- Posted byon March 14, 2014 at 1:58 PM EDT
Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the Department of Health and Human Services' health care blog. See the original post here.
Today, the Department of Health and Human Services took one more step toward making health care coverage more accessible and equitable for married same-sex couples.
Already, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 4.2 million people have signed up for private health insurance plans through the Health Insurance Marketplace. Marketplace plans cover essential health benefits like emergency services, prescription drugs and mental health and substance use disorder services. And preventive services like flu shots, blood pressure screening and HIV screening are covered at no additional charge.
Moreover, all health plans sold in the Marketplace have to follow rules that make health care more accessible for everyone. You can’t be denied coverage for a pre-existing condition, like HIV/AIDS or cancer, and you can’t be charged more for being a woman.
Today, we are clarifying that, starting next year, if an insurance company offers coverage to opposite-sex spouses, it cannot choose to deny that coverage to same-sex spouses. In other words, insurance companies will not be permitted to discriminate against married same-sex couples when offering coverage. This will further enhance access to health care for all Americans, including those with same-sex spouses.
- Posted byon March 14, 2014 at 12:26 PM EDT
Ed. note: This is cross-posted from the United States Department of Transportation.
The work we do at DOT cannot be done without our partners. Whether we're investing in safety, seeking innovation, or solving regional transportation challenges, success often depends on exceptional groups and individuals doing the heavy lifting and setting the bar high for the rest of us. That's why the Obama Administration has been recognizing Champions of Change in different fields, including transportation.
Like previous winner Beverly Scott--the MARTA CEO who actually painted red X's on Atlanta buses to show what transit service cuts would mean to commuters--one person with one idea can make a world of difference.
And just as that holds true with transit in Atlanta, it also holds true in the difficult challenge of connecting people to ladders of opportunity like good jobs, education, and important services.
But our country's continued economic growth depends on meeting that access challenge, so this May, DOT and the White House Office of Public Engagement will host a Champions of Change event focused onTransportation and Ladders of Opportunity.
Selected Champions will be individuals who have provided exemplary leadership to ensure that transportation facilities, services, and jobs help individuals and their communities connect to 21st century opportunities. A champion’s work may include transportation projects, services, or advocacy across any mode of transportation.
Providing leadership in planning, design, and development of innovative transportation solutions that result in connected communities
Advancing the use of equity based performance measures and planning initiatives at the state and/or community level
Developing and/or implementing transportation safety strategies or innovative transportation safety programs for communities for minority, older adults, limited English proficiency or other at-risk communities
Establishing transportation workforce training initiatives for disadvantaged workers, including at-risk youth, minority, low income, women, veterans, people with disabilities and others
Implementing innovative public engagement strategies that ensure full participation by all citizens across the community
Providing strategies for streamlining project delivery that provide efficiency and economic benefits for the community
Demonstrating best practices in environmental justice related to transportation projects
Advancing innovative strategies for utilizing disadvantaged businesses in transportation projects
Demonstrating leadership in efforts to enhance transportation services for people who may not have access to personal vehicles, including people with disabilities, older adults, and/or people with lower incomes
- Applying technologies that advance access to transportation for underrepresented communities
If you know of someone making a difference in one or more of these ways, help us share their achievement by nominating them as a White House Champion of Change today!
Nominations are due by Thursday March 27, 2014, and we've made it easy by offering you two ways to submit your nomination:
Download our Nomination Form, complete it, and email it email@example.com; or
- Use our handy online Nomination Form.
However you share your nomination, please let us hear from you. It's a great way to recognize someone making a difference in their community. And it's a great way of inspiring other problem-solvers and innovators to continue pursuing their work.
In his blog post yesterday, Secretary Foxx talked about the important quality of “good, old-fashioned American inventiveness.” Today, we’re asking you to help us shine a light on that quality, wherever you find it.
