Our Top Stories
Stephanie CutterDecember 08, 2010
07:34 PM EDT
After the Affordable Care Act became law, opponents of reform lined up at courthouses nationwide to file lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of health reform. These kinds of challenges often happen after major legislation is enacted. In fact, legal challenges to the Social Security Act, the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act were all filed – and all failed.
Now, lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act are losing in federal court. Today, a federal judge in New Jersey who was appointed to the bench by President George W. Bush granted the Justice Department’s motion to dismiss a case challenging the constitutionality of the health reform law. You can read media coverage of the decision here.
The case dismissed in New Jersey can now be added to a longer list of cases challenging the Affordable Care Act that have been dismissed by the courts. That list includes:
Sollars v. Reid -dismissed 4/2/10
Taitz v. Obama - dismissed 4/14/10
Archer v. U.S. Senate - dismissed 4/12/10
Heghmann v. Sebelius - dismissed 5/14/10
Mackenzie v. Shaheen - dismissed 5/26/10
Fountain Hills Tea Party Patriots v. Sebelius - dismissed 6/2/10
Coalition for Parity Inc. v. Sebelius - dismissed on 6/21/10
U.S. Citizens Association v. OMB - dismissed 8/2/10
Baldwin v. Sebelius – dismissed 8/27/10
Burlsworth v. Holder - dismissed 9/8/10
Schreeve v. Obama - dismissed 11/4/10
And the decision in New Jersey comes after two previous victories for health reform in the Western District of Virginia and Eastern District of Michigan where judges ruled on the merits of the arguments brought by the opponents of reform. In Virginia, the judge wrote:
“I hold that there is a rational basis for Congress to conclude that individuals’ decisions about how and when to pay for health care are activities that in the aggregate substantially affect the interstate health care market…Nearly everyone will require health care services at some point in their lifetimes, and it is not always possible to predict when one will be afflicted by illness or injury and require care…Far from ‘inactivity,’ by choosing to forgo insurance, Plaintiffs are making an economic decision to try to pay for health care services later, out of pocket, rather than now, through the purchase of insurance. As Congress found, the total incidence of these economic decisions has a substantial impact on the national market for health care by collectively shifting billions of dollars on to other market participants and driving up the prices of insurance policies.”
And in Michigan, a federal judge issued a similar ruling and upheld the law.
The Affordable Care Act falls well within Congress’s power to regulate under the Commerce Clause, the Necessary and Proper Clause, and the General Welfare Clause. In order to make health care affordable and available for all, the law regulates how to pay for medical services – services that account for more than 17.5% of the national economy. This law came into being precisely because of the interconnectedness of our health care costs, and we need every American to act responsibly to strengthen our health care system. When people seek medical care without health insurance and don’t pay for it, it adds more than $1,000 per year to the premiums of American families who act responsibly by having coverage. To lower the cost of health care for everyone, we have to stop making those who act responsibly pick up the health care tab for those who don’t – and that means we need everyone to be a part of the health insurance marketplace. Just as you can’t wait to get car insurance until you get into a car accident or rely on others to pay for the damages, you can’t wait until you get sick to get health insurance, or rely on the fact that emergency rooms won’t turn you away even if you can’t pay.
To fix the problem of uncompensated care and the shifting of costs to those who have insurance, the Affordable Care Act requires people who can afford it to carry minimum health coverage beginning in 2014. For the 83% of Americans who have coverage today, this means they are already taking responsibility for their health care, and will need to do very little. Many of the 17% of Americans living without health insurance either can’t afford it or have been denied coverage because of a preexisting condition. The Affordable Care Act provides tax credits to people who need help paying for insurance and hardship waivers to individuals or families who can’t afford it at all. And the Act expands Medicaid coverage for many lower income Americans. Those who can afford it, but refuse to buy it, will face a penalty.
The Affordable Care Act also bans insurance companies from discriminating against people with preexisting conditions. However, unless every American is required to have insurance, it would be cost prohibitive to cover people with preexisting conditions. Here’s why: If insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to anyone who applies for insurance – especially those who have health problems and are potentially more expensive to cover – then there is nothing stopping someone from waiting until they’re sick or injured to apply for coverage since insurance companies can’t say no. That would lead to double digit premiums increases – up to 20% – for everyone with insurance, and would significantly increase the cost health care spending nationwide. We don’t let people wait until after they’ve been in a car accident to apply for auto insurance and get reimbursed, and we don’t want to do that with healthcare. If we’re going to outlaw discrimination based on pre-existing conditions, the only way to keep people from gaming the system and raising costs on everyone else is to ensure that everyone takes responsibility for their own health insurance. If a court strikes down the individual responsibility provision, then protection for people with preexisting conditions will fall with it.
