Read all posts from March 2012
Alejandra CampoverdiMarch 22, 2012
06:52 PM EST
As we commemorate the second anniversary of the Affordable Care Act this Friday, it’s worth taking a look at the many ways this landmark health reform law is making a difference in the lives of Americans, especially Latinos who suffer disproportionately from a lack of access to coverage. Thirty two percent of Latinos were uninsured in 2009 – higher than any other racial or ethnic group – and half of Latinos did not have a regular doctor, compared to only one-fifth of white Americans. And twenty percent of low-income Hispanic youth have gone a year without a health care visit. When you look at these numbers, it’s clear that the Affordable Care Act has had and will continue to have a profound effect on the health of the Latino community.
Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis wrote an op-ed this past week for ImpreMedia on the Affordable Care Act and Latinos in which she highlighted that “Too often because of cost, Latinos don’t get the preventive care they need to stay healthy. This is particularly true during tough economic times, when many are forced to forego health services for other needs, like rent or groceries. A recent study found that 6.1 million Latinos gained prevention coverage in their private insurance plans in 2011.” You can read the rest of her op-ed HERE.
And throughout the week, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has highlighted how the new law has:
- Helped more than 5.1 million people with Medicare save over $3.2 billion| en español
- Provided more than 45 million women access to preventive health care services| en español
- Helped young adults get and keep affordable health coverage
- Made it possible for nine states to deem health insurance rate hikes “unreasonable”
Megan SlackMarch 22, 2012
04:00 PM EST
Cushing, Oklahoma is an oil town. It’s a major hub for connecting our nation’s crude oil supply with refineries along the Gulf Coast, and the latest stop on President Obama’s cross-country tour to discuss American energy production.
Domestic oil and gas production is the highest it’s been in eight years. We’re actually producing so much that, even though we've added enough new oil and gas pipelines to circle the Earth in the last three years, we still don’t have enough pipeline to transport it all around the country quickly enough, particularly to our nation's refineries.
And, as President Obama explained when he spoke there today, the fact that production is outpacing pipeline capacity is causing bottlenecks in places like Cushing, slowing our ability to further increase oil supplies when gas prices are high and we need it the most.
Modernizing pipeline infrastructure and expanding its ability to deliver oil to refineries and consumers around the country is a vital piece of a strategy to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and expand production of American-made energy. That’s why President Obama directed his Administration to expedite the permitting and construction process of a new pipeline that will help crude oil make its way to Gulf Coast refineries more quickly, and doing so while protecting natural resources and the health of local communities along the pipeline’s proposed path.
Kori SchulmanMarch 22, 2012
03:27 PM EST
This week, we are holding a series of White House Office Hours with Administration officials as we mark the two year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.
On Monday, Nancy-Ann DeParle, Deputy Chief of Staff and former Director of the White House Office of Health Reform, held Office Hours on Twitter to answer your questions. Tweets poured in from individuals, local governments, and advocacy groups accross the country. Check out the full questions and answer session below, or on Storify.
Have more questions about the health care law and what it means for you and your family? We're holding another session with Cecilia Muñoz, Director of the Domestic Policy Council, this Friday, March 23rd at 2:00 p.m. EDT. Here's how you can get involved:
- Starting now, ask your question on Twitter with the hashtag #WHChat. You can also use #hcr and #ACA.
- On Friday, March 23rd at 2:00 p.m. EDT, Cecilia will be on the @WHLive account and ready to answer your questions
- You can follow the Q&A through the @WHLive Twitter account and the hashtag #WHChat
- If you miss the live event, the full session will be posted on WhiteHouse.gov and Storify.com/WhiteHouse
March 22, 2012
03:20 PM EST
Ed note: This originally appeared on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau blog
It can be hard to understand the language of financial products and services. Just what exactly is a grace period? What about an ARM? A balloon payment? And while the Internet can serve up an answer, how can you be sure it’s the right one?
Ask CFPB, a new interactive online tool from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), can help.
