June 24, 2010
01:12 PM EDT
Yesterday, Vice President Biden and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan saluted the Parade All-America Service Team to recognize high school students who are changing their communities through service. Parade Magazine, which has featured All-America teams for over 50 years, partnered with the national youth-service organization The League and the HandsOn Network to honor high school students who have demonstrated a remarkable commitment to service. This week, the 15 winners were honored at a special ceremony in Washington.
June 24, 2010
11:52 AM EDT
With the President announcing today nominees for the Board of Directors for the Corporation for National and Community Service, I am reminded just how important a role service plays in communities here at home and across the globe. The addition of these outstanding members will help continue the proud history of CNCS and continue to promote service as a way that Americans join together in communities large and small to solve the problems all of us face.
June 24, 2010
10:29 AM EDT
Ed. Note: Yesterday First Lady Michelle Obama joined kids from the Washington, DC area to launch the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition and introduce the 2010 Council, including Co-Chairs Drew Brees, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, and guest blogger Dominique Dawes, three-time Olympian and former U.S. national champion in women’s gymnastics.
In conjunction with the First Lady’s Let’s Move! initiative, this year President Obama has broadened the scope of the Council to include a focus on healthy eating as well as active lifestyles. The President signed an Executive Order outlining the Council’s new emphasis on both good nutrition and physical fitness.
June 24, 2010
06:00 AM EDT
What a difference a year makes.
Last June, President Obama unveiled a comprehensive proposal for financial reform, saying:
Millions of Americans who've worked hard and behaved responsibly have seen their life dreams eroded by the irresponsibility of others and by the failure of their government to provide adequate oversight. Our entire economy has been undermined by that failure.
So the question is, what do we do now? We did not choose how this crisis began, but we do have a choice in the legacy this crisis leaves behind. So today, my administration is proposing a sweeping overhaul of the financial regulatory system.
On that same day, President Obama ticked off his priorities for financial reform:
First, we're proposing a set of reforms to require regulators to look not only at the safety and soundness of individual institutions, but also -- for the first time -- at the stability of the financial system as a whole…
Second, we're proposing a new and powerful agency charged with just one job: looking out for ordinary consumers….
Third, we're proposing a series of changes designed to promote free and fair markets by closing gaps and overlaps in our regulatory system -- including gaps that exist not just within but between nations.
A lot of people wondered whether such an overhaul could actually be achieved. Even with our financial system undeniably broken, even with trillions in lost savings and millions of lost jobs, they wondered whether Washington could actually come together and get the job done.
Secretary Geithner warned against inaction:
Every financial crisis of the last generation has sparked some effort at reform. But past efforts have begun too late, after the will to act has subsided.
We cannot let that happen this time. We may disagree about the details, and we will have to work through those issues. But ordinary Americans have suffered too much; trust in our financial system has been too shaken; our economy has been brought too close to the brink for us to let this moment pass.
That’s why we have never let up in the fight for financial reform.
Look at where we are now, a year later, the finish line is in sight.
Right now a Congressional Conference Committee is in its second week of meetings. Thanks to the strong leadership of Chairman Dodd and Chairman Frank, as well as Chairwoman Lincoln and Chairman Peterson, the House and the Senate are tirelessly working through the last few remaining differences that exist between their bills.
In the coming days, they will reach agreement. And once that happens, the President will be able to sign into law the strongest set of financial reforms since those that followed the Great Depression.
We don’t have to wait until that day to know what reform will look like.
While some work remains to be done in Conference, the parameters of any final bill are largely set. And they largely follow the principles outlined by the President over a year ago.
For example, we already know that whatever bill comes to the President’s desk will end the problem of “too big to fail.” It will end taxpayer-funded bailouts. And it will make sure that American families and businesses never have to foot the bill for the irresponsibility of Wall Street.
We already know that the bill will give regulators the tools they need to curb risk-taking by financial institutions so that we can help prevent future crises.
We already know that the bill will put in place the strongest consumer financial protections in American history. It will make sure that consumers have the information they need to make informed decisions. And it will crack down on companies that take advantage of their customers
And we already know that the bill will create a safer, more transparent derivatives market, so that all of those transactions are brought out of the shadows and placed under strong supervision. It will also force derivatives dealers to hold capital against their risks so that financial firms will be accountable for the risks they take.
