President Obama on the Twelfth Anniversary of the ACA

The first book I wrote. UnprecedentedThe Affordable Care Act was President Obama’s first term. NFIB v. Sebelius. Second book. You are not alonehe recounted Obama’s second term’s ACA, which included Hobby LobbyKing v. BurwellPlease see the following: Zubick. The third book of the trilogy is in progress. UnbesiegedThis book recounts how the ACA was implemented during the Trump presidency and the transition to the Biden government. The book’s main focus will be on Little Sisters of the Poor  California v. TexasThis is among many other subjects. This twelve year arc is, in my opinion, the entire debate over the ACA. Although Obamacare will still be opposed by some, it is now part and parcel of society’s fabric.

Yesterday’s visit by former President Obama was to the White House. The law’s namesake made a triumph lap. These lighthearted comments offer an excellent summary of Obamacare’s many twists since 2010.

It’s well known how hard it was for the ACA to be passed.  (Laughter.)  There — there’s — you can get a lot of testimony here, in case folks haven’t heard.

We had talked about healthcare reform for over 100 years as a nation.  We didn’t have an accessible healthcare system, unlike almost all other advanced economies on Earth.  People didn’t have healthcare insurance for millions of reasons, including because their employers weren’t providing it or it being too costly.

Our healthcare system was not working well. However, this didn’t make it any easier to fix.  One-fifth to one percent of the economy’s total value is healthcare. This amounts to trillions of dollars.  It was clear that there were many different economic interests trying to preserve the status quo.

Because the vast majority of Americans had healthcare coverage, there were some who worried about losing what they did have.  The media were skeptical about the past.  It was clear that there was much misinformation.  Fair to say, most Republicans were not interested in working with us on getting anything done.  (Laughter.)  It’s fair to add.

Joe and I still persevered despite the odds. We had met so many campaigners who shared their stories and because our families were touched by illnesses.

And as I said to our dear friend Harry Reid, who is missed — wish he was here today, because he took great pride in what we did — I intended to get healthcare passed even if it cost me reelection — which, for a while, it looked like it might.  (Laughter.)

But for all of us — for Joe, for Harry, for Nancy Pelosi, for others — the ACA was an example of why you run for office in the first place, why all of you sign up for doing jobs that pay you less than you can make someplace else; why you’re away from home sometimes and you miss some soccer practices or some dance recitals.

Because we don’t — we’re not supposed to do this just to occupy a seat or to hang on to power.  This is what we are supposed to do because it makes a difference in people’s lives.

We were able to get the ACA through the finish line because so many people made huge sacrifices, some of them even with a lot more people than we are today.  (Applause.)

And the night we passed the ACA — I’ve said it before — it was a high point of my time here, because it reminded me and it reminded us of what is possible.

However, we were not done with our task.  Republicans tried to repeal what we had done — again, and again, and again.  (Laughter.)  The lawsuits they brought to the Supreme Court went three times.  Don Verrilli was one of the lawyers who had to represent a few.  (Applause.)

It was made harder to register for coverage.

Let’s be honest: The website that we launched the ACA didn’t function when it was first released wasn’t working.  (Laughter.)  This was definitely not the most joyful moment of my life.  (Laughter.)

It took the Americans a long time to get over all of the confusion and skepticism.  However, I was surprised to see that many people, even those who were initially against healthcare reform, have come around.

Today, the ACA is not only survived but it’s also very popular.  Because it has done exactly what it was intended to.  It has made a significant difference.

The ACA has covered 20 million to 30 million people in the first year.  (Applause.)

It’s — it’s prevented insurance companies from denying people coverage based on a pre-existing condition.  For 12 million senior citizens, it has reduced prescription drug prices.  Young people can stay with their parents until 26 thanks to it.  This eliminates lifetime limitations on benefits, which can often leave people stuck in a bind.

That is why we’re so proud.

The reason that we are here today is that President Biden and Vice President Harris understood right from the beginning that the ACA was not perfect.  We had to compromise in order for the bill to pass.  Unfortunately, we didn’t achieve everything we desired.  This was no reason to not do it.  If you can get millions of people health coverage and better protection, it is — to quote a famous American — a pretty “big deal.”  (Laughter, applause.  It’s that simple.  (Applause.)  A big deal.

There were still gaps that needed to be filled.  Even today, patients pay far too much to get their prescriptions.  Many poor Americans still fall through the cracks.  Some cases don’t have the healthcare subsidies we desire. This means some families who work are having difficulty paying for coverage.

Let’s face it, this is not uncommon when the country makes significant strides.  The Social Security Act of 1935 left entire groups out, such as domestic and agricultural workers.  It was necessary to amend that.  Medicare did not provide the same benefits it provides today in the beginning.  It was necessary to make this change.

What you can see throughout history is the importance of starting something. To plant a flag.

My previous analogy about the ACA was that it was a starter residence, in the same manner that early Social Security forms and Medicare were.  (Laughter.)  This secured universal healthcare and provided immediate assistance to all families.  It was necessary to continue building on this foundation and making it even better.

That is what President Biden knows.  Since his inception, he has continued to do that.  He helped millions more people save money by creating the American Rescue Plan.  It was easier to sign up.  He made outreach to those who didn’t know they could get covered — make sure that they knew; made that a priority.

These actions resulted in a record 14.5 Million Americans being covered for the latest enrollment period.  (Applause.)

This, gentlemen, shows what can happen when an administration is committed to making programs work.  (Applause.)

And today — today, the Biden-Harris administration is going even further by moving to fix a glitch in the regulations that will lower premiums for nearly 1 million people who need it and allow 200,000 more uninsured Americans get access to coverage.

Although I am now a private citizen, I take an active interest in our democracy.  (Laughter.)  But I’m outside the arena, and I know how discouraged people can get with Washington — Democrats, Republicans, independents.  It’s not uncommon for people to feel frustrated about the events in this community.  Sometimes progress feels too slow.  Sometimes, victories are not complete.  Convergence is never easy in a country like ours.

But what the Affordable Care Act shows is that if you are driven by the core idea that, together, we can improve the lives of this generation and the next, and if you’re persistent — if you stay with it and are willing to work through the obstacles and the criticism and continually improve where you fall short, you can make America better — you can have an impact on millions of lives.  It’s possible to make it so that people don’t lose their homes if they become sick and don’t worry about whether or not a family member will get the care they require.

This is something President Joe Biden fully understands.  Biden has dedicated his entire life to the idea that public service is something that’s worth it and that running for office for today’s day is the best reason.

It was an honour to share the story with him.  It’s been a pleasure to work with all of you in making the ACA what it is.

It is my honor to now introduce Joe Biden, the 46th president of the United States.  (Applause.)