Macon PhillipsMarch 06, 2010
06:04 AM EDT
In this week’s address, President Obama describes how American families will have more control over their health care this year, after health reform passes.
Here are a few more points about how health insurance reform measures will benefit Americans this year:
Hold Insurance Companies Accountable:
- Eliminate lifetime limits and restrictive annual limits on benefits in all new plans;
- Prohibit rescissions of health insurance policies in all individual plans;
- Prohibit pre-existing condition exclusions for children in all new plans;
- Require premium rebates to enrollees from insurers with high administrative expenditures and require public disclosure of the percent of premiums applied to overhead costs;
- Establish a process for the annual review of unreasonable increases in premiums, requiring State insurance commissioners to work with the HHS Secretary and States.
- Provide grants to States to support health insurance consumer assistance and ombudsman programs to help consumers;
- Ensure consumers have access to an effective internal and external appeals process to appeal new insurance plan decisions;
- Require all insurance plans to use uniform coverage documents so consumers can make easy comparisons when shopping for health insurance;
- Establish an internet portal to assist Americans in identifying coverage options;
- Prohibit insurers from discriminating in favor of highly compensated employees by charging them lower premiums.
Ensure Affordable Choices and Quality Care:
- Provide immediate access to insurance for uninsured Americans who are uninsured because of a pre-existing condition through a temporary high-risk pool;
- Create a temporary re-insurance program for early retirees;
- Require new plans to cover an enrollee’s dependent children until age 26;
- Require new plans to cover preventive services and immunizations without cost-sharing;
- Offer tax credits to small businesses to purchase coverage;
- Facilitate administrative simplification to lower health system costs.
March 05, 2010
06:30 PM EDT
This week Tina Tchen and Valerie Jarrett traveled to New York City to participate in the 54th session of the Commission on the Status of Women at the U.N. Headquarters. The Commission was created in 1946 to advise the United Nations Security Council on the promotion of women’s rights. Every year representatives from UN Member States, joined by their civil society counterparts, meet to evaluate our global efforts on gender equality, identify challenges, and set policies for continuing to further women’s advancement. This year’s conference is being attended by more than 2,000 women from around the world who have come together to review progress on women’s rights in the 15 years since the signing of the Beijing Declaration and subsequent Platform for Action. As part of the events, Valerie Jarrett met with the U.S. public delegation to the Commission and Tina Tchen met with civil society groups and UN agency leaders to discuss challenges and opportunities and explore areas for collaboration.
Read about the week’s activities from Kristin M. Kane, Public Diplomacy Officer for the Bureau of International Organization Affairs at the U.S. Department of State.
Jayne Thomisee is Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement
Secretary Arne DuncanMarch 05, 2010
05:10 PM EDT
This week, we launched “Education in Focus” on Whitehouse.gov to shine a spotlight on what we are doing across the administration to improve our education system. And what a week it was:
- You joined Alma and Colin Powell, the President and myself in launching GradNation, an initiative to give more students the opportunity to go to college.
- You learned about the Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge, which gives schools the opportunity to have the President speak at their graduation.
- You engaged in a live web chat with Melody Barnes and me about how the Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA) can help students like you go to college.
- You heard from Dr. Jill Biden about the importance of community colleges.
- You read about Secretary LaHood’s experience as a teacher and his involvement in Teach For America Week.
- You joined our web discussion around the question: What does a 21st century education mean to you?
- You read along with the First Lady as she commemorated Dr. Seuss’ birthday by reading “The Cat in the Hat” aloud at the Library of Congress.
- You learned about the Education Department’s Investment in Innovation as they launched their Open Innovation portal.
Though this feature comes to a close today, our work is not done. The urgency to improve our children’s schools has never been greater.
Whether you’re still a student or your days in the classroom have long been over, we all have a moral and economic imperative that requires us to act. Go to www.ed.gov to learn more about what we are doing, and ways you can get involved.
