Health Care Reform

Remarks by the First Lady During Conference Call with Nurses

Washington, D.C.–(ENEWSPF)–September 28, 2010.  

MRS. OBAMA:  Thank you, thanks so much, Dr. Wakefield. Thank you for that introduction but more importantly thank you for your hard work in fighting for health care reform for so many years.  She’s truly been a wonderful advocate and a partner to this White House.

I also want to thank all the nurses who are joining me here today at the White House.  And of course I want to thank all of you joining us on the call across the country today.  We have a wonderful representation of the profession on this call.

But we’re on this call today to talk about what health insurance reform means for you and for your patients, specifically the new provisions that just went into effect.  But I do want to start by saying that I was looking forward to this call for a couple of reasons, not just because we’re talking about important reforms, but because Barack and I have seen firsthand the crucial role that nurses play in our nation’s health care system.

And just to recall a story, I will never forget the time back in Chicago, when Sasha was then a baby, she was just about four months old, and one day she just began to cry inconsolably.  And up until that time, Sasha was a healthy, happy baby who rarely cried for no reason.  So of course we knew something was wrong, and we immediately took her to the ER.

And as you all can imagine, when a child gets sick, you are scared, and we were certainly scared when we got to the hospital.  And we were even more frightened when Sasha was diagnosed with meningitis.

But what made that difficult time so much easier to bear was really all of you.  It was the nurses.  And don’t get me wrong, the doctors did a phenomenal job.  But the nurses were the ones communicating with us every single step of the way, using their expertise not just to comfort our little baby girl, but to comfort us.

And thank God, everything turned out okay, and Sasha is healthy, as everyone knows.  But it’s because of that experience we will always be grateful to the nurses who helped us then and to all our nurses across the country who provide such outstanding health care each and every day.

And I know that so many Americans have their own stories to tell about the skill, the care, the compassion that nurses showed them during difficult days.

We all have these stories because in moments of need, nurses are on the front lines of America’s health care system.  We all have these stories because in moments of need, nurses are the ones who make things work.

And that’s the reason we’re talking today.  You all play such a critical role in helping patients understand what’s going on with their health care, giving them the information they need not just to get better, but to stay healthy.

And right now, there’s some very important new information that we really need to help pass along.

Last week, we hit the six-month anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.  That means that we’re starting to see more of the reforms take effect, including new protections and benefits in the Patient’s Bill of Rights.

So for example, insurance companies can no longer discriminate against kids because they have a preexisting condition.  Patients can no longer be dropped by their insurance companies because they get sick.  People suffering from a serious illness like breast cancer can focus on their treatment because they no longer have to worry about hitting their lifetime limit on coverage.  And college kids and young adults just starting out on their own can now get coverage through their parents’ plan.

Now, all this means that individuals and families have more control over their health care.  But here’s the important point:  These reforms aren’t abstract theories that just make for good talking points.  These are real changes that will benefit Americans all across the country.

And some of the biggest new changes and benefits are the reforms that deal with preventative care, because we all know, everyone on this call, that the best way to keep families healthy and cut health care costs is to keep people from getting sick in the first place.

And, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, that’s going to be easier because many preventative services are now covered at no out-of-pocket costs.  Things like mammograms, cervical screenings, colonoscopies, childhood immunizations, prenatal and new baby care, high blood pressure treatment, all of these are included in new insurance plans with no deductable, no copay, no coinsurance, nothing.  These steps are crucial because they can help combat preventable conditions that can have serious health consequences later in life.

Take childhood obesity, for example, an issue that’s of particular concern to me as First Lady and as a mother.  It’s an epidemic that’s sweeping the country and it’s one that I’ve been trying to combat through our “Let’s Move” initiative.  These new reforms are critical in addressing this challenge because we know that preventative care, at least certain steps if taken early in a child’s life, can help reduce obesity and improve a child’s prospect for a healthier future.

We know, for example, that breastfeeding can have an impact on a child’s health.  That’s why the Affordable Care Act makes it easier for a mother to breastfeed once she’s returned to work.

We know that prenatal care and early childhood screenings can have a dramatic effect on a child’s chances of becoming obese later in life.  So the Affordable Care Act covers screenings for an array of conditions that affect pregnant women and their babies.

We know that kids getting their BMI checked is an easy step that can help parents make better decisions about their children’s health.  So the Affordable Care Act covers BMI screenings.

And it’s not just childhood obesity.  Preventative measures like these can have a major effect on so many chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease or high blood pressure.

So those are just some of the examples of what’s in the law.  But in order for this law to make a real difference in people’s lives, we have to make sure that people know about these reforms and that they take advantage of them.  And that’s why we need your help in spreading the word.

So we’re asking you all get involved in this outreach effort.  Talk to your patients about how these reforms can help them.  Also, talk to your colleagues about the best ways to inform patients about what this new law means for them and for their families.

But in closing, just let me say this to all of you on this line.  So many of you have played such an important role throughout this process.  From the very beginning, it’s been nurses who have sat at the table sharing your ideas, sharing your concerns and your experiences.  And as a result, all of you have helped to make this law even better.  So I want to thank you for that.  And we needed your help then and we need your help again to spread the word.

So, again, thank you everyone for the work that you’ve done, thank you for the work that you’re going to do and all the things that you do every single day to make this country a healthier, more secure place.

And with that, I’m going to turn it back to Mary Wakefield who will provide a few more details on some of the other reforms.

Thanks, again.