- Providing leadership in planning, design, and development of innovative transportation solutions that result in connected communities
- Posted byon March 14, 2014 at 10:57 AM EDT
Tomorrow evening, Jews in America, Israel and around the globe will celebrate Purim, a holiday known for costumes, carnivals and noisemakers. Even rabbis and synagogue presidents dress up for a playful re-telling of the holiday story during Purim spoofs called spiels. With all the fun of the holiday, it’s also important to remember Purim’s more serious underlying themes of persecution and survival in the face of the planned genocide of ancient Persia’s Jews. Based on events over 2,000 years ago, these themes resonate throughout the centuries and in today’s world as well. By speaking up and speaking out, justice will triumph over evil.
- Posted byon March 11, 2014 at 12:26 PM EDT
Ed. note: This blog is cross-posted from The U.S. Department of Commerce.
Last week, I traveled to Anchorage for the annual economic summit hosted by the Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference, a non-profit regional economic development organization. The Southwest Alaska Municipal Conference is working to improve the quality of life and drive responsible development across the Alaska Peninsula, the Aleutian Islands, Bristol Bay, the Kodiak Archipelago and the Pribilof Islands.
Last week’s summit had a packed agenda, covering everything from energy conservation to sustainable fishing practices. One big topic of conversation was broadband and the power of high-speed Internet to open up economic, educational and social opportunities in some of the poorest, most isolated communities in our nation.
It’s no wonder that the Alaska state nickname is “The Last Frontier.” The state is more than double the size of Texas, with more than 3 million lakes, 34,000 miles of shoreline, and 29,000 square miles of ice fields. But with fewer than 750,000 residents, Alaska includes some of the most remote, sparsely populated pockets of the U.S. Many Alaska Natives reside in tiny villages with just a few hundred people and lead subsistence lifestyles.
Broadband offers these communities a way to connect with the wider world and access everything from online classes to healthcare services to job opportunities. It also offers Alaska Natives a way to preserve their indigenous culture for future generations and share it with a global audience.
- Posted byon March 10, 2014 at 1:09 PM EDT
Last week the White House Office of Public Engagement, along with the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, honored ten Champions of Change in honor of their achievements and contributions to exposing and accelerating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) opportunities for more African American youth and communities. Each of the Champions founded innovative ways to inspire interest and provide access for African American youth in STEM whether it’s through hackathons, technology programs for girls of color in underserved school districts, skill development summer programs or STEM enrichment programs for educators. They created opportunities based on their own personal experiences of what they never had growing up.
Kalimah Priforce was inspired to pursue a career in STEM when he was in grade school and enrolled in a science camp. Coming from a group home, he was excited to experience his favorite subjects in a new environment. As he stood at the bus stop in front of his group home, Kalimah watched the science camp bus drive right past him. Left with disappointment, that moment was the turning point in his life – he had to get out and take control of his own life. Today, he uses web and mobile-based technology, hackathons with young men of color, to promote mentorship and innovation in technology as a creative outlet instead of an unconquerable challenge. Danielle Lee never let her grade point average define her career or dreams. She went from being a C-student in Biology to having a PHD in Biology. She looked beyond the classroom to apply her technical skills and found creative solutions to everyday problems, even rewiring the electricity in her home so that she could have a television in her room.
In 2012, President Obama launched the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans to help accelerate national efforts to support African American students – because improving educational opportunities for all students is critical to ensuring we increase college completion and employment rates to strengthen our nation’s economy.
These STEM Champions are using strategies that support investments even in our youngest learners which we know will enhance “Opportunity for All,” the center of the President’s State of the Union speech this year, and enable them to pursue and persist in college and specialized training for STEM careers. The future of our country depends on both improving youth access to these fields and ensuring that their interest and skillset is encouraged, developed, and promoted beyond the classroom.
