Archive for June, 2012
(White House photo: President Obama, Vice President Biden and others react to the news that SCOTUS upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Healthcare Act.)
Good afternoon. Earlier today, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act — the name of the health care reform we passed two years ago. In doing so, they’ve reaffirmed a fundamental principle that here in America — in the wealthiest nation on Earth – no illness or accident should lead to any family’s financial ruin.
I know there will be a lot of discussion today about the politics of all this, about who won and who lost. That’s how these things tend to be viewed here in Washington. But that discussion completely misses the point. Whatever the politics, today’s decision was a victory for people all over this country whose lives will be more secure because of this law and the Supreme Court’s decision to uphold it.
And because this law has a direct impact on so many Americans, I want to take this opportunity to talk about exactly what it means for you.
First, if you’re one of the more than 250 million Americans who already have health insurance, you will keep your health insurance — this law will only make it more secure and more affordable. Insurance companies can no longer impose lifetime limits on the amount of care you receive. They can no longer discriminate against children with preexisting conditions. They can no longer drop your coverage if you get sick. They can no longer jack up your premiums without reason. They are required to provide free preventive care like check-ups and mammograms — a provision that’s already helped 54 million Americans with private insurance. And by this August, nearly 13 million of you will receive a rebate from your insurance company because it spent too much on things like administrative costs and CEO bonuses, and not enough on your health care.
There’s more. Because of the Affordable Care Act, young adults under the age of 26 are able to stay on their parent’s health care plans — a provision that’s already helped 6 million young Americans. And because of the Affordable Care Act, seniors receive a discount on their prescription drugs — a discount that’s already saved more than 5 million seniors on Medicare about $600 each.
All of this is happening because of the Affordable Care Act. These provisions provide common-sense protections for middle class families, and they enjoy broad popular support. And thanks to today’s decision, all of these benefits and protections will continue for Americans who already have health insurance.
Now, if you’re one of the 30 million Americans who don’t yet have health insurance, starting in 2014 this law will offer you an array of quality, affordable, private health insurance plans to choose from. Each state will take the lead in designing their own menu of options, and if states can come up with even better ways of covering more people at the same quality and cost, this law allows them to do that, too. And I’ve asked Congress to help speed up that process, and give states this flexibility in year one.
Once states set up these health insurance marketplaces, known as exchanges, insurance companies will no longer be able to discriminate against any American with a preexisting health condition. They won’t be able to charge you more just because you’re a woman. They won’t be able to bill you into bankruptcy. If you’re sick, you’ll finally have the same chance to get quality, affordable health care as everyone else. And if you can’t afford the premiums, you’ll receive a credit that helps pay for it.
Today, the Supreme Court also upheld the principle that people who can afford health insurance should take the responsibility to buy health insurance. This is important for two reasons.
First, when uninsured people who can afford coverage get sick, and show up at the emergency room for care, the rest of us end up paying for their care in the form of higher premiums.
And second, if you ask insurance companies to cover people with preexisting conditions, but don’t require people who can afford it to buy their own insurance, some folks might wait until they’re sick to buy the care they need — which would also drive up everybody else’s premiums.
That’s why, even though I knew it wouldn’t be politically popular, and resisted the idea when I ran for this office, we ultimately included a provision in the Affordable Care Act that people who can afford to buy health insurance should take the responsibility to do so. In fact, this idea has enjoyed support from members of both parties, including the current Republican nominee for President.
Still, I know the debate over this law has been divisive. I respect the very real concerns that millions of Americans have shared. And I know a lot of coverage through this health care debate has focused on what it means politically.
Well, it should be pretty clear by now that I didn’t do this because it was good politics. I did it because I believed it was good for the country. I did it because I believed it was good for the American people.
There’s a framed letter that hangs in my office right now. It was sent to me during the health care debate by a woman named Natoma Canfield. For years and years, Natoma did everything right. She bought health insurance. She paid her premiums on time. But 18 years ago, Natoma was diagnosed with cancer. And even though she’d been cancer-free for more than a decade, her insurance company kept jacking up her rates, year after year. And despite her desire to keep her coverage — despite her fears that she would get sick again — she had to surrender her health insurance, and was forced to hang her fortunes on chance.
I carried Natoma’s story with me every day of the fight to pass this law. It reminded me of all the Americans, all across the country, who have had to worry not only about getting sick, but about the cost of getting well.
Natoma is well today. And because of this law, there are other Americans — other sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, fathers and mothers — who will not have to hang their fortunes on chance. These are the Americans for whom we passed this law.
The highest Court in the land has now spoken. We will continue to implement this law. And we’ll work together to improve on it where we can. But what we won’t do — what the country can’t afford to do — is refight the political battles of two years ago, or go back to the way things were.
With today’s announcement, it’s time for us to move forward — to implement and, where necessary, improve on this law. And now is the time to keep our focus on the most urgent challenge of our time: putting people back to work, paying down our debt, and building an economy where people can have confidence that if they work hard, they can get ahead.
But today, I’m as confident as ever that when we look back five years from now, or 10 years from now, or 20 years from now, we’ll be better off because we had the courage to pass this law and keep moving forward.
Thank you. God bless you, and God bless America.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
In a rush to be the first to get the news out this morning, media outlets CNN, FOX, Huffington Post and Time all got the SCOTUS ruling on ACA… um…
Oops.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
The Supreme Court today upheld the 2010 health care law, validating President Barack Obama’s top domestic policy achievement while dealing a stinging rebuke to mostly Republican critics who charged the statute was unconstitutional.
The opinion gives legal certainty to one of the most sweeping pieces of domestic policy legislation since President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society programs in the 1960s and allows insurers, hospitals, drugmakers and other health care providers to continue planning for sweeping changes, many of which are set to take place in 2014.
Twenty-six states and the National Federation of Independent Business challenged a provision in the law requiring most Americans to buy health insurance or pay fines, saying it exceeded legislators’ power over interstate commerce. States also challenged an expansion of Medicaid, a health care program for the poor.
Chief Justice John Roberts joined four liberal justices on the high court in ruling the coverage mandate could survive as a tax. The court limited the Medicaid expansion but didn’t invalidate the provision.
Other elements of the law remain intact, including a requirement that health care plans offer coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions and provisions that allow young adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26 and help close a gap in seniors’ Medicare drug coverage.
1. Can the court rule on the law’s constitutionality, or does it have to wait until 2015?
2. Is the mandate constitutional?
3. If the mandate is unconstitutional, can other parts of the law survive without it?
4. Is the expansion of Medicaid constitutional?Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Because in my mind, there was never a Question.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Maine Voices Op-Ed by Senator Justin Alfond (Cumberland): Gov. LePage fails leadership test when it comes to job creation
(Originally published in Portland Press Herald; shared with permission.)
Maine Voices: Gov. LePage fails leadership test when it comes to job creation
By excluding the nonprofit sector from brainstorming workshops, he overlooks opportunities for growth.
By SEN. JUSTIN ALFOND
PORTLAND – “We can no longer afford to pass up any economic opportunity for our state.” That’s a quote from a June 11 Portland Press Herald Maine Voices column by John Butera, an economic policy adviser to Gov. LePage.
He’s right. However, the LePage administration isn’t practicing what it’s preaching. For a year and a half, the Republicans have claimed they are “turning around” our state. Yet, in fact, after 18 months under Paul LePage and his Republican allies, we are worse off.
The results are irrefutable. According to the U.S. Commerce Department reports, Maine was the only New England state to go backward in 2011. The only one. We lost ground.
Maine’s economy shrank while the rest of the nation’s grew — including that of our New England neighbors. In the last year alone, Maine ranked 45th in the nation for wages and dead last for personal income growth. We aren’t going forward, we’re going backward.
Republicans have made it harder to live and work in Maine. Their draconian cuts and soundbite solutions aren’t working. And instead of assisting Maine’s economy, their bills and numerous budgets have attacked working people and middle-class families.
It is true: “We can no longer afford to pass up any economic opportunity for our state.”
Just last week, I attended Gov. LePage’s job-creation workshop at Brunswick Landing, the former Brunswick Naval Air Station.
I laud his effort — in fact, any effort — to gather business leaders from across our state to generate ideas about job creation. However, the irony wasn’t lost on me that as we spent half a day talking about what to do for job creation, the governor continues to make choices that fly in the face of job creation.
Exploring economic opportunities for our state includes leaving no stone unturned. Yet, for the last 18 months, LePage has narrow-mindedly left people out of the job-creation conversation. Maine cannot afford to have a governor ignore certain job creators just because of his bias.
For example, LePage chose to exclude the nonprofit sector — some of our state’s largest and most sophisticated employers — from the job-creation workshop. A quick look at innovators such as The Jackson Laboratory, the Gulf of Maine Research Institute and Bigelow Laboratory and we understand the value that these nonprofits bring to our state’s economy.
If we are serious about creating jobs and jump-starting our economy, then we cannot pass up the economic opportunities that the nonprofit sector brings to our state.
In fact, Brunswick Landing is a perfect example: Under Gov. Baldacci’s leadership, the private and nonprofit sectors, the government and the community worked together to plan and redevelop the base. The effort has yielded hundreds of jobs and tens of millions of dollars more in investments.
Brunswick Landing is now home to Kestral Air, Integrated Marine Systems and Molnlycke Health Care — and even more businesses are destined to take root. Soon, Brunswick Landing will host a Maine Community College System campus focusing on high-demand, high-growth fields of study such as pre-engineering, imaging, paramedicine and composites.
STANDING IN THE WAY
Last week, the governor passed up another economic opportunity for our state. Le-Page announced that he is halting the remaining $40 million of bond investment projects already approved by voters.
It’s official — he is literally standing in the way of jobs. He has hit the off switch for dozens of projects across this state, including nearly $3 million targeted for the continued redevelopment efforts at Brunswick Landing.
When it comes to spending the public’s money, we must be prudent. However, we can’t ignore the facts of today’s economy: Mainers and companies alike are hungry to get back to work. Money is cheap — in fact, it’s about as cheap as it has ever been in the 225 years of our country.
To not move forward building roads, bridges and sewer treatment plants and upgrading higher education facilities is to miss investment opportunities and make Maine less competitive. Simply, the governor has single-handedly stopped needed investments and jobs for Mainers.
It is true: “We can no longer afford to pass up any economic opportunity for our state.”
The governor must be held accountable for the disparity between what he says and what he does. It is time to tell the governor to lead and create the environment for jobs, or get out of the way.
Holding job events is fine, but Mainers want good-paying jobs now. We need leadership and we need action. And, I hate to say it, but this governor is providing neither.
Sen. Justin Alfond of Portland is assistant Democratic leader of the Maine Senate.
(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Yesterday afternoon, President Obama hosted the first ever LGBT Pride reception at the White House including out service members. Among the attendees was newly elected Democratic nominee for Maine House District 118, Matt Moonen.
The released video and text of the President’s remarks are below.
THE PRESIDENT: Hello, hello, hello! (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you, everybody. Thank you so much. Well, thank you very much.
Well, welcome to the White House, everybody. (Applause.) We are glad all of you could join us today. I want to thank the members of Congress and the members of my administration who are here, including our friends who are doing outstanding work every day — John Berry, Nancy Sutley, Fred Hochberg. (Applause.)
Now, each June since I took office, we have gathered to pay tribute to the generations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans who devoted their lives to our most basic of ideals –- equality not just for some, but for all. Together we’ve marked major milestones like the 40th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, when a group of brave citizens held their ground against brutal discrimination. Together, we’ve honored courageous pioneers who, decades ago, came out and spoke out; who challenged unjust laws and destructive prejudices. Together, we’ve stood resolute; unwavering in our commitment to advance this movement and to build a more perfect union.
Now, I’ve said before that I would never counsel patience; that it wasn’t right to tell you to be patient any more than it was right for others to tell women to be patient a century ago, or African Americans to be patient a half century ago. After decades of inaction and indifference, you have every reason and right to push, loudly and forcefully, for equality. (Applause.)
But three years ago, I also promised you this: I said that even if it took more time than we would like, we would see progress, we would see success, we would see real and lasting change. And together, that’s what we’re witnessing.
For every person who lost a loved one at the hand of hate, we ended a decade of delay and finally made the Matthew Shepard Act the land of the law. (Applause.) For every person with HIV who was treated like an outcast, we lifted the HIV entry ban. (Applause.) And because of that important step, next month, for the first time in more than two decades, the International AIDS conference will be held right here in the United States. (Applause.)
For every American diagnosed with HIV who couldn’t get access to treatment, we put forward a National HIV/AIDS strategy — because who you are should never affect whether you get life-extending care. Marjorie Hill, the head of the Gay Men’s Health Crisis, is here. (Applause.) GMHC has saved so many lives, and this year they are celebrating their 30th anniversary. So I want to give them and all these organizations who work to prevent and treat HIV a big round of applause. Give it up for Marjorie and everybody else. (Applause.)
For every partner or spouse denied the chance to comfort a loved one in the hospital, to be by their side at their greatest hour of need, we said, enough. Hospitals that accept Medicare or Medicaid -– and that is most of them -– now have to treat LGBT patients just like any other patient. For every American denied insurance just for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, we passed health insurance reform, which will ban that kind of discrimination. (Applause.)
We’ve expanded benefits for same-sex partners of federal employees, prohibited discrimination on the basis of gender identity for workers in the federal government. (Applause.) We’ve supported efforts in Congress to end the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. (Applause.) And as we wait for that law to be cast aside, we’ve stopped defending its constitutionality in the courts. (Applause.)
We’ve put forward a strategy to promote and protect the rights of LGBT communities all over the world, because, as Secretary Clinton said back in December, gay rights are human rights. (Applause.)
And, of course, last year we finally put an end to “don’t ask, don’t tell” — (applause) — so that nobody would ever have to ever again hide who they love in order to serve the country they love. And I know we’ve got some military members who are here today. (Applause.) I’m happy to see you with your partners here. We thank you for your service. We thank your families for their service, and we share your joy at being able to come with your spouses or partners here to the White House with your Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.)
Now, we know we’ve got more to do. Americans may feel more comfortable bringing their partners to the office barbecue — (laughter) — but we’re still waiting for a fully inclusive employment non-discrimination act. (Applause.) Congress needs to pass that legislation, so that no American is ever fired simply for being gay or transgender.
Americans may be able serve openly in the military, but many are still growing up alone and afraid; picked on, pushed around for being different. And that’s why my administration has worked to raise awareness about bullying. And I know — I just had a chance to see Lee Hirsch, the director of BULLY, who is here. And we thank him for his work on this issue. (Applause.)
I want to acknowledge all the young leaders here today who are making such a big difference in their classrooms and in their communities. And Americans may be still evolving when it comes to marriage equality — (laughter and applause) — but as I’ve indicated personally, Michelle and I have made up our minds on this issue. (Applause.)
So we still have a long way to go, but we will get there. We’ll get there because of all of you. We’ll get there because of all of the ordinary Americans who every day show extraordinary courage. We’ll get there because of every man and woman and activist and ally who is moving us forward by the force of their moral arguments, but more importantly, by the force of their example.
And as long as I have the privilege of being your President, I promise you, you won’t just have a friend in the White House, you will have a fellow advocate — (applause) — for an America where no matter what you look like or where you come from or who you love, you can dream big dreams and dream as openly as you want.
Thank you. God bless you. God bless America. (Applause.)Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
Secretary of State Charlie Summers this morning released the proposed wording for the marriage equality ballot question:
“Do you want to allow same-sex couples to marry?”
The release triggers a 30 day public comment period with a 5pm July 16 deadline. Comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The KJ is reporting that Bob Emrich could not be reached for comment and that Mainers United spokesman David Farmer would have preferred phrasing to include a specific reference to religious freedom, ie, that no groups would be required to perform same-sex marriages.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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