Arne Duncan is Secretary of Education
Kori SchulmanMarch 05, 2010
04:15 PM EDT
Earlier this week the White House posed a question on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn as part of the “Education in Focus” feature on WhiteHouse.gov. We asked “What Does a 21st Century education mean to you?”and you had some really interesting answers.
Here’s a sample of what our fans, followers and group members had to say:
From our Facebook fans:
Kate Knott Stotler Twenty first century education moves us out of the industrial-era, one-size-fits-all education model and acknowledges that all students are different, learn in different ways and at different speeds. Twenty first century education is focused on creating relevance to the real world into which students will enter. It teaches students how to think, not what to think. It establishes a two-way conversation between teachers and students. It draws on community resources to enhance the learning process. It employs technologies that students will use beyond the classroom. It encourages students to ask questions which continue their learning instead of settling for answers that stop it.
Ellie Doble Slaven I think a 21st century education means that you give the students the tools needed to ALWAYS continue learning. They should have the fundamentals down pat, reading, writing and arithmetic. Education should be a life long pursuit and if you have a strong foundation, you can continue building all your life. And, if we hope to succeed as a country, we should give that opportunity to all, not just to those that can afford a quality education.
Chris Hrobak 21st century education means realizing that even 4th grade science classes translates into increased American competitiveness. Investing properly in education will bring some of the highest returns anyone, anywhere, could ever hope for.
Courtney R. Unruh-Flores A 21st Century education means that we look forward and create new ideas using new technologies rather than teaching the same way we have been teaching for the last 100 years. It means more than replacing the chalkboard with an interactive white board; it will take an entire shift of focus away from the 3 R's of Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic and put that focus on a more holistic approach that educates the whole child and also makes sense in light of our global economy and world.
Wyatt Nyman It means being able to afford college. I am a Junior in High school, and a student who is worried about tuition. I want to make something of myself, and i know in order to do that, i need to have a higher level education. The only thing that is holding me back now is being able to pay for it. I really liked the idea of community service in exchange for a free(or even cheaper) college education. If something like that is possible, it would be greatly appreciated by not only myself, but thousands of other high performing students who are inhibited by their financial restraints due to this recession. The two things that would be most beneficial to me are healthcare reform (not only in insurance agencies, but also in the hospitals as well), and an affordable education to be able to compete in the business world.
From our Twitter followers:
KelleyCalvert: @whitehouse a 21st century education equips the mind with an enormous capacity to adapt, create, and engage the world compassionately.
chadkafka:@whitehouse 21stCenturyEd=students having skills, tools, & knowledge to be competitive in global economy. Create-Communicate-Collaborate.
jenn_nelson:@whitehouse 21st Century Education: individualized, continuous, adaptable, multi-sensory, active, current, applied, rigorous, self-motivated
BarbInNebraska:@whitehouse as a teacher, I want my students to easily be able to create, collaborate, and communicate their ideas using technology.
Jodi Diderrich: Aside from the usual subjects and the need to further expand our techology, math, and science programs, we need to be teaching our students about creating balance. Both in life and in business, many of our citizens just don't understand that they are not only capable of creating balance, but must do so in order to live well. It is the balance of personal life with job life, of eating with activity, of giving with taking that creates a healthy human being. In the same way, it is the balance of risk taking with building a financial cushion in business affairs that prevents one difficulty from destroying a person's financial security. Being moral, honest, and fair would be so much easier to do if people felt they'd been given the tools in their youth to survive the hard times and to enjoy the times of abundance with an eye on both the present and the future.
(Updated to include the second sentence of @chadkafka's tweet that was inadvertently omitted.)
Dr. Jill BidenMarch 05, 2010
11:00 AM EDT
I am so pleased to participate in this week’s “Education in Focus”– since education is always my focus! Yesterday I was in the classroom for most of the day - doing what I love – teaching community college students who are eager to learn, and who are pursuing their dreams of getting a college education. Our spring semester is well underway, and I am gratified to watch my students achieve what some of them never thought was possible.
