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Obama returns to White House for health care event with Biden

Obama returns to White House for first time in 5 years
Obama returns to White House for first appearance since leaving office 37:46

Washington — Former President Barack Obama returned to the White House Tuesday for the first time since leaving office for an event marking the 12th anniversary of his signature health care law as the Biden administration takes steps aimed at lowering costs for families needing coverage.

Obama started his remarks by jokingly referring to the current president as "Vice President Joe Biden." Mr. Biden welcomed back his former boss, saying it "feels like the good old days." 

"It is good to be back in the White House," Obama said. "It's been a while. I confess, I heard some changes have been made by he current president since I was last year. Apparently, Secret Service agents have to wear aviators now. The Navy mess has been replaced by a Baskin Robbins. And there's a cat running around, which I guarantee you, Bo, it's funny, would have been very unhappy about. But coming back, even if I have to wear a tie, which I very rarely do these days, gives me a chance to visit with some of the incredible people who serve this White House and serve this country every single day." 

The former president said the Affordable Care Act (ACA) exemplified why public servants run for office — to make a difference in the lives of everyday Americans. The law, also known as Obamacare, expanded access to health insurance for millions of Americans.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about Affordable Care Act and Medicaid at the White House in Washington
President Joe Biden is flanked by Vice President Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama as he arrives to deliver remarks on the Affordable Care Act and Medicaid, in the East Room at the White House in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, April 5, 2022. LEAH MILLIS / REUTERS

"I intended to get health care passed, even if it cost me reelection — which, for a while, looked like it might," Obama joked.  

The event with the former president coincided with new actions the Biden administration announced Tuesday to fix what's become known as the "family glitch" in the ACA. Under current law, families are only eligible for health insurance through the ACA's marketplace if they would be forced to spend more than about 10% of their income on coverage through their employer or other programs. But if an employee's cost exceeds 10% when family members are added to an insurance plan, the family is still viewed as having affordable coverage and ineligible for subsidized coverage under the ACA.

"The reason we're here today is because President Biden, Vice President Harris, everybody who's worked on this thing understood from the start that the ACA wasn't perfect," Obama said Tuesday. "To get the bill passed, we had to make compromises. We didn't get everything we wanted. That wasn't reason not to do it."

A new rule proposed by the Treasury Department would enable family members who must pay more than 10% of their income for health care coverage to get financial help.

"As a result, 200,000 uninsured people are expected to gain coverage and nearly a million more are expected to see lower premiums every day," a senior administration official told reporters on a background call.

The rule wouldn't go into effect until January 2023, and the official couldn't say how much it will cost the government to fix the so-called "family glitch" or how the government would pay for it. According to the official, Mr. Biden will sign an executive order directing agencies to do everything within their power to make health care more accessible and affordable. 

Enrollment in ACA-subsidized plans spiked during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a record 14.5 million Americans signing up for coverage in 2021. But more generous financial aid for coverage that was included in COVID-19 relief bills is set to expire by the end of this year, and Mr. Biden's efforts to boost coverage through his social spending legislation have stalled in Congress.

"The bottom line is this — the Affordable Care Act is stronger now than it's ever been," Mr. Biden said Tuesday.

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