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Obama Administration Officials: What They’re Saying About the Affordable Care Act

On the day Congress voted on legislation that would repeal the Affordable Care Act, here’s what officials from throughout the Obama Administration were saying about health reform:

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
“No matter how good schools are, students won't be able to learn if they're not healthy. The House bill will roll back the advances we've made to ensure our students are healthy, and would be a step backward as a country in preparing students for success in schools and in life.”

Secretary of the Treasury Tim Geithner
“Repealing the Affordable Care Act would be bad for business and bad for the economy.  We are at a crucial stage of the economic recovery.  While the private sector has expanded payrolls for 12 straight months, the unemployment rate remains at an unacceptable level.  Given where we are, we must do things that help bolster the recovery, and repealing the Affordable Care Act would be a step in the wrong direction.”

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar
“The Affordable Care Act is a vital tool for Native American communities that are working to improve quality of life, overcome health care disparities, and improve wellness and health in Indian Country. A vote to repeal the Affordable Health Care Act would only turn back the clock on the real progress we are making toward ensuring that Native Americans have access to quality, affordable health care. The Affordable Care Act included landmark legislation that permanently reauthorizes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act, which is so important to modernizing and improving the health care provided by the Indian Health Service to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Without the Affordable Care Act, Native Americans will continue to face escalating costs, deep health care disparities, and growing health challenges.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius
“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, Americans are finally getting the freedom and security they deserve in their health care. Over the last ten months, I have seen firsthand how the law is making a difference in Americans' lives, from establishing a new Patient’s Bill of Rights that outlaws some of the worst insurance company abuses to beginning the process of ending insurance company discrimination against the 129 million Americans with pre-existing health conditions. If the law were repealed, these protections would be taken away, and America’s seniors would lose important new Medicare benefits, including savings on their prescription drugs and new health and wellness benefits. A recent analysis by our Department shows that the Affordable Care Act will sharply reduce the cost of health insurance for millions of Americans.  A family of four making $55,000 is projected to save $6,000 a year in 2014.  For a working family with a $33,000 income, the savings could be up to $10,000 – the difference between being able to afford health insurance and going without it. Repealing the Affordable Care Act would raise health insurance costs for families, add to our federal deficit, put control back in the hands of insurance companies, and take away the freedom and health security being realized by millions of Americans.  That would be the wrong direction for our country, and would be disastrous for the health and well-being of American families. Finally, I want the people who are benefiting from the Affordable Care Act – including families, seniors, and small business owners – to know that this vote does not change the law and that this Department will continue to work every day to implement this vital law.”

Secretary of Agriculture  Tom Vilsack
“For far too long, folks living in rural America have suffered from a broken health care system - more so than their urban counterparts - with higher costs and less access to providers and health care facilities. The cost of repeal would be great. Approximately 80% of Rural Americans are self-employed or work for a small business. The law is bringing down their health care costs and the tax incentives it provides will help small businesses hire more people and provide health care coverage to employees. To address the shortage of providers in rural America, the law makes an historic investment in the health care workforce by training and supporting thousands of new primary care doctors and nurses and encouraging them to practice in underserved, rural communities.  And the new law will help community health centers – which so many rural areas rely on – expand to serve up to 20 million more patients a year. President Obama tackled this critical issue and provided millions of Americans with the opportunity to get the quality health care they need and deserve, which makes today's vote in the U.S. House to repeal the Affordable Care Act, very disappointing.”

Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke
“Today, House Republicans cast a vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. It is a vote both to make American businesses less competitive in the global economy and to diminish the added control American families now have over their health care decisions. Just 10 months after its passage, the Affordable Care Act has brought badly needed change to the American health care system, with families now having the security that their children won't be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition or that their insurance company will cap the dollar amount insurance companies will spend on benefits like cancer treatment. Repeal would jeopardize this newfound security for American families. But from my perspective as Commerce Secretary, the most damaging aspect of repeal would be how it would affect the competitiveness of American businesses and their workers. The fact is that prior to passage of the Affordable Care Act, U.S. companies were dealing with a runaway, healthcare cost train with absolutely no mechanism to put on the brakes. These costs were forcing companies to ship jobs overseas and making it tougher for them to compete with foreign competitors who almost universally had lighter health care costs. The cost saving measures in the Affordable Care Act will help slow the growth of these burdensome health care costs. According to the Business Roundtable, large companies alone could save $3,000 per employee in health care costs under the reform. Meanwhile, if reform were repealed, American small businesses would be on the hook for nearly $2.4 trillion in healthcare costs over the next 10 years. All Americans should know that if Congress succeeds in repealing the Affordable Care Act, it is not going to be replaced with something better. It will be replaced with the same system that was making U.S. businesses less competitive in the global economy and breaking the backs of American families and our government.”

SBA Administrator Karen Mills
“Today, small business owners across the country are finding more opportunities to offer health care coverage thanks to the 35 percent tax credits toward employee premiums if they provided coverage in 2010.  This is not only helping small businesses continue providing coverage, but many actually started providing coverage for the first time. In fact, we’ve seen reports by insurance companies, from Maryland to Kansas City to California, of increases in signups in their small group plans. This is progress. Repealing the Affordable Care Act would make bad business sense. It would take away these important small business tax credits and mean small businesses will not have access to exchanges beginning in 2014 that will leverage their buying power to compete for affordable plans. It would also stifle innovation and entrepreneurship by going back to a system that locks individuals into jobs simply because they need health care coverage, rather than giving them the flexibility to pursue their dream to be their own boss. Just over a year ago, a small business owner in New Jersey told me that she knew she was a success the day she was able to provide health insurance for her employees. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more stories like that are being written every day.”

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson
“This vote would take us back to the days when people could be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions or dropped from their insurance just because they get sick. With reports that asthma is on the rise – especially among children – and causing millions of emergency room and hospital visits each year, as well as tens of millions of missed school and work days, it is critical for our health and our economy that people have access to quality, affordable medical coverage. As the mother of a son with asthma and the head of an agency charged with protecting the health of the American people, it's disheartening to see this support for a measure that would leave millions of adults and children without access to health coverage and force them to fend for themselves when they get sick.”

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis
“The American people are looking to Washington for solutions to grow our economy and make America more competitive.  Instead, Republicans in the House of Representatives have chosen to vote to repeal individuals’ freedom, control and choice in health care decisions. Despite false and confusing rhetoric, the Affordable Care Act supports job growth. Since its passage, more than 1.1 million jobs have been created in the private sector.  In fact, job growth has accelerated every quarter in 2010.  The reforms included in the ACA will reduce the burden of health care costs on businesses, allowing them to be more competitive in the global market.  These reforms will continue to support a stronger labor market and the broader recovery in 2011 and beyond. Repealing health reform represents a step backwards for our nation, at a critical time when we need to be focusing our energies on moving our economy and our nation forward.”

Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan
“I am deeply disappointed by today’s vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which jeopardizes American families’ security and independence in choosing quality and affordable health care.

The Affordable Care Act provides freedom from worrying about losing insurance coverage, the freedom to change jobs while keeping insurance coverage, and it provides seniors with the freedom to get the care they need, including free preventive care, cheaper prescription drugs, and Medicare that they can count on. With high healthcare costs a leading cause of foreclosures, the Affordable Care Act is an important step towards financial security for families and greater stability for our housing market and our economy. Today’s vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act can only hurt the economy at a time when we should be focused on creating jobs, growing the economy and helping to keep Americans in their homes – particularly by helping to make healthcare more affordable.  Despite today’s vote, I will continue to work with President Obama and Congress toward growing the economy and ensuring that Americans have the choices, freedoms and options made possible through the Affordable Care Act.”

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