It’s an exciting time for students and teachers all over the country, as Congress and the Administration are working to increase student access and success. The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act (SAFRA), which includes a historic investment in community colleges, is currently pending in the Senate. If passed, this legislation would improve our higher education system by reforming the Nation’s student loan system, raising the maximum Pell Grant award, and increasing the availability of Perkins loans. These provisions could have a real impact on community colleges and students by increasing federal financial aid, and allowing colleges to compete for funds to bolster student success and completion. It also includes an opportunity for them to apply for funding, through their states, to expand and upgrade facilities so that they can better meet the needs of their students.
Last month, I attended the President’s State of the Union Address, where he spoke about the importance of the SAFRA, and reminded the audience that community colleges are a career pathway for the children of many working families. I was honored to have Julia Frost, a student at Coastal Carolina Community College, join me that night as my guest. I am truly inspired by Julia’s commitment to her country as a former Marine and current Marine Corps spouse, and her commitment to completing her education.
Being on a campus or in a classroom always feels like home to me, and I can’t wait to visit more students and teachers this year. It is truly an honor to spend time with students like Julia and the dedicated faculty who are helping her make her dream of becoming a teacher a reality.
March 05, 2010
10:32 AM EDT
At the 1939 World’s Fair in New York, General Motors unveiled "The Futurama" exhibit, a captivating model that displayed a vision for the not-so-distant "future" of 1960. Visitors to the exhibit, most of whom did not own cars, were left in awe of the “ideal city of tomorrow,” imagining themselves riding in a vehicle amidst breathtaking skyscrapers on concrete multi-lane highways, speeding toward a previously untouchable countryside with a sense of personal freedom.
The exhibit proved prescient, perhaps inspirational, but with many unforeseen and adverse effects on the American city. Today, our cities are faced with overdevelopment that has simultaneously damaged our environment, isolated low-income communities in the urban core, and maintained an unsustainable economic model.
Government has a responsibility to make smart investments and encourage smart planning. We can no longer continue developing our cities and metros with 20th century plans. We need to fundamentally change the pattern of urban development to reflect the way people live – a 21st century vision based on new realities, both in America and around the world.
By mid-century, 70% of the world’s population, approximately 6.4 billion people, will live in cities and metros. There will also be 27 megacities with populations greater than 10 million, and that doesn’t just include Tokyo, New York, London, and Paris; it also includes Sao Paulo, Mumbai, Seoul, Buenos Aires, and Lagos.
President Obama understands the importance of rising to these challenges today, because tomorrow will be too late. He understands that urban and metropolitan areas are the engines of our national and global economy, and will be the foundation of a more sustainable future. That’s why on February 19, 2009, the President took a bold step toward realizing a new vision by signing an Executive Order that created the White House Office of Urban Affairs.
Our new urban agenda will focus on making regions and urban areas more economically competitive, environmentally sustainable, and expand opportunity for everyone. And our new approach will no longer look at urban problems in isolation. Instead, it will coordinate federal investments to address the reality at the local level, encouraging local leaders to develop comprehensive strategies to build strong regional economies, responsible and sustainable infrastructure, and opportunity-rich communities that bridge the social and economic divide.
I am thrilled to join the senior United States delegation to UN-HABITAT’s Fifth World Urban Forum because for President Obama, the Forum is about innovation, sharing ideas, listening to best practices, and building consensus on how, as global partners, we can most sustainably and inclusively plan our future.
Adolfo Carrión, Jr. is the Director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs and Deputy Assistant to the President
Christina RomerMarch 05, 2010
09:36 AM EDT
Although the labor market remains severely distressed, today’s report on the employment situation is consistent with the pattern of stabilization and gradual labor market healing we have been seeing in recent months.
The unemployment rate remained constant at 9.7 percent. Many had expected that some of January’s 0.3 percentage point decline would prove to be a transitory drop. That it was maintained for a second month makes it more likely that it was a genuine decline, not statistical noise. The number of workers unemployed for more than 26 weeks fell by 180,000, the first decline in over a year.