Say you’re thinking about buying a home. You could type in a question to Ask CFPB’s search box, or you could browse the list of questions in the Mortgage category. Once you’ve done a search, you can also filter by topic, like “fees” or “closing,” or by populations, like servicemembers, students, and older Americans.
Ask CFPB contains three general categories of questions and answers:
- Definitions: Financial products and terms are often described in industry jargon. Ask CFPB translates the jargon into clear definitions. You can get answers to questions like, “What is a credit report?” or “What is a reverse mortgage?”
- Explanations: Financial products can include many complicated terms and features, and it can be difficult for you to understand how they work. Ask CFPB provides you with general information and explanations on terms and features of financial products.
- Situations: Ask CFPB arms you with information and tips to help you navigate various situations. For example, you can use to the tool to ask, “What if my lender quoted me one rate at application but raised it at closing?”
Ask CFPB also lets you provide feedback. You can rate an answer “Helpful,” “Too long,” “Confusing,” or “Incorrect.” And if you don’t find the answer you’re looking for, you can submit a question for consideration.
Matt ComptonMarch 22, 2012
01:34 PM EST
The second stop of President Obama's energy tour this week was a set of oil and gas production fields located on federal lands outside of Maljamar, New Mexico. It's currently home to more than 70 active drilling rigs.
He told people in New Mexico:
I’m here to talk about what we’re calling an all-of-the-above energy strategy -- a strategy that relies on producing more oil and gas here in America, but also producing more biofuels in America, more fuel-efficient cars in America, more wind power in America, and more solar power in America. I believe this all-of-the-above approach is the only way we can continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and ultimately put an end to some of these gas spikes that we’re going through right now and that obviously hurt a lot of families all across the country.
The President's commitment to expanding oil and gas production is very real. Domestic production has increased each year he has been in office. Domestic oil production is currently at an eight year high -- up 13 percent on federal lands alone in the last three years.
Nancy-Ann DeParleMarch 22, 2012
12:42 PM EST
We met Nathan and his son, Thomas, in 2009. Thomas was born with hemophilia, and he hit lifetime limits on his health coverage with two different insurance companies before he turned seven years old. Two years ago, Nathan was hopeful about what the Affordable Care Act would mean.
Last week we spoke with Thomas’s family again and they made it clear: Health reform has improved their quality of life. It means they can focus on making sure Thomas has the best possible care. It's changing their lives for the better.
Thomas is not alone. He's just one of the 105 million Americans who no longer has lifetime dollar limits on his coverage.
Megan SlackMarch 22, 2012
11:51 AM EST
The Affordable Care Act is already helping small business owners with the costs of providing health insurance for their employees, and many Americans now have access to care they didn’t before, including children with pre-exsiting conditions and young adults who can now stay on their parents' plan until age 26. Millions more have access to free preventive services, and seniors are getting help paying for the medications they need.
But, there are provisions in President Obama’s health reform law that don’t take effect until 2014 and will do even more to make health insurance cheaper and easier to obtain for millions of Americans. For example, families who purchase private health insurance through state-based exchanges that come online in 2014 could save up to $2,300 each year on their health care spending.
Exchanges will be a single market where families or individuals can purchase and enroll in an affordable health insurance plan that meets their needs. They’ll be able to compare health plans, get answers to questions about their insurance options, and find out if they are eligible for tax credits for private insurance or health programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program.
March 22, 2012
10:30 AM EST
For too long, too many hard working Americans paid the price for policies that handed free rein to insurance companies and put barriers between patients and their doctors. The Affordable Care Act gives families the security they deserve. The new health care law forces insurance companies to play by the rules, prohibiting them from dropping your coverage if you get sick, billing you into bankruptcy because of an annual or lifetime limit, or, soon, discriminating against anyone with a pre-existing condition.
The new law also includes a number of key provisions designed to help make health care more affordable – and help address the drivers of health care costs. The new health care law is already making a difference. Many Americans are seeing lower costs, and health care spending growth in 2009 and 2010 decreased to record lows.
