Washington, CA…President Barack Obama’s Weekly Address as delivered from The White House, September 28, 2013. Hi, everybody. This Tuesday is an important day for families, businesses, and our economy. It’s the day a big part of the Affordable Care Act kicks in, and tens of millions of Americans will finally have the same chance to buy quality, affordable health care as everyone else. It’s also the day that a group of far-right Republicans in Congress might choose to shut down the government and potentially damage the economy just because they don’t like this law.
I’ll get to that in a second. But first – here’s what the Affordable Care Act means for you.
If you’re one of the vast majority of Americans who already have health care, you already have new benefits you didn’t before, like free mammograms and contraceptive care with no copay, and discounts on prescription medicine for seniors. You’ve already got new protections in place too, like no more lifetime limits on your care, no more discriminating against children with preexisting conditions like asthma, or being able to stay on your parents’ plan until you turn 26.
That’s all in place and available to Americans with health insurance right now.
If you don’t have health insurance, or if you buy it on the individual market, then starting this Tuesday, October 1st, you can visit HealthCare.gov to find what’s called the health insurance marketplace in your state.
This is a website where you can compare insurance plans, side-by-side, the same way you’d shop for a TV or a plane ticket. You’ll see new choices and new competition. Many of you will see cheaper prices, and many of you will be eligible for tax credits that bring down your costs even more. Nearly 6 in 10 uninsured Americans will be able to get coverage for $100 or less.
If you’re one of the up to half of Americans with a preexisting condition, these new plans mean your insurer can no longer charge you more than anyone else. They can’t charge women more than men for the same coverage. And they take effect January 1st.
So get covered at HealthCare.gov. And spread the word. These marketplaces will be open for business on Tuesday, no matter what. The Affordable Care Act is one of the most important things we’ve done as a country in decades to strengthen economic security for the middle class and all who strive to join the middle class. And it is going to work.
That’s also one of the reasons it’s so disturbing that Republicans in Congress are threatening to shut down the government – or worse – if I don’t agree to gut this law.
Congress has two responsibilities right now: pass a budget on time, and pay our bills on time.
If Congress doesn’t pass a budget by Monday – the end of the fiscal year – the government shuts down, along with many vital services the American people depend on. On Friday, the Senate passed a bill to keep the government open. But Republicans in the House have been more concerned with appeasing an extreme faction of their party than working to pass a budget that creates new jobs or strengthens the middle class. And in the next couple days, these Republicans will have to decide whether to join the Senate and keep the government open, or create a crisis that will hurt people for the sole purpose of advancing their ideological agenda.
Past government shutdowns have disrupted the economy. This shutdown would, too. At a moment when our economy has steadily gained traction, and our deficits have been falling faster than at any time in 60 years, a shutdown would be a purely self-inflicted wound. And that’s why many Republican Senators and Republican governors have urged Republicans in the House of Representatives to knock it off, pass a budget, and move on.
This brings me to the second responsibility Congress has. Once they vote to keep the government open, they must also vote within the next couple weeks to allow the Treasury to pay the bills for the money that Congress has already spent. Failure to meet this responsibility would be far more dangerous than a government shutdown – it would be an economic shutdown, with impacts not just here, but around the world.
Unfortunately some Republicans have suggested that unless I agree to an even longer list of demands – not just gutting the health care law, but things like cutting taxes for millionaires or rolling back rules on big banks and polluters– they’ll push the button, throwing America into default for the first time in history and risk throwing us back into recession.
I will work with anyone who wants to have a serious conservation about our economic future. But I will not negotiate over Congress’ responsibility to pay the bills it has already racked up. I don’t know how to be more clear about this: no one gets to threaten the full faith and credit of the United States of America just to extract ideological concessions. No one gets to hurt our economy and millions of innocent people just because there are a couple laws you don’t like. It hasn’t been done in the past, and we’re not going to start doing it now.
The American people have worked too hard to recover from crisis to see extremists in their Congress cause another one. And every day this goes on is another day that we can’t continue the work of rebuilding the great American middle class. Congress needs to pass a budget in time, pay its bills on time, and refocus on the everyday concerns of the people who sent them there.
That’s what I’m focused on. That’s what I’ll keep fighting for.