Payroll employment declined by 36,000, slightly more than last month. However, as many analysts have discussed in recent weeks, the large snowstorms in the Mid-Atlantic region in mid-February likely had a substantial negative impact on this number. Someone who has a job but missed the entire pay period that included the 12th of the month because of the weather, and so did not receive a paycheck, is not counted as being on the payroll. The Council of Economic Advisers estimates that the impact of bad weather on the February employment number was likely substantially negative. Importantly, negative weather effects this month would be expected to be counteracted next month, as workers who temporarily disappeared from payrolls because of the snow are once again counted. In addition, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, temporary Census employment was an unusual factor adding about 15,000 to the payroll employment total in February. Census employment is expected to rise substantially over the next few months, before declining again over the summer as the Census is completed.
Of course, an unemployment rate of 9.7 percent is unacceptably high and we need to achieve robust employment growth in order to recover from the terrible job losses that began over two years ago. That is why it is essential that Congress pass additional responsible measures to promote job creation. It is also vital that we continue to support those struggling with unemployment.
As always, it is important not to read too much into any individual data release, positive or negative. Because of the disruptions from the weather, this is especially true of today’s employment data. Although the overall trajectory of the economy has improved dramatically over the past year and appears to be continuing to improve, there will surely continue to be bumps in the road ahead.
Christina Romer is Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers
March 04, 2010
07:18 PM EDT
How many of you remember your high school commencement speaker? This year, public high schools across the country have an opportunity to invite one speaker their graduates will never forget. All you have to do is tell us how your school – more than any other – is preparing students for college and careers.
Education is one of the President's top priorities. President Obama set a goal that America have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020, and we want to know what your school is doing to engage and motivate students, offer challenging academic opportunities, and provide the excellent education that you need to succeed in college and a job.
Today is a big day for the President’s Race to the Top program which is encouraging schools reach this goal. The Obama Administration has just announced the finalists for the first round of that competition. This year, the White House and the U.S. Department of Education have also teamed up to hold the first annual Race to the Top High School Commencement Challenge, a separate competition with a different, but still very special prize for one great public high school.
The rules are easy: if you are a high school student, fill out the online application by March 15th, answer four questions about your school’s success, and provide some information that demonstrates that success. Your high school principal will submit your application on your school’s behalf – you can even submit a creative video to help make your case.
Schools from across the country are competing to welcome President Obama as their graduation speaker this spring. It’s not too late to participate. Join the Race to the Top Commencement Challenge today.
Heather Higginbottom is a Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusMarch 04, 2010
05:53 PM EDT
The urgency of health reform couldn’t be more clear.
Across the country, working families have been saddled with huge rate increase in their health insurance premiums. In California, consumers were informed of rate hikes as high as 39 percent, and in Michigan, insurers sought a 56 percent increase and this is happening across the country.
This is unacceptable, particularly at a time when families are struggling to make ends meet and the largest insurers took in more than $12 billion in profits last year alone. The American people want to understand why their premiums are skyrocketing while some companies are doing well. And they deserve a clear and accurate explanation.
I just got out of a meeting where I asked leaders from big insurance companies for answers. I hosted a discussion with the CEOs of UnitedHealth Group Inc., WellPoint Inc., Aetna Inc., Health Care Service Corporation and CIGNA HealthCare Inc., along with leaders from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. I asked them to explain why these crushing burdens are being placed on middle-class families and what we can do to lower costs.
I also asked the CEOs to post the actuarial justification for these stunning rate increases online in an easy-to-understand manner, so that consumers can see why premiums are skyrocketing to the point that some people in the individual market can no longer afford coverage. I hope they will act quickly and make this information available to all of us. If insurance companies are going to raise rates, the least they can do is tell us why.
But families deserve more. They need to know how we can prevent these increases from happening in the future. Families want to be responsible and buy health insurance. They’re willing to pay a fair price. They understand that health care is not cheap.
