality Check website already features. We have also posted answers to frequently asked questions as well as eight health insurance consumer protections that detail the security you get with reform.
    The website also offers tools anyone can use to share this information with their colleagues, friends, and family so that Americans can have a full and substantive debate - one based on the facts. We hope you find it useful and thanks for taking the time to check it out. 

  • The President talks about how the chatter and ruckus around health insurance reform on television obscures the reality of what's happening in America. He discusses how in most towns people and Members of Congress are having constructive conversations, and how people are learning how reform will help them and their families with the real problems they have faced with the insurance system. 
    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
    download .mp3 |download .mp4 (58.5 MB) | read the transcript

  • Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
    download .mp4 (946.9 MB) | read the transcript
    The President is continuing to travel across the country to talk to Americans about his plan for health insurance reform. In Belgrade, Montana, today the President had a strong message for insurance companies who unfairly deny coverage to Americans: "We are held hostage at any given moment by health insurance companies that deny coverage, or drop coverage, or charge fees that people can't afford at a time when they desperately need care. It's wrong.  It's bankrupting families, it's bankrupting businesses.  And we are going to fix it when we pass health insurance reform this year."
    Some people who are happy with their current insurance plans may not think health insurance reform will benefit them. However, as the President explained, all of us can be victims of these unfair practices. That’s why reform will benefit everyone – by providing more security and stability for you and your family:
    First, health insurance reform will mean a set of common-sense consumer protections for folks with health insurance.  So those of you who have health insurance, this is what it will mean.  Insurance companies will no longer be able to cancel your coverage because you get sick.  (Applause.)  That's what happened to Katie.  It can't happen anymore.
    If you do the responsible thing, if you pay your premiums each month so that you are covered in case of a crisis, when that crisis comes -- if you have a heart attack or your husband finds out he has cancer or your son or daughter is rushed to the hospital -- at the time when you're most vulnerable and most frightened, you can't be getting a phone call from your insurance company saying that your insurance is revoked.  It turns out, once you got sick, they scoured your records looking for reasons to cancel your policy.  They'd find a minor mistake on your insurance form that you submitted years ago.  That can't be allowed to happen.  (Applause.)
    One report -- one report found that three insurance companies alone had canceled 20,000 policies in this way over the past few years.  One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer discovered he hadn't reported gall stones he didn't know about.  True story.  Because his treatment was delayed, he died.  A woman from Texas was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, was scheduled for a double mastectomy.  Three days before surgery, the insurance company canceled the policy, in part because she forgot to declare a case of acne.  True story.  By the time she had her insurance reinstated, the cancer had more than doubled in size.
    And this is personal for me.  I'll never forget my own mother, as she fought cancer in her final months, having to worry about whether the insurance company would refuse to pay for her treatment.  The insurance company was arguing that she should have known that she had cancer when she took her new job -- even though it hadn't been diagnosed yet.  If it could happen to her, it could happen to any one of us.  It's wrong.  And when we pass health insurance reform, we're going to put a stop to it once and for all.  That is what Max Baucus is working on.  (Applause.)

    Number two:  Insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage because of your medical history.  A recent report found that in the past three years, more than 12 million Americans were discriminated against by insurance companies because of a preexisting condition.  No one holds these companies accountable for these practices.  But we will.

    And insurance companies will no longer be able to place an arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime.  (Applause.)  And that will help -- that will help 3,700 households in Montana.  We'll place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, as well, because no one in America should be broke when they get sick.  (Applause.)  And finally -- finally, we'll require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies, because that saves money and that saves lives.  (Applause.)
    So that's what health care reform is all about.  Right now we've got a health care system that all too often works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people.  We want to change that.
    The President was eager to take on questions from those who are critical of his plan. One skeptic wanted to know how health reform would be paid for without raising taxes on the middle class. The President explained that while we can’t get something from nothing, the money will not come off the backs of the middle class:
    Look, you are absolutely right that I can't cover another 46 million people for free.  You're right.  I can't do that.  So we're going to have to find some resources.  If people who don't have health insurance are going to get some help, then we're going to have to find money from somewhere.
    Now, what I've identified, and most of the committees have identified and agreed to, including Max Baucus's committee, is that there -- overall this bill will cost -- let's say it costs $800 billion to $900 billion.  That's a lot of money.  That's a lot of money.  That's over 10 years, though, all right?  So that's about $90 billion -- $80 billion to $90 billion a year.
    About two-thirds of it -- two-thirds -- can be obtained by doing some of the things I already mentioned, like eliminating subsidies to insurance companies.  So you're right, that's real money.  I just think I would rather be giving that money to the young lady here who doesn't have health insurance and giving her some help, than giving it to insurance companies that are making record profits.  (Applause.)  Now, you may disagree.  I just think that's a good way to spend our money.
    There’s a misconception floating around that reform will harm small business, but the President outlined how his plan will help, not hurt, small businesses:
    So there are two ways we want to help.  Number one, we want the small business to be able to buy into the exchange.  That allows you then to use the purchasing power of everybody who is in the exchange to get the best rates from the insurance companies.  That right away would drive down the premiums that you'd have to pay.
    And the second thing we want to do is for employers who are doing the right thing and providing health insurance that is real, then we want to give you a tax break so that it's easier for you to make your bottom line.
    Now, this is something that a lot of small businesses would benefit from.  Nobody is talking about it.  And since small businesses are the place where you're seeing the fastest job growth, it makes sense for us to provide this kind of protection.  This, I guarantee you, will end up being an important component of whatever we pass out of Washington.
     

