Monday, November 30, 2009

CBO Confirms Families Will Save Money Under Health Reform

CBO Confirms Families Will Save Money Under Health Reform
Posted by Dan Pfeiffer on November 30, 2009 at 02:50 PM EST
Today, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released an analysis (pdf) of the Senate version health insurance reform – and it contains more good news about what reform will mean for families struggling to keep up with skyrocketing premiums under the broken status quo.

Like other recent analyses, the CBO report finds that lower administrative costs, increased competition, and better pooling for risk will mean lower premiums for American families. Among the findings:

•Americans buying comparable health plans to what they have today in the individual market would see premiums fall by 14 to 20 percent.
•Those who get coverage through their employer today will likely see a decrease in premiums as well.
•And Americans who currently struggle to find coverage would see lower premiums because more people will be covered.
In addition to the welcome relief on costs, the CBO reports that Americans will also have better insurance options. The CBO assumes that many people will take advantage of these better options and "buy up" to purchase better plans than are currently offered in the individual market.

Not surprisingly, some of reform's opponents have already started trying to distort that finding to make false claims that reform will raise costs. So let's be clear: where the CBO does see premiums rising, it's not because Americans are paying more for the same coverage – it's that they’re making a choice to purchase better plans that weren't previously available to them.

In keeping with that finding, the CBO affirms the effectiveness of the grandfather policy, which will allow you to keep what you have if you like it. The report reads, "Moreover, if they wanted to, current policyholders in the nongroup market would be allowed to keep their policy with no changes, and the premiums for those policies would probably not differ substantially from current-law levels."

Finally, it’s worth nothing that for all the good news in the CBO report, the analysis doesn't even take into account all of the bill’s measures to control costs and improve coverage. So if anything, it understates the positive impacts of reform. For example, the CBO does not take into account policies like the catastrophic option available to young adults, and reinsurance provision, that would reduce premiums even further.

It also does not incorporate potential effects of the proposal on the level or growth rate of spending for health care. For instance, CBO’s analysis does not fully capture the effects of the excise tax on high-cost plans, which will bend the cost curve over the long-term. But it did provide a snapshot: for plans affected by the tax in 2016, premiums would be 9-12 percent lower than under current law.

The Senate Debate Begins

The Senate Debate Begins
Posted by Nancy-Ann DeParle on November 30, 2009 at 02:46 PM EST
The Thanksgiving holiday is over, and attention now turns to the Senate floor debate on its health insurance reform. Today's Washington Post explores one aspect of this debate– and that's what the impact of health reform will be on our deficits and fiscal situation.

There are three things to keep in mind when assessing this issue.

First, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Senate bill (pdf) – and the House bill (pdf) – will reduce the deficit over the first 10 years, and then substantially reduce it by hundreds of billions of dollars in the second 10 years as well. That would be up to ¼ percent of GDP. CBO scoring is, by design, conservative, and we should not take their assessment lightly. Contrary to what many thought when this process began, the health reform bills represent the biggest deficit reduction legislation since the 1997 Balanced Budget Act.

Second, we also need to understand the limits of CBO scoring. Some of the most auspicious reforms that health policy experts believe will transform the health care system from one that delivers more care at an increasingly growing price to one that delivers better care are not analyzed by CBO for the fiscal effects. Why? Since they have never been done before ordone in concert with each other, they are hard to assess. For CBO, past results is an important indicator for future savings. I know this firsthand, having served as the CMS Administrator when the agency implemented the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (BBA). The BBA was first estimated to extend the Medicare Trust Fund's solvency through 2017, but by the end of the Clinton Administration, the savings in the BBA were re-estimated and found to have extended the life of the Trust Fund to 2029.

Ironically, while some opponents of reform have tried to dismiss the CBO scores as underestimating the costs of reform, the opposite is almost certainly the case. Indeed, Jon Gabel wrote a New York Times op-ed in August spelling out why both history and logic argue that the CBO almost always underestimates savings in reform of the health care system, and are likely doing so now solely by virtue of their methodology:

"The budget office's cautious methods may have unintended consequences in the current health care reform effort. By underestimating the savings that can come from improved Medicare payment procedures and other cost-control initiatives, the budget office leads Congress to think that politically unpopular cost-cutting initiatives will have, at best, only modest effects."

In addition to historic investments in health information technology, research into what works and what doesn't, and prevention and wellness investments that were included in the Recovery Act, some of the key provisions under consideration in the health reform bills include:

•Changing the way we pay hospitals, to discourage mistakes and unnecessary and costly readmissions.
•Creating incentives in the payment system to reward quality of care rather than just the quantity of procedures.
•Giving physicians incentives to collaborate in the coordination of patient care.
•Reducing hospital-acquired infections and other avoidable health-center acquired conditions through rigorous reporting and transparency.
•Imposing a fee on insurance companies offering high-premium plans — which would create a strong incentive for more cost-efficient plans that would help reduce the growth of premiums.
•Establishing a Medicare commission — which would develop and submit proposals aimed at extending the solvency of Medicare, slowing Medicare cost growth, and improving the quality of care delivered to Medicare beneficiaries.
These elements are included in the Senate bill, and they will be deliberated upon and strengthened and modified where necessary over the coming debate.

Third, health reform is necessary, but not sufficient to curing our fiscal problems. The growing cost of health care is the number-one, long-term fiscal challenge we face. If we do nothing, by 2017, 20 percent of GDP will be spent on health care – and eventually it will swamp the federal budget. Fiscally-responsible health insurance reform that does not add a dime to our deficits and that reduces the rate of health care cost growth will help put our nation on a more sustainable, long-term trajectory. In fact, just "bending the curve" – reducing the annually rate of health care cost growth -- by 15 basis points (or .15 percent) is the equivalent of wiping out the entire actuarial deficit in Social Security.

So, it's essential that we get health care costs under control by wringing out the waste in the system. But it is not sufficient to plug the massive deficits built up over the past several years. The President understands that, and that’s why as part of the budget process for next year he has tasked the Office of Management and Budget and his entire economic team with exploring ways to reduce our medium-term deficits.

As the debate gets under way, there will be those who will find fault and raise serious questions; we welcome their considered critiques. But a little perspective is in order; the bill passed by the House and the one being considered in the Senate do more to take health care off its unsustainable course than anything in history. And the critics of these efforts rarely offer any alternatives. One thing is clear: doing nothing is not an option.

Nancy-Ann DeParle is Director of the Office of Health Reform

Who Do You Trust?

Who Do You Trust?
Posted by Ann Widger on November 30, 2009 at 10:25 AM EST
As one of the people in the Office of Public Engagement who work every day with citizens, groups, and organizations on health insurance reform, I’m constantly amazed at the overwhelming show of support from every corner and every constituency you can think of. When I say the list goes on and on, I mean it literally goes on and on, and is made up of some of the most trusted groups in America.

And nobody has been more important, more of a pleasure to work with, or more trusted for that matter than America’s doctors and nurses. We invited the heads of two groups representing the people who know our heath care system best to take part in this special video with the Vice President, to tell us all why they think reform is so important:

Host a Community Discussion and Be Part of the President’s Forum on Jobs

Host a Community Discussion and Be Part of the President’s Forum on Jobs
Posted by Cammie Croft on November 30, 2009 at 06:00 AM EST
This Thursday, the President is hosting a discussion at the White House to explore every possible avenue for job creation and get ideas from CEOs, small business owners, economists, financial experts, labor union representatives, nonprofit groups and regular Americans who have felt the impact of this economic crisis firsthand.

But you don’t need to be at the event in DC to participate. Today we’re announcing nationwide community job forums that will run from November 30th through December 13th. These discussions, among neighbors, co-workers and friends, will be a source of insights and ideas that will inform the President’s approach to job creation. Through WhiteHouse.gov, hosts can upload the results of their discussions. Back here at the White House, we’ll compile the feedback into a report that will be sent to the Oval Office for review.