We know all this because all of it is already in the bills passed by the House and the Senate.
Everyone has a stake in financial reform. If you’re a family trying to buy your first house, a parent trying to fund your child’s education, an employee trying to save for retirement, or an entrepreneur trying to expand your business, you have a stake in financial reform.
Over the past two years, we have all lived through a devastating economic crisis. We have all learned important lessons. And when the President signs the final financial reform bill into law, he will have delivered on his commitment last year: to lay a new foundation for a stronger, safer financial system.
Neal Wolin is Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury
Melody BarnesJune 23, 2010
05:53 PM EDT
Ed Note: In case you missed it, check out Secretary Donovan’s post on HUD’s blog following yesterday’s release of the federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.
Someone once told me -- in your head it's a dream, but on paper it's a plan. As a nation, we’ve talked about addressing the issue of homelessness, and now we have a plan. Over the last year, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), consisting of 19 federal agencies and chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, drafted the nation’s first comprehensive strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.
The impetus for such a plan was simple. In the United States, no one should spend a single night without a place to call home. Yet, 634,000 people, including 107,000 veterans, experience homelessness on any given night. The families and individuals that experience homelessness and the advocates that work so hard on this issue know that we need to act with a renewed sense of urgency.
Yesterday, the lead Cabinet secretaries from USICH – Secretary Donovan, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki – joined USICH Director Barbara Poppe to unveil and submit Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness to the President and Congress.
The plan sets ambitious but measurable goals: (1) end chronic homelessness in five years; (2) prevent and end homelessness among veterans in five years; (3) prevent and end homelessness for families, youth, and children within a decade; and (4) put us on a path to ending all types of homelessness.
The plan builds on existing interagency partnerships and evidence-based models that are working at the local level. It will focus the resources and efforts of federal agencies to offer a variety of comprehensive solutions. For example, the partnership between HUD, HHS, and Education will provide homeless families with not only a home, but the wrap-around services they need to remain off the streets.
This is doable but it requires all of us to work together - Congress, federal agencies, state and local officials, faith-based and community organizations, and business and philanthropic leaders across our country.
We applaud the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness for their tireless efforts to put on paper what we know is possible. Preventing and ending homelessness will positively impact the lives of individuals and families, veterans, children and youth, those who are chronically ill, those suffering from domestic violence, and those combating discrimination of all sorts.
We look forward to working with dedicated state and local leaders to open doors and opportunities for men, women, and children all across the country.
Melody Barnes is the Director of the Domestic Policy Council
Jesse LeeJune 23, 2010
03:19 PM EDT
This afternoon the President spoke on new leadership for the mission in Afghanistan, full remarks below:
June 23, 2010
01:04 PM EDT
When White House carpenter Charlie Brandt told some of First Lady Michelle Obama’s staff about his latest hobby in beekeeping, Chef Sam Kass was quick to ask him if he knew how to make honey that could be used in the White House kitchen. Fortunately, not only did Brandts know how to make the honey, but he also had a spare beehive at home that he was happy to donate to the White House. Now Brandt is the White House’s official beekeeper tending a hive of approximately 70,000 bees near the new Kitchen Garden.
Watch this new "Inside the White House" video on the first ever White House beehive:
Jesse LeeJune 23, 2010
11:29 AM EDT
Noting that the struggle against discrimination based on sexual orientation is “as old as America itself,” the President welcomed Members of Congress, community leaders, and activists – some of whom have led that struggle for decades – to the White House to commemorate LGBT Pride Month.
He began his remarks with shout-outs to some of the top openly gay White House officials in attendance, including CEQ Chair Nancy Sutley, Director of the Office of Personnel Management John Berry, and chair of the Export/Import Bank Fred Hochberg.
Discussing progress made under his administration so far, the President began with a Presidential Memorandum signed earlier this month extending benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees, and promised to work to change the law “to continue to fight to change the law: to guarantee gay federal employees the exact same benefits as straight employees -– including access to health insurance and retirement plans.”