    The President and his administration will continue to take these questions head on, keep watching and keep an eye on our Reality Check site to sort out fact from fiction.

  • The summer may be almost over, but it's not too late to be a part of United We Serve. Millions of Americans have answered the President's call to service in their communities this summer. Some have volunteered at community health centers, while others have read to children. No matter what service activity they participated in, these volunteers have made a positive impact on their communities. You can read some of their inspiring stories here.

    Want to get involved but don't know how? Visit Serve.gov, where you can search for service projects in your area based on your interests.

  • August is usually a slow month in Washington, but it’s been a busy week around the agencies. Yesterday, we let you know about the Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program. We also told you about the HHS report which shows how millions of Americans are denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Take a look at some recent highlights from the other agencies:
    • The Department of Education is demonstrating how the Recovery Act is helping schools across the country. Check out the story of Scott Coleman, Principal of Mt. Vernon Community School in Virginia, as he explains the importance of investing in our children:
      Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
    • The Department of Education also announced an upcoming education tour with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rev. Al Sharpton. They will join Education Secretary Arne Duncan on a tour of four U.S. cities to discuss school reform.
       
    • Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is wrapping up her 10-day trip to Africa today. She has visited seven nations: Kenya, South Africa, Angola, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Liberia, and Cape Verde. To get a behind-the-scenes look at her trip, visit the State Department blog.
       
    • The Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security announced an agreement with Mexico to develop a coordinated and intelligence-driven response to cross border smuggling and weapons trafficking.
       
    • The Rural Tour headed to Alaska this week. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Energy Secretary Steven Chu traveled to Bethel and Hooper Bay to learn more about some of the challenges and opportunities facing rural Alaska. You can learn more about the Rural Tour, which was launched in June, here.
       
    • The Department of Energy has teamed up with the Treasury Department to award $2.3 billion in tax credits for manufacturers of advanced energy equipment. This is part of the President’s ongoing effort to spur our economy while investing in clean energy. 
     
     

  • Today, Damon Weaver from the KEC TV News Team out of Kathryn E. Cunningham/Canal Point Elementary broke some big news about President Obama’s plan to address students across the country on September 8th.

    The eleven-year-old Pahokee, Florida native asked some great questions concerning low-income communities, basketball, school lunches – and even bullies. At the end of it all, Damon announced "President Obama is now my homeboy too."

    Watch his report:

    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.

  • Editors Note: We have another update from Norm Eisen, special counsel to the President for ethics and government reform, on the President's Ethics Executive Order:

    Another update to advise that we have granted an authorization under the President’s Ethics Executive Order to two White House Associate Counsels to allow them to continue working on matters concerning President George W. Bush’s interests as a former President. The authorization is needed because President Bush’s counsel this summer joined a firm at which the two Associate Counsels formerly worked. The authorization allows the Associate Counsels, who have worked on these matters since the inception of this Administration, to continue that work—thereby preserving their expertise and government resources. 
    By law, former Presidents have certain interests that attach to their office as former Presidents. Historically, in order to respect those interests, the White House maintains contact as necessary with representatives of the offices of former Presidents. Emmet Flood, who is the representative handling certain continuing official-capacity interests of former President Bush, joined the partnership of Williams & Connolly LLP this summer. Two lawyers in the White House Counsel’s Office who have worked on matters involving the Office of the former President, Chris Weideman and Jonathan Kravis, were formerly employed at Williams & Connolly LLP. 
    Paragraph 2 of the Ethics Pledge contained in the President’s Executive Order on Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel prohibits appointees from participating in matters involving their former employers for a period of two years. As a result of Mr. Flood’s move, this provision would, absent a waiver, bar Mr. Weideman and Mr. Kravis from continuing with their current work. As a result, all their work and accumulated knowledge would have to be transferred to other staff. That would be a substantial waste of resources, makes little sense and, in our view, was not the intent of the Executive Order. Thus, we granted this limited waiver.   
    This waiver will allow Mr. Weideman and Mr. Kravis to continue communicating with Mr. Flood on these issues. To be clear, these issues do not involve broader questions of Administration policy; they only relate to the former President’s rights and privileges in his official capacity. The waivers are further limited in that they do not permit Mr. Weideman or Mr. Kravis to work on any other particular matters involving their former firm except for those involving the office of the former President. The text of the waivers can be found here and here.