Let us know if you are interested in organizing a jobs forum in your community, and we’ll follow up with discussion questions and other materials to make your event as productive as possible. We’re not able to offer an events center where you can find events already happening, so if you haven’t heard of one in your area, start your own and reach out to your network for participants.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

MIT Economist Confirms Senate Health Reform Bill Reduces Costs and Improves Coverage

MIT Economist Confirms Senate Health Reform Bill Reduces Costs and Improves Coverage
Posted by Nancy-Ann DeParle on November 29, 2009 at 03:14 PM EST
Jonathan Gruber, PhD, a MIT Economist who has been closely following the health insurance reform process, issued a compelling new report based on data from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. As the Politico wrote, "The report concludes that under the Senate’s health-reform bill, Americans buying individual coverage will pay less than they do for today's typical individual market coverage, and would be protected from high out-of-pocket costs." Here are some key points:

Gruber concludes that the Senate proposal's health insurance exchange, choices and competition, and policies to hold insurers accountable would reduce costs. Savings for people purchasing coverage in the individual market would range from $200 to 500 for individuals and families, and would be greater if people opted for basic benefits. People with low incomes would receive premium tax credits that would reduce the price that they pay for health insurance by as much as $2,500 to $7,500 in 2009 dollars.

Two charts based on his report illustrate these savings:




The coverage Americans get under the Senate plan would be better than today's typical individual market coverage. For example, it would protect individuals from high out-of-pocket costs, meaning Americans would pay less premiums for more coverage. If instead Americans chose basic benefits similar to those offered in the individual market today, they would pay almost 20 percent less.

As Gruber concludes:

Analysis of the non-partisan information from the CBO suggests that for those facing purchase in the non-group market, the House bill will deliver savings ranging from $200 for singles to $500 for families in today’s dollars – even without subsidies. The savings are much larger for lower income populations that receive premium credits. This is in addition to the higher quality benefits that those in the exchange will receive, with actuarial values for low income populations well above what is typical in the non-group market today. It is also in addition to all the other benefits that this legislation will deliver to those consumers – in particular the guarantee, unavailable in most states, that prices would not be raised or the policy revoked if they became ill.

Nancy-Ann DeParle is Director of the White House Office of Health Reform

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What Health Insurance Reform Means for Rural America

What Health Insurance Reform Means for Rural America
Posted by Secretary Tom Vilsack on November 28, 2009 at 12:49 PM EST
I have seen the consequences of a health care system in need of reform – too few insured, too costly for others and too little quality for all. Unsustainable growth in the cost of health care and the continued denial of coverage to millions of Americans is evidence that our health care system has failed.

These failings are amplified in rural America, where folks pay more for health care than their urban counterparts, but are still more likely to experience chronic illness and poor health. I applaud the National Farmers Union for their recent endorsement of the U.S. Senate's health care reform bill and their prior support of the House’s bill. Their support of the legislation and thier courage in this critical debate says a great deal about the need for reform and the consequences for rural America if we do not get it.

Consider the following statistics:

•Rural Americans pay 39% of their total health care costs, out of pocket – the highest percentage for all Americans.
•Almost one in four Americans living in towns with less than 2,500 people have no health insurance coverage.
•Rural Americans are more likely than their urban counterparts to postpone or forego medical care because of the cost – 9% say they delayed care and 7% skipped treatment.
•Approximately 80% of Rural Americans are self-employed or work for a small business – two groups greatly impacted by the rising cost of health care premiums.
•Rural residents are more likely to report fair to poor health status than urban residents, have a higher mortality rate and are more likely to have a chronic condition.
For more information, check out this recent report detailing how health insurance reform will impact rural America.

These numbers aren’t just statistics – they tell the real story about the health and well-being of rural Americans. When high costs or lack of insurance deters someone from seeking needed health care, illnesses go undiagnosed and long term costs increase.

Soaring health care costs are also hurting rural economies and businesses. Small businesses create most new jobs in rural America, but they are at a disadvantage in our current health care system, paying up to 18% more per worker than large firms for the same health insurance policy. And over the last 16 years the number of small businesses offering health care has dropped to less than 40%. We can overcome this by creating a new insurance exchange where individuals and small businesses will have greater leverage to bargain for better prices and quality coverage.

The debate we are having is a good one and it will result in legislation more beneficial to the American people. But we cannot forget - we have been debating health care reform since Harry Truman was President and the status quo is unsustainable. We must seize the unprecedented opportunity for reform that will improve the health care security and stability that Americans value, strengthen our economy and maintain the character of our rural communities for decades to come. The time is now. Rural America can’t wait any longer.

Tom Vilsack is Secretary of the Department of Agriculture

Reality Check: Column Ignores Facts about Health Reform

Reality Check: Column Ignores Facts about Health Reform
Posted by Dan Pfeiffer on November 27, 2009 at 05:14 PM EST
In today's Washington Post, Charles Krauthammer takes great pains to paint a bleak picture of health care reform as "monstrous," "overregulated," and rife with "arbitrary bureaucratic inventions." The columnist's argument may be cogent and well-written, but it is wholly inaccurate.

Krauthammer describes a "better choice" for health reform as having three elements: tort reform, interstate purchasing and taxing employee benefits. All three elements are part of the current effort.

•President Obama issued a Presidential Memorandum directing the Secretary of HHS to move forward with an initiative to give states and health systems the opportunity to apply for medical liability demonstration projects. Section 2531 of the House bill also includes a voluntary state incentive grants program to encourage states to develop alternatives to traditional malpractice litigation.
•Section 9001 of the Senate bill does impose a fee on high-cost health care plans. (A PDF of the Senate bill is available here.) To clarify: This is a fee on insurance companies that offer high-cost plans that drive up the cost of health care for all Americans, not a tax on individuals.
•Section 1333 of the Senate bill allows for interstate health care choice compacts. Coupled with insurance market reforms to ensure individuals are not discriminated against, this policy will expand health care choices to millions of Americans.
And while Mr. Krauthammer may try to label reform legislation as a package of programs linked only by "political expediency," the legislation actually is designed to take health care off the unsustainable path it is currently on by improving the health of all Americans and reducing costs for families, small businesses and the government. Some examples from the Senate bill:

•An independent Medicare Commission that would develop and submit proposals to Congress aimed at shoring up the long-term financial health of Medicare, slowing Medicare cost growth that is hurting seniors and the budget, and improving the quality of care delivered to all Medicare beneficiaries. (Section 3403)
•A program to ensure that uninsured individuals with pre-existing conditions can buy affordable health coverage. (Section 1101)
•New programs to expand the health care workforce so we can ensure there are more doctors and nurses in this country. (Sections 5102, 5201, 5202, 5203, 5204, 5205, 5206, 5207, 5309, 5310, 5311, 5312)
•New prevention and wellness programs such as tobacco cessation and programs to combat childhood obesity. (Sections 4001, 4002, 4003 and 4004, 4107, 4306)

Friday, November 27, 2009

On the PERAB Tax Task Force

On the PERAB Tax Task Force
Posted by Austan Goolsbee on November 27, 2009 at 04:07 PM EST
The President's Economic Recovery Advisory Board released the following statement today:

Statement from PERAB Chairman Paul Volcker on Tax Task Force

The tax subcommittee of the PERAB was scheduled to release its report on December 4th. But we have received more than 500 submissions of serious tax reform ideas from the public both in person and on our website and we had to cut them off to meet the original deadline.

I want us to review as many suggestions as possible and to have sufficient time to fully consider the hundreds of suggestions that have come in already. I have asked the Administration to extend our deadline and to reopen the website for submissions so that we can hear the widest possible range of ideas.

We still have the same specific mandate: to discuss the pros and cons of a spectrum of reform ideas relating to tax simplification, enforcement of existing tax laws and reform the corporate tax system without considering policies that would raise taxes on families making less than $250,000.

The PERAB is not tasked with providing its own policy recommendations for the Administration and the final report will be an almanac of options from a broad range of viewpoints.

We will be reopening the web submission form and extending the deadline for any suggestions in keeping with our mandate (suggestions may also be submitted via email) and will be scheduling more public meetings over the coming weeks. We expect to report back to the Administration after the holidays.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

On This Thanksgiving: Family, Turkey ... and a Weekly Address

On This Thanksgiving: Family, Turkey ... and a Weekly Address
Posted by Macon Phillips on November 26, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST
Happy Thanksgiving!

