Linda Douglass, White House Office of Health Reform: Hi, I'm Linda Douglass, I'm the Director of Communications for the White House Office of Health Reform. And as you know, the other day, the President had a town hall on health reform in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and we realized that not everyone could get in, and many people had questions, so we thought that we would let them address some of those questions to the White House and try to give you some answers. So first, let's hear from Richard who was standing outside.
Questioner: My name is Richard Dean. My question is the following. And that is how is President Obama going to be sure that Americans have free choice in health care, affording themselves of all the options we can get today and not have that restricted by the government in the future?
Linda Douglass: Well, Richard, as the President has said many times, if you get insurance through your job, nothing will change for you, except that you'll have more consumer protections. So, for example, if you have a preexisting condition, the insurance company cannot deny you coverage or they can't just pull your coverage away altogether just because you got sick. And you'll eventually see lower costs. And, if you lose your insurance for some reason or you're underinsured or you work for a small business that can't afford to provide you health insurance, you can shop around for a plan on the Insurance Exchange, which will have many, many options, many affordable options, and that's a choice that you absolutely don't have today. So you will have many more choices, not fewer choices.
And as for the government's role, well, what the government is going to do is try to bring more stability and security to the health insurance system. There's going to be options for people who lose their health insurance, there will be affordable plans available to people that aren't available now, and the insurance company can no longer deny you coverage just because you get sick So health reform will definitely give you more protection for you and your family. You know, Richard, sometimes we get the question about what happens if my employer decides to drop coverage, not cover me anymore. Well, several of the bills have strong provisions that would discourage employers from dropping coverage. They would have to pay a penalty or a fine, for example. And an analysis of one of the bills that was done by the Congressional budget office found that more people would wind up with employer-sponsored health insurance than have health insurance from their job now. So there are strong protections built into the legislation that is going through Congress. So, Richard, I hope that answers your question. If you have other questions, please visit whitehouse.gov, we've got a site that has many, many answers to the most frequently asked questions that Americans have out there as they look at health insurance reform.