He then discussed perhaps the biggest change on the way:
And finally, we’re going to end “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. (Applause.) That is a promise I made as a candidate. It is a promise that I reiterated as President. It’s one that this administration is going to keep. Now, the only way to lock this in -– the only way to get the votes in Congress to roll back this policy -- is if we work with the Pentagon, who are in the midst of two wars.
And that’s why we were gratified to see, for the first time ever, the Secretary of Defense, Bob Gates, testify in favor of repeal. And the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, has repeatedly and passionately argued for allowing gay men and women to serve honestly in the military. (Applause.) We know that forcing gay and lesbian soldiers to live a lie or to leave the military, that doesn’t contribute to our security -- it harms our security.
And thanks to Patrick Murphy and others, for the first time in history, the House has passed a repeal that would allow gay men and women to openly serve in our armed forces. And this repeal is authored so that the Pentagon can complete its review of the policy -- which is critical, by the way, not only to passage, but it’s also critical to making sure that the change is accepted and implemented effectively. In the Senate, the Armed Services Committee has approved repeal for the first time, and the full body is poised to vote soon.
So here’s the bottom line: We have never been closer to ending this discriminatory policy. And I’m going to keep on fighting until that bill is on my desk and I can sign it. (Applause.)
Katelyn SabochikJune 23, 2010
10:48 AM EDT
Yesterday, President Obama held a Cabinet meeting at the White House to discuss a variety of topics with the Cabinet ranging from economic growth, national security and the war in Iraq, the BP Oil Spill, and the need for comprehensive energy and climate legislation.
Following the meeting the President gave brief remarks in the Roosevelt Room. The President began his remarks by mentioning the Cabinet’s discussion of economic growth. Over the past five months we have seen job and economic growth, but the President emphasized that there is still more work to be done to help the “millions of Americans out there who are looking for work, or looking for more hours, or are behind on their payments because they experienced unemployment very recently.”
Vice President Biden also gave a briefing on Iraq:
We also got a full briefing from our national security team as well as Vice President Biden on Iraq. It hasn’t received a lot of attention lately, but we are on pace to meet every target that we set at the beginning of this administration, to have our combat troops out and to transfer security responsibilities to the Iraqis. And we had a discussion about the progress that's been made in terms of government formation there.
We also discussed the importance of the transition from a Defense-weighted U.S. approach to a more State Department-weighted approach, and the need to make sure that we are adequately funding and supporting all the diplomatic measures that are going to be necessary so that we can partner effectively with a new Iraqi government over the long haul.
The Cabinet also discussed the BP Oil Spill and measures that have been taken over the past few weeks to stop the leak, clean up the oil and compensate those whose livelihoods have been disrupted by the oil spill.
We had a discussion about the oil spill in the Gulf and the important measures that are being taken both in capping the well, in making sure that we are dealing with the consequences on the shorelines and estuaries and bays across the Gulf, and also making sure that ordinary Americans who are being devastated economically are compensated properly.
Ken Feinberg has already traveled to the Gulf, and he is meeting with governors and local officials with the $20 billion fund that has been set up. We want to make sure that that money is moving out as quickly as possible, as fairly as possible, and that some of the people who I’ve had a chance to talk to down in the Gulf who are just desperate for relief are getting help as quickly as possible.
Finally the Cabinet discussed the importance of passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation:
And finally, we talked about energy. In the context of the oil spill, as I said last week during my Oval Office address, this has to be a wakeup call to the country that we are prepared and ready to move forward on a new energy strategy that the American people desperately want but for which there’s been insufficient political will. It is time for us to move to a clean energy future. I think the American people understand that it is a jobs creator, that it is a national security enhancer, that it is what is needed environmentally.
And we have the opportunity to build on actions that have already been taken in the House of Representatives. The Senate has an opportunity before the August recess and the elections to stand up and move forward on something that could have enormous, positive consequences for generations to come. And the entire Cabinet here recognizes, with all the other stuff that they’re doing, that if we get energy right, that an awful lot of things can happen as a consequence.
The President will meet with a bi-partisan group of Senators to discuss energy and climate legislation next week. The live chat with Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, on energy and climate legislation originally scheduled for this afternoon will be rescheduled for next week as well so she can discuss the outcome of the meeting.