Given the holiday, we are releasing the President's weekly address today. In this video, President Obama calls to our attention the men and women in uniform who are away from home sacrificing time with family to protect our safety and freedom. He also talks about the progress of health care reform, the Recovery Act, and job creation to ensure that next Thanksgiving will be a brighter day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Well GEE thanks – ‘Commander in Chief’!

I have permitted only one commentary posting on the White House Blog.us since its inception. All other postings have been a mirror of the Official site in order that the US population may have their comments posted. It is my hope that these are being considered by the staff of the White House keeping up with the mirror blog here.

However I feel in the best interests of the democracy we cherish, the following analysis and commentary is needed.

Well GEE thanks – ‘Commander in Chief’!

Well to say that I’m underwhelmed with the grandiose offer to reduce it’s greenhouse gas emissions in the “range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020,” according to the White House official statement, and that Obama will grace the Copenhagen Climate Change conference with his presence for a day on December 9th en route to Oslo, where he will accept the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10th is an understatement!

The world is facing the biggest challenge in human history. The Science is in and so is the politicking. Fundamentally we have no further time to attend endless conferences to chat casually about the fate of humanity on the planet.

Let’s just look at what has been offered as an in the range (very iffy) figure of 17%.

7,181.4 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) in 2005 were emitted by the United States, so if indeed that figure were adopted even if it does get by the Senate; by 2020, 5,960.5 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) is suggested.

Trouble is that the WORLD all the science and all discussions of any credibility are talking about the worlds need to establish emissions reductions targets on levels of 1990.

So let’s look at that!

In 1990 the United States was responsible for emissions of 6,146.7 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) which is 1,034.7 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e) below the levels set in 2005.

In essence the United States is offering to reduce its emissions by 186.2 million metric tons carbon dioxide equivalent (MMTCO2e). So how should this be viewed by all other Countries?

I guess that as a 20% producer of climate changing emissions 186.2 million metric tonnes is a very attractive offer and should really rally all other developed and developing Countries to talk seriously in Copenhagen.

I sincerely hope you have a pleasant day In Copenhagen on December 9th President Obama and that you are warmly greeted. Enjoy the Nobel Peace Prize dinner!

Source of emissions data Energy Information Administration / Emissions of Greenhouse Gases in the United States

ftp://ftp.eia.doe.gov/pub/oiaf/1605/cdrom/pdf/ggrpt/057306.pdf

Hajj and Eid Mubarak

Hajj and Eid Mubarak
Posted by Rashad Hussain on November 25, 2009 at 04:05 PM EST
Pilgrims from over 160 countries, including nearly 20,000 Americans, have gathered in Saudi Arabia for the annual performance of the Hajj. They have assembled in Mina and will travel to Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Mecca to offer the rites of pilgrimage. On Friday, Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid-ul-Adha. The President issued the following statement today marking the beginning of Hajj and the upcoming Eid holiday:

Michelle and I would like to send our best wishes to all those performing Hajj this year, and to Muslims in America and around the world who are celebrating Eid-ul-Adha. The rituals of Hajj and Eid-ul-Adha both serve as reminders of the shared Abrahamic roots of three of the world’s major religions.

During Hajj, the world’s largest and most diverse gathering, three million Muslims from all walks of life – including thousands of American Muslims – will stand in prayer on Mount Arafat. The following day, Muslims around the world will celebrate Eid-ul-Adha and distribute food to the less fortunate to commemorate Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son out of obedience to God.

This year, I am pleased that the Department of Health and Human Services has partnered with the Saudi Health Ministry to prevent and limit the spread of H1N1 during Hajj. Cooperating on combating H1N1 is one of the ways we are implementing my administration's commitment to partnership in areas of mutual interest.

On behalf of the American people, we would like to extend our greetings during this Hajj season – Eid Mubarak.

Translations available in Arabic, Persian, Dari, Urdu, Pashto, Russian and French.

Rashad Hussain is Deputy Associate White House Counsel

Combating Climate Change at Home and Around the World

Combating Climate Change at Home and Around the World
Posted by Heather Zichal on November 25, 2009 at 03:36 PM EST
Some exciting announcements today from the White House on our efforts to combat climate change and lay the foundation for a clean energy economy! The President will be attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (COP 15) next month, and he will take with him an emissions reduction target to drive progress toward a comprehensive and operational Copenhagen accord.

Over the last 10 months, the Administration, under the President’s active leadership, has made remarkable progress in addressing climate change and accelerating a clean energy renaissance domestically and abroad (see a list of accomplishments below). These aggressive initiatives have laid the foundation for a meaningful agreement in Copenhagen and longer term for a new, sustainable and prosperous clean energy future.

The international climate summit will bring together delegations from 192 nations and will be visited by approximately 15,000 people. For the first time in the series of these conferences, the U.S. delegation will have a U.S. Center, providing a unique and interactive forum to share our story with the world. The Center will host over 70 events during the two-week conference that will highlight the strong actions the U.S. is taking at home as well as the leadership role the U.S. is pursuing internationally to combat global climate change.

Activities in the Center will include a series of presentations by senior Cabinet and Administration officials including: Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Energy Secretary Steven Chu, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa P. Jackson, along with Council on Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley, Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren, and Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Carol Browner. Topics will range from energy efficiency investments and global commitments to renewables policy and clean energy jobs.

To help bring the events from Copenhagen back home, the State Department will be running a website dedicated solely to COP 15 events, as well as a Facebook page. More info coming on all the ways you can keep up will follow soon.

These are definitely exciting times as we work collectively to address the challenge of climate change and advance the opportunities of a new clean energy future.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Highlights of actions and accomplishments on climate change and energy by the Obama Administration in the last 10 months.

Domestic Leadership
Recovery Act: The U.S. is investing more than $80 billion in clean energy through its Recovery Act – including the largest-ever investment in renewable energy, which will double our generation of clean renewable energy like wind and solar in three years.

Efficiency Standard for Automobiles: President Obama announced the first ever joint fuel economy/greenhouse gas emissions standards for cars and trucks in May. The new standards are projected to save 1.8 billion barrels of oil over the life of the program with a fuel economy gain averaging more than 5 percent per year and a reduction of approximately 900 million metric tons in greenhouse gas emissions.

Advancing Comprehensive Energy Legislation: Passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation is a top priority for the Administration and significant progress has been made. In June, The U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act that will promote clean energy investments and lower U.S. greenhouse gas emissions more than 80 percent by 2050. The Senate continues to advance their efforts to pass comprehensive legislation and move the U.S. closer to a system of clean energy incentives that create new energy jobs, reduce our dependence on oil, and cut pollution.

Appliance Efficiency Standards: The Administration has forged more stringent energy efficiency standards for commercial and residential appliances, including microwaves, kitchen ranges, dishwashers, lightbulbs and other common appliances. This common sense approach makes improved efficiency a manufacturing requirement for the everyday appliances used in practically every home and business, resulting in a significant reduction in energy use. Altogether, about two dozen new energy efficiency standards will be completed in the next few years.

Offshore Energy Development: Within the Administration’s first 100 days, a new regulatory framework was established to facilitate the development of alternative energy projects in an economic and environmentally sound manner that allows us to tap into the vast energy potential of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The National Renewable Energy Lab estimates that development of wind energy alone on the OCS may provide an additional 1,900 gigawatts of clean energy to the U.S.

Emissions Inventory Rule: For the first time, the U.S. will catalogue greenhouse gas emissions from large emission sources – an important initial step toward measurable and transparent reductions.

International Leadership
The Major Economies Forum (MEF): President Obama launched the MEF in March 2009, creating a new dialogue among developed and emerging economies to combat climate change and promote clean energy. At the July L’Aquila summit, MEF Leaders announced important new agreements to support the UN climate talks and launched a new Global Partnership to promote clean energy technologies.