In the weeks ahead, there will be additional court cases examining this matter and the health reform law. No one knows how each case will be decided, but in the end, we are confident that health reform will prevail.
Stephanie Cutter is Assistant to the President for Special Projects
Jesse LeeDecember 08, 2010
06:37 PM EDT
It was a long time coming, but today the President signed the Claims Resolution Act of 2010. Secretary Vilsack recently addressed the Pigford II Settlement and Secretary Salazar address the Cobell Settlement, the two main parts of the legislation. The President released the following statement afterwards:
Statement by the President on H.R. 4783
Today I have signed into law H.R. 4783, the "Claims Resolution Act of 2010." This Act, among other things, provides funding and statutory authorities for the settlement agreements reached in the Cobell lawsuit, brought by Native Americans; the Pigford II lawsuit, brought by African American farmers; and four separate water rights suits, brought by Native American tribes. While I am pleased that this Act reflects important progress, much work remains to be done to address other claims of past discrimination made by women and Hispanic farmers against the Department of Agriculture as well as to address needs of tribal communities.
I am also pleased that the Act includes authorities proposed by my Administration concerning Unemployment Compensation program integrity, to expand the ability of the Federal Government to recover from individual income tax overpayments certain Unemployment Compensation debts that are due to an individual's failure to report earnings. My Administration has been working to protect taxpayer funds through improved recovery of improper Federal payments, and the additional authorities in this Act will assist in that effort. In order to ensure that the intent and effect of these program integrity provisions are realized, my Administration is working with the Congress to correct an inadvertent technical drafting error in section 801(a)(3)(C), so that the provision can be implemented as intended.
THE WHITE HOUSE,
December 8, 2010.
December 08, 2010
05:53 PM EDT
The President held a Cabinet meeting today at the White House. Scroll down for a few snapshots:
December 08, 2010
03:25 PM EDT
Some recent articles have incorrectly suggested that the tax framework did not do well by middle-income families, hard-pressed workers and their children. We wanted to clear up the record. The tax framework the President agreed to includes provisions he fought for and secured that are very positive policies for jobs and growth, for the middle class and for our nation’s most hard-pressed working families. The President fought for an increase in the child tax credit of up to nearly $1,500 for a low-income family with two children and will work to make it a permanent part of our tax code. Middle-class families will keep their tax cuts and get an additional tax cut worth hundreds of dollars more than what they get this year. And the economy will get additional jobs, with several outside economists estimating more than 1.5 million because of the items the President pushed for in this agreement. There are provisions that benefit that wealthy that the President would have preferred to exclude, but we should not miss the forest for the trees.
What the framework means for working families
Remember where the Republicans were when we started this process. Their tax proposals included no extension of tax credits like Making Work Pay, the expanded refundability of the child credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), or our new expanded – and partially refundable – tax credit for college. Several of these tax credits were not contained in the progressive and fiscally responsible House-passed tax bill supported by the President.
Let’s start with what the payroll tax cut means for working families. Any single person with kids who earns over $20,000 will do better under this framework than they would have if we had fully extended Making Work Pay with full refundability. So will any couple making over $40,000.
Kori SchulmanDecember 08, 2010
01:09 PM EDT
This afternoon, President Obama is holding a Cabinet meeting at the White House. Take a break and check out a video from the archives that gives a rare, behind-the-scenes look at how a Cabinet meeting comes together.
Check back later for a read-out from today’s Cabinet meeting.
Kalpen ModiDecember 08, 2010
12:58 PM EDT
The media narrative over the last 2 days has refused to focus on a key component of the President’s tax deal that affects young people – the $2500 American Opportunity Tax Credit for people pursuing a college education. Make no mistake – without the President’s tough negotiations on tax breaks for the wealthy, Republicans would have successfully gotten rid of one of President Obama’s key fulfilled promises to young people: a $2,500 credit for each year of college.
Political pundits and talk show hosts who have reported on the tax deal (which includes extending tax breaks for all Americans) have overlooked the President's fierce advocacy on this issue of college affordability and have even suggested that he has made a deal that ignores young people. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
December 07, 2010
09:03 PM EDT
This morning, Under Secretary of Defense Dr. Clifford Stanley held a press conference call to highlight how the DREAM Act is important to our military’s recruitment efforts and readiness. The DREAM Act is a part of the Department of Defense's 2010-2012 Strategic Plan to assist the military in its recruiting efforts.
Under Secretary Stanley described the DREAM Act as “the sweet spot,” pointing out it is “common sense,” and that given that recruitment rates go through cycles in the military, the DREAM Act is important to expand the pool of recruits.
