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Obama's Health Care Record

A look at the president's policies from the 2008 campaign through today

Medicare, Medicaid and the 2010 health law will continue to be hot topics this presidential campaign season. KHN has assembled this resource page to help track President Barack Obama's health policy record from his 2008 campaign positions to the enactment of the health law and his proposals to control federal health care spending.

See also: Mitt Romney on health care.

President Barack Obama positions on health care issues

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

In many ways, President Obama's health reform legislation was modeled after the system Mitt Romney instituted as governor of Massachusetts.

Obama on Medicare and Medicaid:

  • Obama repeatedly touts provisions in the 2010 health law that aim to expand coverage and bring down costs in so-called entitlement programs. The law's approach includes the expansion of Medicaid; the creation of the Independent Payment Advisory Board, accountable care organizations, and other payment pilots and demonstration projects to reward providers for delivering quality — rather than quantity — of care; and various cuts to Medicare providers and insurers. The administration has made clear that it is willing to go beyond the changes included in the law, particularly in the Medicare program, to ensure its solvency.
  • The administration proposed additional cuts in its fiscal year 2013 budget proposal, including reducing Medicare spending by $302 billion over 10 years and Medicaid spending by $56 billion over the same period. For example, the budget, which was released in February 2012 but not passed by Congress, would:
  1. Apply a single blended matching rate to Medicaid and CHIP.
  2. Phase down Medicaid provider tax threshold from 6 percent to a low of 3.5 percent in FY 2017 and beyond.
  3. Give the IPAB (PDF) authority to limit Medicare spending growth to GDP plus 0.5 percent, rather than GDP plus 1 percent.
  4. Increase income-related premiums under Medicare Part B and Part D.
  • During the 2011 budget negotiations between Congress and the White House, Obama considered far more dramatic changes to Medicare, such as increasing the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67, in exchange for Republican agreement to raise revenues, according to reports.
  • In Sept. 2011, after negotiations failed, Obama released a plan to cut the national deficit, including $320 billion in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid over 10 years (many of which found their way into the president's latest budget proposal). The plan did not include increasing the Medicare eligibility age.
  • The administration has opposed Republican proposals to turn Medicaid into a block grant for states.
  • Obama has strongly opposed Republican proposals to change Medicare for future beneficiaries (people currently 55 or younger) into a defined-contribution program, in which they would receive a set amount of money each year to buy health coverage, rather than the program's current defined-benefit design.
  • In an April 2011 speech, Obama set forth a plan for reducing the deficit and changes to Medicare and Medicaid:

"But let me be absolutely clear: I will preserve these health care programs as a promise we make to each other in this society. I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry, with a shrinking benefit to pay for rising costs. I will not tell families with children who have disabilities that they have to fend for themselves. We will reform these programs, but we will not abandon the fundamental commitment this country has kept for generations." – Obama, speech, April 13, 2011

Obama on Health Reform Philosophy:

  • The 2010 health law, which is considered to be the Obama administration's signature legislative achievement, has the dual objectives of expanding health coverage and containing costs. Among its key provisions is a requirement that nearly all Americans obtain health coverage, a marked expansion of the Medicaid program (see Medicare and Medicaid sections above for more details), the creation of health insurance exchanges and an array of consumer protections including bans on pre-existing condition exclusions. 
  • In 2008, Obama made efforts to overhaul the health system a central theme in his presidential campaign. His reform proposal (PDF) included a requirement that all children have health insurance, and that most large employers either offer employee health benefits or contribute to a new public program. He also advocated expansions for Medicaid and CHIP. He advanced a number of the same types of consumer protections that ultimately were included in the health law. He initially opposed the individual mandate.

During the campaign, Obama advanced a proposal for a refundable tax credit to help small businesses buy health insurance for their employees. The 2010 health law creates a tax credit for small businesses (fewer than 25 employees) that provide health coverage to their workers.

He has consistently supported proposals to increase transparency related to health care costs and quality (PDF), such as the health law's medical-loss ratio requirement and requirements to collect and report on health care quality measures such as preventable medical errors, hospital-acquired infections, and others.

During his 2008 campaign and later as part of the health law, Obama advocated for comparative effectiveness research to help physicians and patients make health care decisions.

Obama on the Health Care Marketplaces:

Also of interest: Campaign civility IS possible.

You may also like: Health insurance coverage for 50- to 64-year-olds.

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