Eliminating Fossil Fuel Subsidies: The President spearheaded an agreement at the Pittsburgh G20 summit for all G20 nations to phase out their fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term and to work with other countries to do the same. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation nations followed the G20 lead at their summit in Singapore, expanding the number of countries committing to these subsidies. According to the International Energy Agency, this measure alone could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent or more by 2050.

Bilateral Energy and Climate Partnerships: The U.S. is accelerating its collaboration with China, India, Mexico, Canada and other key international partners to combat climate change, coordinate clean energy research and development, and support the international climate talks.

Energy and Climate Partnership for the Americas: President Obama proposed a partnership with our neighbors in the western hemisphere to advance energy security and combat climate change. An early product of this cooperation is Chile’s Renewable Energy Center, which receives technical support from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Phasing Down HFCs (Hydrofluorocarbons): The U.S. joined Canada and Mexico in proposing to phase-down HFC emissions, a very potent greenhouse gas, in developed and developing countries under the Montreal Protocol. This represents a down payment of about 10% of the emission reductions necessary to cut global greenhouse gas emissions to half their current levels by 2050.

Heather Zichal is Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change

United We Serve: Feed a Neighbor

United We Serve: Feed a Neighbor
Posted by Nicola Goren on November 25, 2009 at 02:53 PM EST
As we get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends, let us also pause and acknowledge that many of our neighbors are struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table. The President and the First Lady are calling on all of us to come together to solve hunger in our communities.

In this spirit, the Corporation for National and Community Service in coordination with the White House and the U.S. Department of Agriculture is launching the United We Serve: Feed a Neighbor initiative. The new initiative raises awareness of hunger issues and equips Americans with the resources to mobilize against the hunger crisis.

Here’s what you can do to get started fighting hunger today:

•Find an opportunity to serve by using the keyword "hunger" in our "Find a Volunteer Opportunity" search engine on Serve.gov
•Create your own service project using our anti-hunger toolkit
•Raise awareness and learn more about ending hunger in America
Nicola Goren is the Acting CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service

The Official Pardoning of the Turkey

The Official Pardoning of the Turkey
Posted by Molly Fedick on November 25, 2009 at 01:11 PM EST

Today at the White House, the President officially pardoned not one turkey, but two -- sparing both “Courage” and “Carolina,” a request from his compassionate daughters, Sasha and Malia. Before sending the birds to a life of “peace and tranquility” in Disneyland, the President took the time to express his gratitude for life’s blessings, and remind Americans that Thanksgiving is also a time to think of those less fortunate:

When my family and I sit around the table tomorrow, just like millions of other families across America, we'll take time to give our thanks for many blessings. But we'll also remember this is a time when so many members of our American family are hurting. There's no question this has been a tough year for America. We're at war. Our economy is emerging from an extraordinary recession into recovery. But there's a long way to go and a lot of work to do.

In more tranquil times, it's easy to notice our many blessings. It's even easier to take them for granted. But in times like these, they resonate a bit more powerfully. When President Lincoln set aside the National Day of Thanksgiving for the first time -- to celebrate America's "fruitful fields," "healthful skies," and the "strength and vigor" of the American people -- it was in the midst of the Civil War, just when the future of our very union was most in doubt. So think about that. When times were darkest, President Lincoln understood that our American blessings shined brighter than ever.

This is an era of new perils and new hardships. But we are, as ever, a people of endless compassion, boundless ingenuity, limitless strength. We're the heirs to a hard-earned history and stewards of a land of God-given beauty. We are Americans. And for all this, we give our humble thanks -- to our predecessors, to one another, and to God.

So on this quintessentially American holiday, as we give thanks for what we've got, let's also give back to those who are less fortunate. As we give thanks for our loved ones, let us remember those who can't be with us. And as we give thanks for our security, let's in turn thank those who've sacrificed to make it possible, wherever they may be.

November Release of White House Visitor Records

November Release of White House Visitor Records
Posted by Norm Eisen on November 25, 2009 at 01:08 PM EST
Building upon last month’s historic release of nearly 500 White House visitor records, today the White House releases more than 1,600 records of visits to the White House in response to another month’s worth of requests. You can view all the records in a searchable database in our Disclosures section.

We announced earlier that in December the White House would -- for the first time in history -- begin posting all White House visitor records under the terms of our new voluntary disclosure policy. As part of that initiative, we also offered to look back at the records created before the announcement of the policy and answer specific requests for visitor records created earlier in the year.

Today’s production of records is in response to over 300 requests from the public during the month of October. Those requests have yielded over 1,600 responsive records. Consistent with our earlier announcement that we will only release records that are 90 days or older, this group of records covers the time period between January 20, 2009 to August 31, 2009. All of these have been added to the online database of published visitor records in an accessible, searchable format for anyone to browse or download.

Today’s release advances the President’s historic commitment to increasing government transparency and openness. This Administration’s concrete commitments to openness include putting up more government information than ever before on data.gov and recovery.gov, reforming the government’s FOIA processes, providing on-line access to White House staff financial reports and salaries, adopting a tough new state secrets policy, reversing an executive order that previously limited access to presidential records, and webcasting White House meetings and conferences. The release also compliments our new lobbying rules, which in addition to closing the revolving door for lobbyists who work in government have also emphasized expanding disclosure of lobbyist contacts with the government.

Several of the most frequent White House visitors in today's release are, not surprisingly, Administration officials who come to the White House as part of their daily work. For example, Tom Perrelli and Spencer Overton - each an appointed official in the Administration - have visited the White House many times.

Finally, as we noted last month, sometimes rather than providing clear information transparency can have confusing or amusing results. With an average of 100,000 White House access records created each month, many White House Visitors share the same name as celebrities. In October, requests were submitted for the names of some notable figures (for example Michael Jordan and Michael Moore). The famous individuals with those names never actually came to the White House, but we have included the individuals that did visit and share those names.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Norm Eisen is Special Counsel to the President for ethics and government reform

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The First State Dinner: President Obama Welcomes His Excellency Dr. Manmohan Singh of India

The First State Dinner: President Obama Welcomes His Excellency Dr. Manmohan Singh of India
Posted by Molly Fedick on November 24, 2009 at 02:54 PM EST
previous photoPrime Minister Manmohan Singh of India: Official State VisitShow Gallery Info.
His Excellency, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of India, visits the White House.

In honor of the arrival of His Excellency Dr. Manmohan Singh, Prime Minister of the Republic of India, and his wife, Mrs. Gursharan Kaur, President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will hold the first official state dinner of the presidency. The event promises to be a celebration of President Obama’s deep respect for India and its people, setting the tone for a long-lasting relationship between the nations.

Earlier today during the Arrival Ceremony, President Obama spoke of the enduring bonds shared by the US and India, and looked forward to continued cooperation rooted in strong democratic values:

And as the world's largest democracies, we can keep faith with our common values -- speaking out and standing up for the rights and dignity to which all human beings are entitled; and showing that nations that respect the rights and aspirations of their people are ultimately more stable, more secure and more successful.

This is the India that America welcomes today -- a leader in Asia and around the world. (Applause.) These are the challenges we are summoned to meet in partnership. This is the progress that is possible -- today and in the days and years ahead.

And, Mr. Prime Minister, as we build our common future, we can draw strength from our shared past. For it was exactly 60 years ago, in a ceremony not unlike this, that an American president welcomed to the White House the first prime minister of an independent India. And while the decades that followed were not without their challenges, the spirit of that first visit is with us today -- the same sense of possibility, the same hope for the future.

The State Dinner will be streamed live at 8:15 PM EST, so make sure to tune in.

The Smart Grid and You

The Smart Grid and You
Posted by Secretary Steven Chu on November 24, 2009 at 01:24 PM EST
Today, I announced a $620 million investment in the "Smart Grid" -- building on a $3.4 billion investment announced by President Obama last month as part of the Recovery Act. So what is a "Smart Grid?" How will it save your family money? Check out this video:

Giving Thanks to Our Heroes This Holiday

Giving Thanks to Our Heroes This Holiday
Posted by Dr. Jill Biden on November 24, 2009 at 11:50 AM EST
There is nothing like the warmth of home during the holidays. In this spirit, the Vice President and I hosted an early Thanksgiving Dinner last night for servicemembers and their families at our home, the U.S. Naval Observatory. It was the Biden family’s small way of saying thank you to these heroes, and we could not have been more honored to share a table with this group. As my husband said, “Never before has this place been accorded such an honor as tonight. No individual group has walked through that door that has lent more dignity than you.”


Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden host a dinner for the Fisher House at the Naval Observatory Residence, Monday, November 23, 2009. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
.Our guests were from the Fisher House, an organization that provides the comfort and care of a “home away from home” for families of patients receiving medical care at major military and VA medical centers 365 days a year. The houses allow for family members to be close to their loved ones during trying times. I visited the Fisher House at the Walter Reed Medical Center earlier this spring and I was so touched by every person I met and the courage and patriotism of all the residents and families.


Vice President Joe Biden and Dr. Jill Biden host a dinner for the Fisher House at the Naval Observatory Residence, Monday, November 23, 2009. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann)
.Our entire family knows first-hand the challenges that military families face every day. Our son Beau recently returned from a year-long deployment in Iraq and we are so grateful to have him safely home. However, there are many families who are missing a loved one who is serving abroad or who is recovering from an injury and cannot make it home for the holidays. This year, and every year, we want to thank the many servicemen and women and their families across the globe for their sacrifices.

During the holiday season, enjoy the warmth of your home and consider reaching out to all of those who have given so much for our country. Happy Thanksgiving!

Dr. Jill Biden is the Second Lady of the United States

Reality Check: Health Insurance Reform and Guns

Reality Check: Health Insurance Reform and Guns
Posted by Dan Pfeiffer on November 24, 2009 at 11:31 AM EST
It’s amazing that after so many months debating health insurance reform, sometimes a myth we see being spread about it can still surprise us. In October, for example, we saw a rather shocking claim that one bill being debated in the Senate "could be used to ban guns in home self-defense." Politifact appropriately dismissed that claim as false, and we thought we could all move on from bizarre claims that reform was related to the 2nd Amendment in any way whatsoever.

But apparently the Gun Owners of America, the same group that propagated that ridiculous claim, had simply gone back to the drawing board. Today they sent out an alert misleading their members again, raising the specter of some massive government database of "gun-related health data" despite the fact that there is no mention "gun-related health data" or anything like it anywhere in either the Senate or the House bills.

RHETORIC: GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA CLAIMS THAT HEALTH REFORM LEGISLATION WILL "DUMP YOUR GUN-RELATED HEALTH DATA” INTO A GOVERNMENT DATABASE WHICH CAN BE USED TO "PRECLUDE YOU FROM OWNING FIREARMS." The Gun Owners of America (GOA) claim that "the mandates in [the Senate's health reform] legislation will most likely dump your gun-related health data into a government database that was created in section 13001 of the stimulus bill. This includes any firearms-related information your doctor has gleaned... or any determination of PTSD, or something similar, that can preclude you from owning firearms." [Gun Owners of America Alert, 11/20/09]

REALITY: NOTHING IN THE SENATE BILL WOULD RESULT IN "GUN-RELATED HEALTH DATA" BEING SUBMITTED TO THE GOVERNMENT. There is no mention of "gun-related health data" anywhere in the Senate’s health reform bill and there is nothing in the bill that would result in any such data being reported to the government. The bill does provide guidelines for reporting of anonymous statistical information to help with research, but none of this would lead to gun ownership or “gun related health data” being included in reporting to the government. [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act]

RHETORIC: GUN OWNERS OF AMERICA CLAIMS THAT SECTION 2717 OF THE SENATE HEALTH REFORM BILL WOULD ALLOW THE GOVERNMENT TO OFFER LOWER PREMIUMS TO EMPLOYERS IF THEIR EMPLOYEES DO NOT OWN GUNS. Gun Owners of America (GOA) claims that "Special ‘wellness and prevention’ programs (inserted by Section 1001 of the bill as part of a new Section 2717 in the Public Health Services Act) would allow the government to offer lower premiums to employers who bribe their employees to live healthier lifestyles -- and nothing within the bill would prohibit rabidly anti-gun HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius from decreeing that 'no guns' is somehow healthier." [Gun Owners of America Alert, 11/20/09]

REALITY: NOTHING IN THE SENATE HEALTH REFORM BILL WOULD LEAD TO HIGHER PREMIUMS FOR GUN OWNERS OR A "DECREE" THAT GUN OWNERS ARE LESS HEALTHY THAN OTHERS. Section 2717 section creates guidelines for insurers to report on initiatives that improve quality of care and health outcomes, and it specifically lists what types of programs would be involved – such as smoking cessation, physical fitness, nutrition, heart disease prevention. There is no mention of guns, and there is no language that could result in higher premiums for gun owners or lower premiums for people who do not own guns. Section 2705 of the bill does permit employers to provide premium discounts for employee participation in health promotion and disease prevention programs, and it prohibits insurers from discriminating against individuals for specific reasons such as health status, medical history, and genetic information. It allows the Secretary to add other “health status-related” factors to the list. But again, there is no mention of guns, or any possibility that owning or not owning guns would ever be considered a "health status-related" issue. [Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act]

Monday, November 23, 2009

Making A List, Checking It Twice

Making A List, Checking It Twice
Posted by Katie Stanton on November 23, 2009 at 12:16 PM EST
Today we’re launching a “list” on the official White House account on Twitter which will make it easier for people to follow U.S. Government Twitter feeds. We’ve included a variety of accounts from Cabinet Secretaries, Agencies and Departments. If there are other U.S. government accounts you’d like us to add, please dm us @whitehouse.

The Next Generation of Innovators

The Next Generation of Innovators
Posted by John P. Holdren & Melody Barnes on November 23, 2009 at 12:10 PM EST
President Obama today helped launch a new campaign, “Educate to Innovate,” designed to energize and excite America’s students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). It builds on the President’s pledge that he would use his position to help encourage students to study and consider careers in science, engineering, technology, and innovation—fields upon which America’s future depends—and elevate those students from the middle to the top of the pack worldwide.

At today’s kick-off event, President Obama announced the launch of five major public-private partnerships that have committed to helping unleash the power of media, interactive games, hands-on learning, and community volunteers to reach millions of students over the next four years, inspiring them to become the next generation of engineers and scientists, inventors and innovators.

The new campaign builds on the President’s Inaugural Address, which included a vow to put science “in its rightful place.” One of those rightful places, of course, is the classroom. Yet too often our schools lack support for teachers or the other resources needed to convey the practical utility and remarkable beauty of science and engineering. As a result, students become overwhelmed in their classes and ultimately disengaged. They lose, and our nation loses too.

The partnerships launched today aim to change that. They respond to a challenge made by the President in April, when he spoke at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences and asked the nation’s philanthropists, professional and educational societies, corporations, and individuals to collaborate and innovate with the goal of reinvigorating America’s STEM educational enterprise. The partnerships announced today -- dramatic commitments in the hundreds of millions of dollars, generated through novel collaborations and creative outreach activities -- are just the first wave of commitments anticipated in response to his call.

Think about how you or your organization can build on this momentum. And let’s pull together to open our children’s eyes to the countless ways in which science, engineering, and math can help America and the world find solutions to the many challenges we face.

John P. Holdren is Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and the Director of White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Melody C. Barnes is an Assistant to the President and the Director of the Domestic Policy Council

Streaming Live at 11:40 – President Obama Launches "Educate to Innovate" Campaign

Streaming Live at 11:40 – President Obama Launches "Educate to Innovate" Campaign
Posted by Jesse Lee on November 23, 2009 at 10:27 AM EST
At 11:40 AM EST, President Obama will launch the "Educate to Innovate" campaign, a nationwide effort to help reach the administration's goal of moving American students from the middle of the pack to the front in science and math achievement over the next decade. The President will announce a series of partnerships involving leading companies, universities, foundations, non-profits, and organizations representing millions of scientists, engineers and teachers that will motivate and inspire young people across the country to excel in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Afterwards, make sure to join Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Office of Science and Technology Policy Director John Holdren at 1:00 PM for a live chat on Facebook.