Here are more ways the law helps control costs for families and small businesses:
- The law’s small business tax credit has lowered health insurance costs for small business owners. On average, small businesses have paid about 18 percent more than large firms for the same health insurance policy. If you have up to 25 employees, pay average annual wages below $50,000, and provide health insurance, you may qualify for a small business tax credit of up to 35 percent (up to 25 percent for non-profits) to offset the cost of your insurance. This will bring down the cost of providing insurance.
- Holding insurance companies accountable for how they spend your premium dollars. In 2011, if health insurers don’t spend at least 80 percent of your premium dollar on medical care and quality improvements rather than advertising, overhead and bonuses for executives, they will have to provide you a rebate for that excessive overhead. The first rebates will be made in the summer of 2012.
- Preventing insurance companies from raising rates with no accountability or transparency. In every State and for the first time ever, insurance companies are required to publicly justify their actions if they want to raise rates by 10 percent or more. These efforts are paying off. In the last quarter of 2011 alone, States reported that premium increases dropped by 4.5 percent. And, in States like Nevada, premiums actually declined.
- Recommended preventive benefits without deductibles or copayments. Millions of Americans with Medicare and private insurance have seen their out-pocket costs go down to zero for recommended preventive care like flu shots or cancer screenings now covered with no cost sharing under the law. This puts more money back into people’s pockets, while making sure they get the preventive care they need.
Matt ComptonMarch 22, 2012
10:23 AM EST
This morning, David Plouffe, Senior Advisor to President Obama, sent the message below to individuals on the White House email list about the House Republican Budget. If you didn't get the email, be sure to sign up.
Every day, you and your family make choices about how you spend your money and what investments you make. Leaders in Congress do the same thing when they draw up their budgets for the country. And if you spend some time with their plans, you learn what they value, you see the type of country they want America to be.
So when Congressman Paul Ryan put out a new budget for the House Republicans this week, we spent some time with it. We took a careful look and did the math.
Here's what we learned.
Republicans in Washington want to give millionaires and billionaires an average tax break of at least $150,000. They want to pay for those tax cuts by slashing programs that create jobs and protect our children, our seniors, and the veterans who have fought for the country. They want to end Medicare as we know it. And they want to undercut our economic strength by rolling back key investments in education, research, and our nation's roads and bridges.
President Obama believes we need to live within our means and that's why he put forward a balanced plan that reduces the deficit by more than $4 trillion. But the plan put forward by the GOP fails that test of balance.
To show you what we mean, we've put together an infographic that breaks out the kinds of priorities we'd have to give up for the $150,000 tax break that Republicans want to give to the nation's millionaires and billionaires.
Colleen CurtisMarch 22, 2012
09:23 AM EST
Mark Hodesh, the owner of a home-and-garden shop in downtown Ann Arbor, MI, thinks there’s a lot of misinformation about the Affordable Care Act and its impact on small-businesses like his: “A lot of people say it’s a job killer. In my experience, it’s a job creator.”
To maintain a strong staff for the past 12 years, Mark works to provide health care coverage to his full-time employees and sees it as a key component to the store’s success. As Mark says, “We rely on long-term, well-informed good employees to compete with our box-store competition. The best way I know how to attract and keep good people is to have a good benefits package. Health care is a big part of that.”
The Affordable Care Act allows employers to claim a tax credit for up to 35 percent of their health insurance premiums. Mark says that while his insurance rates have skyrocketed over the past 10 years, the tax credit gave him the ability to hire another employee to his current staff of twelve.
March 22, 2012
08:32 AM EST
This afternoon President Obama is visiting Ohio State University to highlight some of the nation’s most advanced energy-related research and development projects. Technological innovation is a key element in the Administration’s “all-of-the-above” strategy to reduce energy costs for consumers while protecting health and the environment—a strategy that focuses on developing cleaner and more efficient energy sources and also on novel ways to help consumers conserve energy and save money right now. That’s why we are pleased to co-host a White House event today at which utility company CEOs from across the country are committing to participate in the “Green Button” initiative.