Stephanie CutterJune 23, 2010
10:37 AM EDT
Monday marked the 90 day anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act, the landmark new law that puts consumers, not health insurance companies, in charge of their own health care. We have hit the ground running and, in just three months, significant progress has been made.
To begin with, the new Patients’ Bill of Rights will end the worst insurance company abuses and provide the American people with the peace of mind that their insurance will be there when they need it most. After meeting with representatives of the insurance industry yesterday, President Obama announced this historic regulation that will ban rescission of coverage, discriminating against children with pre-existing conditions, and lifetime limits, as well as place restrictions on annual limits. For additional details about the Patient’s Bill of Rights, read the fact sheet or watch the webchat with Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius.
Another important step we’ve taken is to fulfill President Obama’s promise that “if you like your health plan, you can keep it.” Last week, Secretary Sebelius and Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis announced a new rule that protects the ability of individuals and businesses to keep their current plan. It outlines conditions under which current plans can be ‘grandfathered’ into the system, minimizing market disruption and putting us all on the path toward the competitive, patient-centered market of the future. By providing the stability and flexibility that families and businesses need, Americans will be able to make the choices that work best for them. Learn more about the ‘grandfather’ rule.
You may be aware that increasing the number of primary care doctors and nurses is a key challenge to improving our health care system. Expanding our health care workforce and supporting our nurses, doctors and other providers are top priorities in reforming our health care system. One of the most obvious and important benefits of a strong health care workforce is increased prevention of disease – which can often mean avoiding the costly treatment of a chronic condition. During a speech last week at the American Nurses Association conference, President Obama announced investments in a new generation of primary caregivers. These efforts include increased resources for training, new incentives to physicians for providing primary care to patients, and support for caregivers who choose to enter primary care in underserved areas.
Even if you aren’t a senior, you probably know a few – and few things are more important to their health security than Medicare. That’s why the President and Secretary Sebelius held a tele-town hall to talk directly with America’s seniors, where they addressed misinformation and answered detailed questions about Medicare. It’s important for seniors to know that their guaranteed Medicare benefits are protected -- regardless of whether they are in Original Medicare or Medicare Advantage -- and seniors who have Medicare Advantage can choose to continue to be enrolled in the plan.
In the coming years, seniors can also expect free preventive care services, including annual wellness visits and cancer screenings, and advanced patient-centered care, which will improve coordination of health care resources and ensure that they have access to support in their community. Recently, we also announced the good news that seniors will begin receiving a $250 check from Medicare when they reach the ‘donut hole’ – a term used to describe the gap in Medicare Part D prescription coverage. Until this gap is completely closed in 2020, we will continue to help seniors manage their health care costs.
Finally, everyone likes saving money and we’ve made some big progress in this area. The new legislation includes some of the strongest anti-health care fraud provisions in history and we will continue to act swiftly and aggressively to prevent fraud and take action against those who break the law. Reductions in fraud and abuse will help extend the life of the Medicare Trust Fund and provide taxpayers with cost savings. Ongoing activities include implementing tough new rules and sentences for criminals, enhancing screening and enrollment requirements, leveraging new tools and resources to prevent and fight fraud, and enhancing data-sharing among the agencies that are working to eliminate fraud, waste and abuse.
These accomplishments have brought about a number of important new benefits and each day, as we continue implementing the new law, we are working to give Americans greater control over their health care. The Affordable Care Act is laying the foundation for greater stability and giving American families and businesses the flexibility they need to make the choices that work best for them.
Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects
Jesse LeeJune 22, 2010
03:41 PM EDT
In March 2007, doctors diagnosed Amy Wilhite’s daughter, Taylor, with Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML), a fast-growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. Taylor received three rounds of chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant. The cancer treatment produced multiple side effects: problems with her heart and hip, short-term memory loss, steroid-induced diabetes, and a compromised immune system. And so as one can imagine, the lifetime limit on the insurance plan that was covering Taylor was a constant worry, and as Amy explained before introducing the President today, there was always the worry pursuing a treatment now might mean they could not afford an even more important treatment later.
