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Obama: Health Law 'Working the Way It's Supposed to'

From Kaiser Health News

In California Friday, President Barack Obama praised the health law benefits already in place and talked about the state's health insurance marketplace. He also placed a special emphasis on touting the law to the state's Latino population.

Here's a transcript of his remarks:

OBAMA: These leaders from California's government, the California Endowment, and major Spanish-language media outlets have joined together to help implement the Affordable Care Act here in California and to educate folks about how to sign up and shop for quality affordable plans. And their efforts have already shown some excellent results in the biggest insurance market in the country.

There are two main things that Americans need to know when it comes to the Affordable Care Act and what it means for you. First of all, if you're one of the nearly 85 percent of Americans who already have insurance, either through Medicare or Medicaid or your employer, you don't have to do a thing. You've just got a wide array of new benefits, better protections, and stronger cost controls that you didn't have before, and that will over time improve the quality of the insurance that you've got, benefits like free preventive care, checkups, flu shots, mammograms, and contraception.

You are now going to be able to get those things through your insurance where they previously were not -- didn't have to be provided, protections like allowing people up to the age of 26 to stay on their parents' health care plans, which has already helped 6 million Americans, including 6 million young Latino Americans.

Cost controls like requiring insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of the money that you pay in premiums in your actual health care costs, as opposed to administrative costs or CEO pay, not overhead, but that money has to be spent on you. And if they don't meet that target, they actually have to reimburse you. So in California, we're already getting reports that insurers are giving rebates to consumers and small-business owners to the tune of $45 million this year.

So already we're seeing millions of dollars of rebates sent back to consumers by insurance companies as a consequence of this law. All of that is happening because of the Affordable Care Act. All of this is in place right now already for 85 percent of Americans who have health insurance.

By the way, all of this is what the Republican Party has now voted 37 times to repeal, at least in the House of Representatives. And my suggestion to them has been, let's stop re-fighting the old battles and start working with people like the leaders who are on stage here today to make this law work the way it's supposed to.

We're focused on moving forward and making sure that this law works for middle-class families, and that brings me to the second thing that people need to know about the Affordable Care Act. If you're one of nearly 6 million Californians or 10 million -- tens of millions of Americans who don't currently have health insurance, you'll soon be able to buy quality, affordable care just like everybody else. And here's how.

States like California are setting up new online marketplaces, where beginning on October 1st of this year, you can comparison shop an array of private health insurance plans side-by-side, just like you were going online to compare cars or airline tickets, and that means insurance companies will actually have to compete with each other for your business. And that means new choices.

See, right now, most states don't have a lot of competition. In nearly every state, more than half of all consumers are covered by only two insurers, so there's no incentive to provide you a lot of choices or to keep costs down. The Affordable Care Act changes that.

Beginning next year, once these marketplaces are open, most states will offer new private insurance choices that don't exist today. And based on early reports, about 9 in 10 Americans expected to enroll in these marketplaces live in states where they'll be able to choose between five or more different insurers.

So, for example, here in California, 33 insurers applied to join the marketplace. Covered California then selected 13 based on access, quality and affordability, four of which are brand new to your individual market. So what's happening is, through the Affordable Care Act, we're creating these marketplaces with more competition, more choice. And so the question is, what happens to cost?

Now, a lot of the opponents of the Affordable Care Act said -- you know, they had all kinds of "sky is falling," doom-and-gloom predictions that not only would the law fail, but what we'd also see is costs would skyrocket for everybody. Well, it turns out we're actually seeing that -- in the states that have committed themselves to implementing this law correctly, we're seeing some good news. Competition and choice are pushing down costs in the individual market, just like the law was designed to do.

The 13 insurance companies that were chosen by Covered California have unveiled premiums that were lower than anybody expected. And those who can't afford to buy private insurance will get help reducing their out-of-pocket premiums even further with the largest health care tax cut for working families and small businesses in our history. So about 2.6 million Californians -- nearly half of whom are Latinos -- will qualify for tax credits that will in some cases lower their premiums a significant amount.

Now, none of this is a surprise. This is the way that the law was designed to work. But since everybody's been saying how it's not going to happen, I think it's important for us to recognize and acknowledge, this is working the way it's supposed to.

We've seen similar good news, by the way, not just here in California, but in Oregon and Washington. In states that are working hard to implement this law properly, we're seeing it work for people, for middle-class families, for consumers.

Now, that's not to say that everything's going to go perfectly right away. When you're implementing a program this large, there will be some glitches. There are going to be some hiccups. But no matter what, every single consumer will be covered by the new benefits and protections under this law permanently.

So the bottom line is, you know, you can listen to a bunch of political talk out there, negative ads and fear-mongering geared towards the next election, or alternatively you can actually look what's happening in states like California right now. And the fact of the matter is, through these exchanges, not only are the 85 percent of people who already have health insurance getting better protections and receiving rebates and being able to keep their kids on their health insurance until they're 26, and getting free preventive care, but if you don't have health insurance, and you're trying to get it through the individual market, and it's too expensive or it's too restricted, you now have these marketplaces where they're going to offer you a better deal because of choice and competition.

And if even at those lower rates and better insurance that you're getting through these marketplaces you still can't afford it, you're going to be getting tax cuts and tax credits through the Affordable Care Act that will help you afford it. And that's how we're going to make sure that millions of people who don't currently have health insurance or are getting a really bad deal on their health insurance are finally going to get it.

But -- and here's my final point. To take advantage of these marketplaces, folks are going to need to sign up. So you can find out how to sign up at, Or here in California, you can sign up at,

Because quality care is not something that should be a privilege. It should be a right. In the greatest country on Earth, we've got to make sure that every single person that needs health care can get it. And we've got to make sure that we do it in the most efficient way possible.

One last point I'm going to make on this, because there are a lot of people who currently get health insurance through their employers, the 85 percent who are already out there, and they may be saying, well, if -- if this law's so great, why is it that my premiums still went up?

Well, part of what's happening across the country is in some cases, for example, employers may be shifting more costs through higher premiums or higher deductibles or higher co-pays, and so there may still be folks who are out there feeling increased costs not because of the Affordable Care Act, but because those costs are being passed on to workers. Or insurance companies, in some cases, even with these laws in place are still jacking up prices unnecessarily.

So this doesn't solve the whole problem, but it moves us in the right direction. It's also the reason why we have to keep on implementing changes in how our health care system works to continually drive better efficiency, higher quality, lower cost. We're starting to see that. Health care cost inflation has gone up at the lowest rate over the last three years that we've seen in many, many years. So we're making progress in actually reducing overall health care costs while improving quality, but we're going to have to continue to push on that front, as well. That's also part of what we're doing in the Affordable Care Act. All right?

But the main message I want for Californians and people all across the country, starting on October 1st, if you're in the individual market, you can get a better deal. If you're a small business that's providing health insurance to your employees, you can get a better deal through these exchanges. You've got to sign up,, or here in California, All right? So, thank you very much.


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