Green Button is an industry-led effort that responds to a White House call-to-action to provide consumers with easy-to-understand data about their household energy use. At today’s event, nine major utilities and electricity suppliers will sign on to the initiative, committing to provide more than 15 million households secure access to their energy data with a simple click of an online Green Button. That builds on similar commitments made by utilities in January to provide Green Button capability to nearly 12 million households this year. With that information in hand, consumers can take advantage of a growing array of online services that can help them manage energy use and save on their bills.
Megan SlackMarch 21, 2012
07:59 PM EST
Today, President Obama visited the Copper Mountain Solar 1 Facility in Boulder City, Nevada. The facility is the largest photovoltaic plant in the country, and its one million solar panels power 17,000 homes in California.
Boulder City, a small town near Las Vegas with fewer than 20,000 residents, was initially established to house the workers building the Hoover Dam. Today, the sun shines on Boulder City 320 days each year, making it an ideal place for a massive solar facility. Construction began in 2010, and hundreds of local residents now have jobs because of the plant. Things are going so well, in fact, that a second and third Copper Mountain facility are in the works, which will eventually generate enough electricity to power 45,000 and 66,000 homes, respectively.
Across the country, businesses like the one that built Copper Mountain are developing enough solar energy to power 730,000 homes.
Increasing the use of renewable energy sources like solar power is one piece of President Obama’s strategy to develop every available source of American-made energy. Since he took office, federal investment in renewable energy has helped nearly double its use across the country. And as a result, we are reducing our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels while becoming more energy independent, creating jobs, and keeping our environment clean.
Read more about the other parts of the President’s all-of-the-above energy strategy.
March 21, 2012
06:05 PM EST
Ed note: This was originally published on thecommerceblog, the offical blog of the Department of Commerce
This month, more than a million visitors from across the country and around the world are coming to our nation’s capital to see the cherry blossom trees that bloom each spring among some of America’s most treasured historical landmarks. From the purchase of airline tickets to dining in area restaurants to staying in hotels, these visitors are infusing millions of dollars into the community and supporting local businesses.
As we search for ways to grow our nation’s economy, we must not overlook the travel and tourism industry as a source for economic opportunity. According to data released by the Commerce Department earlier today, tourism spending increased 8.1 percent in 2011 and supported an additional 103,000 jobs, for a total of 7.6 million jobs.
A big factor in the increase was a surge in international visitors to our country: in 2011, 2.5 million more international visitors came to the United States compared with the previous year. These international visitors spent an all-time record of $153 billion on U.S. travel and tourism-related goods and services.
As this data reveals, the travel and tourism industry is one of the most important engines of our economy—in fact, it is our number-one service export. That is why President Obama recently announced the creation of a Task Force on Travel and Competitiveness, which charged us with leading efforts to develop recommendations for a National Travel and Tourism Strategy to promote travel throughout the United States.
We know that making it even easier to visit America’s most amazing places and working hard to tell folks about what an amazing place America is – whether you travel five or 5,000 miles to get here–will help grow our businesses and create jobs.
America is the land of extraordinary natural wonders and incredible landmarks–from the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone to the Golden Gate Bridge and the Empire State Building. We have it all right here and have a lot to offer our nation’s visitors.
With over 397 national park units, 556 national wildlife refuges, and 886 units of the national landscape conservation system, a particular focus on strategies for increasing tourism and jobs is by promoting visits to our national treasures. From hunting, fishing, hiking, and learning about our nation’s incredible history and cultural heritage, public lands and water provide plenty of recreational opportunities that can attract travelers from around the country and the globe.
March 21, 2012
04:06 PM EST
Three years ago, I was asked to participate in the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity, out of which grew the First Lady’s Let's Move! initiative. In May 2010, we submitted a report to the President that made a series of recommendations for addressing the challenges of obesity and hunger, both of which stem from a lack of access to good, healthy food. The report identified local food systems as a strategy to combat food access problems, and specifically called upon the USDA "Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food" Initiative to provide technical and financial assistance to help communities grow and process their own food, and create jobs at the same time.
