Our Top Stories
Valerie JarrettMarch 22, 2013
11:01 AM EDT
Ed. note: The full text of the op-ed by Senior Advisor to the President Valerie Jarrett is printed below. The piece is published today on BET.com and can be found HERE.
Today, General Lloyd Austin became the first African-American to lead the U.S. Central Command, which has a wide-ranging area of responsibility for 20 countries in the Middle East and southwest Asia. His appointment is effective immediately.
During the change of command ceremony today, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel said, “General Austin brings to this position combat experience gained on the unforgiving battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan. He has commanded some of the Army’s most storied formations, including the 82nd Airborne and 10th Mountain Divisions, as well as the 18th Airborne Corps...With his calm demeanor, strategic vision, regional experience and knowledge, and proven judgment – and with the love and support of Charlene and their children – I am confident General Austin is prepared to lead this command at a time of dramatic change, challenge, and turmoil in its area of responsibility.”
In his 37-year career, General Austin has continually broken barriers for African-Americans in the U.S. Army. He was also the first African-American to serve in his previous position as the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army. His historic career includes leading the 3rd Infantry Division in the opening months of the Iraq war where he earned a Silver Star for valor. General Austin later commanded divisions in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and commanded U.S. Forces-Iraq from September 2010 through the completion of the mission in December 2011.
Kori SchulmanMarch 22, 2013
10:28 AM EDT
Last week, we launched "Being Biden," an audio series that offers a glimpse into the Vice Presidency. In the latest installment, Vice President Biden takes you to St. Peter's Basilica, just after the Inauguration Mass of Pope Francis. Check it out:
Matt ComptonMarch 22, 2013
10:00 AM EDT
Last year, President Obama predicted Baylor would win the 2012 NCAA Women's basketball tournament. The Bears lived up to the billing, winning the national championship over Notre Dame.
This year, the President is predicting a rematch.
Joining Baylor and Notre Dame in his Final Four are California and UConn. Check out his full bracket:
For President Obama's predictions in the NCAA men’s tournament, click here.
Felicia EscobarMarch 22, 2013
09:45 AM EDT
As he was inducted into the Irish America Hall of Fame yesterday, Vice President Biden recalled his family’s past coming to America – and he called on Congress to fix our broken immigration system for a new generation of men and women who dream of a better life in this country.
The Vice President stressed that while we have to find a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already here, we also have to fix our legal immigration system.
It’s a system that is well intended, but today it keeps families separated, and actually has the effect of sending talented people away from our country.
We have to change that. As the Vice President said, “We have to fix the system to focus on families.” And we can do that by increasing country caps and visas so families can be reunited.
Megan SlackMarch 21, 2013
07:29 PM EDT
President Obama was in the West Bank for the first time since 2008 on the second day of his visit to the Middle East, where he held meetings in Ramallah with Palestinian Authority President Abbas and Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Fayyad, and attended a cultural event at Al-Bireh Youth Center. President Obama, who was joined by Secretary of State John Kerry in his meetings, commended President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad for the progress that they’ve made in building the institutions of a Palestinian state.
“I’ve returned to the West Bank because the United States is deeply committed to the creation of an independent and sovereign state of Palestine,” President Obama said in a joint press conference with President Abbas. “Like people everywhere, Palestinians deserve a future of hope -- that their rights will be respected, that tomorrow will be better than today and that they can give their children a life of dignity and opportunity. Put simply, Palestinians deserve a state of their own.”
In the interests of the Palestinian people, and also in the national security interest of Israel, the United States, and the world, President Obama reaffirmed “that the United States remains committed to realizing the vision of two states.”
We seek an independent, a viable and contiguous Palestinian state as the homeland of the Palestinian people, alongside the Jewish State of Israel -- two nations enjoying self-determination, security and peace. As I have said many times, the only way to achieve that goal is through direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians themselves. There is no shortcut to a sustainable solution.
The President also spent time in Jerusalem today, this morning where he toured the Israel Museum and again in the afternoon, where he delivered remarks to the Israeli people from the Jerusalem International Convention Center. In his speech, President Obama spoke about the “unbreakable bonds of friendship” between Israel and the United States.
Adam GarberMarch 21, 2013
06:27 PM EDT
This week, the President spoke on American Energy Security at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, celebrated the luck of the Irish, honored leaders in STEM education and small business, filled out his NCAA tournament brackets, announced his nominee for the Secretary of Labor, and embarked on a 5 day trip to Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan.
Ari MatusiakMarch 21, 2013
04:36 PM EDT
A $6 million manufacturer, a five-person carbon capture start-up, and a 70-person medical device company. On Monday, the President met with the leaders of these small businesses and 100 more like them to discuss the economy and the President’s commitment to small business success.
