By Matthew Alvarez
MIAMI- President Barack Obama came to Miami Dade College’s Wolfson campus Thursday afternoon to defend his signature legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act.
He used his speech to highlight the results of the law six years after it was passed, in the midst of a presidential election that may decide the ACA’s fate.
Obama showcased the ACA’s success in states that took advantage of its programs. However, Obama discontentedly addressed our governor (Republican Rick Scott) on Florida’s hostility toward the act.
If Florida were to take advantage of the ACA federal incentive and expand Medicaid, Obama said that more than 700,000 Floridians would have access for coverage.
Hearing some of the crowd’s displeasure with our state government, Obama stopped himself to comment: “If your governor – don’t boo, vote.”
To which the audience proudly cheered.
Even though Obama was focused on building up the ACA, he also wanted to shed light on the fact that it’s not perfect.
The primary problems, according to Obama, lie in two areas: states who are not supporting the act and private marketplaces that have low competition or low consumer incentive.
“That shouldn’t be surprising. If state leaders purposely try to make something not work, then it’s not gonna run as smoothly as if they were trying to make it work – common sense. You don’t have to go to Miami Dade to figure that out.” Obama said.
The President argued that Obamacare should not be directly blamed for these problems, and outlined a number of solutions such as state cooperation, encouraging states to experiment with ACA implementation, and adding a public plan fallback.
The public plan fallback would give more economic options to rural areas where there is a lack of private competition, which was originally a republican idea.
Attendees, who were mostly MDC students, had been lining up outside the venue since 11:00 am, waiting in the South Florida heat to get to hear what our commander in chief had to say.
Faculty, visitors, and select students alike were eager to see the president face to face; a rare opportunity for South Floridians.
It was clear that the Miami Dade College community welcomed the President, as they erupted into applause as soon as he took the stage with a surprised smile, returning the favor as he excitingly greeted everyone in the room.
The President spent the bulk of his speech giving context to the ACA and addressing how it has successfully reformed our healthcare system.
He emphasized the statistics – our un-insured rate is lower than ever; insurance companies can no longer discriminate based on gender and pre-existing conditions; there have been no significant changes for the 80 percent of Americans who get coverage through employers, Medicare, or Medicaid; children have been able to stay on their parents plans longer; the inflation rate for premiums has slowed down (but are still increasing); and most importantly, the ACA has insured over twenty million people who previously did not have any coverage.
“I don’t want to see anybody left out without health insurance.” Obama said. “I don’t want to see any family having to choose between health insurance now, or saving for retirement, or saving for your kid’s college education, or just paying their own bills. So the question we should be asking is what do we do about these growing pains in the affordable care act and how do we get the last nine percent of Americans covered?”
On the issue of partisanship, Obama welcomed working with Republicans.
He cited that a lot of the ideas for the ACA originated from Republicans, who then turned on the act once Obama himself became heavily involved.
“I don’t care whose idea it is, I just want it to work. They can even change the name of the law to Reagan-care, or they can call it Paul-Ryan-care. I-don’t-care.” He joking added. “Breaking gridlock will only happen when the American people demand it.”
Obama gave his thanks to Miami Dade College for helping spread awareness and putting together free workshops to sign up for affordable healthcare plans through the ACA.
MDC has been preparing to start giving enrollment assistance on November 1st through January 31st, 2017.
During this period, MDC students can receive help on getting a health insurance plan or looking at better alternatives.
While directing people how to look at insurance plans, Obama sarcastically repeated throughout his speech: “And you just need to go to Healthcare.gov – which works really well now.”
Miami Dade College hosts students from all walks of life, and the President’s choice of venue was no accident or favor.
A crucial component of the healthcare system is young and healthy citizens (half of which the room was filled with), since their insurance plans pay for the old and sick, which have a profound effect on premiums.
Although the college body broadly supports the ACA, many Cuban students (who tend to be republican) are against Obamacare due to its association with perceived socialist values.
Arseni Kusakin, a Miami Dade Honor student in attendance, was very interested in what Obama had to say.
“I hadn’t really considered it cause it didn’t really affect me on a personal level.” Kusakin said. “I like that he was calling for people to work together, I think especially now that’s pretty important. There’s so much divisiveness in this country, and I like that he drove that point home.”
Obama made appearances throughout South Florida later in the day, leaving a trail of traffic and political rallying in his wake.
As early voting officially kick starts in Florida next week, Obama is certainly trying to get the call out to participate, and making his case on which candidates will continue to follow his values and vision along the way.
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