The Wilhites are just one family that will benefit from the fact that the Affordable Care Act, or Health Reform as you probably know it, will prohibit all insurance companies from imposing lifetime benefit limits for plans beginning on or after September 23, 2010. The Wilhite family can now follow doctor's orders without having to worry about hitting a limit, which Amy described as a weight being lifted. And that was just one of the benefits that the President spoke about this morning:
Victoria EspinelJune 22, 2010
11:15 AM EDT
I am pleased to announce that today we unveiled the Administration’s first Joint Strategic Plan to combat intellectual property theft.
The U.S. economy leads the world in innovation and creativity thanks to American inventors, artists and workers. Our ability to develop new technology, designs and artistic works supports jobs and allows us to export great new products and services around the world. Our citizens need to feel confident that they can invest in new innovation and intellectual property, knowing it will be safe from theft. Ensuring that our ideas and ingenuity are protected helps us create jobs and increase our exports.
Now, more than ever, we need to protect the ideas, artistry, and our reputation for quality, provide our businesses with the incentives to make each new product better, reduce crimes related to intellectual property infringement and keep dangerous counterfeits out of our supply chain to protect our citizens. Strong intellectual property enforcement will help us to accomplish that. The Obama Administration has always embraced the free flow of information, online collaboration, and fair use by average citizens, which are also helping to advance our society and economy every day -- this strategy does not target legitimate and legal activity. The Administration is technology-neutral, using both proprietary and open source platforms on the web and all content on WhiteHouse.gov is public domain, making it an active participant in the online communities of the 21st Century.
Secretary Hilda SolisJune 22, 2010
10:42 AM EDT
When President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act in March he ushered in a new day for every American family that has seen its wages and dreams eroded by a health care system that worked for the insurance companies’ bottom line — and at the expense of regular people.
To me, reforming America’s health care system has always been about re-empowering America’s workers and putting consumers back in charge of their health coverage and care.
Today, I joined with my colleagues at HHS and Treasury in announcing new regulations to do just that by stopping insurance companies from limiting the care you need and removing the bureaucratic barriers between you and your doctor.
Beginning this fall -- just six months after the Affordable Care Act was enacted -- new regulations will put an end to some of the most egregious practices. These rules:
- Put an end to pre-existing condition exclusions for children under age 19 for all group health plans and new individual market policies;
- Stop insurers from arbitrarily rescinding coverage except in cases involving fraud or an intentional misrepresentation of material facts for all plans;
- Prohibit the use of lifetime limits in all policies issued or renewed after September 23, 2010;
- Phase out the use of annual dollar limits over the next three years for most plans;
- Allow consumers to designate any available participating primary care provider as their primary care provider for all new plans;
- End the practice of charging higher out-of-pocket costs for services that are obtained out of a plan’s network emergency for all new plans.
Together, this new Patient’s Bill of Rights, will bring immediate relief to many Americans and provide peace of mind to millions more who are only one illness or accident away from medical and financial chaos.
For too long, many small business owners and self-employed entrepreneurs have been priced out of adequate health care coverage. The provisions announced today provide these engines of economic growth with more choices in care, greater value for the money, and the confidence that comes with both.
Hilda Solis is the Secretary of Labor
June 22, 2010
09:28 AM EDT
Yesterday, Vice President Biden and the Energy Department’s Assistant Secretary Cathy Zoi were in Midland, MI, to celebrate the groundbreaking of Dow Kokam's 800,000 square foot battery manufacturing factory. This is part of the Summer of Recovery, demonstrating successful Recovery Act projects that are putting Americans back to work in the short term and investing in a clean energy economy. Dow Kokam estimates its project has already created or preserved approximately 100 construction jobs – this will rise to 1,000 jobs at the peak of construction. The bulk of the estimated 800 full time jobs will come in the second half of 2011, when Dow will begin hiring and training permanent employees.
The Dow plant is part of the Recovery Act’s $2 billion investments in advanced battery manufacturing, supporting 20 battery and 10 component manufacturing factories. These include several other Michigan factories including A123, Compact Power, GM, and Johnson Controls. At full scale, the Obama Administration’s investments will support factories with the capacity to supply more than 500,000 plug-in hybrid and electric drive vehicles. Dow will build enough batteries to supply 60,000 electric-drive vehicles, scaling up a proven process to build lithium-ion batteries.