But they don’t want to be afraid every time they open a letter from their insurer that their premiums are going up $7,000 a year. Or that their application has been rejected because they take a medicine for high blood pressure. Or that their insurance is being cancelled because of a mistake on their paperwork.
The point of health insurance is to give people peace of mind, and they’re not getting it. The system we have is failing them.
President Obama has offered a health insurance reform proposal to help working families and small business owners. It will hold insurance companies accountable by laying out common-sense rules of the road to keep premiums down, prevent insurance industry abuses and outlaw discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions.
Reform also includes key provisions that will protect consumers from unjustified premium increases. Building upon existing state practices, the President’s plan includes a new Federal authority to force insurers to justify their rate increases, provide additional support for states that already do rate reviews, and help those states that don’t currently review increases on their own.
Right now, in 21 states, insurance companies can raise rates without any oversight, no questions asked, and consumers suffer. Reform will change the rules and help stop exorbitant increases.
And the President’s plan will help reduce costs and require insurance companies to dedicate more of the premiums dollars they collect to actual care instead of profits, CEO salaries and advertising. If they don’t spend enough on actual care, they’ll be required to send rebate checks to consumers.
Comprehensive reform is a necessary step to fix our broken health insurance market. Holding the insurance industry accountable is one step in that direction.
Kathleen Sebelius is Secretary of Health and Human Services
Jesse LeeMarch 04, 2010
11:23 AM EDT
In his remarks yesterday the President brought the focus squarely back to what reform means for Americans and their families:
This is about what reform would mean for all those men and women I’ve met over the last few years who’ve been brave enough to share their stories. When we started our push for reform last year, I talked to a young mother in Wisconsin named Laura Klitzka. She has two young children. She thought she had beaten her breast cancer but then later discovered it had spread to her bones. She and her husband were working and had insurance, but their medical bills still landed them in debt. And now she spends time worrying about that debt when all she wants to do is spend time with her children and focus on getting well.
This should not happen in the United States of America. And it doesn’t have to.
Back in September we had the opportunity to speak to Laura at her home in Green Bay -- here's the rest of her story in her own words:
Kori SchulmanMarch 03, 2010
10:12 PM EDT
The First Lady traveled to Jackson, Mississippi today to spend time with students, officials and experts discussing a deeply important issue, not just as a First Lady, but as a mother. And that’s childhood obesity.
Alongside Governor Barbour and Mississippi’s First Lady, Mrs. Obama toured Pecan Park Elementary school’s walking trail -- just one example of the creative work happening across the state to make sure kids stay healthy and active. Watch a video with Governor Barbour talking about the First Lady’s Let’s Move! campaign and programs all across the state:
Later at Brinkley Middle School, the First Lady discussed state and nationwide efforts to meet these challenges, emphasizing an important goal of the Let’s Move! initiative:
We are trying to end the epidemic of childhood obesity in a generation. That's a big goal -- because we want kids born today to grow up healthy and at a good weight when they reach adulthood. So that's the goal. And reaching this goal, it’s an ambitious goal to talk about doing anything in a generation. It’s a hard thing. But that's why we started Let’s Move!, because this initiative is asking everyone in the country to do their part to reach this goal. Everyone has got to do their part.
Jesse LeeMarch 03, 2010
08:38 PM EDT
The President has now laid out a path forward for health reform that puts families and businesses in control of their own health care, reduces costs and the deficit, and incorporates new Republican ideas while still instituting fundamental protections again insurance company abuses. He opened his remarks saying, "I want to especially recognize two people who have been working tirelessly on that -- on this effort, my Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius -- as well as our quarterback for health reform out of the White House, Nancy-Ann DeParle." We're happy to have both of them in a live video chat at 3:40PM EST to take your questions on the President's proposal. Secretary Sebelius will also be meeting with insurance company leaders in the morning to get answers on the alarming premium hikes being ushered in on families across the country and will be able to discuss what she heard from them.
UPDATE: This event has now concluded.
