Read all posts from December 2013

  • Ed. note: This is cross-posted from See the original post here.

    January 1 marks not only the beginning of a New Year, but an exciting new day in health care as millions of Americans will now be able to access care, thanks to the coverage they found at the Health Insurance Marketplace. For many of the newly insured – people like Molly from Charlottesville, VA or Mark from Austin, TX - it will be the first time that they can enjoy the security that comes with health coverage.

    For consumers whose Marketplace coverage begins on January 1, we're doing everything we can to help ensure a smooth transition period.  If consumers have questions about their new private insurance coverage, they can contact their insurance company directly. Consumers can log into their account on to find their insurer’s customer service line or browse through a directory on

    Before you go to the doctor or pharmacy using your new insurance for the first time, check out this tip sheet, and make sure to:

    • Get your insurance card or a temporary card with your new plan’s information. If you don’t have your card yet, ask your insurance company to give you another way to confirm your coverage.
    • Make sure you know when your first premium payment is due and pay it by the due date;
    • Check to see which doctors and pharmacies are in your network.

    And at your first visit:

    • Bring your insurance card with you to the doctor or pharmacy. If you don’t have a card, ask your doctor or pharmacy what other proof of insurance they may accept.
    • If you thought you enrolled in health coverage but aren’t showing up in the system, call your insurance company directly. If you don’t have your insurer’s contact information call the Marketplace Call Center (1-800-318-2596) and a trained representative can provide it to you.

  • At the White House, we’re always looking for new ways to engage with citizens online – and 2013 was no exception. As 2013 comes to an end, it's time to look back at some of our favorite online moments of the past year.

    This year, President Obama answered your questions about housing on, and connected directly with Americans from around the country during a Fireside Hangout on Google+ after his State of the Union Address. In her first ever Twitter Q&A, the First Lady answered questions about Let's Move! and healthy living in 140 characters.

    In 2013, the White House joined Tumblr, Instagram and started sharing six-second videos on Vine. It’s also been a big year on Twitter – with new official accounts for the First Lady, Dr. Biden and many more White House officials to engage on issues including the economy, foreign policy and immigration reform. We continued to open the doors of the White House by inviting folks from all over to join our first-ever White House hackathon and Instagram meet up

    Take a look at some of our favorite online moments below or over on Storify. And stay tuned for opportunities to engage with President Obama and the White House in the New Year by following us on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and Tumblr.

  • As 2013 draws to a close, it's time to take a look back at some of our favorite digital moments with First Lady Michelle Obama this year. It's been a big year (both online and off) for the First Lady, she broke new ground by starting the first official First Lady twitter account (@FLOTUS), Instagram (@MichelleObama) and recording her first Vine. She celebrated the 3rd Anniversary of Let's Move! by "mom dancing" with Jimmy Fallon, hanging out with Kelly Ripa and by answering your questions during her first twitter chat. She also continued to welcome thousands of Americans to the White House for the annual Easter Egg Roll, Kids' State Dinner and tours. 

    Check out all these moments and more (including the arrival of a second "first pup") below or on Storify and be sure to follow the First Lady on Twitter (@FLOTUS) and Instagram (@MichelleObama) for exciting updates and news in the New Year! 

  • In September 2009, the President announced that—for the first time in history—White House visitor records would be made available to the public on an ongoing basis. Today, the White House releases visitor records that were generated in September 2013. Today’s release also includes visitor records generated prior to September 16, 2009 that were requested by members of the public in November 2013 pursuant to the White House voluntary disclosure policy.This release brings the total number of records made public by this White House to over 3.42 million—all of which can be viewed in our Disclosures section.

  • Ed. note: This post was originally featured on the White House's Tumblr account.

    In 2013, the White House joined Tumblr, and we're taking stock as the year comes to a close. Since launching, we've grown to more than 80,000 followers (thanks guys!) -- and there have been some pretty amazing GIFs. That's where this post comes in.

    Without further ado, here are our 13 favorite GIFs (that's a hard 'G') from 2013:

    1. We've added more than 8 million jobs over 45 consecutive months. In May, we animated the jobs chart to show you what that looks like:

    Jobs chart

  • As 2013 draws to a close, we've compiled a timeline of some of the top @WhiteHouse tweets from the past year.

    This year, @WhiteHouse added nearly 1 million new followers and surpassed 4.4 million overall, while continuing to be an important tool for the White House to engage with citizens and provide updates from President Obama and his Administration.

    Take a look at some of the top tweets below, and be sure to follow @WhiteHouse on Twitter for news and updates in the New Year. Don't forget to check back for more Year in Review roundups throughout the week.

  • In this week’s address, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

  • Anxiously wondering when Santa and his sleigh full of toys might arrive in their neighborhood, children from around the country phoned NORAD today for Christmas Eve updates on his whereabouts. 

