Read all posts from March 2010

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (406MB) | mp3 (30MB)

    Following her cover story for Newsweek, the First Lady talked with Newsweek’s Editor Jon Meacham about her Let's Move campaign at the Newseum in Washington D.C. today. She discussed the magnitude of the problem of childhood obesity, especially during current times as a busier culture.

    We’re also a culture and a society right now that snacks a lot more.  Just some of the statistics I talked about in my speech yesterday was that the average snack amount when I was growing up was one snack a day, if you were lucky.  And now it’s averaging two to three.  They say the average school-age kid is getting six snacks a day.  So we’re taking 200 more calories than we were 40 years ago, 30 years ago just from snacks alone.

    She explained the importance of food manufacturing industries providing clear food labels so people can easily make decisions about what foods are healthy. “Parents have to understand what’s in the Twinkie; again, how does it fit into the overall diet.  So we don’t need a warning, we need information.  And we need information that’s easy to understand.”

    The First Lady also talked about passing legislation that will set nutritional guidelines for school lunch programs and vending machines. President Obama signed an Executive Order creating the Council on Childhood Obesity that will review every program and policy regarding education and nutrition.

    Visit to learn more about the initiative to address the growing health epidemic of childhood obesity.

  • Read the Transcript  |  Download Video: mp4 (258MB) | mp3 (8MB)

    In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, President Obama met with the Taoiseach of Ireland Brian Cowen this morning. The President thanked the Taoiseach for Ireland’s assistance on important international issues and said that the U.S. and Ireland will be working together to address world hunger.

    The President later attended Speaker Pelosi’s Friends of Ireland Luncheon, accompanied by the Taoiseach and the Vice President. At the luncheon, President Obama paid tribute to the late Ted Kennedy.

    Just a few years ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, so it would probably be maybe five years ago, when I had just gotten to the Senate, Teddy cornered me on the Senate floor for my support on a piece of legislation.  And I told him, “You’ve got my vote, Teddy, but I got to tell you, this is not looking good.  I do not think this thing is going to fly.”  But it did, with votes to spare.  And so I grabbed Teddy, pulled him aside.  I said, “How did you pull that off?”  And he just patted me on the back and he said, “Luck of the Irish!”

    Ireland Luncheon 3.17

    President Barack Obama addresses the Friends of Ireland luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 17, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    This evening President Obama and the First Lady will host the annual St. Patrick’s Day Reception, where the President and the Taoiseach will participate in a traditional Shamrock Ceremony.

    Green Fountain 3.17

    The water in the fountain on the North Lawn of the White House is dyed green in honor of St. Patrick's Day, March 17, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

  • [UPDATE: This event has now concluded.]

    This morning HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius takes to the virtual pages of Yahoo! News to make the case once more on the urgency of reform for countless Americans for whom a health crisis puts their entire life in shambles. She harkens back to Natoma’s story, which the President told in Ohio this week, and explains the broader significance:

    What's remarkable about Natoma’s story is how unremarkable it is. She was unlucky enough to get sick. But that was just chance. It could have happened to any of the tens of millions of Americans who don't have health insurance. Or to any of the tens of millions more who are underinsured. Some of them have caps on their benefits, which means their coverage can disappear in the middle of a hospital stay or a round of chemotherapy.

    Those of us who work for large employers that can negotiate better insurance rates have slightly more security. But the share of Americans under 65 who get health insurance through their job has been going down every year since 2000. And as soon as any of us change jobs or retire or decide to start our own business, we're facing the same risks as Natoma. Even if we keep our jobs, our health care premiums are rising three times faster than wages, eating up a bigger chunk of our paychecks every year.

    Our health insurance system is failing at the very job it is supposed to do. It's supposed to protect people against exorbitant health costs, yet many Americans who have insurance still spend tens of thousands of dollars a year on health care. It's supposed to soften the financial blow that comes with getting sick, yet the Americans who are most likely to have serious health problems often can’t get insurance. It's supposed to give families peace of mind, but it’s hard to think of any other issue that causes as many worries.