In addition, Secretaries Duncan and Napolitano sent letters to the Hill today expressing their support for the DREAM Act and urging Congress to pass it (view Secretary Duncan's letters here and Secretary Napolitano letters here).
Kori SchulmanDecember 07, 2010
04:54 PM EDT
"My number one priority is to do what’s right for the American people, for jobs, and for economic growth," said President Obama during a press conference this afternoon on the middle class tax cuts and unemployment insurance agreement.
The agreement secures vital tax relief and investments in our workers that will create jobs and accelerate economic growth. The plan has three key accomplishments:
- Working families will not lose their tax cut: A typical working family faced a tax increase of over $3,000 on January 1st. That’s avoided under this framework agreement, and working families won’t see their tax cuts go away next year.
- Focused on high impact job creation measures: The framework agreement includes some of the best measures for jumpstarting growth and job creation, including a full year of emergency unemployment insurance benefits, an about $120 billion payroll tax cut for working families and a continuation of tax credits for working families. This is on top of growth generated by extension of the middle-class income tax rates.
- Does not worsen the medium- and long-term deficit. These are responsible, temporary measures to support our economy that will not add costs by the middle of the decade. The President does not believe it is affordable to make the high-income tax cuts permanent and will continue to have that debate in the years ahead.
December 07, 2010
04:13 PM EDT
Sixty-nine years ago, the world was transformed as soon as the first Japanese bombs began their descent over Pearl Harbor in a deliberate attack on the United States. Before that morning, Americans watched a foreign war grow outside of its borders into a worldwide crisis. The sudden attack on Naval forces in Hawaii brought the war home for every citizen of the country. President Roosevelt gave one of the most rousing speeches in history the following day, a declaration of war that entered the United States into what would be known as World War II. The ‘Date of Infamy’ gave rise to the Greatest Generation, and the biggest military engagement in human history.
Jesse LeeDecember 07, 2010
01:02 PM EDT
Last night, the President laid out the framework for a compromise that ensures no middle class family sees a tax increase, those looking for work keep their lifeline, and the economic recovery gets a welcome boost. While the debate over the tax cuts and unemployment insurance here in Washington has led to a lot of political positioning, the President stressed that the two parties needed to work together to prevent a tax increase for American families on January 1st :
I'm not willing to let working families across this country become collateral damage for political warfare here in Washington. And I'm not willing to let our economy slip backwards just as we're pulling ourselves out of this devastating recession.
I'm not willing to see 2 million Americans who stand to lose their unemployment insurance at the end of this month be put in a situation where they might lose their home or their car or suffer some additional economic catastrophe.
So, sympathetic as I am to those who prefer a fight over compromise, as much as the political wisdom may dictate fighting over solving problems, it would be the wrong thing to do. The American people didn’t send us here to wage symbolic battles or win symbolic victories. They would much rather have the comfort of knowing that when they open their first paycheck on January of 2011, it won’t be smaller than it was before, all because Washington decided they preferred to have a fight and failed to act...
...As for now, I believe this bipartisan plan is the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do for jobs. It’s the right thing to do for the middle class. It is the right thing to do for business. And it’s the right thing to do for our economy. It offers us an opportunity that we need to seize.
Heather ZichalDecember 06, 2010
06:31 PM EDT
Today, I join with the President, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and countless Americans to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Few places in America retain the natural beauty of the Refuge, which protects a broad swath of northeast Alaska and its shoreline.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge has a long bipartisan history. Following the efforts of countless conservationists, in 1960 President Eisenhower signed an executive order to establish the Arctic National Wildlife Range “for the purpose of preserving unique wildlife, wilderness and recreational values” and followed many years of efforts by conservationists to protect our wild lands. These conservationists, including Olaus and Margaret Murie, sought to protect this unique American landscape. In 1980, under President Carter’s leadership, the area was renamed the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and expanded to further recognize and protect the variety of wildlife found in the area.
Lynn RosenthalDecember 06, 2010
05:43 PM EDT
In October, President Obama and Vice President Biden announced unprecedented coordination across the federal government to protect victims of domestic violence and help break the cycle of abuse. Last week, the U.S. Senate took an important step towards the same goal by reauthorizing the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) which also included the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA). This important legislation has broad bi-partisan support, and will help states both improve child safety and continue critically needed services for victims of domestic violence.
CAPTA helps states strengthen the efforts of child protective service agencies to prevent and treat child abuse. By providing states and local communities with new tools to identify and treat abuse and neglect, CAPTA-funded services will continue to protect our youngest victims. And, CAPTA will help parents get the help they need by addressing high risk factors like substance abuse, mental illness and domestic violence.