These factories, supported by the Recovery Act, are helping build an important domestic industry – the US produced less than 2 percent of the world’s batteries for advanced vehicles in 2008. By the end of 2012, the US is estimated to have the capacity to produce 20 percent of the world’s lithium-ion batteries for vehicles. By 2015, this could be even higher.
The Recovery Act's battery factories are scaling up production, and also lowering costs. By 2013, these factories will help cut battery costs in half – making electric drive vehicles much more affordable for Americans. Additional Administration investments in cutting edge research projects, led by the Energy Department, will continue this type of innovation well beyond 2015, providing a long-term path for a competitive industry.
Matt Rogers is Senior Advisor to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu for Recovery Act Implementation
June 22, 2010
09:10 AM EDT
The Administration is working to empower scientists, business leaders, investors, government leaders, and entrepreneurs to harness American ingenuity to create affordable clean energy and high-paying jobs. In President Barack Obama’s most recent address to the nation, he called for a national mission to “unleash America’s innovation” to create a clean energy economy. Unleashing America’s innovation requires a critical mass of scientists and researchers, working together in an entrepreneurial ecosystem to bring these technologies to market and investors to take them to scale. Through a series of energy conferences, and by fostering Regional Energy Innovation Clusters the Administration is bringing these key players together to create a critical mass of information, human capital, and financial resources. These clusters are organic communities of entrepreneurs, investors, scientists and engineers, able to work in a spirit of collaboration to create new technologies, and make them an everyday reality.
Last week the path to clean energy and oil independence ran through the American heartland. Entrepreneurs, business leaders, investors, university researchers, non-profits, along with local government and White House officials met together in Omaha, Nebraska for the first of three regional Energy Innovation Conferences. Throughout the day, over two hundred attendees gathered in Omaha to discuss energy challenges, share approaches to address these challenges, and begin to coordinate solutions. Participants also made invaluable connections with one another to increase collaboration among various sectors of the economy necessary for building Regional Energy Innovation Clusters and a clean energy economy.
The Administration has also stepped up to help innovators and entrepreneurs in the Midwest to spur a successful Regional Innovation Cluster. The Administration highlighted over $30 million dollars in funding for Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri for worker training in green jobs, in order to create the workforce necessary to fuel the region’s Innovation Cluster. The Department of Energy is also working with businesses to provide badly needed capital for new ventures to supplement the millions of dollars already invested by DOE in the Midwest. The Department of Labor is working to address critical human development and leadership capital gaps. And the Department of Agriculture recently issued $2.7 million of new funding for projects in rural areas that generate renewable energy or increase access to capital for innovative businesses and farmers.
These conferences are a key first step to connecting the dots that build the network that lead to Regional Energy Innovation Clusters across the country to spur new technologies and bring them to the marketplace. The Administration is confident that the ties created in Omaha, along with continued support for job training and seed capital, will foster collaboration across the business, government and research communities, encourage innovation, and apply it in the future clean energy economy.
Ginger Lew is Senior Counselor to the White House National Economic Council and the Small Business Administration
Stephanie CutterJune 22, 2010
12:00 AM EDT
Yesterday, a new survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation highlighted one of the problems in the individual health insurance market the Affordable Care Act was designed to address: unaffordable premium increases.
The survey was conducted before the Affordable Care Act became law and found that the average premium increase for consumers in the individual market was 20 percent and 77 percent of consumers in the individual market reported that they faced a premium increase. 40 percent of those who purchase their own coverage say they are “not too confident” or “not at all confident” that they will be able to pay their usual medical bills. More than 1 in 5 say that over the past year they or a family member covered by their plan didn’t get needed medical care because of the cost, and 20 percent skipped filling a prescription due to cost.
