Obama is scheduled to make remarks about the law from Maryland on Thursday and host a conference call with mayors and other state and local officials later in the week. Also this week, Vice President Joe Biden is expected to host a call with the nation's nurses, while cabinet secretaries—including HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius—will attend public awareness events in various communities.
The conversation between the two presidents took place 20 years and one day after Clinton delivered remarks to a joint session of Congress about the need to address problems with the country's healthcare system. Acting as the interviewer, Clinton pitched questions to the president about the Affordable Care Act, including several questions about the health insurance exchanges that will launch in January.
Obama explained to the global audience that the exchanges are meant to provide insurance for people who don't receive coverage from their employers, and that the law created this mechanism to pool together those individuals so they have greater purchasing power. He said this pooling has so far “drastically reduced premiums and costs,” as premium rates for the marketplace in New York are about 50% lower than the previous premium rates there, while rates are about 33% lower in California and about 25% lower in his home state of Illinois.
“When people look and see that they can get high-quality healthcare for less than their cell phone bill, they're going to sign up,” Obama said. “The opponents of healthcare reform know they will sign up.”
He also emphasized that the exchanges need broad risk pools if they're going to work effectively.
“If you don't have pools that are a cross section of society, people who are already sick will rush out and buy insurance, people who are healthy will say, 'I won't bother,' and you get adverse selection,” he said, adding that premiums will increase if the risk isn't spread out.
Meanwhile, Obama said, the administration is working to ensure that people have good information and noted that some commercials that oppose the law are a “little wacky.” And he acknowledged, though, that polls suggest the ACA is still unpopular with many Americans. That's because, the president said, healthcare decisions are personal and often the unknown is scarier than the known.
“Rather than trying to disabuse people of every single bit of information,” Obama said, “We're saying: Just take a look yourself.”
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