Mar 22, 2021
Barack Obama Speech: Anniversary of Affordable Care Act Event Transcript March 22
Former President Barack Obama joined a “Protect Our Care” event on March 22, 2021, the 11th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act. Read the transcript of the event with Obama’s speech remarks here.
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Leslie Dach: (07:05)
Thank you everyone. My name is Leslie Dach, and I’m the founder and chair of Protect Our Care. Thank you for joining us today for a conversation with a very special guest, the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama. We’re here today to celebrate the 11th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act, one of the many legacies from President Obama’s eight years in office. And many of you joining today are veterans of that fight, the fight to pass the ACA and the fight to preserve the ACA through the last difficult four years. And many of you and millions of others around the country are people whose lives are better today because of the Affordable Care Act. In addition to our special guest with me on the screen today is Brad Woodhouse, the executive director of Protect Our Care, and himself a veteran of the effort 11 years ago to pass this law. Brad, thanks for all you’ve done and for all you do every day for American healthcare.
Brad Woodhouse: (08:02)
Great. Thank you Leslie. And I want to thank you, Mr. President. We’ve come a long way from when I was at the DNC in 2009 and 2010, and we were fighting death panels and the Koch brothers were bringing busloads of Medicare recipients to Washington to tell government to get their hands off their healthcare. We’ve come a long way, and the ACA is certainly here to stay.
Leslie Dach: (08:26)
Thanks, Brad. Also with us as Laura Packard, the stage-four cancer survivor, who ever since the day she was diagnosed has become a fearsome and leading advocate for healthcare. And in a minute, Laura will introduce our special guests. I had the honor of serving in the Obama administration as a senior counselor to the HHS secretary. I was responsible for helping to manage the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and also served as the department’s Ebola coordinator. I saw firsthand how deeply engaged President Obama was in both these issues. He didn’t just fight to pass the ACA, he worked tirelessly, and he made us work tirelessly to make it the success it is. And at every meeting with him was then vice-president, and now President, Joe Biden.
Leslie Dach: (09:12)
And just a few weeks ago, under President Biden’s leadership and with the vote of congressional Democrats, we passed the American Rescue Plan. And that plan is the biggest advance in healthcare since the Affordable Care Act. It reduces the cost of premiums for millions of Americans so that more people can get covered and more people can pay their bills, particularly those people who’ve lost their job in the pandemic. And it invests in racial disparities in a meaningful way so that we begin to end them. And let me say again, this occurred, this bill passed without a single Republican vote. And so with that, let me now turn it over to Laura Packard. Laura.
Laura Packard: (10:03)
Hi, my name is Laura Packard, and I’m a small business owner in Denver. I’m here today because the Affordable Care Act saved my life. Four years ago, I walked into a doctor’s office with a nagging cough and walked out with a stage four cancer diagnosis. Without the ACA, I never could have afforded the six months of chemotherapy and month of radiation it took for me to be in remission today. I used to have junk insurance. If I still had that insurance, today I would be bankrupt or dead. The day after my first chemotherapy, Republicans in the UH House voted to dismantle the ACA and strip away the care that was keeping me alive. Not only did I have to fight cancer, but also the President and Congress just to stay alive. Thankfully, we won. 135 million Americans with preexisting conditions like me got to keep our healthcare. And many of the people responsible for threatening our care are no longer in office today.
Laura Packard: (11:15)
I was honored to go out on the road with Protect Our Care to share my story and lift up stories from people whose lives were touched by the ACA. I’m now executive director of Get America Covered, helping Americans get covered with affordable health insurance. I’m so happy that all of our hard work led us to where we are today. Passing the American Rescue Plan to make healthcare even more affordable and available to everyone. Last summer, I had the honor to speak with Joe Biden at the Democratic National Convention and talk about how we can build on President Obama’s plan. I am beyond thrilled to have the honor of introducing the man who made it all possible and saved my life. It is now my pleasure to introduce the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Barack Obama: (12:10)
Hey everybody. And thank you so much, Laura, for not only the introduction but for the incredible fighting spirit that you’ve shown. And you’re representative of so many people that, as I’ve traveled around the country, I’ve had a chance to meet and interact with and get to know, who know what it’s like to be vulnerable in our healthcare system and now are fighting on behalf of others to make sure that they’re not in the same position. And to Leslie and Brad and everybody at Protect Our Care, I just want to say how grateful I am for you guys fighting the good fight for so many years now, tirelessly. I was joking before we went live that I’m a lot grayer than when we started off this whole process. And Leslie and Brad are a little bit grayer than when we started this whole process.