    A few kids got a special holiday treat on the other end of the line: First Lady Michelle Obama, who was helping out with  NORAD's annual Santa tracking program.

    First Lady Michelle Obama reacts while talking on the phone to children across the country as part of the annual NORAD Tracks Santa program.

    First Lady Michelle Obama reacts while talking on the phone to children across the country as part of the annual NORAD Tracks Santa program. Mrs. Obama answered the phone calls from Kailua, Hawaii, Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    To join in the fun, follow Santa at or by calling 1-877-Hi-NORAD (1-877-446-6723). NORAD’s “Santa Cams” will also stream videos as Santa makes his way over various locations around the world. You can follow NORAD Tracks Santa on Facebook and Twitter

  • Ten years ago, skyrocketing premiums forced Nancy Beigel to choose between paying rent and paying for health insurance. She dropped her coverage and has been uninsured since then.

    When she was diagnosed with cancer in 2009, a doctor told her it would be nearly impossible to find new coverage, since she now had a pre-existing condition. She pays out of pocket for her health care, but has many medical bills she can’t afford to pay off.

    Nancy shared her story with President Obama, and told him she’d been “counting the days” until she could buy coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace, where insurance companies couldn't turn her down due to her pre-existing condition. See what else she had to say in the video below, or watch on YouTube.

  • This week, we will be celebrating the season by taking you behind the scenes as the White House is transformed into a Yuletide masterpiece with the help of volunteers from across the country. We will also stop into a news conference the president held before he departed for the Hawaiian island of Oahu to have a "Mele Kalikimaka" with family and friends. That's December 20th to Christmas Eve, or "The Holiday Card Edition."


  • In his weekly address, President Obama highlights the bipartisan budget agreement that unwinds some of the cuts that were damaging to the economy and keeps investments in areas that help us grow, and urges both parties to work together to extend emergency unemployment insurance and act on new measures to create jobs and strengthen the middle class.

    Transcript | Download mp4 | Download mp3

  • Reinforcing President Obama’s strong message encouraging South Sudan’s leaders to choose peace, today National Security Advisor Susan Rice recorded an audio message for the people of South Sudan.  In it she reinforces the importance that South Sudan not allow the new country it fought so hard for to be torn apart by violence and suffering.  She again calls on Sudan’s leaders to renounce violence, end the fighting, and commit to peaceful dialogue, and reiterates the United States’ support for a peaceful, democratic, unified South Sudan.

    Listen to the message below, or download as an mp3.

    Hello.  This is Susan Rice, National Security Advisor to President Barack Obama.  Today, I want to speak directly to you—the people of South Sudan. 

    For the better part of 20 years, I’ve had the privilege of working alongside you as you sought your independence and built a new nation.  When the war was at its height, I visited with people across your country—in Marial Bai and Rumbek and Lui.  You told me about how the conflict was affecting your lives and your families.  And, when I was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, I was honored to share your stories with the world and to support your struggle for independence.

    Then, two years ago, on July 9th, 2011, I was so proud to speak to you on behalf of President Obama and the American people when finally you celebrated your hard-won independence.  I remember so clearly the overwhelming joy and the spirit of unity that day—how you came together as one people to begin building a new nation, founded on your shared democratic values.   

    But the violence we’re seeing now is a grave threat to your young nation.  Continued fighting—and the specter of ethnic violence—could tear apart the nation you so painstakingly knit together.  We know all too well what horrors can occur when irresponsible provocateurs pit tribe against tribe and brother against brother. 

    We’ve seen the devastation in Bosnia, Rwanda and so close to home in Darfur.  As a longstanding friend of the people of South Sudan, I urge everyone to step back from conflict and instead address your differences through peaceful dialogue.   

    In recent years, you’ve overcome incredible odds and shown the world that you can break the cycle of violence; that through careful and constant work, you can give birth to a new nation that respects the rights of all its peoples.  That’s what you, the South Sudanese people, died for and then so peacefully voted for:  an independent, peaceful and unified nation with a better future.  And that’s the promise that young people and religious leaders and community elders across South Sudan are calling for their leaders to live up to now. 

    The United States joins these calls for peace.  We urge leaders on all sides to publicly renounce violence, end the fighting, and commit to peaceful dialogue.  Ethnic violence must cease immediately.  Those who have committed acts of violence against civilians must be held accountable.  And those who seek to achieve their goals at the barrel of a gun must understand that international legitimacy and support cannot be gained through conflict. 

    For all those who choose the path of peace and democracy, know that the United States will continue to stand with you, as we have at every step of your journey.  But, I must also be clear:  if a different choice is made, if individuals or groups seek to take or hold power through force, mass violence, or intimidation, the United States will have no choice but to withdraw our traditional, robust support.  Killing will only lead to deprivation and isolation for the people of South Sudan.    