•Watch it through WhiteHouse.gov/live
•Watch, discuss and engage through Facebook

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Health Insurance Reform vs. Medicare Part D

Health Insurance Reform vs. Medicare Part D
Posted by Dan Pfeiffer on November 21, 2009 at 04:08 PM EST
Opponents of health insurance reform have spent hours on the Senate floor today attacking the Senate's efforts to provide stability and security for those with insurance, affordable coverage for those without, and lower costs for families, small businesses and the government. To provide a little perspective on these attacks, let’s compare today's legislation with the 2003 Medicare Part D effort, which many of these same critics supported:


Senate Health Reform Medicare Part D
Effect on the Deficits over First 10 years Decreased by $130 billion Increased by $395 billion
Cost from 2010-2019 $848 billion $600 billion
Length 2,074 pages 1,044 pages

Weekly Address: Traveling Abroad for Our Economy at Home

Weekly Address: Traveling Abroad for Our Economy at Home
Posted by Jesse Lee on November 21, 2009 at 12:00 AM EST

In an address recorded in Seoul, South Korea, the President discusses his trip to Asia. He talks about his push to stop nuclear proliferation in North Korea, Iran, and around the world. He talks about promoting America's principles for an open society in China while making progress on joint efforts to combat climate change. And talks in-depth about the primary objective of his trip: engaging in new markets that hold tremendous potential to spur job creation here at home.

Speaking of Page Numbers...

Speaking of Page Numbers...
Posted by Dan Pfeiffer on November 20, 2009 at 11:30 PM EST
Since some opponents of reform seem too obsessed with the length of the Senate health insurance reform bill to even bother looking at what's in it for American families, we thought we'd make it a little easier for them to find some key of provisions they're working so hard to kill:

•On page 78 you’ll learn that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act ends discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.
•On page 17, it makes preventive care completely free, with no cost-sharing. (This might be of particular interest to those who have chosen to seize on concerns about the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force Recommendations on mammograms to spread baseless myths and advance their own political agenda.)
•Flipping back to page 16, you’ll find that insurance companies are prohibited from dropping your coverage or watering it down when you get sick and need it most.
•Also on page 16, you might notice that it puts an end to lifetime caps on coverage.
•Page 18 is where the bill extends family coverage eligibility for young Americans through the age of 26.
•On page 83 it requires insurance companies to renew any policy as long as the policyholder pays their premium in full – that means they can’t refuse to renew your coverage just because you get sick.
•Page 307 is home to tax credits for small businesses to help them afford insurance for their employees.
•And folks looking to scare our senior citizens about what reform means for them might be interested to check out page 923 and learn that it provides a 50% discount on drugs for seniors in the so-called donut hole.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The 540th Anniversary of the Birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji

The 540th Anniversary of the Birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji
Posted by Darron P. Monteiro on November 20, 2009 at 06:02 PM EST
On Friday we hosted a reception commemorating the 540th anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the first guru in Sikhism. It was the first time that this holiday has ever been celebrated at the White House. Members of the Sikh community from around the country were invited to celebrate the occasion with traditional hymns led by the Sikh Kirtani Chanters from the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. Several administration officials were in attendance, including Dr. John Holdren (Office of Science & Technology Policy), Tina Tchen (Office of Public Engagement), Michael Strautmanis (Chief of Staff to Valerie Jarrett), Adolfo Carrion (Urban Affairs), and Nancy Anne DeParle (Health Reform).

Representatives from the Sikh Council on Religion and Education, United Sikhs, and other grassroots leaders came together to recognize the important contributions of Sikhs to our national life. The first Sikhs arrived as laborers in the western United States around 1899 and gradually moved around the country. They went on to become owners of successful businesses, serve honorably in the U.S. military in both world wars and other conflicts, lawyers, doctors, bankers, and members of many other professions.

Prosperity, Peace and Opportunity: The Legacy of American Service in South Korea

Prosperity, Peace and Opportunity: The Legacy of American Service in South Korea
Posted by Jesse Lee on November 20, 2009 at 03:55 PM EST

In a particularly moving address to troops at Osan Air Base in Osan, South Korea, the President thanked American troops for their continued sacrifice and service, and took the opportunity to a share a short anecdote with the crowd. The story reminded troops of America's great responsibility and privilege to protect freedom and promote democracy around the world, and offered rare historical insight from a longtime ally:

I want to deliver, actually, just a quick story, go a little off script. President Lee talked to me about what it was like when he was a young child here in Korea, this country having been torn by war, and the poverty that still existed in the country. And he said, I hope the American people understand how grateful we are for what you've done, because we would not be the extraordinarily strong, prosperous nation that we are, had it not been for the sacrifices of your armed services and the continued contributions that you've made.

And I thought, when the President of a country that's become so successful says that America, and America's armed services in particular, had something to do with the extraordinary success of their country -- he said, that's something you should take great pride in. And I want all of you to know that, because you are carrying that tradition on right here at Osan.

I couldn't come to the Republic of Korea without coming to see you to deliver a simple message -- a message of thanks to you and your families. Because of all the privileges of serving as President, I have no greater honor than serving as Commander-in-Chief of the finest military that the world has ever known. (Applause.)


People in the crowd listen as President Barack Obama rallies the U.S. troops at Osan Air Base in Osan, South Korea, Nov. 19, 2009. (Official White House photo by Pete Souza)

Reality Check: The "Rationing" Smear... Again?

Reality Check: The "Rationing" Smear... Again?
Posted by Dan Pfeiffer on November 20, 2009 at 03:03 PM EST
When people use arguments they know are bogus, it's probably because they know they don't have any valid arguments at their disposal. So it would seem with opponents of reform in the Senate spending today obsessed with arguments about "rationing" that were debunked months ago.

Their attacks are focused on the fact that the legislation supports research into what treatments work best for patients. Before we go any further, let's just say this as plainly as possible:

Under health insurance reform, this research cannot be used to dictate coverage.

In fact, this objective medical research empowers doctors and patients and helps them fight insurance company decisions to deny treatment and ration care. Maybe this is why opponents of reform are trying so hard to keep updated medical information out of the hands of our nation's doctors.

What this patient-centered health research does specifically is provide doctors and patients with the best medical information to help them make the best decisions, and it is even written into the law that the Secretary of Health and Human Services cannot deny coverage of a treatment based solely on this research. When you consider that this research is intended only to make sure you get the most effective care, opposition seems outright bizarre, and twisting it into some "rationing" attack seems outright low.

In case anybody wants an objective source on this, the independent watchdog Politifact gave such claims an unambiguous “False” rating back in August. Yes, August:

But in this case, there actually are provisions in the bill about comparative research to make sure it is not used for rationing. Language in the House version of the health bill specifically states: "Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the Commission or the Center to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer."

And let's be clear, comparative effectiveness research has been done by the government for years and years. The Obama administration wants to greatly expand the amount of research. The economic stimulus package also included more funding for comparative effectiveness research. And the bill included a similar disclaimer that it would not mandate insurers to cover or reimburse one treatment or medication over another.

Need more? Politifact had a couple more reliable sources up their sleeve:

AARP, the leading advocate for seniors, has long been a strong supporter of such research.

"It boggles the mind" said AARP spokesman Jim Dau, how comparative effectiveness research has been portrayed by opponents of the health care plan as government rationing of care.

"It's just good common sense," Dau said of the research. "It's giving individuals and doctors better evidence-based research so that they can make better decisions."

Gail Wilensky, who ran the Medicare program under President George H.W. Bush in the early 1990s, is another big advocate of comparative effectiveness research. She views it as lobby-free information that can be used to empower patients.

A New York Times editorial out today also touches on one of the recent news hooks opponents of reform are attempting to twist for their own purposes, the bogus links between a recent study on mammograms and health insurance reform (previously debunked here as well). They rightly boil the issue down to this:

The only part of the reform bills that could affect mammography would only make them more accessible.

This could be said of preventive care across the board as well.

Watch, Discuss, Engage at 10:00: Clean Energy Forum on Public Health

Watch, Discuss, Engage at 10:00: Clean Energy Forum on Public Health
Posted by Jesse Lee on November 20, 2009 at 09:27 AM EST
At 10:00 AM EST today the White House, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Health and Human Services will host another Clean Energy Economy Forum. A group of stakeholders, business and community leaders will discuss clean energy and climate legislation work, and the benefits towards public health. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson will be answering questions, including some taken live from our Facebook chat application.

Ben Rhodes on the Ride Home

Ben Rhodes on the Ride Home
Posted by Arun Chaudhary on November 19, 2009 at 08:37 PM EST


.We sat Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes down on the front couch of Air Force One to get a wrap-up of the trip before landing in Washington, DC. He may seem a little sleepy and dehydrated, but I can personally attest that he got a decent amount of rest on the way back. He was firmly in the “stay up at first, sleep later” camp for combating jet lag. Maybe we can have him attest to the success or failure of that endeavor tomorrow.

It’s been an honor and a privilege to bring you these video updates on our travels through Asia, and we hope it’s given you a new perspective on what it’s like to travel with President.

You can find more information on the President's trip and on the President's policies in Asia on our Asia page.

Arun Chaundhary is the official White House videographer

Reality Check: Claims That Reform Will Encourage Abortions at School "Sex Clinics" are Absurd

Reality Check: Claims That Reform Will Encourage Abortions at School "Sex Clinics" are Absurd
Posted by Macon Phillips on November 19, 2009 at 08:16 PM EST
Ed. Note: Opponents of health reform appear to have run out of fresh smears against health insurance reform and have started recycling old debunked attacks. In response to those that brought up this attack that Politifact proved false months ago, we simply bring back this classic Reality Check first published on October 1, 2009.

Last night Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann questioned health insurance reform, raising the spectre of school-based "sex clinics" that would take students to "have their abortion, be back and go home on the school bus that night":

It means that parents will never know what kind of counsel and treatment that their children are receiving. And as a matter of fact, the bill goes on to say what's going to go on -- comprehensive primary health services, physicals, treatment of minor acute medical conditions, referrals to follow-up for specialty care -- is that abortion? Does that mean that someone's 13 year-old daughter could walk into a sex clinic, have a pregnancy test done, be taken away to the local Planned Parenthood abortion clinic, have their abortion, be back and go home on the school bus that night? Mom and dad are never the wiser.

The absurdity of this claim earns high honors from Politifact, a non-partisan research organization: Pants on Fire!

Critics of the Democratic health care proposal have been increasingly raising concerns that the plan would provide taxpayer-subsidized abortions (a claim we address here). The Liberty Counsel, a conservative group, puts a different twist on that concern, alleging that Page 992 of the bill "will establish school-based 'health' clinics. Your children will be indoctrinated and your grandchildren may be aborted!"

The claim comes from a long list of items allegedly in the bill that is posted on the group's Web site and has been widely circulated in a chain e-mail. The list looks a lot like one that we checked in July, based partly on blog postings by Peter Fleckenstein on his blog Common Sense from a Common Man . In fact, the Liberty Counsel says it adapted its memo from Fleckenstein's original work.


We spoke with Sarah Speller at the Liberty Counsel, who told us that the group had been getting a lot of calls about the memo and that everyone there was very busy as a result. However, she assured us that "as far as our office can tell, everything in the overview is accurate. That's about all I can tell you," she said. "I'm just relaying what I've been told to say."

That's not persuasive. We see no language in the three main versions of the bill that would allow school-based clinics, which have a long history of providing basic health services to underprivileged students, to provide abortions. Nor would the clinics even be new — they have been around for three decades. So we rate the claim Pants on Fire!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Green Jobs Grants, Seizing the Opportunity of a Clean Energy Economy

Green Jobs Grants, Seizing the Opportunity of a Clean Energy Economy
Posted by Secretary Hilda Solis on November 18, 2009 at 05:24 PM EST

Secretary Solis discusses “smart meter” technology during a visit to Nevada Energy in October.
.Today the Department of Labor announced nearly $55 million in grants to help workers, many in underserved communities, find jobs in expanding green industries.

As a part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, these grants reflect the administration’s long-term commitment to fostering both immediate economic growth and a clean energy future. It’s an investment that will help American workers do well, while doing good.

The recipients of today’s grants will strengthen the capacity to provide training opportunities, support the collection and dissemination of invaluable state labor market information, and most importantly, help individuals acquire green jobs.

Of the grants announced, $48.8 million focus on collecting and disseminating labor market information, which will enable job seekers to connect with green job banks and help to ensure that workers find employment after completing training. State workforce agencies will be able to work together as part of a consortium to collect information and create a regional, multi-state or national impact.

In addition, $5.8 million in grants have been awarded to increase the capacity of 62 current Labor Department grant recipients to provide training opportunities specifically focused on jobs in expanding green industries.

These grants aren’t just more money to the same players. They reflect my commitment, that of the Department of Labor and that of this administration to ensure that help finds those who need it most. Many of these training grants are targeted at traditionally underserved communities, including American Indians, women, at-risk youth, and farm workers.

As a result, programs like Apprenticeship and Nontraditional Employment for Women (ANEW) in Western Washington State will be able to provide training and certificate programs in green industries to women who are low-income, unemployed, at-risk youth, or our female veterans.

These investments are part of nearly $500 million in Recovery Act money for green jobs grants designed to promote economic growth. Over the next several months the Department of Labor will release funding for an additional three green grant award categories.

I encourage you all to visit www.doleta.gov for information on the recipients of the current grants as well as information about upcoming grant opportunities.

It is time for America to seize the opportunity of a clean energy economy, and American workers must lead this green revolution. That is why we are investing these dollars here at home in American jobs and American innovation. By making strategic choices now, we will restore our country’s role as a global leader in the clean energy industry.

Hilda Solis is the Secretary of Labor

Pursuing Economic Growth and Opportunity

Pursuing Economic Growth and Opportunity
Posted by Ambassador Ron Kirk on November 18, 2009 at 05:00 PM EST
Today we concluded a weeklong trip to Asia. In our closing meeting with President Obama and Chinese Premier Wen, leaders of our two countries reiterated their commitments to renew old alliances and forge new partnerships.

Throughout the past week, we have made strides toward our goal of strengthening U.S. leadership and economic competitiveness in the region and making progress on issues that matter to the American people and leveraging that progress into job creation at home.

From a trade perspective, the steps we’ve taken in Asia will benefit businesses and workers across the American economy – ranchers, farmers, manufacturers, and creative industries all have a future in U.S. trade with Asia.

As companies across the spectrum look for a way forward out of these difficult economic times, we’re asking them to take a second look at trade. Because engaging new customers abroad can create jobs at home.

President Obama began his trip to Asia by making an announcement in Tokyo that the United States will engage with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This will be done in close consultation with the United States Congress and with stakeholders at home. This is an exciting opportunity for the United States to engage with some of the fastest growing economies in the world as well as providing the opportunity to address gaps in our current agreements, and to set the standard for 21st-century trade agreements going forward.

At the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Singapore, the APEC nations pledged to increase trade by simplifying customs procedures and improving the movement of goods across and within borders. They also announced an action plan designed to make it 25 percent cheaper, easier and faster to conduct business in the region by 2015 by cutting costs and streamlining processes associated with starting and operating business in APEC economies. President Obama pledged to the 21 APEC members that the United States will remain an active partner. The United States looks forward to hosting APEC in President Obama’s home state of Hawaii in 2011.

Our past few days in Beijing have given us the opportunity to further engage our Chinese counterparts and build upon the good work we started at the 2009 U.S.-China Joint Commission on Commerce and Trade, which I co-chaired with Secretary Locke October 28 – 29th in Hangzhou, China. At the JCCT, China agreed to improve market access for American energy companies, reopen its market to U.S. pork, and clamp down on Internet piracy.

This past week has laid a very good foundation for the strong and healthy engagement of America with nations throughout Asia. As President Obama’s point person on trade, I come away from our time in Asia inspired by our shared commitment to a future of even greater economic growth and opportunity for our people.