Rumana Ahmed is an Executive Assistant to the Director of Public Engagement
- Posted byon March 6, 2014 at 5:50 PM EDT
Today, we are releasing the synopsis from the 2013 Tribal Nations Conference and the 2013 White House Tribal Nations Conference Progress Report. The 2013 Conference marked the fifth consecutive year that President Obama hosted a gathering of federally recognized tribal leaders and officials from across the Administration. At the Conference, tribal leaders directly engaged with the recently established White House Council on Native American Affairs and discussed key issues facing Indian Country. During his remarks to tribal leaders, President Obama emphasized the need to keep our bond of peace and friendship, our covenant chain with tribes strong not only for this generation but for future generations.
The Synopsis reflects the wide-array of issues and comments raised by tribal leaders during the break-out sessions; including economic and energy development, education, public safety, health care, and land and natural resources. The Tribal Nations Conference Progress Report provides a comprehensive overview of federal agencies’ progress in 2013 toward making improvements in Indian Country and highlights the following:
The President signed Executive Order 13647 establishing the White House Council on Native American Affairs consisting of Cabinet Secretaries and heads of other federal agencies and is responsible for coordinating policies across the federal government.
The President signed the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013 (VAWA 2013) which contains provisions that significantly improve the safety of Native women and allow federal and tribal law enforcement agencies to hold perpetrators of domestic violence accountable for their crimes.
The President signed a significant amendment to the Stafford Act, which gives tribes the option of directly requesting Federal emergency or major disaster declarations, rather than receiving a declaration through the request of a Governor.
- The Department of the Interior announced the first offers in the land buy-back program for Tribal Nations to initiate land consolidation efforts from the Cobell Settlement.
The President and his Administration remain committed to strengthening the nation-to-nation partnership with tribes to address the complex challenges facing Indian Country. The 2013 Conference also provided an important policy and engagement foundation for the White House Council on Native American Affairs as we work to address those challenges and meet our common goal of developing more prosperous and resilient tribal communities.
Jodi Gillette is the Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs in the White House Domestic Policy Council.
- The President signed Executive Order 13647 establishing the White House Council on Native American Affairs consisting of Cabinet Secretaries and heads of other federal agencies and is responsible for coordinating policies across the federal government.
- Posted byon March 6, 2014 at 5:28 PM EDT
On Friday, President Obama hosted the first ever White House Student Film Festival, demonstrating the Administration’s commitment to bringing America’s classrooms into the 21st century with high-speed internet and cutting-edge educational technology. The President recently set a goal of providing 99% of America’s students with these technologies, through placements in schools and libraries, by the year 2018.
At the film festival, the President recognized 16 of the nearly 2,500 films submitted by K-12 students in response to the White House’s call for videos showcasing the positive role technology plays in education.
Seventeen-year old Kira Bursky’s short film was one of the 16 selected by the White House to be featured at the festival. Her video, titled “Hello From Malaysia”, chronicles how Aiman, a young immigrant from Malaysia, uses technology both to share her culture and build connections with her new classmates.
Aiman’s journey to learn English, work hard in school, and build a new American life, reminds us of the immigration stories of individuals all across the country, including the struggles many immigrants face each day.
People from all around the world are drawn to the United States by a belief in the power of opportunity. Throughout the White House, there are similar stories of staffers and their families who through hard work and sacrifice came to the United States to pursue their version of the American dream. In fact, last year, the White House chronicled these immigrant stories, in this video.
Aiman’s journey, reminded me of the story of my own childhood growing up in Chicago’s Little Village surrounded by hard-working immigrant families. Although every immigrant’s story is fiercely unique, one aspect holds true within us all: the power of an immigrant family to overcome adversity is strong.
Today, there are students, workers, entrepreneurs, faith leaders, families, and many others who want to help us write the next great chapter of the American story. Passing commonsense immigration reform will enable many to do so – it is not only good for immigrants themselves but also for our economy. In fact, according to independent experts, the bipartisan Senate bill would reduce deficits and grow the economy by more than 5% or 1.4 trillion dollars by 2023. That’s why President Obama continues to urge Congress to take action on immigration reform this year.