     

  • Recently, you may have heard one misunderstanding that the President’s plan will mean children with disabilities will not receive the care they need.  On the contrary, reform will eliminate health insurance discrimination against people with disabilities.  Under the President’s plan, insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny coverage based on a pre-existing condition, which will allow those with disabilities to receive the quality, affordable care they deserve.
    We asked Mike Strautmanis, Chief of Staff for Valerie Jarrett and the father of a child with a disability, to set the record straight. In this "Reality Check" video, he explains more about how the President’s plan will help, not hurt, those with disabilities:

    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
     
     

  • Right now across the country, folks are getting a knock at the door from someone who is going to make their lives and homes better. As part of the Weatherization Assistance Program, low-income families are having their homes tuned-up by energy experts. These weatherization 'tune-ups' are improving comfort and saving money for householders from Florida to Utah, from Maine to Arizona -- and every state in between.

    A few weeks ago thousands of these energy experts gathered at the National Weatherization conference in Indianapolis to compare notes on how to ramp up their operations quickly and effectively. They're scaling to invest $5B of Recovery Act money -- creating huge numbers of new jobs to help families become energy-efficient.

    Take a moment to check out a few stories from the event -- they seem to love their work:
     

    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.

    Cathy Zoi is Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the U.S. Department of Energy. For more information on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program or to apply for assistance, visit: www.weatherization.energy.gov

     

  • Read an email out this morning from Senior Advisor David Axelrod and watch a new "Reality Check" video from Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle below.  Both respond to the malicious chain emails that have been circulating on health insurance reform:
    Dear Friend,

    This is probably one of the longest emails I’ve ever sent, but it could be the most important.
    Across the country we are seeing vigorous debate about health insurance reform.

    Unfortunately, some of the old tactics we know so well are back — even the viral emails that fly unchecked and under the radar, spreading all sorts of lies and distortions.

    As President Obama said at the town hall in New Hampshire, "where we do disagree, let's disagree over things that are real, not these wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that's actually been proposed."

    So let’s start a chain email of our own. At the end of my email, you’ll find a lot of information about health insurance reform, distilled into 8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage, 8 common myths about reform and 8 reasons we need health insurance reform now.

    Right now, someone you know probably has a question about reform that could be answered by what’s below. So what are you waiting for? Forward this email.

    Thanks,
    David

    David Axelrod
    Senior Adviser to the President

    P.S. We launched www.WhiteHouse.gov/realitycheck this week to knock down the rumors and lies that are floating around the internet. You can find the information below, and much more, there. For example, we've just added a video of Nancy-Ann DeParle from our Health Reform Office tackling a viral email head on. Check it out:

    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.


    8 ways reform provides security and stability to those with or without coverage

    1. Ends Discrimination for Pre-Existing Conditions: Insurance companies will be prohibited from refusing you coverage because of your medical history.
    2. Ends Exorbitant Out-of-Pocket Expenses, Deductibles or Co-Pays: Insurance companies will have to abide by yearly caps on how much they can charge for out-of-pocket expenses.
    3. Ends Cost-Sharing for Preventive Care: Insurance companies must fully cover, without charge, regular checkups and tests that help you prevent illness, such as mammograms or eye and foot exams for diabetics.
    4. Ends Dropping of Coverage for Seriously Ill: Insurance companies will be prohibited from dropping or watering down insurance coverage for those who become seriously ill.
    5. Ends Gender Discrimination: Insurance companies will be prohibited from charging you more because of your gender.
    6. Ends Annual or Lifetime Caps on Coverage: Insurance companies will be prevented from placing annual or lifetime caps on the coverage you receive.
    7. Extends Coverage for Young Adults: Children would continue to be eligible for family coverage through the age of 26.
    8. Guarantees Insurance Renewal: Insurance companies will be required to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full. Insurance companies won't be allowed to refuse renewal because someone became sick.
    Learn more and get details: http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/health-insurance-consumer-protections/

