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Marketplace Press Conference

Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Press Conference
December 23, 2014
Washington, D.C.


Thank you and happy holidays.

When it comes to the Affordable Care Act, my focus is on access, affordability and quality.

Today, I want to speak with you most about the substance on access and affordability, with an update for you on Open Enrollment in the federal Marketplace:

Through December 15th, approximately 3.4 million Americans had selected plans. About 1.8 million renewed their coverage and about 1.6 million signed up for the first time.

Last Tuesday, we began the process of automatically renewing the vast majority of consumers who chose to not come back to the Marketplace by December 15 to change plans.

I’m pleased to announce that we completed re-enrolling nearly all of these individuals by December 18th. Approximately 2% of people were unable to automatically re-enroll because they had discontinued plans or who otherwise could not go through reenrollment.

It’s important to note that if a consumer who was re-enrolled automatically decides in the coming weeks that a better plan exists for their family, they can make that change at any time before the end of Open Enrollment on February 15.

Through Friday December 19th, nearly 6.4 million consumers selected a plan or were automatically reenrolled into their current plan or one with similar benefits. More than 1.9 million signed up for the first time.

We still have a ways to go and a lot of work to do before February 15, but this is an encouraging start.

Now, each of these numbers tells a story. I recently met a woman in Arizona named Donna Gratehouse. For seven years, she couldn’t get insurance because she has a pre-existing condition.

She looked into signing up through a state high risk pool, but couldn’t afford the $1,100 monthly premium.

But when the Marketplace opened last year, she found coverage for $155 a month (after tax credits). After reviewing her options this year, she chose to stay in the same plan.

I want to share with you some of Donna’s own words:

“Literally I’d be walking around outside and think that if I fell and tripped on a curb I’d be in big trouble financially. I have the peace of mind now knowing that if I fall down and break my leg I’ll be taken care of and won’t go bankrupt. That was a constant fear I had before.”


When I first joined the Department, many of the questions I received reflected a skepticism about how the Marketplace would perform.

Today we have more clarity …

Consumers are interested. Issuers have invested.

A month ago, people were raising questions about whether consumers would actually want Marketplace insurance.

Today, after doing things like reading the news, working out their family budgets at the kitchen table, and evaluating their options, 1.9 million Americans chose to come to the Marketplace and obtain Marketplace coverage for the first time.

There were also questions about whether insurers would decide the Marketplace is a good place to do business. There are 25% more issuers offering Marketplace plans to consumers, who can now choose from an average of 40 health plans, which is up from 30 in 2014.

There were also concerns about whether these plans would be affordable … and they are. While some predicted that premiums would skyrocket, in fact, while not all, most premium growth has been relatively modest. And nearly 8 in 10 returning consumers can get covered for $100 a month or less.

There were also questions about the technology. And today, while our work is not done and we must continue to be vigilant, the consumer experience on HealthCare.gov is considerably better – thanks in large part to our team which is working very hard to restore trust in a product folks had questions about.

Again, we still have a ways to go – but we’re headed in the right direction.

The Marketplace is stable. People have chosen to shop. Insurers have chosen to invest. There is choice. There is competition. People are shopping for coverage and people are signing up.

I maintain that the reduction in the uninsured is the metric that matters most.

Last week, we released the CDC’s latest National Center for Health Statistics report. It found that as of this past spring, roughly 10 million Americans gained health coverage since last year – the largest increase in four decades.

And millions of Americans have access to Medicaid because 27 states plus DC have expanded. Pennsylvania has joined the fold, and the governors of Wyoming, Tennessee, and Utah have expressed an interest in expanding.

The Kitchen Table

As I close, I want to say a word about the kitchen table. Because I like to think of our progress in terms of what this means to moms and dads as they sit down at the kitchen table and plan for tomorrow.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, working families have come to count on the financial security that comes with having quality, affordable health coverage that’s there when they need it – whether they’re able to get covered because of the Marketplace … whether they have better coverage than before because of the Affordable Care Act.

They’re working out their family budgets with affordable health coverage built in.

They’re able to look across the table during this holiday season, knowing that their 25-year-old son or daughter has the security of being able to stay on their family’s insurance plan.

They have the security of knowing that if they lose their job, they won’t necessarily have to lose their health coverage with it because of a preexisting condition.

And they don’t have to worry about losing their home or going bankrupt just because they get sick. Some are finding they no longer have to choose between saving for a medical emergency and saving for college.

All of these benefits are welcome changes for working class families who have had a lot to worry about. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, finding quality, affordable health insurance is one worry they can cross off the list – and this can be a great thing for a family’s piece of mind, in addition to their financial security.

So, in short, while we have more work to do, we’re moving in the right direction. Working together, we’re expanding access. We’re delivering affordable choices to consumers. And, in terms of health care quality, we’re moving forward toward our goals for better care, smarter spending, and healthier people.

The numbers and the stories show that this law is working, and families, businesses, and taxpayers are better off as a result. And really that’s what this is all about.

Happy holidays.

Content created by Speechwriting and Editorial Division 
Content last reviewed on January 6, 2015