Jesse LeeMarch 03, 2010
06:03 PM EDT
President Obama’s United We Serve initiative is about to go on tour alongside Bon Jovi on the band’s “The Circle World Tour.” In collaboration with the Corporation for National and Community Service, rocker Jon Bon Jovi will be the first person to engage mass audiences in the President’s call to service at concert venues. The United We Serve initiative encourages Americans to get involved in community service to help the nation move forward.
Watch Bon Jovi explain the importance of civic engagement, and find out what you can do to get involved and make a difference at Serve.gov.Viewing this video requires Adobe Flash Player 8 or higher. Download the free player.
Secretary Ray LaHoodMarch 03, 2010
05:40 PM EDT
You may know that I started professional life as a teacher. So last week it was a pleasure to spend an afternoon back in the classroom as part of Teach For America Week .
And the kids in Ms. Voskuil's 7th grade reading class at Hart Middle School were great. They were enthusiastic about their work, and they asked a lot of interesting questions. A lot.
Ms. Voskuil's advice had been to "get them rolling," and they sure did get rolling. These kids are thinking about a lot of things, way more than we give them credit for. They are interested in President Obama. They are interested in their government.
You can see they've got that curiosity just smoldering inside, and they just need a good spark, like Ms. Voskuil. You can tell they want to learn.
I talked with the class about the safety mission of our DOT. But my fundamental message was simple: learn to read and do basic math as well as you can. Because when I was a 7th grader I'm pretty sure I never imagined I'd be Secretary of Transportation. Most kids don't know where they'll end up or what jobs they'll be doing. Mastering basic skills allows them to be prepared to seize any opportunity that comes their way.
Look, we need to position our kids for success. America cannot afford to deny any of its kids educational opportunities. We've all heard the expression that "a chain is only as strong as its weakest link." Well, a world-class education is the way we strengthen young Americans and prepare them to achieve.
And I can assure you that Ms. Voskuil's class is on its way to achievement.
Teaching is a great occupation for those who want to make a positive difference in kids' lives, who want to turn on the light bulbs in young minds. And Teach For America is helping put motivated teachers in classrooms across America that sorely need their dedication and energy.
You see, there are tens of thousands of schools in our own country that cannot adequately staff their classrooms with qualified teachers. So, whatever you think about whose fault that is, I urge you to think about how the price for that inequity is paid by hundreds of thousands of American children every year. And, in the end, by all of us.
Because those same children become adults who are unable to hold jobs because they lack basic skills, unable to participate in our democracy because they can't decipher a ballot. Let's face it; our educational inequities guarantee a national chain that is weaker than it ought to be. I think that's unacceptable.
But since 1990, Teach For America has been helping these underserved schools, having reached over 3 million students. This year alone, 7,300 TFA teachers will bring their enthusiasm and preparation to over 450,000 students. And I saw with my own eyes that they are making a difference.
For example, Ms. Voskuil has helped these kids jump two grade levels in their reading already.
And that's why, as happy as I was to help honor Teach For America Week at Washington, DC's Hart Middle School, I'm already working on my lesson plan for next year.
My own interest in politics was sparked when I was a young teacher in Peoria's Holy Family School, instructing kids about our Constitution and about government. So--who knows?--maybe I made an impression on one or more of those 7th graders here in Washington, DC.
Because Donald, Mary, Naree, Ikea, Napoleon, Emani, their classmates, Ms. Voskuil, Hart Middle School, and Teach for America certainly made an impression on me.
Ray LaHood is Secretary of Transportation
Jesse LeeMarch 03, 2010
03:32 PM EDT
Ed. Note: At 3:40PM EST, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle will take your questions about the President's proposal and remarks in a live video discussion. Watch here at WhiteHouse.gov/live, or join the discussion through Facebook.