Ambassador Ron Kirk is the U.S. Trade Representative

H1N1 Flu Guide Helping Community and Faith-based Organizations across the Country

H1N1 Flu Guide Helping Community and Faith-based Organizations across the Country
Posted by Joshua Dubois on November 18, 2009 at 04:00 PM EST
To help keep communities healthy during the flu season, the Health and Human Services (HHS) Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (Partnerships Center) led by Alexia Kelley and with support from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, released an H1N1 Flu guide specifically targeted to help community and faith-based organizations. Flu season is in full swing, and communities are finding innovative ways to spread awareness through community outreach programs. Here are just a few examples.

•Johnson County in Kansas recently posted an entry on its county blog about the release of the new HHS H1N1 Flu guide alongside helpful links of how local organizations can prepare for flu and other emergencies and disasters.
•To help combat flu in their area, the Health Department of Lexington-Fayette County in Kentucky created flu outreach response teams, also known as “Lex Flu Crews.” Armed with flu knowledge and prevention handout materials, the “Flu Crews” have reached out to over 800 businesses and 300 faith-based organizations by hosting meetings and flu-education sessions to help prevent the spread of both seasonal and H1N1 flu.
•In San Francisco, Emily Hughes of the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) is having trouble holding on to copies, saying, “The guides are flying out of our office.”
•Also in California, Community Action Partnerships of San Bernardino County tell us that the guide has been crucial to helping local organizations during flu season.
The H1N1 Flu guide, which is also available in Spanish online, provides specific action steps that community and faith-based organizations can take to help keep communities healthy during flu season, including:

•Communicating important information about flu;
•Supporting vaccination efforts;
•Linking vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations to vital information and resources; and
•Expanding and adjusting organizational activities to help people stay healthy.
We encourage folks to check out the guide, and let us know how we can support local organizations that are helping to keep communities healthy.

Joshua DuBois is the Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships

The Race is On for Clean Energy Jobs

The Race is On for Clean Energy Jobs
Posted by Secretary Steven Chu on November 18, 2009 at 03:36 PM EST
I was honored to be a part of President Obama’s trip to China this week. We made important progress strengthening our partnership with China on clean energy – a partnership that will create jobs in the United States.


President Barack Obama and Chinese Premiere Hu Jintao review the honor guard during the welcoming ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 17, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
.President Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao announced a series of steps the two countries are taking in this area. Let me highlight three:

First, the two Presidents announced the establishment of the U.S.-China Clean Energy Research Center to facilitate joint work by teams of scientists and engineers from both countries. I signed the Protocol formally establishing the Center with my Chinese counterparts. China and the U.S. are committing $150 million in public and private funding to the center over five years, split evenly between the two countries.

The initial research will focus on three areas that are ripe for cooperation and crucial in the fight against climate change: energy efficient buildings, clean vehicles, and clean coal -- including carbon capture and storage. (Read the Fact Sheet: U.S.-China Cooperation on 21st Century Coal) These are also key technologies for job creation in the United States.



President Barack Obama, Chinese President Hu Jintao, and their delegations hold a bilateral meeting at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Nov. 17, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
.Second, President Obama and President Hu launched the U.S.-China Electric Vehicles Initiative. (Read the Fact Sheet: U.S.-China Electric Vehicles Initiative.) We will be developing joint standards and public education efforts, and conducting joint demonstration projects between sister cities in the United States and China. Like the U.S., China is heavily dependent on oil imports, so this work is in the best interests of both countries.

Third, we’ve launched a joint Action Plan on energy efficiency. (Read the Fact Sheet: U.S.-China Energy Efficiency Action Plan.) We’ve pledged to work with each other – and with the business community – to develop energy efficient building codes and rating systems. We’ll train building inspectors and auditors who can evaluate the energy efficiency of industrial facilities and recommend improvements that pay for themselves. We’re also going to harmonize energy efficiency test procedures and performance metrics for appliances and other products. This will not only improve efficiency but also help U.S. manufacturers get access to the Chinese market.

Historically, partnerships in science and technology have often been the leading edge of diplomacy – and that is certainly true with China. More than 30 years ago, the very first agreement we signed after normalizing relations was on science and technology. We’re building on a very strong foundation, and I believe our work will facilitate cooperation in other areas.

But this partnership will also have a direct benefit to our economy. We have committed to co-develop technologies that will create jobs locally in both countries. As technologies are piloted in China on carbon sequestration, for example, we can apply that experience in the United States.

The race for the clean energy jobs of the future is on, and China is moving quickly. Unless the United States takes bold action, we’ll get left behind. That not only means partnering with China where we can, but also passing comprehensive energy and climate legislation that will create a system of clean energy incentives in the United States.

Steven Chu is Secretary of Energy

Streaming Live at 1:00 pm on Flu.gov: H1N1 and Diabetes Webcast

Streaming Live at 1:00 pm on Flu.gov: H1N1 and Diabetes Webcast
Posted by Erin Edgerton on November 18, 2009 at 12:10 PM EST
The Department of Health and Human Services’ Know What to Do about the Flu webcast series continues today with a special segment focused on diabetes. If you or a loved one have diabetes, join this live event to learn about the possible risk of complications from H1N1 flu and what you can do to stay healthy this flu season.

Today’s experts panelists will discuss how flu can affect people with diabetes and answer your questions live during the event. Participants include:

•Dr. Beth Bell, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Director for Science, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
•Ann Albright, PhD, RD, Director, Division of Diabetes Translation, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
Visit Flu.gov to watch the webcast live at 1 pm or learn more about flu and diabetes.

Word from the White House: Economists Say Reform Will Strengthen America's Fiscal Health

Word from the White House: Economists Say Reform Will Strengthen America's Fiscal Health
Posted by Jesse Lee on November 18, 2009 at 12:07 PM EST
It's no secret that institutions of all stripes focus their communications on certain messages day to day. We thought it would all be a little more open and transparent if we went ahead and published what our focus will be for the day, along with any related articles, documents, or reports.

Supporting letter: 20 Leading Economists Write to President Obama, 11/17/09

Talking Points: Economists Say Reform Will Strengthen America’s Fiscal Health

•Yesterday, a group of 20 leading economists wrote a letter to the President confirming that measures that are included in the Senate Finance Committee legislation and that they hope to see considered on the senate floor "will reduce long-term deficits, improve the quality of care, and put the nation on a firm fiscal footing."
•The measures, they say, will "help transform the health care system from delivering too much care, to a system that consistently delivers higher-quality, high-value care."
•The economists lauded the following key measures:
◦A fee on insurance companies offering high-premium plans — which would create a strong incentive for more efficient plans that would help reduce the growth of premiums.
◦Establishing a Medicare commission — which would develop and submit proposals to Congress aimed at extending the solvency of Medicare, slowing Medicare cost growth, and improving the quality of care delivered to Medicare beneficiaries.
◦Reforms in the delivery system to ensure that patients receive high-quality, high-value care.
◦And, as the President has insisted from the beginning, the legislation does not add a dime to the deficit.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Voting for Department of Education Video Contest Begins

Voting for Department of Education Video Contest Begins
Posted by Eddie Lee on November 17, 2009 at 04:52 PM EST
Since September 21st, hundreds of students across the country responded to the President’s call to take greater responsibility for their education by creating videos explaining why education is important. In less than two months, students submitted more than 600 video entries.

In their entries, students talked about the goals they had for their future and the steps they would take to meet them. The submissions came from students from diverse economic, social and ethnic backgrounds, and the content ranged from music videos to short skits. The common theme in all of these videos was the understanding that education was the key to success.

Secretary Arne Duncan recorded a message thanking all the students who submitted videos:


The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Communications and Outreach has carefully reviewed each submission and narrowed the submissions down to 10 finalists based on creativity, strength and originality of content, and ability to inspire. These videos are now available for voting at www.youtube.com/Iamwhatilearn.

Voting for the videos runs from November 16th to December 4th. The three videos with the most votes at the end of this period will each win a $1,000 prize issued by the U.S. Department of Education.

Eddie Lee is Director of New Media at the Department of Education