In spite of all the progress we have made, domestic violence still affects 1 in 4 women, and these women are not strangers - they are our friends, neighbors, co-workers and family members. The emergency services provided under FVPSA are a lifeline for victims fleeing violence. The National Domestic Violence Hotline answers more than 22,000 calls for help each month, and connects many of these callers to their local battered women’s shelter. FVPSA helps keep those shelter doors open, and links victims with the resources they need to rebuild their lives.
Taken together, CAPTA and FVPSA will help end abuse, give hope to victims, and build strong families. We commend the Senate for taking the important step of passing this legislation, and urge the U.S. House of Representatives to act quickly to make these protections and services a reality.
Lynn Rosenthal is the White House Advisor on Violence Against Women
Jesse LeeDecember 06, 2010
04:40 PM EDT
As America fights to recover from the economic catastrophe that began almost three years ago, it’s important to remember that America had already been falling behind, and that as we rebuild, we have to rebuild even better than we were before. The President talked about his vision and his specific proposals at the Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina this afternoon:
In 1957, just before this college opened, the Soviet Union beat us into space by launching a satellite known as Sputnik. And that was a wake-up call that caused the United States to boost our investment in innovation and education -– particularly in math and science. And as a result, once we put our minds to it, once we got focused, once we got unified, not only did we surpass the Soviets, we developed new American technologies, industries, and jobs.
So 50 years later, our generation’s Sputnik moment is back. This is our moment. If the recession has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot go back to an economy that's driven by too much spending, too much borrowing, running up credit cards, taking out a lot of home equity loans, paper profits that are built on financial speculation. We’ve got to rebuild on a new and stronger foundation for economic growth.
We need to do what America has always been known for: building, innovating, educating, making things. We don’t want to be a nation that simply buys and consumes products from other countries. We want to create and sell products all over the world that are stamped with three simple words: “Made In America.” That's our goal. (Applause.)
The President chose Forsyth because it’s one of those spots around the country that exemplify not just how America came to lead the world during the 20th Century, but how it can regain that status unambiguously. As the President pointed out, “In a generation we have fallen from 1st place to 9th place in the proportion of young people with college degrees” – Forsyth is not just getting people degrees, but getting them educated to excel in 21st Century industries.
Kalpen ModiDecember 06, 2010
04:00 PM EDT
The understanding between artists and individuals – on a people-to-people level, is one of the cornerstones of free societies. During the cold war, artists and cultural exchanges helped win what some scholars call the “war of ideas” by demonstrating to the world the promise of America. Now, in a post-9/11 world, where information travels at speeds previously unthinkable, economies are interdependent, and the arts & humanities are truly global, the beauty and universality of the moving image offers unique opportunities to increase cross-cultural understanding.
On Friday, December 3rd, the White House participated in the launch of “Film Forward: Advancing Cultural Dialogue”, a public/private cultural film exchange effort by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and the Sundance Institute, in New York. The project encompasses five contemporary independent American filmmakers and five international filmmakers that will tour throughout the United States and abroad as part of an effort to build bridges between countries, and is operated in partnership with the major federal cultural agencies, the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. State Department officials also participated in the launch.
The powerful stories represented by the contemporary independent films and artists in Film Forward are ideal for bridging different cultures, not only in the diversity of artistic approaches, cultural traditions and political views of the films, but in meeting a very important need in engaging audiences here and abroad in one-on-one dialogue about shared perspectives on issues raised by the films. By encouraging dialogue on universal themes these films challenge stereotypes and open doors to other cultures, ideas and places.
December 06, 2010
01:45 PM EDT
I’m proud to announce the launch of the completely rebuilt and redesigned online home of the Department of the Treasury. We’ve worked hard to make it easier for citizens like you to find the information you need while upgrading the technology that powers the site so that we can offer more while saving taxpayers money.
Our goal wasn’t just to make the site look better; we wanted to make improvements that citizens like you were looking for at Treasury.gov. We used feedback from site visitors, usability tests, focus groups, and website traffic logs to figure out how we could better serve our site users. For example, site visitors said we had a wealth of raw data but that it was unintelligible to citizens looking for answers, so we created data visualizations. We heard that we often had out-of-date material accumulating on the site so we freshened up and streamlined our content. And we wanted to make the site more cost-efficient, so we moved our hosting structure to the “cloud,” where we will be able to save taxpayer money.
Here are just a few of the many improvements you can see on the new Treasury.gov today.