Organized by the National Small Business Association (NSBA), the group at the White House flew in from over 20 states and represented a broad cross-section of industries. The typical small business owner in the room employed 50 people, generating around $10 million in annual revenue.
As Alan Krueger, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, wrapped up his remarks on the state of the economy, the President stopped by for a surprise visit.
According to Todd McCracken, President and CEO of NSBA, the small business leaders were “delighted with the event and the President’s visit. He had a great deal of comfort with a broad range of issues that affect small businesses, from economic and tax issues to the specifics about things such as patent policy and small business innovation funds.”
Kasie CoccaroMarch 21, 2013
12:04 PM EDT
We're excited to announce that our next White House Social will be a Let's Move! Social here, at the White House. On Monday, April 1st, 2013, the First Family will host the 135th annual White House Easter Egg Roll with the theme "Be Healthy, Be Active, Be You!" We are inviting Let's Move! followers on Twitter and Facebook and their children, ages 5 - 13, to join the fun on the South Lawn and of course to share their experience with their followers! The day's activities -- which will include sports and cooking demonstrations -- will help educate families on smart ways to incorporate healthy eating and exercise choices into their daily routines, key pillars of First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative.
In order to apply, you must follow @LetsMove on Twitter or Facebook and you must have children ages five to thirteen. After you sign up for your chance to attend, spread the word! Let your followers know that you submitted your entry for the #WHSocial and tell us @LetsMove. Be sure to sign up soon! Registration closes on Friday, March 22nd at 12:00 p.m. EDT.
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusMarch 21, 2013
10:56 AM EDT
In the three years since the Affordable Care Act became law, the slower growth of health care costs is saving money in Medicare and the private insurance market, helping to curb previously skyrocketing premiums and making Medicare stronger.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office recently estimated that Medicare and Medicaid spending would be 15 percent less -- or about $200 billion— in 2020 than was previously projected, thanks to this slower growth. Medicare spending per beneficiary rose by just 0.4 percent in 2012, while Medicaid spending per beneficiary actually dropped by 1.9 percent last year. We are making Medicare stronger, too, by spending smarter, promoting coordinated care, and fighting fraud. Not only does this ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely. It means that those who count on Medicare -- our grandparents, parents, our friends, and neighbors – will have it for years to come.
Today, we are announcing that thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 6.3 million seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare have saved more than $6.1 billion on prescription drugs since the health care law was enacted three years ago. This is the result of the law’s closing of the prescription coverage gap known as “the donut hole.”
Nearly 3.5 million people with Medicare saved an average of more than $706 each on their prescriptions in 2012.
Colleen CurtisMarch 20, 2013
03:19 PM EDT
On the first day of his visit to the Middle East, the first foreign trip of his second term, President Obama was in Israel, where he met with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The visit is historic, marking the first time the President has visited Israel since taking office, and comes as its citizens celebrate the 65th anniversary of a free and independent State of Israel.
President Obama's visit began with an arrival ceremony at the Ben Gurion airport, followed by an inspection of the Iron Dome Battery defense system in Tel Aviv. The Iron Dome is a short range rocket and mortar defense system, which was developed by Israel and produced with U.S. assistance and is part of a multi-tier missile defense developed to counter the rocket threat against Israel’s civilian population. From there, the President flew on to Jerusalem, where he met with Israeli leaders and attended a working dinner with Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusMarch 20, 2013
11:30 AM EDT
For decades before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, health care costs outstripped inflation, without corresponding improvements in health care quality. Our system didn’t incentivize quality or efficiency. We paid providers for the quantity of care, not the quality of care delivered. And we were not using technology to deliver smarter care.
The Affordable Care Act includes steps to improve the quality of health care and lower costs for you and for our nation as a whole. This means avoiding costly mistakes and readmissions, keeping patients healthy, rewarding quality instead of quantity, and creating the health information technology infrastructure that enables new payment and delivery models to work.
Here are just a few ways that the health care law builds a smarter health care system and incentivizes quality – not quantity of care - to drive down costs and save you money.
We’re Shifting the Focus to Quality, Not Quantity
The health care law creates new Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) that incentivize doctors and other providers to work together to provide more coordinated care to their patients. ACOs agree to take responsibility for the cost and quality of their patients and to improve care coordination, safety, and to promote appropriate use of preventive health services. And when this new care model saves the Medicare program money, that savings is shared with the ACO. Over 250 organizations are participating in Medicare ACOs, giving more than 4 million Medicare beneficiaries access to high-quality coordinated care throughout the nation. ACOs are estimated to save the Medicare program up to $940 million in the first four years.