The Affordable Care Act will help address this problem and strengthen the health insurance system for everyone. The law starts by helping to prevent unreasonable premium increases by requiring insurance companies to publicly justify unreasonable increases. Companies will also have to spend more of your premium dollars on medical claims, not salaries and overhead. If insurance companies raise rates too high between now and 2014, they could be excluded from the new health insurance exchanges and lose access to millions of new customers. And we are encouraging states to crack down on premium hikes and providing states with $250 million in grants to do so.
States are already taking action:
- In California, the Obama Administration and the state Insurance Commissioner called on Anthem Blue Cross to justify its proposed 39 percent increase. Upon investigation, the state determined that there were significant errors in the rate filing and Anthem Blue Cross withdrew the rate increase. On June 16, the Insurance Commissioner announced that rate hikes by the state’s four largest health insurers will be subject to an independent actuarial review.
- In New York, the state legislature recently passed and Governor signed legislation granting the state authority to review and approve health insurance premiums before they take effect, and increasing medical loss ratio percentages, with which insurers in the state must comply.
- In New Mexico, Insurance Superintendent Morris J. “Mo” Chavez resigned after he approved, without public hearings, a Blue Cross Blue Shield NM individual health insurance rate hike of 24.6 percent. The New Mexico Public Regulation Commission requested last month that the Insurance Superintendent suspend the rate increase and start another review.
- In Iowa, the Insurance Commissioner disapproved a 20 percent proposed increase by Gemworth, and reduced a 60 percent proposed increase by American Community Mutual to 16.5 percent.
- In Maine, Anthem Blue Cross’s request to raise rates by 18.1 percent was rejected by the state and a state court reaffirmed the state’s right to review premium increases.
- In Pennsylvania, the state is investigating premium increases made by nine of the state’s largest health insurance companies.
- In Massachusetts, state leaders capped rate increases requested by insurance companies.
Today, President Obama will be meeting with insurance company CEOs and insurance commissioners to discuss the Affordable Care Act and in the meeting, he will reiterate his pledge to help protect consumers from unfair premium increases. Later, he’ll announce the release of a new benefits for consumers in a speech in the East Room. You can watch the speech here at 11:45 AM.
Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects
Jesse LeeJune 21, 2010
03:14 PM EDT
The President spent his day today reflecting on fatherhood, how it shapes our kids, and the responsibilities fathers face. He spoke this morning at an event in Washington, DC before hosting a Father’s Day Mentoring Barbeque on the South Lawn later on. He referred back to an initiative he and his Administration launched around Father’s Day of 2009:
One year ago this week, we kicked off a national conversation on fatherhood and personal responsibility, and members of our administration fanned out all across the country to hear from fathers and families about the challenges that they face. Secretary Arne Duncan, our Secretary of Education, held a discussion in New Hampshire about the link between fatherhood and educational achievement. Gary Locke talked to fathers in California about balancing the needs of their families with the demands of their jobs. Secretary Shinseki, of Veterans Affairs, held a town hall for military and veteran dads in North Carolina. And Attorney General Holder traveled to Georgia for a forum about fathers in our criminal justice system.
Dan PfeifferJune 21, 2010
02:51 PM EDT
A video circulating today shows Republican Senate Whip Jon Kyl claiming that the President told him he would not enforce immigration policy on the border unless comprehensive immigration reform is passed. The President didn’t say that and Senator Kyl knows it. There are more resources dedicated toward border security today than ever before, but, as the President has made clear, truly securing the border will require a comprehensive solution to our broken immigration system.
Background on President’s Strategic and Integrated Southwest Border Strategy:
Over the past year since the Southwest Border Initiative was launched:
- Doubled the personnel assigned to Border Enforcement Security Task Forces by deploying 110 additional special agents.
- Tripled the number of ICE intelligence analysts along the Southwest border in April 2009 by deploying 28 additional personnel.
- For the first time, DHS began screening 100% of southbound rail shipments for illegal weapons, drugs, and cash.
- Deployed 13 additional cross-trained canine teams, which identify firearms and currency, to the Southwest Border to augment the five teams already in place.
- Deployed 116 additional Border Patrol Agents to augment CBP officers during inspections operations—particularly outbound inspections.
- Deployed five additional Z-Backscatter Units, which help CBP identify anomalies in passenger vehicles, to the Southwest border to augment the six already there.
- U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) combined have seized $85 million in illicit cash along the Southwest border—a 22 percent increase over the same period during the previous year.
- CBP and ICE together have seized 1,404 firearms and 1.62 million kilograms of drugs along the Southwest border—increases of 22 and 14 percent respectively over the same period during the previous year.
- CBP seized $29.5 million in illicit southbound cash along the Southwest border—a 39 percent increase over the same period during the previous year.
Additionally, the San Diego DHS Maritime Unified Command, comprised of U.S. Coast Guard, CBP, ICE and other law enforcement partners, saw a more than six-fold increase in maritime drug interdictions in the Pacific waters extending from the Southwest border—seizing 57,437 lbs. of drugs in fiscal year 2009 compared to 8,884 lbs. seized in fiscal year 2008. Already in fiscal year 2010, the Coast Guard has seized 11,500 lbs. of drugs across the San Diego sector.
- The Border Patrol has doubled in size to approx 20,000 Border Patrol agents on board.
And U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) statistics show that illegal immigration into the United States is down with apprehensions between points of entry having dropped 23 percent in FY09. During FY09 the Border Patrol apprehended 556,041 compared with 723,825 during FY08. El Paso Sector saw a 51 percent reduction in apprehensions, the Tucson Sector saw a 24 percent reduction in apprehensions, and the Rio Grande Valley Sector saw a 19 percent reduction in apprehensions. Those statistics reflect a reduction in the number of people attempting to illegally cross our borders.
- And as part of his comprehensive plan to secure the Southwest border, President Obama will request $500 million in supplemental funds for enhanced border protection and law enforcement activities. The President will also deploy up to an additional, requirements-based 1,200 National Guard troops to the border to provide intelligence; surveillance and reconnaissance support; intelligence analysis; immediate support to counternarcotics enforcement; and training capacity until Customs and Border Patrol can recruit and train additional officers and agents to serve on the border. Funds will be utilized to enhance technology at the border, share information and support with State, Local, and Tribal law enforcement, and increase DoJ and DHS presence and law enforcement activities at the border, to include increased agents, investigators, and prosecutors, as part of a multi-layered effort to target illicit networks trafficking in people, drugs, illegal weapons, and money.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director
Katelyn SabochikJune 21, 2010
01:47 PM EDT
Ed. Note: The live chat with Heather Zichal on energy and climate legislation has been postponed until next week. Stay tuned for details on the new date and time.
On Wednesday, President Obama will meet with a bipartisan group of Senators to discuss the need for comprehensive energy and climate legislation this year. Following that meeting, Heather Zichal, Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, will host a live chat on WhiteHouse.gov to take your questions on energy and climate change legislation.
June 21, 2010
09:29 AM EDT
Today marks the 90 day anniversary of the signing of the Affordable Care Act, the landmark new law that puts consumers, not health insurance companies, in charge of their own health care and HHS Secretary Sebelius will be on hand tomorrow to answer questions from the American people about the new law in a live web chat.
Join in the discussion by:
- Submitting your questions through About.com
- Watching the event live tomorrow at 3:15 pm on WhiteHouse.com/live
In just three months, significant progress has been made to implement the new law -- insurance companies have stopped rescinding care from patients when they need it most, employers are gaining new resources to help maintain retirees’ health coverage, seniors hitting the “donut hole” are receiving a one-time, tax free $250 check to help subsidize prescription drug costs, small businesses are taking advantage of tax credits that make it more affordable to provide insurance to their employees, and more parents have been able to keep their kids under 26 years of age on their health plans.
To recognize the 90 day anniversary, President Obama will give a speech tomorrow about the important work being done to deliver the benefits and cost savings of the new law to the American people and begin leveling the playing field by making the insurance market more competitive as we move toward 2014 when individuals and small businesses will have access to more affordable choices through state Exchanges – the same choices as members of Congress. He will also meet with insurance company CEO’s -- and some of the nation’s leading State insurance commissioners who are conducting important oversight into premium increases -- to discuss the need to work together to implement the new law and to fairly deliver its immediate benefits to consumers by avoiding unjustified premium increases.
Watch the event live tomorrow at WhiteHouse.com/live.
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