Barack Obama: (13:21)
But, look, part of the reason I think it’s a great time for us to celebrate is because not only is this the 11th anniversary of the ACA but also because of the American Rescue Plan. Here’s a bill that Democrats led by President Biden and Kamala Harris, but also Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, were able to introduce as part of the broader pandemic rescue package that is going to provide an additional 1.3 million people access to coverage. And you know, that’s a hundred-
Barack Obama: (14:03)
… access to coverage. And that’s 1.3 million folks who could, heaven forbid, find themselves in the same position that Laura found herself in when she walked into that doctor’s office. That’s the Dallas Metropolitan Area. All those people now have the possibility of getting coverage that didn’t have it before. The American Rescue Plan is making sure that premiums are going to be even lower under the Affordable Care Act. It is making sure that folks who have lost their job during the pandemic are able to keep their coverage, and that’s a lot of folks who have obviously been affected, and it’s going to make sure that there are additional incentives to more states expanding Medicaid, which they should have been doing in the first place, and should have done a long time ago, but have been stubborn about, because certain Republican governors have decided politics and ideology are more important than the wellbeing of their citizens.
Barack Obama: (15:12)
Despite the extraordinary resistance that we have seen all these years and that you guys have been pushing back against all these years, we have seen more than 20 million people like Laura have coverage who might not have had it before. We have seen over 130 million Americans have the security and comfort in knowing that a preexisting condition isn’t going to prohibit them from getting insurance, that is making sure that men aren’t paying more for the same coverage or that women aren’t paying more for the same coverage as men are, that are making sure that drugs were discounted for seniors in ways that can be a lifesaver, that young people can stay on their parents’ health insurance if they are just starting off and have a job that doesn’t provide health insurance, and expanded Medicaid in over 38 states, seven of which happened after I left office.
Barack Obama: (16:17)
So all of this is a testament to the incredible grassroots movement that all of you helped to build, and the fact that it was still here, going strong, and more popular than ever by the time that the Biden Administration came into office so that they could build on it. That would not have happened had it not been for Protect Our Care. It also tells, I think, a broader story about how we should be thinking about change in America. Whether it’s Social Security or Medicare and Medicaid, the expansion of our social safety net to make it more fair, more just, provide more people the kinds of support that they need when they get sick, or times are tough, or as we age.
Barack Obama: (17:16)
The history has always been that you get the program started, it’s not perfect. It has some gaps to it. What I used to call a starter home. You get that first home, and you’re building up some equity, and you have shelter that you didn’t have before. And then over time, you build and put some additions to the house, and that’s what the American Rescue Plan has now done, building on the success we had in 2009, 2010, slowly consolidating, protecting, and now building and making even better the kind of healthcare that we need.
Barack Obama: (18:06)
And the reason it’s important for us to understand that process, that we’re constantly building on these past achievements, is because everybody on this Zoom call knows, we still got more work to do. Even with the American Rescue Plan, there are still millions of people who should be able to get Medicaid, but their governors are still resistant, and that expansion still hasn’t taken place in some big states with a lot of people without health insurance. There are still gaps in coverage and in the system that we can do a better job of closing.
Barack Obama: (18:49)
And so our success in the past should not be a source of complacency, but rather it should be an inspiration for us to keep on going until every single person in America has the kind of coverage that they need. We are the one of the few countries on earth with this much wealth that does not provide health insurance as a just basic right to its citizens, and the Affordable Care Act and now the American Rescue Plan have closed that gap, but there’s still folks falling through the cracks, and it’s all of our jobs to make sure that we build on these previous successes, and you guys have done an outstanding job of doing that.