    I know how much you have already endured and how far you have come, but please remember: democracy is always hard work.  Reconciliation always takes time.  You have to keep working at it each and every day through dialogue and compromise.  And the choices you make today will determine the future of your country.  You can choose whether your children will live in a nation of peace and growing prosperity or one scarred by resumed conflict.  As someone who has always stood with you to imagine a better future for you and your families, I ask each of you to make the choice for peace—make the choice for a unified and cohesive South Sudan.  Make this choice for yourselves and your children.  Thank you.

  • President Barack Obama holds a press conference in the James S. Press Briefing Room of the White House, Dec. 20, 2013.

    President Barack Obama holds a press conference in the James S. Press Briefing Room of the White House, Dec. 20, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson) (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

    This afternoon, President Obama held his last press conference of the year from the White House briefing room. Before taking questions from the media, he discussed our economic progress over the last year, and laid out the work ahead for 2014.

    In 2013, our businesses created another 2 million jobs, adding up to more than 8 million in just over the past 45 months. This morning, we learned that over the summer, our economy grew at its strongest pace in nearly two years. The unemployment rate has steadily fallen to its lowest point in five years. Our tax code is fairer, and our fiscal situation is firmer, with deficits that are now less than half of what they were when I took office. For the first time in nearly two decades, we now produce more oil here at home than we buy from the rest of the world, and our all-of-the-above strategy for new American energy means lower energy costs. 

    The Affordable Care Act has helped keep health care costs growing at their slowest rate in 50 years, and even as the Administration works diligently to address issues with, more than one million Americans have selected new health insurance plans through the federal and state marketplaces since October 1. "More than half a million Americans have enrolled through in the first three weeks of December alone," President Obama said.

    "And you add that all up and what it means is we head into next year with an economy that’s stronger than it was when we started the year," he said. "More Americans are finding work and experiencing the pride of a paycheck. Our businesses are positioned for new growth and new jobs."  

    "I firmly believe that 2014 can be a breakthrough year for America," President Obama said, offering some proof that the new year is already off to a good start: this week, for the first time in several years, both parties in both houses of Congress came together to pass a budget. And there are other areas where we can work together, he said, beginning with restoring the temporary unemployment insurance that helps people make ends meet when they are looking for a job.  

    "Because Congress didn’t act, more than one million of their constituents will lose a vital economic lifeline at Christmastime, leaving a lot of job-seekers without any source of income at all," he said. "I know a bipartisan group is working on a three-month extension of this insurance. They should pass it, and I’ll sign it right away."

  • 1.3 million Americans are about to lose a vital lifeline of unemployment insurance benefits if Congress doesn't act. This is money that helps pay the bills while folks work hard to find their next job.

    And it gets worse: If we don't do anything in 2014, an additional 3.6 million Americans will lose their benefits.

    That's why Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, sat down for an On The Clock video to explain why this issue is so important -- in under sixty seconds:

    After you watch the video, share what this means to you.

  • This week, the White House honored those lost at Sandy Hook on the one year anniversary. The President met with newly elected mayors and executives from America's leading technology companies, discussed the benefits of health care reform with a group of moms, and celebrated the holidays with Christmas in Washington.

  • First Lady Michelle Obama Collects Toys for Tots

    First Lady Michelle Obama collects toys from military children during a Toys for Tots event at the Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Distribution Center in Washington, D.C., Dec. 19, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

    This afternoon, First Lady Michelle Obama visited Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling in Washington, D.C. to deliver hundreds of toys that Executive Office of the President staff donated to the United States Marine Corps' Toys for Tots campaign, an annual holiday toy drive. After delivering the toys, she thanked volunteers for their hard work and dedication this holiday season:

    I want to thank all of you and all of the volunteers and donors for Toys for Tots running year after year. One thing I always say is that I don’t know if people realize everything it takes to make this happen -- the thousands of hours that go into making this drive possible.

    Mrs. Obama also thanked military families for all they do throughout the year, while still finding time to run programs like Toys for Tots.  

    Most people don’t understand that you do all of this service on top of all of the challenges that you face as servicemembers and as military families. And that’s the example that I think the rest of the country needs to see -- that even in the midst of your challenges, you find a way to give back to those less fortunate. 

    And that’s what makes me proud. That’s what makes me want to step up and do whatever I can to support this effort and to support you all as men and women, and as young men and women -- young heroes, our military kids, who do so much sacrificing. And I really don’t know how you all do it....But I am grateful that you are who you are, and that you make those sacrifices. 

  • The country’s nutritional health remains a top priority for the Obama Administration. What and how we eat affects our ability to succeed, our hopes and dreams, the economy, the environment, and most of all, our children.