America’s rich tradition as a nation that welcomes immigrants is in full display in Kira Bursky’s video and we were excited to feature her and many other young filmmakers today at the White House.
Jorge Neri is Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement.
President Obama, Secretary Kerry and Secretary Lew Underscore and Reaffirm the Strength of the U.S.-Israel RelationshipPosted byon March 6, 2014 at 10:50 AM EDT
“We do not have a closer friend or ally than Israel and the bond between our two countries and our two peoples is unbreakable.”—President Barack Obama, March 3, 2014, Bilateral Meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The beginning of March provided several important opportunities for President Obama and senior administration officials to underscore that unshakeable bond between the United States and Israel. As they do every year, thousands of delegates to the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2014 Policy Conference came to Washington for an annual event that attracts bipartisan support. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s appearance at AIPAC provided an opportunity for a meeting with President Obama at the White House. The two leaders discussed the status of the talks between the Israelis and Palestinians, progress on the P5+1 negotiations with Iran regarding Iran’s nuclear program, and regional issues, including the situations in Syria and Egypt. As the President noted in his public remarks at the beginning of the meeting, “on a whole spectrum of issues we consult closely; we have the kind of military, intelligence and security cooperation that is unprecedented. And there is a strong bipartisan commitment in this country to make sure that Israel’s security is preserved in any contingency.”
Watch the video of the opening remarks by President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu at the beginning of their bilateral meeting below:
To read a transcript of the remarks, click here.
Secretary Kerry’s Speech to AIPAC
On Monday, March 3, Secretary of State John Kerry addressed the AIPAC 2014 Policy Conference about the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program and the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
On Iran, Secretary Kerry reaffirmed the Obama Administration’s bottom-line in the negotiations: “let me sum up President Obama’s policy in 10 simple, clear words, unequivocal: We will not permit Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon.” While the United States seeks to achieve this goal through diplomacy, Secretary Kerry reiterated that “no deal is better than a bad deal” and emphasized the following:
"[T]he United States will only sign an agreement that answers three critical questions the right way. First, will it make certain that Iran cannot obtain a nuclear weapon? Second, can it continuously assure the world that Iran’s program remains entirely peaceful as it claims? And third, will the agreement increase our visibility on the nuclear program and expand the breakout time so that if they were to try to go for a bomb, we know we will have time to act?"
Turning to his tireless efforts to support the direct Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to end the decades-old conflict, Secretary Kerry described how he is working hard to help the parties reach a two-state solution that brings Israelis the security and peace they deserve and the Palestinians the freedom and dignity they deserve:
"My friends, we understand that Israel has to be strong in order to make peace. But we also understand that peace will make Israel stronger. Any peace agreement must also guarantee Israel’s identity as a Jewish homeland. As [former Israeli Prime Minister] Ehud Barak said on this stage last year, a two-state solution is the only way for Israel to stay true to its founding principles – to remain both Jewish and democratic."
To read the full transcript of Secretary Kerry’s remarks, click here.
Secretary Lew’s Address at AIPAC
Treasury Secretary Lew emphasized that the U.S.-Israel relationship, which is "rooted in our shared story of people yearning to be masters of their own destiny, is as vibrant as ever.” Since the Department of the Treasury has the responsibility for administering and enforcing the existing sanctions against the Iranian regime, Secretary Lew described the administration’s vigorous enforcement of existing sanctions and emphasized that notwithstanding the limited relief that has been provided under the Joint Plan of Action, Iran is not “open for business”:
"Even as we pursue diplomacy, and even as we deliver on our commitments to provide limited sanctions relief, the vast majority of our sanctions remain firmly in place. Right now, these sanctions are imposing the kind of intense economic pressure that continues to provide a powerful incentive for Iran to negotiate. And we have sent the very clear signal to the leadership in Tehran that if these talks do not succeed, then we are prepared to impose additional sanctions on Iran and that all options remain on the table to block Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon."
To read the full transcript of Secretary Lew’s speech, click here.
Matt Nosanchuk is an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.