    8 common myths about health insurance reform

    1. Reform will stop "rationing" - not increase it: It’s a myth that reform will mean a "government takeover" of health care or lead to "rationing." To the contrary, reform will forbid many forms of rationing that are currently being used by insurance companies.
    2. We can’t afford reform: It's the status quo we can't afford. It’s a myth that reform will bust the budget. To the contrary, the President has identified ways to pay for the vast majority of the up-front costs by cutting waste, fraud, and abuse within existing government health programs; ending big subsidies to insurance companies; and increasing efficiency with such steps as coordinating care and streamlining paperwork. In the long term, reform can help bring down costs that will otherwise lead to a fiscal crisis.
    3. Reform would encourage "euthanasia": It does not. It’s a malicious myth that reform would encourage or even require euthanasia for seniors. For seniors who want to consult with their family and physicians about end-of life decisions, reform will help to cover these voluntary, private consultations for those who want help with these personal and difficult family decisions.
    4. Vets' health care is safe and sound: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will affect veterans' access to the care they get now. To the contrary, the President's budget significantly expands coverage under the VA, extending care to 500,000 more veterans who were previously excluded. The VA Healthcare system will continue to be available for all eligible veterans.
    5. Reform will benefit small business - not burden it: It’s a myth that health insurance reform will hurt small businesses. To the contrary, reform will ease the burdens on small businesses, provide tax credits to help them pay for employee coverage and help level the playing field with big firms who pay much less to cover their employees on average.
    6. Your Medicare is safe, and stronger with reform: It’s myth that Health Insurance Reform would be financed by cutting Medicare benefits. To the contrary, reform will improve the long-term financial health of Medicare, ensure better coordination, eliminate waste and unnecessary subsidies to insurance companies, and help to close the Medicare "doughnut" hole to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors.
    7. You can keep your own insurance: It’s myth that reform will force you out of your current insurance plan or force you to change doctors. To the contrary, reform will expand your choices, not eliminate them.
    8. No, government will not do anything with your bank account: It is an absurd myth that government will be in charge of your bank accounts.  Health insurance reform will simplify administration, making it easier and more convenient for you to pay bills in a method that you choose.  Just like paying a phone bill or a utility bill, you can pay by traditional check, or by a direct electronic payment. And forms will be standardized so they will be easier to understand. The choice is up to you – and the same rules of privacy will apply as they do for all other electronic payments that people make.
    Learn more and get details:
    http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/realitycheck
    http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/realitycheck/faq

    8 Reasons We Need Health Insurance Reform Now

    1. Coverage Denied to Millions: A recent national survey estimated that 12.6 million non-elderly adults – 36 percent of those who tried to purchase health insurance directly from an insurance company in the individual insurance market – were in fact discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the previous three years or dropped from coverage when they became seriously ill. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/denied_coverage/index.html
    2. Less Care for More Costs: With each passing year, Americans are paying more for health care coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance premiums have nearly doubled since 2000, a rate three times faster than wages. In 2008, the average premium for a family plan purchased through an employer was $12,680, nearly the annual earnings of a full-time minimum wage job.  Americans pay more than ever for health insurance, but get less coverage. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/hiddencosts/index.html
    3. Roadblocks to Care for Women: Women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly pap smears, mammograms, and obstetric care. Women are also more likely to report fair or poor health than men (9.5% versus 9.0%). While rates of chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure are similar to men, women are twice as likely to suffer from headaches and are more likely to experience joint, back or neck pain. These chronic conditions often require regular and frequent treatment and follow-up care. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/women/index.html
    4. Hard Times in the Heartland: Throughout rural America, there are nearly 50 million people who face challenges in accessing health care. The past several decades have consistently shown higher rates of poverty, mortality, uninsurance, and limited access to a primary health care provider in rural areas. With the recent economic downturn, there is potential for an increase in many of the health disparities and access concerns that are already elevated in rural communities. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/hardtimes
    5. Small Businesses Struggle to Provide Health Coverage: Nearly one-third of the uninsured – 13 million people – are employees of firms with less than 100 workers. From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. Much of this decline stems from small business. The percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59%, while large firms held stable at 99%. About a third of such workers in firms with fewer than 50 employees obtain insurance through a spouse. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/helpbottomline
    6. The Tragedies are Personal: Half of all personal bankruptcies are at least partly the result of medical expenses. The typical elderly couple may have to save nearly $300,000 to pay for health costs not covered by Medicare alone. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/inaction
    7. Diminishing Access to Care: From 2000 to 2007, the proportion of non-elderly Americans covered by employer-based health insurance fell from 66% to 61%. An estimated 87 million people - one in every three Americans under the age of 65 - were uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008. More than 80% of the uninsured are in working families. Learn more: http://www.healthreform.gov/reports/inaction/diminishing/index.html
    8. The Trends are Troubling: Without reform, health care costs will continue to skyrocket unabated, putting unbearable strain on families, businesses, and state and federal government budgets. Perhaps the most visible sign of the need for health care reform is the 46 million Americans currently without health insurance - projections suggest that this number will rise to about 72 million in 2040 in the absence of reform. Learn more: http://www.WhiteHouse.gov/assets/documents/CEA_Health_Care_Report.pdf

  • Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
    download .mp4 (159.8 MB) | read the transcript


    Honoring the achievements of the Presidential Medal of Freedom award winners today at the White House, the President noted that the 16 recipients represent some of the finest citizens in the world. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is America's highest medal awarded to civilians. The President remarked that the recipients hail from very diverse backgrounds –from the tennis court to the Supreme Court – but all have been agents of change in their communities and around the world:
    The men and women we honor today have led very different lives and pursued very different careers. They're pioneers in science and medicine. They're gifted artists and indomitable athletes. They have made their mark in the courtroom, in the community, and in Congress. And what unites them is a belief -- that most -- forgive me to those of you who are not Americans -- but what we consider to be that most American of beliefs -- that our lives are what we make of them; that no barriers of race, gender, or physical infirmity can restrain the human spirit; and that the truest test of a person's life is what we do for one another.
    The recipients of the Medal of Freedom did not set out to win this or any other award. They did not set out in pursuit of glory or fame or riches. Rather, they set out, guided by passion, committed to hard work, aided by persistence, often with few advantages but the gifts, grace, and good name God gave them.
    So, let them stand as an example here in the United States -- and around the world -- of what we can achieve in our own lives. Let them stand as an example of the difference we can make in the lives of others. Let each of their stories stand as an example of a life well lived.
    (President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of the Southern
    Christian Leadership Conference,  during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House August 12, 2009.
    The medal is the country's highest civilian honor.  Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
    You can read the President’s complete remarks and learn more about the honorees here
    (President Barack Obama presents the Medal of Freedom to Stephen Hawking during the Medal of Freedom
    ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington,  August 12, 2009. Official
    White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)


    (Former President or Ireland Mary Robinson, center, congratulates Sidney Poitier, left, after he received the Medal
    of Freedom from President Barack Obama during a ceremony in the East Room at the White House August 12,
    2009.  Fellow recipients looking on are Archbishop Desmond Tutu, right, and   back row, left to right are;
    Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Chita Rivera, Dr. Janet Davison Rowley, and Muhammad Yunus.
      The medal is the country's highest civilian honor.  Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)


     

  • This afternoon I’ll deliver a speech at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs focused on how the Obama Administration is charting a new course in the world, and taking a whole new approach at the United Nations.

    I have to confess, it’s a great moment to be the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. Everyone notices when a superpower becomes an agent of change—in word and deed, in policy and tone. We are demonstrating that the United States is willing to listen, respect differences, and consider new ideas. Even more importantly, we are advancing our interests and making Americans safer.

    Today, as we steer a new course at the United Nations, our guiding principles are clear: We value the UN as a vehicle for advancing U.S. policies and universal rights. We work for change from within rather than criticizing from the sidelines. We stand strong in defense of America’s interests and values, but we don’t dissent just to be contrary. We listen to states great and small. We build coalitions. We meet our responsibilities. We pay our bills. We push for real reform. And we remember that, in an interconnected world, what’s good for others is often good for America as well.

    Just six months into the new Administration, President Obama’s "new era of engagement" is well underway.

    Susan Rice is the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations

  • Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.

    download .mp4 (159.8 MB) | read the transcript

    In the East Room of the White House, the President and the First Lady hosted a reception to celebrate some history being made. Members of Justice Sotomayor's family and friends, leaders of the Hispanic community, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, judges from the federal Courts of Appeals, and others inspired by the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor gathered for a reception, and to hear a few words from the President and America’s first Hispanic Justice.
    The President thanked all who worked hard to ensure that she was given a fair hearing, from Members of the Senate Judiciary and Senate Leadership, to Senator Bob Menendez Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, to Justice Sotomayor's family who helped mold her into the amazing figure she is today. Saying that the Senate "looked beyond the old divisions and they embraced excellence," he praised them for looking past old divisions and breaking down yet another historical barrier.
    The President once again recounted Justice Sotomayor’s "only in America story," coming from humble beginnings in the Bronx to a stellar career in the law, and her gratefulness for the opportunities her country afforded her along that journey:
    Because while this is Justice Sotomayor's achievement – the result of her ability and determination – this moment is not just about her. It's about every child who will grow up thinking to him or herself, if Sonia Sotomayor can make it, then maybe I can, too. (Applause.) It's about every mother or father who looks at the sacrifices Justice Sotomayor's mother made, and the successes she and her brother have had, and thinks, I may not have much in my own life, but if I work hard enough, maybe my kids can have more. It's about everyone in this nation facing challenges and struggles in their lives, who hear Justice Sotomayor's story and thinks to themselves, if she could overcome so much and go so far, then why can't I?
    Nearly 80 years ago, as the cornerstone was laid for the building that became our Supreme Court, Chief Justice Charles Evans Hughes declared, "The Republic endures and this is the symbol of its faith."
    Justice Sotomayor's rise from humble beginnings to the height of achievement is yet another symbol of that faith – faith that the American Dream still endures; faith that "equal justice under the law" is not just an inscription in marble, but an animating ideal of our democracy; faith that in this great nation, all things are still possible for all people.
    This is a great day for America, and I know that all of us here are proud and honored to have been a part of it.
    He then introduced Justice Sotomayor, who echoes many of the same themes in her remarks:
    I am most grateful to this country. I stand here today knowing that my confirmation as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court would never have been possible without the opportunities presented to me by this nation. More than two centuries ago, in a Constitution that contains fewer than 5,000 words, our founders set forth their vision for this new land. Their self-proclaimed task was to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, and to secure the blessings of liberty for themselves and their posterity. Over the years, the ideals at the heart of that document have endured, as subsequent generations have expanded those blessings, these rights and freedoms to more and more Americans.
    Our Constitution has survived domestic and international tumult, including a civil war, two world wars, and the catastrophe of September 11th. It draws together people of all races, faiths, and backgrounds from all across this country who carry its words and values in our heart. It is this nation's faith in a more perfect union that allows a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx to stand here now. (Applause.)
    I am struck again today by the wonder of my own life, and the life we in America are so privileged to lead. In reflecting on my life experiences, I am thinking also today of the judicial oath of office that I first took almost two decades ago, and that I reiterated this past weekend – to judge without respect to what a person looks like, where they come from, or whether they are rich or poor, and to treat all persons as equal under the law. That is what our system of justice requires, and it is the foundation of the American people's faith in the rule of law, and it is why I am so passionate about the law.
    I am deeply humbled by the sacred responsibility of upholding our laws and safeguarding the rights and freedoms set forth in our Constitution. I ask not just my family and friends, but I ask all Americans, to wish me divine guidance and wisdom in administering my new office.
    I thank you all again for the love and support you have shown me. And I thank President Obama and the United States Senate for the tremendous honor and privilege they have granted me. Thank you. (Applause.)
     

  • Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.

    download .mp4 (159.8 MB) | read the transcript

    The President hosted a town hall in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on health insurance reform, telling the crowd, "I don't think government bureaucrats should be meddling, but I also don't think insurance company bureaucrats should be meddling. That's the health care system I believe in." The President was introduced by Lori, a woman who can’t find coverage because of her medical condition. We all know someone like Lori who has been discriminated against because of pre-existing conditions, and can't receive the care they need. This is a personal issue for the President, who recounted his mother's battle with insurance companies as she battled with cancer in the last months of her life.
    President Barack Obama arrives at a town hall meeting at Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, N.H.
    (President Barack Obama arrives at a town hall meeting at Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, N.H., to speak bout health care reform, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009. Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
    The President outlined how his plan will end these unfair, and often deadly, practices:
    Under the reform we're proposing, insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage because of a person's medical history. Period. (Applause.) They will not be able to drop your coverage if you get sick. (Applause.) They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it. (Applause.) Your health insurance should be there for you when it counts – not just when you're paying premiums, but when you actually get sick. And it will be when we pass this plan. (Applause.)
    Now, when we pass health insurance reform, insurance companies will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because no one in America should go broke because they get sick. (Applause.)
    And finally – this is important – we will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – (applause) – because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end. That makes sense, it saves lives; it also saves money – and we need to save money in this health care system.
    So this is what reform is about. For all the chatter and the yelling and the shouting and the noise, what you need to know is this: If you don't have health insurance, you will finally have quality, affordable options once we pass reform. (Applause.) If you do have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need. And we will do this without adding to our deficit over the next decade, largely by cutting out the waste and insurance company giveaways in Medicare that aren't making any of our seniors healthier. (Applause.) Right. (Laughter.)
    You may have heard some of this "chatter" and false claims about the President's health care plan. As the President explained, this is to be expected, as proponents of the status quo fight against reform:
    But let's face it, now is the hard part – because the history is clear – every time we come close to passing health insurance reform, the special interests fight back with everything they've got. They use their influence. They use their political allies to scare and mislead the American people. They start running ads. This is what they always do.
    We can't let them do it again. Not this time. Not now. (Applause.) Because for all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary – what is truly risky – is if we do nothing. If we let this moment pass – if we keep the system the way it is right now – we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day. Your premiums will continue to skyrocket. They have gone up three times faster than your wages and they will keep on going up.
    Our deficit will continue to grow because Medicare and Medicaid are on an unsustainable path. Medicare is slated to go into the red in about eight to 10 years. I don't know if people are aware of that. If I was a senior citizen, the thing I'd be worried about right now is Medicare starts running out of money because we haven't done anything to make sure that we're getting a good bang for our buck when it comes to health care. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against people for the simple crime of being sick. Now, that's not a future I want for my children. It's not a future that I want for the United States of America.
    The President wrapped up the town hall by describing his ultimate goal for health insurance reform:
    But I want everybody to understand, though, the status quo is not working for you. (Applause.) The status quo is not working for you. And if we can set up a system, which I believe we can, that gives you options, just like members of Congress has options; that gives a little bit of help to people who currently are working hard every day but they don't have health care insurance on the job; and most importantly, if we can make sure that you, all of you who have insurance, which is probably 80 or 90 percent of you, that you are not going to be dropped because of a preexisting condition, or because you lose your job, or because you change your job – that you're actually going to get what you paid for, that you're not going to find out when you're sick that you got cheated, that you're not going to hit a lifetime cap where you thought you were paying for insurance but after a certain amount suddenly you're paying out of pocket and bankrupting yourself and your family – if we can set up a system that gives you some security, that's worth a lot.
     