The Affordable Care Act also ties Medicare Advantage bonus payments to the quality of coverage these private plans offer. This gives seniors a broader range of higher quality Medicare Advantage plans from which to choose. As a result, in 2013, the 14 million Medicare beneficiaries currently enrolled in Medicare Advantage have access to 127 four and five star plans, which is 21 more high-quality plans than were available in the previous year.
Keeping You Out of The Hospital
Every year, about 2.6 million seniors – or nearly one in five hospitalized Medicare enrollees – are readmitted within 30 days of discharge, at a cost of more than $26 billion to the Medicare program. Many of these readmissions stem from preventable problems. These rates can be drastically reduced if we do a better job coordinating care and support. The health care law’s Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program reduces Medicare payments to hospitals with relatively high rates of potentially preventable readmissions to encourage them to focus on this key indicator of patient safety and care quality.
We’re starting to see results. Medicare readmissions rates have remained stuck near 19 percent over the five years that the data has been collected (and likely for decades prior to that), but in 2012 the nationwide rate of hospital readmissions of Medicare patients declined to about 17.8 per cent. This translates to over 70,000 fewer preventable hospital readmissions.
Taken together these improvements are providing more value for your health care dollar and helping to fuel historically low cost growth rates in Medicare and Medicaid. Last year, Medicare cost growth increased by only 0.4 percent, continuing the historically low Medicare growth we saw in 2011 and 2010. Spending in Medicaid actually decreased 1.9 percent from 2011 to 2012.
And a recent report found that health care price inflation in January dropped to 1.5 percent, one of the smallest increases on record.
As the nation’s largest insurer, Medicare can lead the way in effective practices like this that deliver better care and drive down costs. Our goal is that these reforms and investments build a health care system that will ensure quality care for generations to come.
Learn more about key features of the Affordable Care Act:
Colleen CurtisMarch 20, 2013
10:29 AM EDT
This week, President Obama is making the first trip of his second term, visiting Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. We will be posting regular updates from the road and livestreaming several of the President's events on whitehouse.gov/live.
- Wednesday, March 20 (2:05 PM ET) — President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu hold a press conference at the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem
- Thursday March 21 (11:00 AM ET) — President Obama delivers a speech at the Jerusalem Convention Center
- Friday March 22 (11:45 AM ET) — President Obama and King Abdullah II of Jordan hold a press conference in Amman, Jordan
Matt ComptonMarch 20, 2013
10:00 AM EDT
Yesterday President Obama continued what's become a March tradition: For the fifth time, he sat down to fill out his brackets for the NCAA men and women's basketball tournaments -- and shared his picks with ESPN.
The President has Louisville, Ohio State, Florida, and Indiana headed to Atlanta for the Final Four.
He picked the Hoosiers to top the Cardinals in the National Championship game on April 8.
Download the full predictions here.
We’ll share the President’s pick for the women’s tournament on Friday. Be sure to check back!
Update! Here is President Obama's bracket for the women's tournament.
Megan SlackMarch 19, 2013
05:20 PM EDT
Today, President Obama held a bilateral meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny at the White House before the two leaders traveled to the Capitol for a St. Patrick's Day Luncheon.
In their Oval Office meeting -- the fifth since President Obama took office -- the President and Taoiseach reaffirmed the incredible bond between the United States and Ireland.
"We have an incredibly strong partnership on economic issues, on security issues," President Obama said. "The Taoiseach has shown great leadership during difficult times in Ireland. And we’re seeing progress in the Irish economy."
Noting one example of this progress, President Obama mentioned a deal to sell American-made planes to Ireland that will help businesses here in the U.S create jobs.
Dr. Jill BidenMarch 19, 2013
04:40 PM EDT
As a community college teacher, I know that excellence happens every day in community college classrooms and campuses across this country. Both in my classroom and when I’m on the road visiting community colleges, I am fortunate to see firsthand the tremendous impact these schools have on so many students. I see students striving, teachers inspiring, and administrators innovating – each doing their best to make the community college experience richer and more meaningful. President Obama has made community colleges a centerpiece of his goal to have the best-educated, most competitive workforce in the world.
Earlier today at the Newseum in Washington, DC, leaders in education and business congratulated Santa Barbara City College from California and Walla Walla Community College from Washington for being selected as co-winners of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Kingsborough Community College – CUNY from New York and Lake Area Technical Institute from South Dakota were honored as finalists-with-distinction.
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusMarch 19, 2013
04:15 PM EDT
Enacted three years ago, the health care law is making the insurance market work better for you by prohibiting some of the worst insurance industry practices that have kept affordable health coverage out of reach for millions of Americans.
As a former state insurance commissioner, I know that for too long, too many hard-working Americans paid the price for policies that handed free rein to health insurance companies. For more than a decade before the Affordable Care Act, premiums rose rapidly, straining the budgets of American families and businesses. And insurers often raised premiums without any explanation.
