President Obama addresses the media aided GOP hysteria and lies regarding the Affordable Care Act.
The following is the transcript of President Barack Obama’s announcement Thursday on making changes to health-insurance rules and other remarks from his press conference, as provided by Federal News Service.
PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Good morning, everybody — or good afternoon. Today I want to update the American people on our efforts to implement and improve the Affordable Care Act. And I’ll take a couple of your questions.
But before I do, I just want to say a few words about the tragedy that’s unfolded in Philippines. Over the past few days, I think all of us have been shaken by the images of the devastation wrought by Typhoon Haiyan. It’s a heartbreaking reminder of how fragile life is. And among the dead are several Americans. So our prayers are will the Filipino people and with Filipino-Americans across our country who are anxious about their family and friends back home.
You know, one of our core principles is when friends are in trouble, America helps. As I told President Aquino earlier this week, the United States will continue to offer whatever assistance we can. Our military personnel and USAID team do this better than anybody in the world. And they’ve been already on the ground working tirelessly to deliver food, water, medicine, shelter and to help with airlift.
Today, the aircraft carrier U.S.S. George Washington and other ships arrived to help with search and rescue, as well as supplies, medical care and logistical support.
And more help is on the way. America’s strength, of course has always been more than just about what our government can do; it’s also about what our citizens can do. It’s about the bigheartedness of the American people when they see other folks in trouble.
So today, I would encourage everybody who wants to help to visit WhiteHouse.gov/typhoon. That’s WhiteHouse.gov/typhoon, and that’ll offer you links to organizations that are working on the ground in ways that you can support their efforts. Our friends in the Philippines will face a long, hard road ahead, but they’ll continue to have a friend and partner in the United States of America.
Switching gears, it has now been six weeks since the Affordable Care Act’s new marketplaces opened for business. I think it’s fair to say that the rollout has been rough so far, and I think everybody understands that I’m not happy about the fact that the rollout has been, you know, wrought with a whole range of problems that I’ve been deeply concerned about.
But today, I want to talk about what we know after these first few weeks and what we’re doing to implement and improve the law. Yesterday, the White House announced that in the first month, more than a hundred thousand Americans successfully enrolled in new insurance plans. Is that as high a number as we’d like? Absolutely not. But it does mean that people want affordable health care.
The problems of the website have prevented too many Americans from completing the enrollment process, and that’s on us, not on them. But there’s no question that there’s real demand for quality, affordable health insurance. In the first month, nearly a million people successfully completed an application for themselves or their families.
Those applications represent more than 1.5 million people. Of those 1.5 million people, 106,000 of them have successfully signed up to get covered.
Another 396,000 have the ability to gain access to Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. That’s been less reported on, but it shouldn’t be. You know, Americans who are having a difficult time, who are poor, many of them working, may have a disability, they’re Americans like everybody else. And the fact that they are now able to get insurance is going to be critically important. Later today I’ll be in Ohio, where Governor Kasich, a Republican, has expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and as many as 275,000 Ohioans will ultimately be better off because of it. And if every governor followed suit, another 5.4 million Americans could gain access to health care next year.
So bottom line is in just one month, despite all the problems that we’ve seen with the website, more than 500,000 Americans could know the security of health care by January 1st, many of them for the first time in their lives. And that’s life-changing, and it’s significant.
That still leaves about 1 million Americans who successfully made it through the website and now qualify to buy insurance but haven’t picked a plan yet. And there’s no question that if the website were working as it’s supposed to, that number would be much higher of people who’ve actually enrolled.
So that’s problem number one, making sure that the website works the way it’s supposed to. It’s gotten a lot better over the last few weeks than it was on the first day, but we’re working 24/7 to get it working for the vast majority of Americans in a smooth, consistent way.
The other problem that has received a lot of attention concerns Americans who’ve received letters from their insurers that they may be losing the plans they bought in the old individual market, often because they no longer meet the law’s requirements to cover basic benefits like prescription drugs or doctor’s visits.
Now, as I indicated earlier, I completely get how upsetting this can be for a lot of Americans, particularly after assurances they heard from me that if they had a plan that they liked they could keep it. And to those Americans, I hear you loud and clear. I said that I would do everything we can to fix this problem. And today I’m offering an idea that will help do it.
Already people who have plans that pre-date the Affordable Care Act can keep those plans if they haven’t changed. That was already in the law. That’s what’s called a grandfather clause that was included in the law. Today we’re going to extend that principle both to people whose plans have changed since the law too effect and to people who bought plans since the law took effect.
So state insurance commissioners still have the power to decide what plans can and can’t be sold in their states, but the bottom line is insurers can extend current plans that would otherwise be cancelled into 2014. And Americans whose plans have been cancelled can choose to re-enroll in the same kind of plan.
We’re also requiring insurers to extend current plans to inform their customers about two things: One, that protections — what protections these renewed plans don’t include. Number two, that the marketplace offers new options with better coverage and tax credits that might help you bring down the cost.
So if your received one of these letters I’d encourage you to take a look at the marketplace. Even if the website isn’t working as smoothly as it should be for everybody yet, the plan comparison tool that lets you browse cost for new plans near you is working just fine.
Now, this fix won’t solve every problem for every person, but it’s going to help a lot of people. Doing more will require work with Congress. And I’ve said from the beginning that I’m willing to work with Democrats and Republicans to fix problems as they arise. This is an example of what I was talking about. We can always make this law work better.
It is important to understand, though, that the old individual market was not working well. And it’s important that we don’t pretend that somehow that’s a place worth going back to. Too often it works fine as long as you stay healthy. It doesn’t work well when you’re sick. So year after year, Americans were routinely exposed to financial ruin or denied coverage due to minor pre-existing conditions or dropped from coverage altogether even if they’ve paid their premiums on time. That’s one of the reasons we pursued this reform in the first place.
And that’s why I will not accept proposals that are just another brazen attempt to undermine or repeal the overall law and drag us back into a broken system. We will continue to make the case, even to folks who choose to keep their own plans, that they should shop around in the new marketplace because there’s a good chance that they’ll be able to buy better insurance at lower cost.
So we’re going to do everything we can to help the Americans who’ve received these cancelation notices. But I also want everybody to remember that there are still 40 million Americans who don’t have health insurance at all. I’m not going to walk away from 40 million people who have the chance to get health insurance for the first time, and I’m not going to walk away from something that has helped the cost of health care grow at its slowest rate in 50 years.
So we’re at the opening weeks of the project to build a better health care system for everybody, a system that will offer real financial security and peace of mind to millions of Americans.
It is a complex process. There are all kinds of challenges. I’m sure there will be additional challenges that come up. And it’s important that we’re honest and straightforward in terms — when we come up with a problem with these reforms and these laws, that we address them.
But we’ve got to move forward on this. It took a hundred years for us to even get to the point where we could start talking about and implementing a law to make sure everybody got health insurance. And my pledge to the American people is, is that we’re going to solve the problems that are there, we’re going to get it right, and the Affordable Care Act is going to work for the American people.
So with that, I’m going to take your questions, and I’m going to start with Julie Pace of AP.