  • Over the past two weeks, during the public comment period on OMB’s cookie policy, we have received significant feedback and suggested revisions to the current policy. These comments reflect individual opinions on all sides of the issue.
    Our main goal in revisiting the ban on using persistent cookies on Federal websites is to bring the federal government into the 21st century. Consistent with this Administration’s commitment to making government more open and participatory, we want federal agencies to be able to provide the same user- friendly, dynamic, and citizen-centric websites that people have grown accustomed to using when they shop or get news online or communicate through social media networks, while also protecting people’s privacy.
    It is clear that protecting the privacy of citizens who visit government websites must be one of the top considerations in any new policy. This is why we’ve taken such a cautious approach going forward and why we felt it so important to get feedback and hear from people on this. While we wanted to get people’s ideas for improving our policy, we also needed to hear any concerns so that we could understand better where potential pitfalls might lie.
    This privacy issue has recently received some attention in the media. We want to make it clear that the current policy on Federal agencies’ use of cookies has not changed. Moreover, the policy won’t change until we’ve read the public comments that have been submitted to ensure that we’re considering all sides of the issue and are addressing privacy concerns appropriately.
    We would also like to take this opportunity to address a potential misperception. Some articles have hinted that the government is creating special exemptions for third-parties from existing privacy rules, with the result that there wouldn’t be adequate protection of people’s personal information. This is not true. The current policy in place on persistent cookies continues to apply to all Federal agencies and to those agencies’ use of third-party applications, whenever personal information is collected on the agency’s behalf.
    Once again, we appreciate everyone’s contribution to this topic and are grateful for the time and energy devoted by those who provided such useful insight on this issue.
    Michael Fitzpatrick is Associate Administrator, OMB Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. Vivek Kundra is Federal CIO.
     

  • With all the rumors floating around, it can be hard to sort out fact from fiction when it comes to health insurance reform. One especially outlandish claim is that the President’s health care plan will promote euthanasia for seniors. Last night, ABC News set the record straight on this particular claim. You can watch it here.
    Melody Barnes, the President’s Director of the Domestic Policy Council, also debunked the euthanasia myth in a "Reality Check" video. This is just one of several videos on whitehouse.gov/realitycheck, where our experts explain what’s true (and what’s false) about the President’s plan.

    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.

  • HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Education Secretary Arne Duncan penned an op-ed, published today, highlighting the federal government’s coordinated efforts to combat H1N1. As they discussed, these efforts help ensure that we will be prepared as possible for flu season in the fall:
    We don’t need to wait to act. In the fight against flu, preparation is more than half the battle — and we need everyone to chip in.
    We in the federal government have been aggressively responding to the new H1N1 since April. We’re building on what we learned from the early spring season and from health officials in the southern hemisphere where flu seasons are already underway.
    In addition to preparing the seasonal flu vaccine as usual, government scientists and vaccine manufacturers are working around the clock to produce a vaccine to protect people from the new H1N1 flu virus. And we’re making good progress on both fronts — the seasonal flu vaccine is ready for distribution and we’re on track to have an H1N1 vaccine by mid-October.
    We’re also working closely with cities, states and across government agencies to make sure we have a rapid, coordinated response this fall. In the last few months, we’ve sent more than $350 million in federal grants to states, tribes, territories and hospitals to help them strengthen their flu response.
    In early July, the Departments of Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and Education held a flu summit for governors and public health officials. Just this week, we hosted another summit for mayors and county officials and webcast it on flu.gov — which has become the best place to find up-to-date information about flu.
    But of course it can't be said enough that preparation is not solely the responsibility of the federal government – we must all do our part to prevent the spread of the flu:
    Until a vaccine arrives in October, prevention is our best defense. That means we all need to make sure we wash our hands frequently with soap and water, cough or sneeze into a tissue, and stay home from work or school if we’re sick.
    It also means planning ahead. Parents should talk to their employers and make child care arrangements in case their kids get sick. And if a school closes, learning shouldn’t stop. Schools need to create opportunities to learn online and work with parents to find ways for students to bring textbooks and other resources home.
    If you’re an employer, you should plan to get by with a reduced staff. You don’t want an employee who’s ill to spread flu in the workplace. If you’re a medical provider, you should plan to handle more calls and patient visits. An outbreak will bring people who have flu and people who have flu-related symptoms or concerns into your office.
    You can read the full op-ed here, and make sure to check out flu.gov for more tips on prevention.
     

  • One of the President’s top priorities since coming into office has been to give our veterans "the care they were promised and the benefits that they have earned." That began with the largest single-year increase in VA funding in three decades, and with trying to initiating electronic medical records that would follow a member of the Armed Forces through their transition into VA care and stay with them forever.
    And so we have been particularly concerned with correcting any misperception that health insurance reform would have any negative effect whatsoever on veterans’ access to their care. One of the first "Reality Check" videos we made for our new page on myths about reform was with Matt Flavin, Director of Veterans and Wounded Warrior Policy:
    Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
    Yesterday in response for our call for more myths and questions that we should address, however, we got an email from a veteran in Virginia:
    "I am a 27 year Marine Corps Veteran on Tricare Prime. Will the "Proposed" or "Pending Legislation" affect in any way shape or form the current Tricare system?"
    To answer that email and others like it, we’ve just added the following to our FAQ page on WhiteHouse.gov/RealityCheck. Hope this puts his mind at ease:
    Q I am active duty military and I am worried that health reform will affect my care under TRICARE.
    A The President is committed to ensuring that America’s servicemen and women have high quality care. This was an issue he fought for when he was a United States Senator and will continue fighting for as President. You have given much to your country, and we are determined to provide you and your family with good, reliable health care.
    Health reform will only build on our commitment to military health care. TRICARE will continue to be available for all eligible servicemen and women, and their families. The health reform legislation that is being considered would enable those who are covered by TRICARE to meet the shared responsibility requirement for individuals to have insurance, thereby exempting such members of the uniformed services and dependants from being assessed penalties. If enacted, the President will ensure that this exemption is implemented aggressively. The Secretary of Defense would continue to maintain sole authority over the system and for enhancing the quality and access for all eligible members of the uniformed services.
     

  • 12.6 million people.
    That’s how many non-elderly adults (36% of those who tried to purchase health insurance in the individual insurance market) were discriminated against because of a pre-existing condition in the past three years. You can read more alarming facts about the number of Americans being denied coverage at healthreform.gov.
    The status quo that allows for discrimination based on pre-existing conditions has real consequences: millions of Americans do not have access to adequate health care. We’ve all heard the horror stories about people behind denied the care they need because of pre-existing conditions, which is why the President recently unveiled the Health Insurance Consumer Protections. These protections show how health insurance reform will provide security for you and your family, and guarantee you will never be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
    You’ve probably heard the rumors out there that the health reform will lead to "rationing" of care, or will cut funding for our seniors. These stories simply aren’t true. As Kavita Patel, M.D. points out in her video, rationing is happening in our broken health insurance system right now and reform will provide affordable access and restore control over medical decisions to patients and their doctors.
    In fact, the President’s plan will benefit all Americans by lowering costs, increasing quality of care, and providing choice. Even if you’re happy with your insurance now, health insurance reform will provide security and stability by ensuring that if you ever need to make a change you or your family members won’t face discriminating and unfair practices in the future.
    Get all the facts at whitehouse.gov/realitycheck.
     

JUMP TO: