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Affordable Care Press Conference

Washington, DC
June 15, 2010

Good afternoon, and thanks for joining us. Today, I’m pleased to be here with Labor Secretary Hilda Solis to announce the latest steps we’re taking to carry out the Affordable Care Act. We also have Jeanne Lambrew, the Director of our HHS Office of Health Reform, here to help answer questions.

Over the last sixteen months, some people said that the only way to reform health care was to tear up our current health insurance system and start over. From the beginning, President Obama rejected this approach.

Instead, he and Congress chose an approach that builds on the system we have, keeping the parts that work and gradually fixing the parts that don’t, so that we can start to build a more competitive and dynamic insurance market while minimizing the disruption for families and businesses that like their plans.

The rules we’re announcing today are a key part of this approach. They make good on the President’s promise that Americans can keep their health plan and doctor if they want under the new law.

At the same time, they give all Americans with health insurance some important protections this year and create a path to the consumer-friendly health insurance marketplace of the future.

Here’s how the new rules will work:

Starting on September 23rd, all Americans with private health insurance plans will get some new consumer protections. For example, insurance companies will be prohibited from putting lifetime limits on your coverage. And, they’ll no longer be able to cancel your insurance when you get sick just by finding an error in your paperwork.

So no matter what kind of health insurance you have, you’re going to have a little more security and stability this fall.

But as we designed this law, we knew that many Americans liked their insurance plan. They wanted more insurance choices, but they also wanted one of those choices to be keeping the plan they’re used to.

So to help these Americans keep their coverage, we’re announcing a new rule today that will allow health plans that existed on March 23rd to make routine changes and while remaining exempt from some of the other new provisions in the Affordable Care Act.

By grandfathering these plans in, we can provide Americans who like their plans with stability as we extend the new benefits and protections in the Affordable Care Act.

And we’ve carefully written these rules to make sure grandfathered plans still have the flexibility they need to make reasonable changes to their benefits packages.

But we will also make sure that insurance companies don’t use this flexibility to take advantage of their customers.

If health plans significantly raise co-payments or deductibles or significantly reduce benefits – for example, if they stop covering treatment for a disease like HIV/AIDS or cystic fibrosis – they’ll lose their grandfather status and their customers will get the same full set of consumer protections as new plans.

Together, what these rules mean is exactly what President Obama told the American people from the start: under the Affordable Care Act, if you like your doctor and plan, you can keep them.

But we also need to help those Americans who aren’t satisfied with their insurance options today – who reluctantly choose a plan that costs too much or has huge gaps in coverage or who can’t buy insurance at all.

That’s why in addition to allowing Americans to keep the plan they have, the Affordable Care Act also gives them better, more affordable health care choices through the new consumer protections.

It holds insurance companies accountable for how much they raise premiums and spend on profits and overhead.

And beginning in 2014, it creates health insurance exchange that will be offer individuals and small businesses the same type of choices that Members of Congress.

At the beginning of this debate, some people said that there are only two options: sudden, disruptive change for everybody’s health insurance or keeping the broken system we had. The Affordable Care Act and the rules we’re announcing today take a different approach.

If you like the plan you have, you can keep it. If you want to change plans, you’ll have better options than you have today. And no matter what you or your employer chooses to do, you’ll benefit from policies in the new law like one that prohibits insurance companies from taking away your coverage when you need it most.

The end result is that after years of feeling frustrated with an insurance system where premiums had doubled over ten years and many families had just a few insurance choices, Americans are finally going to get more control over their health care.

That’s been the goal of the Affordable Care Act from the start, and that will continue to be our guiding principle as we implement this law.

Now, I’d like to introduce Secretary Solis who will talk a little more about what these rules will mean in practice for Americans and their employers. Secretary Solis…