President Obama on 'Obamacare': 8 Million Americans Insured

The president explained that health care spending is rising slower than it has in the past 50 years.
36:48 | 04/17/14

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Transcript for President Obama on 'Obamacare': 8 Million Americans Insured
Now reported. George Stephanopoulos and good afternoon -- coming on the air right now because President Obama about to hold a press conference in the White House briefing room expected to make an announcement. I do with new enrollments in the Affordable Care Act is the signature health care program but also to take questions on the crisis in Ukraine significant development today. After several hours of talk -- -- John -- hammered out an agreement. Whether Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov designed to. Of armed clashes in Ukraine -- -- illustrate to our chief global affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz in Washington's been tracking these talks Martha. George this is -- a significant agreement what it does is calls for all sides to refrain from violence intimidation religious intolerance. And pro Russian militants must leave those buildings they have occupied in eastern Ukraine. It also commits to further discussions on economic and financial support. But it's really should. US will monitor this situation and if the Russians don't agree there could be further sanctions. And the president have been working on further sanctions at this agreement did not take place we also heard from the Russian president. Vladimir Putin today give us several hours of questions answers -- questions from people all over Russia said that any. Any accusation. That Russian forces were active active in Ukraine right now is nonsense but also conceded for the first time that Russian forces had been active in Crimea. Last month they said we're waiting for the president right now this is just announce. In the last hour. Expect some good news from the president's perspective on the Affordable Care Act. And he is prepared as we said. -- of these questions about the crisis in Ukraine. Right now. Jim -- level in the White House briefing room. As well she's been suppressed. -- -- -- Before I begin. I just want -- express. America the American people. Our deepest condolences. The Republic of Korea and the families of all those. We've -- their loved ones lost one of very -- within the last couple of days. Obviously information is still coming -- we know the many of the victims of this terrible tragedy we're students. And -- American navy personnel and Marines already been on the scene helping with search and rescue. It's one of our closest allies our commitment. South Korea is unwavering in good times and in bad and that's something -- underscored during my visit to Seoul next week. Before -- take questions I'd also like to say a few words about how the Affordable Care Act. Is now covering more people at less cost than most would have predicted just a few months ago. The first open enrollment. Period under this law and -- a little over two weeks ago and as more -- it. Comes -- we now know. That the number of Americans who've signed up for private insurance in the marketplaces. Has grown to eight million people. Eight million people. 35%. Of people who would roll through the federal marketplace. Are under the age of 35. All told independent experts now estimate that millions of Americans who were uninsured have gained coverage this year. What millions more to come next year and the year after. We've also seen signs that the Affordable -- -- -- bringing economic security to more Americans. Before this law -- added new transparency and competition to the individual market. Folks who bought insurance on their own regularly saw double digit increases in the premiums that was the norm. And while we was suspected that premiums -- keep rising as they have for decades. We also know that sense the law took effect health care spending has risen more slowly than at any time in the past fifty years. In the decade before the Affordable Care Act -- based insurance rose almost 8% a year. Last year grew at -- that would. Under this law -- real Medicare costs per person have nearly stopped growing. The life of Medicare trust fund has been extended by ten years. And the independent Congressional Budget Office now expects premiums for plans on the marketplace to be 15% lower than originally predicted. So those savings add up to more money that families can spend -- businesses. More money to businesses to spend hiring new workers and the CBO now says -- -- care act will be cheaper than recently projected. Or cross from coverage provisions will shrink our deficits by an extra hundred billion dollars. So the bottom line is under the Affordable Care Act. The share of Americans -- insurance is up. The growth of health care costs is down. Hundreds of millions Americans who already have insurance now have new benefits and protections from free preventive care -- freedom from lifetime caps on your care. No American where -- pre existing -- like asthma or cancer can be denied coverage. No woman can be charged more just for being a woman those days are over. And this thing is working. I've said before this law won't solve all the problems in our health care system. We know we've got more work to do. But we now know for a fact. That repealing the affordable care would increase the deficit raise premiums for millions of Americans and take insurance away for millions more. Which is wired. So before I find it strange that the Republican position on this law is still stuck. In the same place that it has always been. They still can't bring themselves to admit to be Affordable Care Act is working. They -- nobody would sign up they were wrong about that they said it would be unaffordable for the country they were wrong about bet. There were wrong to keep trying to repeal a law that is working. When they have no alternative answer for millions of Americans with pre