    President Obama's health insurance reform plan will make our insurance system work for families, small business owners, and individuals like Natoma by making three significant changes.

    Secretary Sebelius will be taking your questions live at 5:15 as we hit the home stretch on health reform.

  • There’s no issue that touches people more directly than health care, so there’s good reason for people to want as much reassurance as they can get before the country goes ahead with reform.  That’s why those who work in our health care system day in and day out have a unique role in weighing in on the merits of any reform effort.   In that field, one could hardly find a better voice than Marla J. Weston, PhD, RN, head of the American Nurses Association, who spoke out today loudly and clearly: “If ever there was a time to trust a nurse—that time is now. Please trust me when I tell you that we can’t afford to put off reform for one more administration—one more political season—or even one more day… This legislation will enact very real and much-needed insurance reforms; it will place a new focus on wellness and prevention, improving access to primary care and expanding coverage to over 30 million people.”

    It would only make sense that Americans listen to groups dedicated to advocating for the sick and disabled, for our kids and our nation’s seniors, and for the American consumer.  And for women, communities of color, and people of faith, it is more than understandable that they would want to hear from groups that have studied the proposals closely to see how it impacts them and their communities.  Organizations representing 59,000 Catholic nuns, for example, joined together today to passionately urge Congress to act:  “In this Lenten time, we have launched nationwide prayer vigils for health care reform. We are praying for those who currently lack health care. We are praying for the nearly 45,000 who will lose their lives this year if Congress fails to act. We are also praying for you and your fellow Members of Congress as you complete your work in the coming days. For us, this health care reform is a faith mandate for life and dignity of all of our people.”

    Small businesses, fighting through a still-tough economy, also rightly want to know what this would mean for them, and the Small Business Majority makes the case on the benefits, adding that “Two-thirds or more of small business owners we polled in 17 states agree that healthcare reform is needed now to get the US economy back on track.”

    But those groups are just the tip of the iceberg -- in an unprecedented show of diverse, even sweeping support, a virtual army of organizations came out in support of the President’s health reform proposal this morning as Congress prepares to make its final decisions.  The astounding list of 244 organizations provided Families USA, which led the way in coordinating the coalition, is below:

  • This week, Senator Chris Dodd introduced a financial reform bill that would begin to bring accountability to our financial institutions and ensure that American taxpayers would never again be on the hook to bail out firms that were deemed “Too Big to Fail.” The President immediately said that he would "work with Chairman Dodd and his colleagues to strengthen the bill and will fight against efforts to weaken it."  Not surprisingly, opponents of reform went to work almost immediately taking him up on that fight.

    Just yesterday we learned that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, no stranger to fighting for the status quo, plans to launch a $3 million ad campaign aimed at bringing down the much needed reforms of our financial system. That’s $3 million to fight a bill that will protect American families by establishing a consumer financial protection agency that will bring transparency, stronger supervision and clear rules of the road to our financial system.

    The recession and the aftermath of the financial crisis saw over 8 million Americans lose their jobs, trillions in household wealth disappear and small businesses denied the credit they need to grow. And this was all brought about by a system that failed to monitor or constrict the risk-taking of firms that were too big to break apart in a way that would protect taxpayers. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce doesn’t think that’s a problem worth fixing, but the President does.

    The American people deserve a strong and independent consumer financial protection agency that enforces clear rules across the financial marketplace, and the President will fight against the Chamber’s or anyone else’s efforts to undermine the agency’s independence.

    If the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants to come to the aid of the financial institutions that helped bring about this crisis, that’s their choice. But the President will work to ensure that we bring long overdue reforms to our financial system, because doing so will benefit the American people by laying a foundation for long-term growth and stability in our economy.

