From Sunlen Miller:
The last piece of the health care bill, including the fixes passed late last week, was signed into law this afternoon by President Obama at Northern Virginia Community College.
“This day affirms our ability to overcome the challenges of our politics and meet the challenges of our time,” Mr. Obama said.
The president acknowledged that the health insurance bill won’t fix every problem “in one fell swoop,” but it “represents some of the toughest insurance reforms in history.”
The president highlighted four areas where immediate progress can be felt: by increasing the size of tax credits to help middle class families and small businesses pay for their health insurance, offering $250 to seniors who fall in the Medicare coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole" to help them pay for prescriptions, making new investments into community health centers, and strengthening efforts to combat waste and fraud in the system.
Most of the president’s remarks today at the DC-area community college were meant to emphasize the help for higher education within the bill – which the president said got overlooked “amid all the hoopla, all the drama of last week.”
“For almost two decades, we've been trying to fix a sweetheart deal in federal law that essentially gave billions of dollars to banks to act as unnecessary middlemen in administering student loans,” the president said. “I didn't stand with the banks and the financial industries in this fight, that's not why I came to Washington, and neither did any of the members of Congress who are here today. We stood with you. We stood with America's students. And together we finally won that battle.”
By cutting out the middleman the president said that American taxpayers will save $68 billion in the coming years. Those savings will be re-invested to help improve the quality of higher education and making it more affordable – investing in community colleges, strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities and minority-serving intuitions, doubling the Pell Grant program and by making it easier for “responsible students” to pay off their loans.
“Michelle and I had big debts coming out of school, debts we weren't able to fully repay until just a few years before I started running for office,” Obama said. “If you pay your loans on time, you'll only have to pay them off for 20 years. And you'll only have to pay them off for 10 years if you repay them with service to your community and to our country, as a teacher or a nurse or a member of our armed forces.”
In addition borrowers starting in 2014 won't have to pay more than 10% of their income in repaying your student loans.
Mr. Obama was introduced by Dr. Jill Biden – a long-time teacher at the community college. He announced that in the fall she would host a summit on community colleges at the White House.
“We're going to bring everybody together from educators to students, experts, to business leaders. We are going to bring everybody together to share innovative ideas about how we can help students earn degrees and credentials and to forge private sector partnerships so we can better prepare America's workforce and America's workers to succeed in the 21 century.”