existing conditions who'd be denied coverage again. Where every woman who would be charged more for just being a woman again. I don't know every American -- you're -- agree with this law. I think we can agree that it's well past time. To move off. As a comfort and refocus our energy on the issues that the American people are most concerned about and I continues to be the economy. Because these endless fruitless repeal efforts come at a cost the fifty or so votes Republicans have taken to repeal this law. Could have been fifty -- to create jobs by investing in things like infrastructure. Or animation. Or fifty votes to make it easier for middle class -- to send their kids to college. Or fifty votes to raise the minimum wage. We'll restore unemployment insurance. They let expire for folks working hard to find a new job. Point as the repeal debate. Is and should be -- Affordable characters working and I know the American people don't want us spending the next to accurately fighting that's settled. Political battles of the last five years they sent us here to a fairer economy -- -- middle class. And to restore founding promise of opportunity. Not just for a few but for all and -- president that's exactly what I intend to keep you. As long as I'm in this office. -- that'll take some questions. See -- we got. Kathleen Hennessey of the LA times. But it has some development -- anything. Geneva I'm just wondering if you could describe your level of confidence. And it is. And how you can be sure that Russia will follow through it -- It. I don't think we can be sure of anything at this point I think there is the possibility the prospect. That diplomacy may be escalate the situation. And we may be able to. Move toward what has always been our goal which is what the ukrainians make -- own decisions about their own lives. There was a meeting in Geneva representatives of the Ukrainian government the Russian government. The EU. As well as the United States. It was a -- vigorous conversation my understanding is that the Ukrainian prime minister gave a detailed. And thorough presentation about the reforms that they intend to introduce including reforms that. Provide assurances. Four. Ukrainians who live in eastern and southern Ukraine. That they will be fully represented. That their rights will be protected that Russian speakers and Russian natives in Ukraine. Will. Have. The full protection of the law. And my understanding based on what -- -- Is that there was an acknowledgment. Within the meeting that the Ukrainian government in Kiev had gone out of its way. To address a range of the concerns that may have existed in southern and eastern Ukraine. There was a promising public statement that indicated. The need to disarm all irregular forces. And militias and groups that have been occupying buildings there was an offer of amnesty. Of those who would willingly lay down their arms to evacuate those buildings so that law and order could be restored in the eastern and southern -- The Russians signed on to that statement. Had the question now becomes. Will in fact they use the influence that -- exerted. In a disruptive force. Two restore some -- so that ukrainians can carry out an election to move forward with the decentralization -- -- that they proposed. Stabilize their economy. And start getting back on the path of growth of democracy. And their sovereignty will be respected. What I got to know. Whether in -- -- follow through on these statements. For several days and so today I spoke with. Chancellor Merkel. Later on the -- I'm going to be speaking to David Cameron -- going to be consulting with our European allies over the last week we have. Put in place additional consequences that we can impose on the Russians if we do not see. Actual improvement of the situation on the ground. And we are coordinating now -- European allies my hope is that we actually reduce the follow through over the next several days but. I don't think given. Past performance that we can count on that we -- to be prepared to potentially. Response. To what continue to be. Efforts of interference by the Russians. In the eastern and southern -- -- If in fact. We do see improvements. Than. That will. Obviously be a positive. In the meantime we're gonna make sure that we continue to help the Ukrainian government working with the IMF the Europeans and others to stabilize their economy. And to start reforming and we're -- to continue to work with our NATO allies to make sure that they are sure that we're gonna meet -- article five. Obligations. And that they are secure. And you as I've said before. -- an interview major yesterday which I've mentioned. This whole. Exercised by the Russians. Is not good for Russia either. There -- a number of articles today indicating the degree to which. An economy that was already stuck in the mud. Is further deteriorating because of his actions. And in my conversations with President -- -- -- emphasized the same thing. That. We have no desire to see. Further deterioration the Russian economy on the other hand we are gonna continue to uphold the basic principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity. For all countries and that there is a way for Ukraine. To be independents to -- sovereign and to have. Positive relationships -- both the west and the east -- both. Its European neighbors. And its Russian neighbors and that's our primary concern. -- That you have. House majority leader Eric Cantor has sent a claim that you haven't heard how to work with them and he's angry attack in the GOP on the lack of who. Movement on immigration reform I was wondering how you respond to act in the second part to act. Right now you have hunger strikers across the street demanding relief for undocumented immigrants. I was wondering if you can dispel the rumors or if there's a leak from the White House you will. Make some sort of announced in the coming weeks to expand activities on by the enough. Well. I still very pleasant conversation -- Mr. -- yesterday. I don't. And I have is. United here I was kind of surprised by the mismatch Victorian. Press releases -- and a conversation. Wished him happy passover and and what I said -- -- Privately is something that I would sure would -- that upset publicly witches. There is bipartisan support. For comprehensive immigration reform it would strengthen our economy. It would. Help with our security. And it would provide. Relief. You know families who many of whom have lived here for years and -- -- Children and family members or -- are US citizens. In the congress should act and that. Right now what's holding us back. Is house Republican leadership not willing to go ahead and let the process move forward. Story it was it was pretty friendly conversation. I think. In his press release. I gather he was referring to. The observation that we've made a day earlier that it had now been a year since the senate to pass a strong bipartisan bill and that. Although we heard a lot of talk about the house Republicans being Anderson doing something -- it happened yet. And suggesting that. We needs emergency here. -- I still feel the same way. I know there -- Republicans in the house as there are Republicans in the senate who know this is the right thing to do. I also know it's our politics. Four Republicans. Because there -- some of their base that are very opposed to this. But. What I also know is that there. Our families all across the country. Who are experiencing great hardship and pain because this is not getting resolved. I also know that their businesses around the country that. Could be grown even faster. That our deficits could be coming down faster. That. You know we would have more customers and our shops. If we get this thing resolved. We know what the right thing to do is -- matter political well that's not any longer -- matter of policy. And I'm gonna continue to encourage them to get this done. As far as our actions. Law enforcement. Immigrant rights groups. Has to do and thorough going review. -- approach towards enforcement. And were doing many console. Station where Democrats and Republicans and -- Any interest of party. I do think that the system we have right now is -- I'm not alone in that opinion. The only way to truly fix it is through congressional action. We have already tried to take as many. Administrative steps. As we couldn't we're gonna -- -- one more time to see if there's more that we can't do. Two. Make it more consistent with common sense and more consistent with -- I think the attitudes the American people which is we should be in the business necessarily tearing families apart who otherwise -- but. And so so let me. I won't get -- timing right now because. Mr. Johnson's gonna go and do that review. -- -- -- So you -- Affordable Care Act. You talk about what he. It I think everybody agreed that cast lines. But Democrats have been -- -- -- in congress stick to reopen the conversation. And Republicans. Have been more than happy -- -- conversation in a different way now and it if you say -- here is Anthony people find out. In this environment is it possible to -- that kind of -- that it their business news any others -- plant disease through small technical correction. It is absolutely possible. But it will require a change in attitude on the part of the Republicans. I have always said from the outset that on any large piece of legislation like this that are going to be. Things that need to be improved need need to be -- -- said that. I think the -- signed the bill. And I don't think there's been any hesitation on our part to consider. Ideas that would actually improve. The legislation. That the challenge we have is is that if yet certain members in the Republican Party whose -- is making it work better is a concession to me. Then. It's hard in that environment to actually get it done. And and I recognized that. Their party is going through. The state does agree. Anger and denial. All that stuff and it's we're nodded acceptance yet but at some point. My assumption is is that there will be an interest to figure out how we make this work in the best way possible. We have eight million people. Signed up. Through the through the exchanges. Include the three million young people. Who. Are able to stay on their parents plan -- doesn't include the three million people who. Benefited from expansions of Medicaid. So my math is correct that's fourteen million right there you've got another five million people who signed up outside of the marketplace is -- part of the same insurance for. So. We've got a sizeable part of the US population now that are. In the first. For the first time in many cases in -- position. To enjoy the financial security. Health insurance. And I'm meeting them as I'm. On the road that -- -- woman yesterday. Young woman maybe 34 with a mom and her dad. She's got two small kids and self employed husband and there was was diagnosed with breast cancer and that this isn't an abstraction to -- she is saving her home. She is saving her business she is saving her parents all potentially because she's got health insurance which you just could not -- -- And the question now becomes. If in fact this is working for a lot of people. But there are still improvements to make. -- -- was still -- conversation about repealing the whole thing and why are we -- folks say that any efforts. To improve it. Are somehow. Handing Obama -- victory isn't about me. And and my hope is is that we start moving beyond that my suspicion is. That probably will not happen until after November. Because. It seems as if this is the primary agenda item. In the Republican political platform. But here's what I know the American people would much rather see us. Talk about jobs would much -- rather serious talk about. -- college costs would much rather serious. Discussing how we can rebuild our roads our bridges and they -- infrastructure and put people back to work -- much rather serious talk about how we boost wages and boost incomes and you know improve. Their individual family bottom lines. And if the Republicans want to spend the entire. Next six months or year. Talking about repealing. Bill the provides. Millions of people health insurance. Without providing any meaningful Walter. Instead of want to talk about jobs. And the economic situation of cameras all across the country that's their prerogative. At some point. I think they'll make the transition that's my hope it. If not -- -- -- -- coupon forward on which is making making it work for. People all across the country. I'm sort of answer one last thing about this. Just because there's this this does frustrate. States. That have chosen not to expand Medicaid for no other reason than political spite. -- five million people who could be -- health insurance right now at no cost of these states. Zero. Cost of these states. Other than. Ideological reasons they have chosen not. To provide health insurance for their citizens. That's wrong. It should stop. Those folks should be able to get health insurance later burials. I -- and political -- You know that you're just saying about the Affordable Care Act do you think it's time for Democrats to start campaigning flatly. Me on the benefits of obamacare will you lead that charge. Not Ukraine -- sent. In other situations Iran for example that the military option remains on the table even as talks on. -- the military option on the table with Russia if so would that be through NATO sources through lethal aid to Ukraine. But given -- that have been very clear that military. Options are not on the table when -- friend. Because this is not a situation that would be amenable to a clear military solution. What we have to do is to create an environment in which. Irregular forces. -- That the seizing of buildings cease. That a national dialogue. By ukrainians. By Russians -- by Americans or anybody else but by ukrainians takes place. They move forward with the reforms. That meet the interests of the various groups within your -- They move forward with elections. And they start getting their economic house in order that's what's going to solve the problem. And so. Obviously Russia right now still has. Its forces amassed along. The Ukrainian Russian border. As a gesture of intimidation. And it is our belief. And not ours alone but. Broad portions of it international community believe that. Russia's hand is in. Be disruptions in chaos that we've been saying and southern these eastern Ukraine. But. There is an opportunity for Russia to take a different approach we are encouraging them to do so in the meantime we're gonna prepare. Additional responses should Russia fail to take a different course. We've already had an impact on their economy. That is. Well documented. It could get significantly worse. But we don't have an interest in. -- hurting ordinary Russians. Just for the sake of it. Our strong preference would be for mr. -- to follow through on what is a glimmer of hope. Coming out of these Geneva. Talks but -- -- we're not going to. Count on it until we see it and in the -- Time -- -- what other options with respect -- -- Affordable Care Act. My point is that we've been having a political fight about this for five years we didn't want something else. That's -- -- -- people interest in I think that Democrats. Should forcefully. Defend and be proud of the fact. Millions of people like. The woman I just described. What's on Pennsylvania yesterday. Were helped because of something we did. I don't think we should apologize for -- picture we should be defensive about I think there is a strong good. Wright story to tell I think what the other side is doing and what the other side is offering. Would strip away protections from those families. And from hundreds of millions people who already had health -- before the law passed but. Never knew if insurance coverage could problem when -- actually needed it or women who were getting charged more just because they -- one. I'm still puzzled why they've made this -- -- Their sole agenda item when it comes to our politics. It's it's curious. But it what I intend. Talk about is what the American people -- interest in here. Our plans for putting people back to work. Our plans for making sure our economy continues to -- our plans to make sure that. As I discussed yesterday were -- people. For the jobs that are out there right now and making better use of our community colleges and linking them up -- businesses and how we're gonna continue to bring manufacturing back the way we have. Over the last several years and how we're gonna put more money. In the pockets of ordinary people. So they want if Obama plus spent all the time talking about repealing the law -- work. That's their business I think what Democrats should do is not be defensive. But we need to move on and focus on -- things that are really important to the American people right now. -- -- -- before. There are people who -- -- -- -- had problems with the law and there are significant. Significant number of opponents of the law. My question what makes you think a significant majority the American people hope voters will accept this law or read -- the health -- 5050 red state blue state Arnold for years. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- You said there are people who have seen problems with the law. That's up 50% the American people. There there may have been folks who have been affected. In ways that they weren't happy about by the law that is. -- falls far smaller number than the millions of people who've been signed up. That doesn't mean we shouldn't be concerned about it that's an area where. As I set the camera we should be open to other ways that we can make it even better. So. That's. You know objective. Faxon and and real problems out there the other side it was just -- right what what's the general opinion of the law. Which is attached to general opinions about me or about Democrats. And partisanship in the country generally. My view is that. The longer. We see the law benefiting millions of people. The more we see. Accusations that the law is hurting millions of people being completely. Debunked. As some of you in the press have done. That and the more the average American -- -- to have health insurance sees that it's actually not affecting them. In an adverse way then it becomes less of a political football which is where I want to -- This shouldn't be a political football there should be something that. We take for granted that in this country. You should be able to get affordable health care regardless. How wealthier. -- the larger issue about whether we can move past the polarization and and sort of the bitter political debates between Democrats and Republicans. Of which obamacare is just one small part. That's when take more time. But it's not like a trial on my part. And I think that I speak for all Democrats are saying we would much prefer. A constructive conversation. -- the Republicans about how do we get some stuff done and and let's focus on -- -- that the American people really care about. Off on jobs we know that infrastructure -- people back to work right now would improve our economy for long term. The -- to be a partisan election. Why are we coming up with a way to make sure that were rebuilding our roads and our bridges and improving our traffic control system. No reason that has to be political. There really isn't any. Ideological disagreement on that and I guarantee you have to this what are you look at potholes that are. The size -- canyons all across. Big chunks of the United States that people would like to see an infrastructure. Let's get it done. Health priciest real political what I want you know. Parents -- -- The -- -- -- That LBJ library. You know most of us warrant. Around to pay it real close attention to those debates -- they're pretty distant now the past apparently took. You know several years before people realize they Medicare actually works. And -- during a lot of seniors out of despair and and and and poverty. So we've been through this cycle before it happens each and every time we make some strides in terms of strengthening. Our commitments to each other and you know we expanse of -- social lynch insurance programs. There's a lot of fear mongering and a lot of political argument debate. And lot of accusations are flung back and forth about socialized medicine and the end of freedom and that it turns out that. Miller is working for a lot of folks and we still live in -- free market society and terms constitutions intact and -- we move -- I don't know hollers from take but in the meantime. About us focusing on some things -- people really care about. Thank your life. President Obama wrapping -- press conference in the White House briefing room chatting what he -- success -- for -- -- saying -- eight million Americans -- sign up for health insurance. Under that act also taken several questions including on the crisis. In Ukraine just just about an hour after Graham was struck between secretary of state John Kerry and head of European Union and the Russian foreign minister -- In the Ukraine calling for a cease fire -- calling for all illegal groups. To disarm and offering amnesty to protestors don't wanna go I tell us more court is being Ukraine throughout this crisis and an end Alex's -- -- After what had been a very tense day of armed clashes. Absolutely listening to an increasingly divided country -- increasingly violent and very much -- it could be on the -- Warlock what did he say we saw from the worst bloodshed. Since Ukraine's military started cracking down this week there were three pro -- protesters killed in an attack on -- National Guard base. There have been government buildings across this region even hold town taken by angry pro Russian protesters who have taken up arms. On Tuesday Ukraine launched a military operation to take back those -- but so far they've had no real -- that. So this agreement in Geneva will Moscow try and build a vehicle -- didn't -- -- -- -- So far has not happened disagreement at President Obama did -- offered a glimmer of hope but a inflated prices this barb from over. That is the big question as you said will -- use its influence. To lower the tensions -- the question President Obama asked as well he was only cautiously. Optimistic saying this only has a prospect. Two. Even -- military options -- on the table that there would be additional consequences for Russia if they did not help use their influence to bring these tensions down. That's right George the president and as a officials have been saying for days that they didn't expect much. Out of these meetings in Geneva and they were ready with a whole new. Series of sanctions it began in two phases the first phase being more sanctions against the oligarchy of -- friends of Vladimir Putin's. People who control the economy stricter sanctions against them and if that didn't work then and in fact if Russia invaded was was allegedly the trigger. On this happening of Russia invades Ukraine then there would be. Broader -- called sect Oriole. Sanctions which included against that such things as oil and natural gas prohibiting the sale to the western countries -- though those items. Those are strong things that really attacked the economy. And that's the way the White House has been addressing this issue no military action in fact -- briefings with us it's been -- very frankly. -- that that military there is no military option the US can really help Ukraine Ukraine -- No matter how much. Military. Involvement didn't -- -- there's no equipment that will make the Ukraine military equal to the Russian military so there's no reason to go in that direction. And the president underscoring that in the press conference -- have a thanks very much but much more on this tonight on world news and get all the latest news any time. And abcnews.com. And see tomorrow on -- This has been a special -- From ABC.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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