Today the President made it exceedingly clear that he intends to move forward on reform to put Americans in control of their health care, and explained once again why:
Democrats and Republicans agree that this is a serious problem for America. And we agree that if we do nothing -– if we throw up our hands and walk away -– it’s a problem that will only grow worse. Nobody disputes that. More Americans will lose their family's health insurance if they switch jobs or lose their job. More small businesses will be forced to choose between health care and hiring. More insurance companies will deny people coverage who have preexisting conditions, or they'll drop people's coverage when they get sick and need it most. And the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid will sink our government deeper and deeper and deeper into debt. On all of this we agree.
So the question is, what do we do about it?
The answer to that question, of course, has been at least a year in the making – countless hearings, meetings, and conversations have brought the best ideas from both sides to the surface, and the President’s proposal includes a broad array of Republican suggestions in addition to Democratic ones.
However, the President also confronted the fact that there is a fundamental disagreement on how to deal with some core elements of the problem. Explaining that just as he has rejected one extreme of the spectrum that calls for an actual government takeover of health care, so too does he disagree with the other side:
On the other end of the spectrum, there are those, and this includes most Republicans in Congress, who believe the answer is to loosen regulations on the insurance industry -- whether it's state consumer protections or minimum standards for the kind of insurance they can sell. The argument is, is that that will somehow lower costs. I disagree with that approach. I'm concerned that this would only give the insurance industry even freer rein to raise premiums and deny care.
So I don't believe we should give government bureaucrats or insurance company bureaucrats more control over health care in America. I believe it's time to give the American people more control over their health care and their health insurance. I don't believe we can afford to leave life-and-death decisions about health care to the discretion of insurance company executives alone. I believe that doctors and nurses and physician assistants like the ones in this room should be free to decide what's best for their patients. (Applause.)
The President spoke at length about the merits of his proposal, from ending insurance company abuses, to the fact that it is paid for will reduce the deficit (concepts largely abandoned in recent years), to the fact that 30 million people will be covered and millions of middle class families will be able to afford the peace of mind of quality insurance for the first time.
He also called for an up or down vote in the next few weeks just as has been given to many health care bills before and to the Bush tax cuts, pledging that “from now until then, I will do everything in my power to make the case for reform.”
He closed with an explanation of what is motivating him:
So at stake right now is not just our ability to solve this problem, but our ability to solve any problem. The American people want to know if it's still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future. They are waiting for us to act. They are waiting for us to lead. And as long as I hold this office, I intend to provide that leadership. I do not know how this plays politically, but I know it's right. (Applause.) And so I ask Congress to finish its work, and I look forward to signing this reform into law.
Vivek KundraMarch 03, 2010
12:48 PM EDT
I’m on the road today, joining San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco CIO Chris Vein for an event to highlight San Francisco’s Open 311 API (Application Programming Interface) initiative. This is a great approach that ties together efforts in San Francisco, Boston, the District of Columbia, Portland, and Los Angeles to open more services to citizens, and to use data to drive progress in people’s lives. Too often, people grumble that their complaints about government – be it city, county, state, or federal – get swallowed by the bureaucracy. Open 311 is an answer to that problem, placing the role of service evaluator and service dispatcher in the power of citizens’ hands. Through this approach, new web applications can mash publicly available, real-time data from the cities to allow people to track the status of repairs or improvements, while also allowing them to make new requests for services. For instance, I can use the same application to report a broken parking meter when I'm home in the District of Columbia or traveling to cities like Portland, Los Angeles, Boston, or San Francisco. This is the perfect example of how government is simplifying access to citizen services. Open 311 is an innovation that will improve people’s lives and make better use of taxpayer dollars.
The event which will take place at the 311 Customer Service Center in San Francisco, California will be streamed live below starting at 2:30 p.m. EST/11:30 a.m. PST.
UPDATE: This event has concluded, but you can watch it in its entirety by clicking here.
Vivek Kundra is U.S. Chief Information Officer
March 03, 2010
12:02 PM EDT
In February 2009, President Obama stood before a joint session of Congress and announced that by 2020 the United States would once again have the highest percentage of college-educated adults in the world.
