President Obama broke his relative silence since leaving office to tout the Affordable Care Act on its seventh anniversary—coincidentally, the same day that the House of Representatives is scheduled to try to repeal large chunks of the law.
"Thanks to this law, more than twenty million Americans have gained the security and peace of mind of health insurance," he said.
When he left the White House, Obama said that he would try to "find ways to help people," and try not to get too involved in the daily push-and-pull of politics except to defend "our values and our ideals." He previously spoke out against President Trump's travel ban on seven Muslim-majority countries.
The statement released Thursday morning skirts that line. Without referencing the current effort by Republicans to repeal the law directly, Obama said that the fight to pass the Affordable Care Act was "about whether we look out for one another, as neighbors, and fellow citizens."
"This fight is still about all that today," he says. "And Americans who love their country still have the power to change it."
Read the full statement below:
When I took office, millions of Americans were locked out of our health care system. So, just as leaders in both parties had tried to do since the days of Teddy Roosevelt, we took up the cause of health reform. It was a long battle, carried out in Congressional hearings and in the public square for more than a year. But ultimately, after a century of talk, decades of trying, and a year of bipartisan debate, our generation was the one that succeeded. We finally declared that in America, health care is not a privilege for a few, but a right for everybody.
The result was the Affordable Care Act, which I signed into law seven years ago today. Thanks to this law, more than twenty million Americans have gained the security and peace of mind of health insurance. Thanks to this law, more than ninety percent of Americans are insured – the highest rate in our history. Thanks to this law, the days when women could be charged more than men and Americans with pre-existing conditions could be denied coverage altogether are relics of the past. Seniors have bigger discounts on their prescription drugs. Young people can stay on their parents’ plans until they turn 26 years old. And Americans who already had insurance received an upgrade as well – from free preventive care, like mammograms and vaccines, to improvements in the quality of care in hospitals that has averted nearly 100,000 deaths so far.
All of that is thanks to the Affordable Care Act. And all the while, since the law passed, the pace of health care inflation has slowed dramatically. Prices are still rising, just as they have every year for decades – but under this law, they’ve been rising at the slowest rate in fifty years. Families who get coverage through their employer are paying, on average, thousands of dollars less per year than if costs kept rising as fast as they were before the law. And reality continues to discredit the false claim that this law is in a “death spiral,” because while it's true that some premiums have risen, the vast majority of Marketplace enrollees have experienced no average premium hike at all. And so long as the law is properly administered, this market will remain stable. Likewise, this law is no “job-killer,” because America’s businesses went on a record-breaking streak of job growth in the seven years since I signed it.
So the reality is clear: America is stronger because of the Affordable Care Act. There will always be work to do to reduce costs, stabilize markets, improve quality, and help the millions of Americans who remain uninsured in states that have so far refused to expand Medicaid. I’ve always said we should build on this law, just as Americans of both parties worked to improve Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid over the years. So if Republicans are serious about lowering costs while expanding coverage to those who need it, and if they’re prepared to work with Democrats and objective evaluators in finding solutions that accomplish those goals – that’s something we all should welcome. But we should start from the baseline that any changes will make our health care system better, not worse for hardworking Americans. That should always be our priority.
The Affordable Care Act is law only because millions of Americans mobilized, and organized, and decided that this fight was about more than health care – it was about the character of our country. It was about whether the wealthiest nation on Earth would make sure that neither illness nor twist of fate would rob us of everything we’ve worked so hard to build. It was about whether we look out for one another, as neighbors, and fellow citizens, who care about each other’s success. This fight is still about all that today. And Americans who love their country still have the power to change it.