    Despite the sobering news that 49 million Americans are food insecure, this figure has remained relatively stable since 2008. One key reason why is the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) direct ability to mitigate American hunger. When SNAP participation grew during the recession, the program expanded as intended. By providing a nutritional safety net during our economic recovery, SNAP puts food on the table for struggling Americans while they get back on their feet. SNAP also helps to feed the 15 million children living in food insecure households, as 20% of American children are living in poverty.

    Today, SNAP is serving 47 million Americans. As the economy continues to improve, SNAP participation began to plateau in 2012 and is declining. The program’s ability to expand and contract with the economy reflects both President John F. Kennedy’s intention when he developed a 1961 pilot, and President Lyndon B. Johnson’s commitment to ending hunger by signing the Food Stamp Act of 1964. Thanks to their vision, SNAP still supplements the diet of food insecure Americans so that all Americans can have the food needed for an active, healthy life.

  • President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama meet with mothers regarding the Affordable Care Act in the Oval Office

    President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama meet with mothers regarding the Affordable Care Act in the Oval Office, Dec. 18, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

    On Wednesday afternoon, President Obama and the First Lady met with a group of moms (and one aunt!) in the Oval Office to talk about how health reform has benefitted their families. They talked about the critical role that moms are playing in helping their families access quality, affordable health care by encouraging their adult children, family members and their peers to sign up for coverage.

    Because many women in the group know first-hand why having the security of health insurance is so important, they’ve been working tirelessly to make sure that everybody in America is able to get high-quality health care coverage that provides them with financial protection and looks after them when they get sick.

    “I think this conversation really drove home in a very personal way why this is important,” President Obama said. “Sometimes here in Washington, this is a very abstract conversation or an entirely political conversation. But when you boil it down to stories and people hear what it means to have the security of solid health insurance at an affordable price when you need it, it reminds me at least of why we've been fighting so hard to get this done.”

  • The economy is finishing 2013 in a stronger place than where it began the year, though more work remains to grow the economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class. This is especially notable given the general fiscal environment, including the onset of the sequester in March, and the government shutdown and debt limit brinksmanship in October. The recent budget bill passed by Congress on a bipartisan basis will contribute to certainty, a better fiscal stance over the next year, and more funding for the critical ingredients of longer run growth. But more needs to be done, most immediately extending Unemployment Insurance benefits, and beyond that increasing investments to strengthen growth and making sure that growth is shared. 

    The slides below highlight the key themes and developments in the economy over the course of the year, and also touch on a few longer-term structural trends that continued to unfold in 2013 and will support growth into the future.

    The strengthening of the economy over the course of 2013 is a testament to America’s resilient private sector and America’s workers. Businesses have added 8.1 million jobs over the past 45 months, and are on track to register the third consecutive year of job growth in excess of two million.

    The growth rate of gross domestic product has risen for four straight quarters, and the private components of GDP have grown at a robust 3.7 percent annualized rate over the last two quarters. One of the biggest contributors to recent GDP growth has been the housing sector, which was the epicenter of the financial crisis but is bouncing back and has significant potential going forward.

    There are also several emerging structural trends that supported growth in 2013 and will continue to play an important role in our economy. The United States is now the largest producer of oil and gas in world, passing Russia and Saudi Arabia, and for the first time since 1995, the United States is producing more oil domestically than it imports. A second, less widely appreciated trend is the dramatic slowdown in health care cost growth that in part reflects critical reforms under the Affordable Care Act. Slower health care cost growth means less pressure on employers and the federal budget and more take-home pay for families. Lastly, technological contributions such as cloud computing and mobile broadband and mobile devices continue to help the economy. 

  • Today the United States and Canada released the 2013 Implementation Report on the Beyond the Border Initiative. The report highlights the significant progress we have made over the last year to enhance economic cooperation and to address threats before they reach our common border. Our two countries are doing all we can to make trade and travel easier and less expensive, supporting economic competiveness and prosperity, while partnering to keep our communities safe. 

    Since President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Harper announced the Beyond the Border Declaration in 2011, we have worked together to benefit residents, travelers, and industry in both countries while enhancing security, trade and travel facilitation, critical infrastructure protection, and emergency management.  We are jointly collaborating before goods or travelers even arrive at the border, embracing a perimeter security approach where possible.

    For example, this year, under the “cleared once, accepted twice” principle, both countries have started to rely on the other’s offshore inspections of marine shipments to reduce the need for re-inspection at the land border. Also, the U.S. truck cargo pre-inspection pilot in Surrey, British Columbia, tested new approaches for conducting screening at the land border. We are building on these accomplishments to complete preclearance negotiations for all transportation modes. Each of these initiatives helps goods move securely and more quickly across our shared border.