We need new solutions to achieve that ambitious goal, and as a nation we cannot afford to fail. Soon, the Department of Education will request applications to the Investing in Innovation (i3) fund, which will support the development of path-breaking new ideas, the validation of approaches that have demonstrated promise, and the scale-up of our nation’s most successful and proven education innovations.
i3 takes a new approach to funding education programs: small grants to develop new ideas; significant money for moderate evidence; and, if you want the biggest dollars, you need to demonstrate not just great results but also prove that those results can scale to benefit large numbers of students. Those working in and around schools know that this work takes place against a backdrop of flat funding (at best) for education at the local and state level. Producing far better outcomes, for many more students, with the same resources as we have today, is a daunting challenge, but one we must accept.
We know that educators and others are working everyday to meet these needs. That is why one of the most exciting features of i3 is that it finally provides a way to identify the best ideas and practices from our nation’s teachers, schools, districts, and non-profits; highlight them on a national stage; and provide unprecedented resources for them to expand while we learn whether and how they work at scale.
Another new effort with a similar aspiration, the Open Innovation Portal (http://innovation.ed.gov), provides a public forum for all who wish to participate in creating opportunities for partnership and local private and public funding - potentially multiplying many times over the federal funding opportunity. We are hopeful this community of innovators and supporters will be another way that the best our country and the world has to offer spreads to serve more students.
Secretary Duncan has called the reform effort “education’s moonshot” a reminder of our nation’s ability to reach higher goals. Surely, with our children’s futures at stake, we can go there again.
Jim Shelton is the Education Department’s Assistant Deputy Secretary for Innovation and Improvement
Dan PfeifferMarch 03, 2010
11:16 AM EDT
Yesterday the President sent a letter to Congressional leaders outlining four additional Republican ideas he’d be willing to include. These ideas were identified as priorities by GOP members attending Thursday’s bipartisan meeting:
- Combating waste, fraud, and abuse by engaging medical professionals to conduct random undercover investigations of health care providers who receive taxpayer money.
- More funding for demonstration projects of alternatives for resolving medical malpractice disputes, including health courts.
- Increasing Medicaid reimbursements for doctors.
- Ensuring Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are in the Exchange.
These four ideas are just the latest to be singled out by the President as promising ways to strengthen our proposal. And they join a long list of good Republican ideas that have been incorporated already. You can learn more here.
Republican ideas in the legislation passed by Congress:
- Advancing medical liability reform through grants to States:
- Extending dependent coverage to age 26.
- Allowing automatic enrollment in health insurance.
- Including mechanisms to improve quality.
- SHOP exchange for small businesses to pool and purchase affordable insurance.
- Allowing the purchase of health coverage across state lines.
- Offering a high-risk pool.
- Supporting proven employer wellness programs
Additional Republican ideas in the President’s proposal:
- Including a comprehensive sanctions database.
- Registration and background checks of billing agencies and individuals.
- Expanded access to the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank.
- Liability of Medicare administrative contractors for claims submitted by excluded providers.
- Limiting debt discharge in bankruptcies of fraudulent health care providers or suppliers.
- Using technology for real-time data review.
- Illegal distribution of a Medicare or Medicaid beneficiary identification or billing privileges.
- Study of Universal Product Numbers claims forms for selected items and services under the Medicare program.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
Kori SchulmanMarch 03, 2010
09:15 AM EDT
Today the First Lady is traveling to Jackson, Mississippi for the recently launched Let’s Move! Campaign – an initiative to end childhood obesity with a focus on promoting healthy eating, nutrition education and physical activity in schools. In February, the President signed a Memorandum establishing a task force to address the issue and last month Mrs. Obama visited Philadelphia to take on food deserts. In Mississippi she’ll visit a couple of local schools and check out a trail that’s part of the state-wide initiative Let’s Go Walkin’ Mississippi to encourage physical exercise. We’ll be following the First Lady every step of the way and sending updates throughout the day on Facebook.
Visit Facebook.com/WhiteHouse for updates from the road.
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