Barack Obama: (19:36)
So my main job is to say thank you. Laura, particularly folks like you are an inspiration because you’ve lived it. Your story, your voice is what makes a difference. That’s what moves people in a way that a bunch of policy talk doesn’t do, and it makes it real. And so I could not be more grateful to you.
Barack Obama: (20:04)
Now, I know I have one other job, and that is to pass on, for the rest of the program, hand the baton over to Adam Hoyer. And Adam may not want to be reminded of the fact that I first met him, he was running around Davenport on my behalf, gathering a bunch of potential caucus-goers for this young, untested candidate for President. So Adam was a part of that crew of incredible young organizers who helped me win Iowa and got me over the top. And if it hadn’t been for folks like Adam, I wouldn’t have been in the White House in the first place, to be able to get the Affordable Care Act passed.
Barack Obama: (20:57)
But I think part of the reason I suspect that Adam continued to work with Protect Our Care and these initiatives is because he remembers those stories that we heard back in 2007, 2008 in Iowa of people who had lost their healthcare, didn’t have healthcare, had substandard care. And it was listening to them that we made a promise that we’d do something about it. And I did my best to keep that promise as President, and Adam continues to keep that promise in his current role. So we’re grateful to him. I’m grateful to all of you, and I look forward to seeing you out there on the front lines in the months and years to come. Because just as you guys aren’t done, I’m not done either, in making sure that we deliver on that promise.
Speaker 1: (21:57)
Thank you, Mr. President.
Barack Obama: (21:59)
Thank you guys. Appreciate you. Love you. Take care. Be safe.
Adam Hoyer: (22:05)
Thanks. Thank you, Mr. President. Gosh, I was not expecting that and could not agree more. It is too real. You may have grayer hair now, but I have far less hair than in 2007 or 2010, but totally right. So much of the community organizing principles that we tried to learn from you and put into place on that campaign are completely applicable to the healthcare battles that have ensued over the last 11 years. And that storytelling aspect in particular, being able to connect with someone, share your own story, and know that it resonates, it’s impactful, and that there’s so many others like you, as a means toward accomplishing a bigger goal, it was true then in 2007, and it’s been true over these past 11 years.
Adam Hoyer: (22:55)
So with that, my name is Adam Hoyer. I’m the Organizing Director at Protect Our Care. In a lot of ways, hair situation not withstanding, it is hard to believe that it’s been 11 years since the passage of the Affordable Care Act. And speaking strictly from … Well, not strictly, but speaking from an advocacy standpoint, it has been quite a roller coaster, from initial passage, through implementation, and efforts to sabotage and eliminate it, and recently to strengthen and expand it through the American Rescue Plan.
Adam Hoyer: (23:29)
And I am delighted to be joined by five incredible panelists here today who can speak to not just the history of the Affordable Care Act and the fights surrounding it, but also some of the tactics, the influencers, and the messaging around it, because much of the story of the ACA has been a series of battles over the very fate of its existence. Only recently has it felt like we could really go on offense when it comes to healthcare in the ACA, in the last couple of elections, especially, and with the passage of the American Rescue Plan, which we mentioned.
Adam Hoyer: (24:05)
But for the most part, the ACA has been under attack for the last 11 years in the form of misinformation from the right, accusations of being socialized medicine, or government takeover, or death panels, in the form of sabotage, congressional Republicans zeroing out the individual mandate, red States refusing to expand Medicaid, and Trump’s sabotage at every turn during his four years in office. And of course in the form of repeal, repeal and replace, skinny repeal in 2017, multiple attempts to strike it down through the courts, including a challenge that still is pending before the Supreme Court.
Adam Hoyer: (24:44)
And so it is against that backdrop that I want to introduce this incredible group of healthcare champions and activists who have been so instrumental in the fight to keep it alive and thrive. Sister Simone Campbell has served as the Executive Director of Network Lobby for Catholic Social Justice since 2004. She is, of course, a religious leader, attorney, and poet who’s led at least six nationwide Nuns on the Bus trips that I’m aware of, which are so influential in shaping our nation’s conversations on healthcare and social justice. Good afternoon, Sister. Thank you for being here.
Adam Hoyer: (25:24)
Dr. Farhan Bhatti is a family physician. He is the CEO of Carefree Medical, a nonprofit clinic that provides care to underserved and uninsured individuals in the Lansing, Michigan area, and he is the board member and state director for the wonderful Committee to Protect Medicare. Dr. Bhatti, thanks for being here and for taking time out of your busy and important schedule.
Dr. Farhan Bhatti: (25:44)
Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Adam Hoyer: (25:46)
Elena Hung is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of Little Lobbyists, an advocacy organization for children with complex medical needs and disabilities, and she is the mother of the famous national superstar Xiaomara, who I desperately hope will make an appearance today as well. Good afternoon, Elena. Thanks for joining us.
Elena Hung: (26:04)
Thanks. Hi, everyone.
Adam Hoyer: (26:06)
Andres Ramirez is the Nevada Director of Protect Our Care. He has an extensive political background and has worked on several local, state, and national campaigns for the past dozen or so years. And he ran Protect Our Care’s Nevada operation through countless election seasons. Andres, good to see you. Good morning to you, I guess.
Andres Ramirez: (26:25)
Yes. Good morning, Adam. Thank you for having me.
Adam Hoyer: (26:29)
Yeah. And of course, Laura Packard, who already introduced herself, as well as the former President. Is a stage four cancer survivor, Executive Director of Get America Covered, a co-chair of Healthcare Voter, founder of Healthcare Voices, and is maybe the most tireless and effective healthcare activist that I know. Laura, wonderful introduction of the President earlier.
Laura Packard: (26:49)
Adam Hoyer: (26:49)
Thanks for sticking around. So thanks again, all of you, for joining and agreeing to share your perspective on the last 11 years. And Sister Simone, I’d like to start with you if I could, because you were there at the very beginning and were instrumental in the HCA’s passage. What do you remember most about that fight in 2009 and 2010 to pass the Affordable Care Act? And what lessons do you think still apply to present day efforts to expand healthcare?
Sr. Simone Campbell: (27:20)
Oh, thanks, Adam. It’s so great to be together. It’s so great to celebrate a victory, and that we’re making progress. This is amazing. Congratulations, everyone. The things that, I just wanted to talk quickly about a couple of things. And one is, as I was reflecting on this, remember the ACA was never supposed to be the final law. The fact is, the ACA was supposed to be conferenced with the House bill and it was going to be better. And we at Network had said, “Oh, the ACA, that Senate bill is so business-oriented. We need something with a public option and better subsidies on the exchanges, and all these things.” And then, elections make a difference. Scott-
Sr. Simone Campbell: (28:03)
… All these things, and then elections make a difference. Scott Brown got elected in January as a Republican for Ted Kennedy’s seat, which I always thought was sacrilegious in a faithful sort of way. And what happened was we knew that we were not going to get another bill through the Senate and the only way forward, the only way forward was to have the House pass the Senate bill. And so what I learned from that is never hold on to your expectations, we always have to be flexible and use whatever advantage we can get to improve healthcare for the people of our nation.
Sr. Simone Campbell: (28:41)
And then we need to be persistent because the other piece that I thought is after the House voted to pass the ACA I thought we could declare victory and move on to our next agenda item which was housing. I was so wrong. We have had to fight tooth and nail in a nonviolent very faithful fashion to make sure that the ACA gets implemented, that our people have access to healthcare. And so what matters for me in this is that we be flexible in looking for our opportunity, that the COVID package that just passed was a fabulous step forward because we were paying attention and we were willing to use it and advocate for it. That we stay persistent, we don’t let down our advocacy once the bill is passed, and finally that we keep doing this as community.
Sr. Simone Campbell: (29:46)
Because somebody the other day was using this image of the geese that fly together and these big Vs, well, whoever’s flying in the very front point gets tired every now and then needs to drop back for a while, but somebody else can step in if we’re in community together. So that’s what I urge, pay attention to use opportunity, stay flexible. We don’t have the fixed view and if we do it together we can make even better improvements going forward.
Adam Hoyer: (30:16)
Yeah. I’m really glad that you brought up the persistency aspect of it and I think it’s been easy to almost take all of the good that’s in the Affordable Care Act for granted. And it was only through some of these repeal attempts that we as a healthcare community took it upon ourselves to remind the general public that it wasn’t always like this, the deductions provided by the Affordable Care Act and the cost savings on premiums that it provides. It wasn’t that long ago when before the ACA and insurance companies ran things that was a very different situation.
Adam Hoyer: (30:49)
And in that lens, Dr. Bhatti, especially I’d like to turn to you on that because I’m curious as a physician and especially with your clinic for underserved individuals in Lansing, and what are some of the tangible effects that maybe you’ve seen from the ACA provisions and protections, and also what got you inspired to become so active on it?
Dr. Farhan Bhatti: (31:12)
Well, thank you for the question and good afternoon. For more than eight years I’ve had the privilege to do what I love, which is caring for and healing people in my community. Most of the patients I care for in my clinic didn’t always have healthcare. Because of the Affordable Care Act which expanded Medicaid, my patients can now see a doctor regularly and control diseases that they’ve had for years or even decades. They no longer have to worry about out-of-pocket costs they can’t afford or choosing between copays and groceries, nor do they have to worry any longer about being denied coverage due to a preexisting condition. Obvious as the point may be, the ACA has empowered people to finally get the care they need to improve their quality of life.
Dr. Farhan Bhatti: (32:01)
On this 11th anniversary of the ACA, we should remember that the ACA’s expansion of Medicaid has provided health security to more than 670,000 Michiganders and more than 20 million Americans who didn’t have that security 11 years ago, thereby improving their health and opening new opportunities for themselves and their families. Where people once went their entire adult lives without seeing a doctor and addressing their high blood pressure, diabetes, COPD, and mental health, because they were uninsured, many are now actively receiving care today because of expanded access through the ACA. The COVID-19 pandemic provides a stark lesson that at a time like this every American deserves to have the security and protection of healthcare. And in the fight against COVID-19, controlling and eliminating chronic conditions can really be the difference between life and death. Now, with regards to your second question, the families I advocate for every day are people who work hard, play by the rules, and do what we as a society ask them to do. The people I provide care for are mostly low income working men and women and their children who previously had no healthcare or who had limited costly healthcare before the ACA became law. Each of the thousands of individuals we see in our safety net clinic every year deserves to live with peace of mind and security, knowing that when they get sick or injured they have a place to go where they can get care without going broke.
Dr. Farhan Bhatti: (33:42)
Before 2014, they would only get medical care in the ER, going there as a last resort because an illness or injury that they had ignored for too long was no longer bearable. The individual who brushed off chest pains for days until it turned into a full-blown heart attack, the diabetic who skipped insulin they couldn’t afford until life-threatening hyperglycemia or ketoacidosis set in. And the woman who had ignored the breast lump for too long until it was too late.
Dr. Farhan Bhatti: (34:11)
I know these patients because I’ve met them many times, and I can tell you, when people don’t have health insurance they delay seeking healthcare and sometimes the cost of that delay is deadly. I therefore continue to advocate because as a nation we should strive to provide more healthcare affordably and simply to more people so we can expand the horizons of hope for our fellow Americans. The ACA doesn’t just save lives, it provides freedom, independence, and security to people all across our great nation. Thank you.
Adam Hoyer: (34:49)
Totally right. And providers like you having your voice as part of this conversation I think it’s tremendously validating. A lot of our struggle I think in the healthcare advocacy space is that healthcare is such a complex and personal and nuanced issue. And especially when talking about a lot of what’s in the Affordable Care Act, an infamously huge sprawling bill, it’s tough to break through to people and I think having credible voices like yours as a doctor, and since there’s Simone is a religious leader it’s incredibly validating and it serves an important purpose.
Adam Hoyer: (35:28)
And on that advocacy piece I think also it helps to have folks who can speak from someone who’s living some of those situations. And I’m mindful, of course, you Elena as a mother with your own day job as an attorney, what caused you to want to add your voice to this discussion and what influence did you see in others sharing their stories and in both the repeal fights and in electoral battles.
Elena Hung: (36:03)
Thanks, Adam. Yes, great questions. Let’s see… 2017, that’s where it started for me. I don’t know why that sounds like it was a lifetime ago, but it was. And I just want to say it is great to be here with all of you, great to be here talking about the ACA. Before becoming a healthcare advocate I was a mom. Xiomara is the joy of my life. She is currently six years old going on 16. She was born with a number of serious medical conditions affecting her airway, her heart, her lungs, her kidneys, so I was familiar with the healthcare world from that aspect.
Elena Hung: (36:48)
And having spent the first five months of her life in the neonatal intensive care unit, this is obviously an issue that was very personal to me. In 2017 I was watching the news like all of you were. I was scared, I was worried, I was angry at what would happen if the ACA was repealed. As you recall there was no replacement plan to speak of. So, I was watching this really carefully and I really did not see my story represented. I didn’t see stories like Xiomara, kids like Xiomara talking about Medicaid and what Medicaid means for kids like her, that they were thriving because of access to healthcare.
Elena Hung: (37:37)
I didn’t see stories about lifetime limits which is a personal issue for me. Not many people know this, and we talked about this a little bit earlier, not many people know that before the ACA there were over 90 million Americans who had employer-sponsored plans that had lifetime limits. That meant if you reached a certain amount of healthcare your insurance company could just cut you off. And for kids like Xiomara that meant she could lose her insurance before she even went home for the first time before she was discharged from the hospital. So I am vividly aware of the life that Xiomara might have had and that kids like her did have before the ACA, but because of the ACA they are able to survive and they’re able to thrive and that’s the story that I want it told.
Elena Hung: (38:30)
In 2017, I showed up, I literally showed up. I live in Maryland, I am a 30-minute train ride from Capitol Hill. Got on that train, I called my friends. We brought our children. We told our stories to every member of Congress that we could track down, we literally chased them down in the hallways. We attended rallies, we spoke to the press. We told these stories and we tied it to the policies, we made the connection for everybody. We put a face on the issue.
Elena Hung: (39:06)
So when you talk about influence, Adam, we made it personal, we made it real. And together we saved the ACA, we saved Medicaid. Yes, Sister Simone. And I can see her, sorry. And it’s not just that, it’s also in 2018, the year after. It’s an election year and I very quickly learned that the advocacy that we did in the halls of Congress was tied to elections. It didn’t matter how great of an advocate I was, it did matter how compelling our stories were, if the people who were in charge weren’t listening to those stories and listening to how they affected our lives.
Elena Hung: (39:55)
My other hat is that of Health Care Voter co-chair, and so we got active in the election. We held elected members accountable for their votes on healthcare and as Sister Simone and Nuns on the Bus said, “Who we elect matters,” #WhoWeElectMatters. And so I think it’s so exciting to be here today, tomorrow really, to celebrate 11 years. We’re celebrating us, we’re celebrating the power of our voices, we’re celebrating the American rescue plan that has so many great things for the ACA. We’re celebrating what this means for so many Americans to have access to healthcare.
Elena Hung: (40:41)
And as Little Lobbyists, what we really think of it as is it gives us… To celebrate more birthdays. It’s that the 11th anniversary, it’s the 11th birthday of the ACA. And this law gives our children a chance to celebrate more birthdays and that’s really what it’s all about. So, happy birthday ACA. And, Adam, I know… Forgive me for saying this, but I know you have a birthday that you share with the ACA, so happy birthday to you as well.
Adam Hoyer: (41:14)
Yeah, very kind of the president to sign his signature legislation on my birthday in 2010. And I obviously I’m a huge fan of Little Lobbyists as are so many people including the Speaker of the House. And it’s such a powerful story and I’m glad you brought up… Showing up at the Capitol and it’s obviously a luxury that not many people can do, not everyone lives near DC but I still remember bringing in busloads of people from West Virginia with healthcare stories to meet, which I’ll mention in with Shelley Moore Capito to plead with them not to repeal the Affordable Care Act in 2017 because of what it would mean for them personally, loved ones and people like them all over the country. And I think the stories of the Little Lobbyists and everyone who showed up in that repeal fight, and we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that…
Adam Hoyer: (42:03)
… showed up in that repeal fight. And we would be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge that there are so many advocates, and of course we’re limited by the size of the screen and how many panelists we can have on here. But there were so many individuals and organizations involved, especially in that 2017 repeal fight. I’ll never forget the scenes from the Adapt organizers took over congressional offices so that they would be heard. And it was such an inspirational movement that encompassed just a wide variety of voices across the progressive spectrum.
Adam Hoyer: (42:35)
But I’m also glad you brought up elections as leverage, because you’re right. Elections matter. Who we elect matters. And I think maybe most important, elections matter to those elected officials, because that’s always kind of our leverage point when we’re talking about healthcare is that if you dare to vote against my healthcare coverage, it’s going to become an issue for you. And that’s also, I think, an issue that tends to get maybe a little bit more press pickup than, than if we don’t use that little political hook.
Adam Hoyer: (43:04)
And to that end, Andreas, you have been working on this and other campaigns for so long, and I think you’ve really mastered the art of earned media and getting pressed to cover the complex nuance, occasionally boring issue like healthcare. And I’m wondering from your perspective, what are some of the keys to getting healthcare messaging to breakthrough both to voters and to members of the media.
Andreas Ramirez: (43:33)
Adam, thanks. It’s a great question and it’s obviously not one that’s easy or we would’ve been winning this by slam dunk from the beginning. I think, from a very basic perspective, that having and nurturing relationships with reporters is important and it helps us process, but also as with many people here, as an advocate, this was personal for me as well. Before the ACA was enacted, my mother had been battling with sicknesses and illnesses, and through that process, she lost her job and then lost her healthcare coverage and had just hundreds of thousand dollars in hospital bills that she could no longer afford to pay and was just desperately looking for a solution of how this woman who’s worked her entire life and been a good member and been able to afford a roof over her head and so forth could no longer do so because of an illness that happened. And now she had a pre-existing condition.
Andreas Ramirez: (44:33)
So when the ACA was being debated and then when it passed, for my mother and for my family was something that was very important, very exciting. And so for me personally, it was a very passionate issue for me to want to be involved with and to help educate people about it. But with that, knowing and learning everything about the ACA helped make me at least a informed and knowledgeable resource for journalists to be able to explain to all of the nuances regarding, and not just the healthcare journalists about what are the healthcare impacts and policies on this, but also the political and policy side of it. And so you can talk to the political reporters. And then as Laura Packard mentioned earlier in the panel, she’s a small business owner. There is a huge economic and jobs proponent to the ACA that people overlook.
Andreas Ramirez: (45:21)
And so when you begin to talk to journalists from all aspects of the law, then it increases your pool of journalists that you can talk to dramatically. And so we were able to talk to people about, “Hey, how does this impact small business owners? How does this impact your independent contractor, your everyday person who may be stuck at a job that he wanted to leave to start this business, was afraid he couldn’t have health insurance if he left his job?”
Andreas Ramirez: (45:47)
When you talk about those aspects of it, the brokers and insurance who were able to expand their agencies to now provide folks with a lot of coverage, when you look at all those aspects, including the individual health stories, the stories like Laura Packard, who, before she moved to Colorado, was living here in fabulous Las Vegas, and others, people like Joe Merlino who’s also a cancer survivor or Vivian Lao for Reno, Nevada who is an MS patient, and you start talking about the real stories of people who are there, then for journalists that makes it real for them. It’s no longer some abstract policy that in theory affects tens of millions of people across the country. It affects Laura. It affects Joe. It affects Vivian. It affects Maria. It affects Alberto. And you’re able to share those stories particularly. And when you get to have those people, not just share their story with the media, but also with the elected officials, then we’re able to make some real impact on this process.
Adam Hoyer: (46:43)
Wholly right. I’m glad you mentioned former Nevada resident, Laura Packard, who I wonder if Dean Heller attributes his loss to anyone more than Laura Packard. And Laura, okay, let me set you up Laura, because you shared your story earlier like you have so many times and you’ve appeared in countless press conferences, town halls, a couple of bus tours with us. And look, your story is really compelling. But I think a lot of your effectiveness is in the way that you tell it and how you use it. And as you organize around recruiting storytellers and encouraging enrollees on the marketplace and identifying healthcare voters … Healthcare, as I said, is such a personal thing to people. And asking them to become active in politics with their story, like so many of the people that Andres mentioned, it’s such a sensitive aspect. I guess what made you do it? And how do we encourage others to share their stories and what makes an effective storyteller in your mind, Laura?
Laura Packard: (47:42)
Well, thank you, Adam. I believe in storytelling and helping people tell their stories, which is why I founded my nonprofit, Healthcare Voices, to help other people. It was a form of therapy for me. While I was going through a lot of trauma, I was able to do something instead of just suffer. And so what makes an effective storyteller, I think, is having a story, having something that motivates you and makes this issue personal to you, being willing to share it, and that’s not always easy to do, having a larger purpose or outcome you’re trying to accomplish. What’s your call to action? What do you want people hearing your story to do? And it takes some practice. It’s certainly not something that anybody is born doing. You learn to get more concise so that you don’t bury the lead, that you draw people right in away into your story and connect with them emotionally, capture their attention and hold it until you’ve delivered the message you want to deliver.
Laura Packard: (48:46)
And the keys to anything are to find the people who are directly affected and help them share their stories. Because people, us, we’re far more compelling than dry facts and figures. Humans are storytelling creatures. That’s how we’re wired. And most people don’t change their minds or move to action based on facts and logic, but on emotion. So use the power of your story to persuade. And if you don’t have people with compelling stories, dig deeper until you figure out what’s at stake and who’s at stake. And I think at least two former Republican senators would agree very much with me.
Adam Hoyer: (49:28)
I think that’s right too. [inaudible 00:49:30] what state you move to next? Thank you for joining and thanks for introducing the president. And listen, I want to thank each of you for being here today, for sharing your perspective, for being such an instrumental part of the ACA’s battles over the last 11 years. I know we didn’t have nearly enough time to properly tell the story of the ACA’s 11 years or all of your influence in it. Maybe that just means that we will have to get together again next year.
Adam Hoyer: (50:01)
And of course, we still have work to do. We have a lot of messaging to do around the ways that the American Rescue Plan has strengthened and expanded the Affordable Care Act. 14 states still have yet to expand Medicaid. And again, maybe the ARP will help incentivize them to do that. Prescription drug costs are still too high and I’m hopeful maybe that’s an accomplishment we can address in this Congress. And there’s still the Texas California lawsuit pending before the Supreme Court, which if successful, also seeking to undo the affordable care act. But that’s an issue for maybe another day.
Adam Hoyer: (50:38)
Again, thank you. It’s been a heck of an 11 years. It’s wonderful celebrating with all of you. Thanks to everyone who tuned in for this panel. If you’d like to stay active and this and other healthcare fights, you can go to the protectourcare.org. You can share your story there or with Healthcare Voices or both. Laura, Elena, Andreas, Dr. Bhatti, Sister Simone, thank you. This was a pleasure.0