I’m pleased to report that we’ve made a lot of progress since 2009 – and we have two new tools to help communities learn about what we’ve done and tap into USDA resources to develop their own solutions. The new Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food Compass is a document packed with photos, video and case studies of communities building strong local food systems. Farmers’ markets, mobile produce vendors, farm to school initiatives, and food hubs are just a few of many examples highlighted by the Compass. The Healthy Food Access section shows how communities are using USDA resources to promote health and the local economy.
Colleen CurtisMarch 21, 2012
03:44 PM ESTTracy Muñoz realized our health care system needed to change the hard way: Her family had to take drastic financial measures to pay thousands of dollars for surgery that her private insurance wouldn't cover. Before the Affordable Care Act, this Norfolk, VA mom worried that her five children would face the same pressures, especially one son who, as a part-time college student, was not eligible to stay on the family's insurance plan."What if something happened to him and we wouldn't be able to pay for it?" was a constant concern. "If they don't have insurance, it is just like them driving around without car insurance, you're worried that somebody will get hurt."Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, which allows young adults to remain on their parents' plan until they are 26, Tracy has peace of mind knowing that her children have coverage as they begin to make their way in the world. When she heard two years ago this week that President Obama had signed health care reform into law, her first thought was, "Oh my goodness it happened, it really happened."
Kori SchulmanMarch 21, 2012
01:30 PM EST
Note: This live session of Office Hours has concluded. View the full question and answer session below, or at Storify.com
In response to the Ryan Republican Budget, Jeff Zients, Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget, will be answering your questions about the President’s balanced approach during a session of White House Office Hours on Twitter. The House budget once again fails the test of balance, fairness, and shared responsibility. It would shower the wealthiest few Americans with an average tax cut of at least $150,000, while preserving taxpayer giveaways to oil companies and breaks for Wall Street hedge fund managers.
The President’s approach asks the wealthiest to pay their fair share, makes tough cuts to programs we can’t afford, and strengthens Medicare with reforms that would reduce overpayments to drug companies, improve the quality of care, and protect Medicare’s commitment to America’s seniors.
Join Jeff for Office Hours at 4:30 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, March 21st. Here's how it works:
- Ask your question on Twitter with the hashtag #WHChat
- Jeff Zients, Acting Director of the Office of Management and Budget, will answer live from the @OMBpress twitter account
- Follow the Q&A live through the @OMBPress and @WHLive Twitter accounts
- If you miss the live event, the full session will be posted on WhiteHouse.gov and Storify.com/WhiteHouse
Jeffrey ZientsMarch 21, 2012
01:17 PM EST
Ed note: This post is updated with a correction on the number of workplace inspections to protect worker safety.
Yesterday, House Republicans released their budget resolution for FY 2013. While many of the proposals require more analysis, one thing is absolutely clear: this budget does not ask all Americans to do their share to get our fiscal house in order and create an economy that is built to last. Instead, the GOP plan gives those making over $1 million per year an average tax cut of at least $150,000 and preserves tax breaks for oil and gas companies and hedge fund managers. These tax breaks are then paid for by ending Medicare as we know it and implementing deep cuts in what we need to grow our economy and create jobs in years to come.
Others will go into deep detail on the tax and health proposals in the budget resolution. I want to focus on funding known as “nondefense discretionary spending.” It deserves a better name. This is annual funding that pays for many of the investments most critical to expanding economic growth and opportunity, including education, research and development, and clean energy.
With his strong focus on cutting waste and unneeded spending, the President has already signed into law several rounds of cuts that will bring non-security spending to its lowest level as a share of the economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President. Put another way, we are cutting this category of spending as a share of economy by 50 percent from 2010 to 2022.
But when it comes to annual, non-defense spending, the House Budget Resolution is not about cutting fat. It is cutting deep into the muscle that America needs to compete and win in the 21st century.