It wasn’t fair and it was costing you your hard-earned dollars, security, and peace of mind.
The Affordable Care Act is working to bring affordability and fairness to the marketplace by barring insurers from dropping your coverage when you get sick or placing a lifetime dollar limit on coverage. In 2014, it will prohibit discriminating against you or anyone with a pre-existing condition, such as high blood pressure, asthma, or cancer.
Valerie JarrettMarch 19, 2013
03:45 PM EDT
Yesterday, in honor of Women’s History Month, we welcomed a group of high school students to participate in a conversation with a mentoring panel at the White House.
Our panel included luminaries from a diverse range of fields: Tamika Catchings, professional basketball player, and founder of Catch the Stars Foundation, which works with at-risk youth. Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers of America and a lifelong advocate for civil rights, workers, and women. Abbe Raven, President and CEO of A&E Networks. And Suni Williams, an astronaut who took recently took charge of the International Space Station. Alex Wagner, News Anchor at MSNBC, moderated the panel.
Each woman talked about their trajectory, their role models and influences, and gave advice on success in their career. The young people in the audience asked questions such as, “What makes a strong woman?” and “What do you do during moments of self-doubt?”
It was a wonderful opportunity to have an honest dialogue between generations, and I left feeling so encouraged by the stories of the panelists and the voices of the audience.
This event was one in a series to honor Women’s History Month. It was followed by a celebration with President Obama and the First Lady in the Residence.
March 19, 2013
12:00 PM EDT
I remember the day the health care law passed three years ago. The law made history as one of the most significant pieces of health related legislation since the passage of Medicare and Medicaid. On a personal level, it fundamentally changed the course of my life. At the time, I was 20 years old, a college student, and facing the reality that I would be kicked off my parents’ high-quality private insurance, on my twenty-first birthday. I would have limited, if any, options for health insurance and it put me face to face with my own mortality.
I was born with a serious, rare disease. Without high-quality health care, or health insurance, I would suffer potentially fatal consequences. Most children who are born with my disease, toxoplasmosis, have profound side-effects that can include organ failure, blindness, and intellectual disabilities. Throughout my childhood, I was fairly healthy. But during high school I began to face the realities of what it meant to have this disease. I had neurosurgery to replace the 16-year-old shunt that was installed to drain spinal fluid collecting on my brain, and I lost vision in my left eye when the parasite attacked my eyes. Since then, I have struggled to remain healthy and have had several shunt replacements and eye surgeries.
Knowing how stressful, painful, and scary these experiences were with health insurance, as I got older, my family and I went into a panic. We knew I would no longer be eligible for their insurance, and we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would be denied coverage due to my multiple pre-existing conditions. This was where we were in March 2010.
But everything changed three years ago, when President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act.
March 19, 2013
11:00 AM EDT
Ed. note: Click here to see the timeline of President Obama's promise to end the war in Iraq and support service members as they return home.
Ten years ago my US Army unit was returning from our final training exercise in preparation for deploying in support of Operation Iraq Freedom. We listened intensely as President Bush announced the start of the war 10 years ago today, and my platoon prepared to deploy as part of the 1st Armored Division into the breach of battle. Within a few short weeks, my soldiers and I were rolling across the Kuwaiti border on our way to Baghdad to relieve the 3rd Infantry Division.
My soldiers and I spent most of the next 15 months based out of a Forward Operating Base on the banks of the Tigris River trying to bring stability to a chaotic and complex situation. We had a front row seat as the Iraqi’s celebrated the capture of Saddam Hussein, but also felt the war turn as we went from eating dinners in the homes of everyday Iraqi’s to fighting insurgents on the streets in places like Najaf.
Although there is still much to learn about this war, one thing is certain; President Obama’s commitment and focus on taking care of our service members brought this war to an end. He held to his promise and ensured that by December of 2011, “the last American soldiers will cross the border out of Iraq—with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops.”
Secretary Kathleen SebeliusMarch 18, 2013
07:58 PM EDT
In the past, too many parents had to worry about how they would pay the mortgage or the car payment if their sick children were dropped from insurance coverage. Victims of breast cancer worried about what would happen to them or their families if they reached a lifetime limit on coverage and no longer could afford treatment.
These were real concerns for real people. Because of the health care law, however, they can put these worries aside and know they are getting a better value for their premium dollars.
The Affordable Care Act brings an end to some of the worst insurance industry practices that have kept affordable health coverage out of reach for millions of Americans, especially when they needed it most. Under the health care law, consumers can be confident that their insurance will protect them if they get sick and their families won’t be crushed by medical bills.
As we observe the third anniversary of the President signing the health care law, let me tell you what this means in real terms to many American families: