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President Obama is committed to making this the most open and participatory administration in history. That begins with taking your questions and comments, inviting you to join online events with White House officials, and giving you a way to engage with your government on the issues that matter the most.

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Latest News

  • 3 Days Left for LGBT Americans to #GetCovered

    There are three days left to #GetCovered under the Affordable Care Act. These next three days couldn’t be more important for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Americans across the country.

    Before the Affordable Care Act, an estimated one in three low- and middle-income LGBT Americans were uninsured. LGBT Americans are disproportionately affected by certain types of cancer, HIV/AIDS, obesity, and mental illnesses, which means that for many LGBT Americans, having health care is a matter of life or death.

    But since President Obama signed the ACA into law, we’ve seen drastic improvement in the insured rates of LGBT Americans across the country, especially given that health insurance companies can no longer discriminate against LGBT Americans – because it’s the law. As a reminder, here are five (of the many) Affordable Care Act benefits for the LGBT community:

    • Plans purchased through the Marketplace can’t discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
    • You can’t be charged a higher premium just because you’re lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
    • There's no more denial of coverage because of pre-existing conditions like HIV/AIDS, cancer, or mental health diagnoses.
    • Legally married same-sex couples are treated equally for financial assistance when purchasing coverage in the Health Insurance Marketplace, regardless of where they live.
    • There are no more lifetime limits on coverage for people with chronic diseases like HIV/AIDS.

  • Honoring Our Past and Future

    As we commemorate National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 7, and honor National Black History Month, it is an appropriate time to reflect on the impact of HIV in the African American community.

    Through our professional and personal lenses, we have witnessed the horror of illness, the pain of loss, and the devastating effect that stigma has brought upon too many of our black sisters and brothers as a result of HIV/AIDS. We are aware of the HIV-related disparities that exist for black Americans and the well-documented linkage of those disparities to social determinants of health. An untenable number of our people are tested for HIV too late, learn of their positive HIV status too late, and are linked to care and treatment too late to realize the maximum benefit of the revolutionary, unprecedented progress in understanding how to prevent, diagnose, and treat HIV/AIDS. These truths are especially tragic when, through implementation of the first-ever comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Obama administration has directly addressed many of the barriers faced daily by countless people living with — and at risk for — HIV. 

  • National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day: Reducing HIV Among African American Communities

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' blog. See the original post here.

    Like so many Americans, I have seen the tragedy firsthand of friends lost to HIV/AIDS. I’ve also seen the hope of those living with HIV as we continue to work toward an AIDS-free generation.

    Each February 7, we mark National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD). It’s an opportunity for all of us to honor the memory of those we’ve lost, and to call attention to the fact that HIV continues to disproportionately affect African American men, women, and youth.

    The numbers are startling: African Americans represent only 14 percent of the U.S. population, but account for almost half of all new HIV infections in the United States per year, as well as more than one-third of all people living with HIV in our nation.

    This year’s NBHAAD theme, “I Am My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper: Fight HIV/AIDS,” challenges all of us to work to eliminate these unacceptable health disparities by ramping up our HIV prevention efforts, encouraging individuals to get tested, and helping those who are living with HIV to access the life-saving medical treatment they need.

  • Affordable Care Act – National Tribal Day of Action

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on the Indian Health Service's website. See the original post here.

    Today is the 3rd National Tribal Day of Action for Affordable Care Act Outreach and Enrollment. Across the nation, IHS facilities are holding events today to provide American Indian and Alaska Natives with information and help in understanding the Affordable Care Act and their potential benefits in the Health Insurance Marketplace.

    Open enrollment ends on February 15, 2015. That means there are less than two weeks left in the Marketplace Open Enrollment period, so now is the time to act. All Americans must have health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. If not, they must claim an exemption or may have to pay a penalty. If you are a tribal member, you can enroll anytime, but it is important to know what your potential benefits would be if you purchased insurance in the Health Insurance Marketplace. Enrolling is easy with the new streamlined application, and in-person help is always available at an IHS facility. You might also find out that you are newly eligible for Medicaid and you can enroll in Medicaid at any time. In addition, now that tax season is upon us, you can also file for an exemption when you file your taxes, even if you have coverage. Individuals who are tribal members and/or eligible for IHS services can claim an exemption.

    You can always get care at IHS if you are eligible; but with health insurance, you will be covered, have more choices, and will be in the best position for your health. Once you are covered, it's easier to get care when and where you want it, and you can get peace of mind. Enroll in the Health Insurance Marketplace today at www.healthcare.gov.

  • Op-Ed by the Vice President on the Administration’s Budget Request to Assist Countries in Central America

    As we were reminded last summer when thousands of unaccompanied children showed up on our southwestern border, the security and prosperity of Central America are inextricably linked with our own.

    The economies of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras remain bogged down as the rest of the Americas surge forward. Inadequate education, institutional corruption, rampant crime and a lack of investment are holding these countries back. Six million young Central Americans are to enter the labor force in the next decade. If opportunity isn’t there for them, the entire Western Hemisphere will feel the consequences.

    Confronting these challenges requires nothing less than systemic change, which we in the United States have a direct interest in helping to bring about. Toward that end, on Monday, President Obama will request from Congress $1 billion to help Central America’s leaders make the difficult reforms and investments required to address the region’s interlocking security, governance and economic challenges. That is almost three times what we generally have provided to Central America.

    Last summer, as our countries worked together to stem the dangerous surge in migration, the leaders of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras asked for additional assistance to change the climate of endemic violence and poverty that has held them back. In June, I made it clear to these leaders that the United States was ready to support them — provided they took ownership of the problem. Mr. Obama drove home this point when the leaders visited Washington in July.

    And they responded. Honduras signed an agreement with Transparency International to combat corruption. Guatemala has removed senior officials suspected of corruption and aiding human trafficking. El Salvador passed a law providing new protections for investors. Working with the Inter-American Development Bank, these three countries forged a joint plan for economic and political reforms, an alliance for prosperity.

    These leaders acknowledge that an enormous effort is required. We have agreed to intensify our work together in three areas.

    First, security makes everything else possible. We can help stabilize neighborhoods through community-based policing, and eradicate transnational criminal networks that have turned Central America into a hotbed for drug smuggling, human trafficking and financial crime. Some communities in Guatemala and El Salvador are already seeing the benefit of United States-sponsored programs on community policing, specialized police training and youth centers similar to Boys and Girls Clubs in the United States. As I learned in crafting the 1994 United States crime bill, these programs can reduce crime.

    Second, good governance begets the jobs and investment that Central America needs. Today, court systems, government contracting and tax collection are not widely perceived as transparent and fair. These countries have among the lowest effective tax rates in the hemisphere. To attract the investments required for real and lasting progress, they must collect and manage revenues effectively and transparently.

    Third, there is not enough government money, even with assistance from the United States and the international community, to address the scale of the economic need. Central American economies can grow only by attracting international investment and making a more compelling case to their citizens to invest at home. That requires clear rules and regulations; protections for investors; courts that can be trusted to adjudicate disputes fairly; serious efforts to root out corruption; protections for intellectual property; and transparency to ensure that international assistance is spent accountably and effectively.

    We are ready to work with international financial institutions and the private sector to help these countries train their young people, make it easier to start a business, and ensure that local enterprises get the most out of existing free trade agreements with the United States.

    The challenges ahead are formidable. But if the political will exists, there is no reason Central America cannot become the next great success story of the Western Hemisphere.

    The region has seen this sort of transformation before. In 1999, we initiated Plan Colombia to combat drug trafficking, grinding poverty and institutional corruption — combined with a vicious insurgency — that threatened to turn Colombia into a failed state. Fifteen years later, Colombia is a nation transformed. As one of the architects of Plan Colombia in the United States Senate, I saw that the key ingredient was political will on the ground. Colombia benefited from leaders who had the courage to make significant changes regarding security, governance and human rights. Elites agreed to pay higher taxes. The Colombian government cleaned up its courts, vetted its police force and reformed its rules of commerce to open up its economy. The United States invested $9 billion over the course of Plan Colombia, with $700 million the first year. But our figures show that Colombia outspent us four to one.

    The cost of investing now in a secure and prosperous Central America is modest compared with the costs of letting violence and poverty fester.

    Mr. Obama has asked me to lead this new effort. For the first time, we can envision and work toward having the Americas be overwhelmingly middle class, democratic and secure.

    That is why we are asking Congress to work with us. Together, we can help Central America become an embodiment of the Western Hemisphere’s remarkable rise — not an exception to it.

    ###

    In an exclusive op-ed published in The New York Times, the Vice President announces the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2016 budget request for $1 billion aimed at assisting countries in Central America. The op-ed can be found HERE.

     

     

  • The White House Recognizes HBCU Leaders Who Are Champions of Change for Advancing College Completion Among African American Students

    This Black History Month, the White House will recognize faculty and staff members at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that drive the college completion agenda. These leaders work with students, families, higher education leaders, and policymakers to build paths to graduation. 

    To reach President Obama’s goal of helping our nation lead the world in college completion by 2020, we must ensure that more African American students graduate from college. Currently, the college graduation rate for African American students is 34.3 percent, compared to 47.1 percent for Asian students, 46.2 percent for white students, and 41.05 percent for Hispanic students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2015). 

    HBCUs meet the challenge. Innovative strategies and visionary leadership can advance college completion among African American students. For more than a century, HBCUs have been exemplars in producing African American college graduates who lead their fields. A recent report from the National Science Foundation revealed that 21 of the top 50 institutions for producing African American graduates who go on to receive their doctorates in Science and Engineering (S&E) are HBCUs. In total, between 2002 and 2011 among the top 50 institutions, HBCUs collectively produced 1,819 African American graduates who earned a doctorate in S&E, predominately white institutions produced 1,600, and foreign institutions produced 798.

  • The White House Recognizes HBCU Leaders Who Are Champions of Change for Advancing College Completion Among African American Students

    This Black History Month, the White House will recognize faculty and staff members at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) that drive the college completion agenda. These leaders work with students, families, higher education leaders, and policymakers to build paths to graduation. 

    To reach President Obama’s goal of helping our nation lead the world in college completion by 2020, we must ensure that more African American students graduate from college. Currently, the college graduation rate for African American students is 34.3 percent, compared to 47.1 percent for Asian students, 46.2 percent for white students, and 41.05 percent for Hispanic students (National Center for Education Statistics, 2015). 

    HBCUs meet the challenge. Innovative strategies and visionary leadership can advance college completion among African American students. For more than a century, HBCUs have been exemplars in producing African American college graduates who lead their fields. A recent report from the National Science Foundation revealed that 21 of the top 50 institutions for producing African American graduates who go on to receive their doctorates in Science and Engineering (S&E) are HBCUs. In total, between 2002 and 2011 among the top 50 institutions, HBCUs collectively produced 1,819 African American graduates who earned a doctorate in S&E, predominately white institutions produced 1,600, and foreign institutions produced 798.

  • Why the Affordable Care Act Matters to African-Americans

    Ed. note: This is cross-posted on BET.com. See the original post here.

    When Astrid Muhammad heard her phone ring this past Friday, the last thing she expected was a call from the White House inviting her to attend this year’s State of the Union as a guest of the First Lady.

    A wife and mother of two young children, Muhammad woke up on a spring morning in 2013 and knew something was wrong. A visit to the doctor in May revealed a mass growing on her brain. At the time she didn’t have health insurance and delayed treatment and surgery that, according to neurosurgeons, would mean the difference between life and death. Prior to the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies could have refused treatment for her pre-existing tumor, charge higher rates or denied her coverage altogether. But, after discovering the Health Insurance Marketplace, Muhammad was able to find quality affordable health insurance coverage. So this past summer, she had her tumor successfully removed and is now moving on with her life.

    And she is not alone. She attended the President’s State of the Union address as a representative of all those who have received insurance and care which has changed or saved their lives, or given them the peace of mind they need to rest more easily, without the worry that an unexpected health challenge could threaten their lives or livelihoods.

    During this African-American Community Week of Action, leaders, communities and families across the country are working together to ensure that all of their loved ones, neighbors and fellow Americans have the health insurance they need – and that those who are not covered visit HealthCare.gov to get covered right away.