March 21, 2012
10:20 AM EST
Ed note: This was originally posted on healthcare.gov
The Affordable Care Act – the new health care law – gives hard-working families the security they need and important new benefits. The law holds insurance companies accountable, gets rid of the worst insurance industry practices and puts patients first. It is also expanding young adults’ affordable options for health insurance. A new study shows that 30% of young adults ages 19 to 25 who initially had private health insurance in 2008 were uninsured for at least one month over the next two years. Young adults were particularly at risk of losing coverage because they may have aged out of their parents’ coverage, moved between school and employment or changed jobs. Yet now, the number of young adults with health insurance continues to rise under the health care law.
Here are five ways the law helps young adults:
- Young adults can stay on their parent’s health insurance up to the age of 26. This is the case even if they’re married or live on their own. This provision resulted in 2.5 million young people gaining coverage. For young adults, this new protection means that they will have the freedom to make career choices based on what they want to do, not on where they can get health insurance. And for parents, it means they can breathe a little easier knowing their children are covered.
- The law offers free prevention benefits that keep people healthy. Now, young adults can receive recommended preventive services, like flu shots, HIV and cancer screenings, contraceptive counseling and FDA-approved birth control, with no cost sharing. Visit www.healthcare.gov/prevention for a full list of services and plan dates.
- Coverage for people with pre-existing conditions. For people who have been uninsured for six months and can’t buy private insurance because of a pre-existing condition, they may be able to join the Pre-existing Condition Insurance Plan. And under the new law, no plan can deny coverage to people under age 19 because of a pre-existing condition. To find out about plans available in your State, please visit http://www.pcip.gov.
- Insurers cannot put limits on coverage. In the past, some people with cancer or other chronic illnesses ran out of insurance coverage because their health care expenses reached a dollar limit imposed by their insurance company. Under the health care law, insurers can no longer impose lifetime dollar limits on essential health benefits and annual limits are being phased out by 2014. Also, insurance companies can no longer drop people when they get sick due to a mistake you made on your application.
- Starting in 2014, there will be more options through the Affordable Care Act for coverage for young adults. New Affordable Insurance Exchanges, tax credits and the improvements to Medicaid will result in at least 30 million more insured people, including as many as 10 million young adults. For young adults, lacking affordable health care will soon become a thing of the past.
March 21, 2012
10:00 AM EST
Ed note: This was originally posted on healthcare.gov
The health care law, the Affordable Care Act, is giving young people like Steven Giallourakis, a bass player, pianist and two-time cancer survivor from Cleveland, the tools they need to fight for their health. At the same time, Steven’s mom Angie has peace of mind that her son is getting the care he needs to stay healthy.
Steven’s story started when he was 15 in 2003 and doctors discovered a tumor on his spine. Steven has since survived surgery and chemotherapy for Stage 4 Osteosarcoma and a bone marrow transplant for Secondary Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. He’s cancer free now, but the resulting chronic health problems have made it very difficult for him to continue on as a full-time student.
Thanks to the provision of the law allowing young adults to stay under their parent’s plans, Steven, 21 years old, has the peace of mind that he can still have health insurance through his father’s plan at work. The law allows for young adults to be covered under their parents’ insurance up to the age of 26. Since the law was enacted, Steven and 2.5 million other young adults have been able to get health insurance coverage through their parents’ plan.
Megan SlackMarch 21, 2012
09:00 AM EST
Under the Affordable Care Act, parents can now add or keep their children on their health insurance plans until they turn 26 years old. Since that part of President Obama’s health reform law went into effect in September 2010, more than 2.5 million young adults have gained coverage.
Before the passage of health reform, young adults were typically dropped from their parents’ coverage when they turned 18 or graduated from college, and often faced barriers to accessing and maintaining affordable health insurance. Nearly 76 percent of uninsured young adults avoided getting the care they needed because they couldn’t afford it.
In addition to helping them gain or keep insurance coverage through their parents’ plans, the Affordable Care Act is improving health care for many young adults in other ways. For example, insurance companies must now cover preventive services, like vaccinations and cancer screenings, at no additional cost. Insurance companies are banned from imposing a limit on the amount of care they’ll cover over a person’s life time, and are now required to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on care—not overhead.