December 06, 2010
12:38 PM EDT
Today President Obama is traveling to Winston-Salem, North Carolina to visit with students and staff at Forsyth Technical Community College. Forsyth has an innovative biotechnology program that takes recent high school graduates, dislocated workers, and returning students and prepares them for careers in the biotechnology field. In addition to training new workers, they have also developed innovative new curricula and training models to prepare their students for the biotechnology workforce that can be replicated across the nation. Forsyth also works closely with local biotech companies and academic institutions to ensure that their curriculum is preparing students to meet the demands of a career in the biotech field and helps connect students to employment opportunities.
Forsyth Technical Community College is a great example of how community colleges can play a role not only in our education system, but also in local economies. Back in October, President Obama and Dr. Jill Biden hosted a White House Summit on Community Colleges to highlight critical role that community colleges play in developing America’s workforce and reaching our educational goals.
Check out this video from the Summit, and learn more about the Administration’s efforts to support community colleges at WhiteHouse.gov/CommunityCollege.
Kori SchulmanDecember 06, 2010
11:45 AM EDT
Ed. Note: The live chat has been rescheduled due to the President's news conference. See updated date and time below.
On December 8, 2009, the White House issued an unprecedented Open Government Directive requiring federal agencies to take steps to achieve key milestones in transparency, participation, and collaboration. On the one-year anniversary of the Directive, we’re answering your questions on the Administration’s progress and the ideas and practices that are being implemented at the White House and across the agencies in a live video chat on WhiteHouse.gov.
Join us for a talk on Wednesday, December 8th at 2:00 p.m. EST with Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra, Chief Information Officer Vivek Kundra and Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs Cass Sunstein.
Here’s how you can participate in advance:
And us join live on Wednesday, December 8th at 2:00 p.m. EST:
- Join the discussion live through the White House Facebook application
- Watch the chat through WhiteHouse.gov/live
Visit WhiteHouse.gov/open to learn more about the open government initiative.
Nancy-Ann DeParleDecember 06, 2010
05:00 AM EDT
On Friday, consumers in Connecticut got some good news when the state insurance commissioner rejected Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield’s plan to raise insurance premiums by 20 percent. The premium increase would have raised rates for 48,000 consumers. After a thorough look at the facts, Connecticut officials determined that the rate hike was “excessive” and that no rate increases would be necessary. You can read media coverage of the Connecticut decision here.
The work in Connecticut shows the power of premium review – a process used by states to evaluate and approve proposed health insurance premium increases. Today, some states have stronger premium review processes than others, so the Affordable Care Act included $250 million in grants to states that will help them strengthen their premium review efforts and protect consumers. We’ve already seen premium review hold down rate hikes in California, Massachusetts, Maine and now, Connecticut and we expect to hear more good news from other states in the months ahead.
Supporting state efforts to crack down on premium hikes is just one of the steps the Affordable Care Act takes to help control health care costs for families nationwide. In addition to setting up exchanges -- new competitive health insurance marketplaces where Americans can shop for affordable coverage options – the law:
- Requires insurance companies to publicly justify any unreasonable premium increases beginning in 2011.
- Requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on health care instead of overhead, salaries or administrative expenses, in 2011. If they don’t, they will be required to provide a rebate to consumers.
- Insurance companies who unreasonably raise rates between now and 2014 may be denied the opportunity to participate in the new exchanges.
The Affordable Care Act is making our health care system more transparent, giving consumers new rights and benefits and helping states control costs for families. We are committed to implementing the law quickly and carefully and delivering the benefits of reform to the American people.
Nancy-Ann DeParle is the Director of the White House Office of Health Reform
December 05, 2010
11:55 AM EDT
It’s been an incredibly busy week as we continue to work with our allies in Congress and across the country to try to get the DREAM Act across the finish line.
Here is a quick update. It looks like the House and Senate could take up the DREAM Act as early as this week. From the White House and Obama Administration we continue to do all we can, with everyone from the President to Cabinet and Senior officials working to highlight how important the DREAM Act is to our economy, our security, and our nation.
As you know, the DREAM Act is common-sense legislation drafted by both Republicans and Democrats that would give students who grew up in the United States a chance to contribute to our country’s well-being by serving in the U.S. armed forces or pursuing a higher education. Because it just makes sense, the DREAM Act has long enjoyed bipartisan support. It is limited, targeted legislation that will allow only the best and brightest young people to earn their legal status after a rigorous and lengthy process, and applies to those brought to the United States as minors through no fault of their own by their parents. These are young people who know no other home. Here is some of the work we have been doing:
Jesse LeeDecember 04, 2010
06:00 AM EDT
With President Obama visiting troops in Afghanistan, Vice President Biden says Congress must extend both the middle class tax cuts and unemployment insurance for the sake of those families and the broader economy.