    Jen Psaki is Deputy Communications Director

  • As our year long debate on health care comes to a close there’s a lot of misinformation flying around. Case in point: a recent headline suggesting that health premiums would increase under the President’s health care plan. The suggestion of this article was that maybe Americans would be better off and end up paying less if we ditch reform just continue to do nothing.
    In fact, the opposite is true. Most people would pay less—in many cases a lot less.  Let’s look at why:

    In the absence of reform, health premiums are expected to continue skyrocketing. Those 20, 30 and 40% increases that you’ve heard about lately – they’ll be the rule not the exception.

    The real question, then, is whether the President’s plan would lower the cost of premiums from what they would be or increase them. Here, we don’t have to rely on hearsay or news articles – the Congressional Budget Office has offered  its official view on the question.
    According to the CBO, Americans buying the same coverage they have today in the individual market will see premiums fall by 14 to 20 percent compared to what they would pay without health insurance reform. This results from two important things that reform will do:

    • First,  the President’s Proposal introduces greater competition in the insurance market by establishing state-based exchanges where insurers will need to compete for business.  In addition, the proposal streamlines administrative costs by standardized forms and reducing the paperwork burden of providers.  CBO assumes that competition and administrative savings in the reformed market will generate significant savings, which will reduce average premiums for a comparable package of benefits by 7 to 10 percent compared to the cost of such benefits without reform in the individual market.
    • Second,  as a result of insurance market reforms that will be in place in the individual market and because of the individual responsibility requirement for coverage, CBO assumes that millions more people will have access to the individual market. According to the CBO, the impact of bringing these new people – many of whom are younger and healthier – into the market will help reduce premiums by 7 to 10 percent in the individual market.

    But wait, maybe you’ve heard opponents saying that CBO actually found that premiums would go up? Again, the facts matter here. CBO assumes that under the President’s Proposal individuals purchasing coverage in the reformed individual market will have access to a wider range of health benefits than they have in today’s individual market. So people may choose to buy better coverage.  Some may pay more because they are getting more for their money.

    And let’s not forget that the President’s plan includes the largest middle class tax cut for health insurance in our nation’s history. Critics also fail to point out that the majority of people purchasing coverage in the individual market will receive tax credits that on average will cover two-thirds of their premium. Once the impact of these new tax credits are taken into account, many people in the individual market could see their premiums drop by almost 60 percent compared to what they would have paid without health insurance reform.  

    Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director

  • The 2010 NCAA's are upon us and President Obama has released his picks. ESPN interviewed the President about his choices and has also published his picks for both the men's and women's tournaments.

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    • 9 -- that's  number of states and the District of Columbia where there is still no specific law that makes it illegal for insurers to reject applicants who are survivors of domestic violence by citing the history of domestic violence as a pre-existing condition. [Source]

    In many ways, America's women are those struggling most under the health care status quo.  We're uniquely impacted by gender inequalities ranging from being charged higher premiums just because we're women to insurance companies being allowed in some states to deny coverage because of so-called “pre-existing conditions” like being pregnant.  In addition, we're often the ones looked to for handling the health care of others.  Most mothers say they're the ones responsible for managing their families' care -- from choosing doctors to taking their kids to appointments to fulfilling family prescriptions.  And many women also find themselves caring for a sick or elderly relative. 

    While women may be dealing with many of the hardships of our broken health care system firsthand --  women also have the most to gain from health insurance reform.

    Take a look at the video First Lady Michelle Obama previously recorded to highlight health insurance reform from the unique perspective of women:

    Download Video: mp4 (77MB)

    Today’s number -- 9 -- is the latest in our ‘Health Reform by the Numbers’ series, an online campaign to raise awareness about how we just can’t wait any longer for health insurance reform. You can follow the campaign on and social networks like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn.

    To help spread the word, share this blog post with your family, friends and online networks using the ‘Share/Bookmark’ feature below.

    If you still have questions about what reform means for you and your family, tune in tonight at 5:15pm ET to get answers from HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

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