President Obama before 2014 State of the Union

On Jan. 28 U.S. President Barack Obama reads over his 2014 State of the Union Address, which highlighted the Affordable Care Act and several other public health topics. Photo by Whitehouse.gov

In last night’s State of the Union address President Barack Obama briefly touched upon declining childhood obesity rates, climate change directives, gun violence prevention and immigration. When it came time to discuss health reform, the president was much more thorough.

“Already, because of the Affordable Care Act, more than 3 million Americans under age 26 have gained coverage under their parents’ plans,” Obama said. “More than 9 million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage.

“And here’s another number: zero. Because of this law no American can ever again be dropped or denied coverage for a preexisting condition like asthma, back pain or cancer. No woman can ever be charged more just because she’s a woman.”

His focus on the ACA was no surprise after the controversial Oct. 1 rollout of the Health Insurance Marketplace, state exchanges and the federal exchange hub, Healthcare.gov. However, quality improvements have led to more Americans gaining health insurance, with more than 3 million enrollments through Jan. 24.

Obama also pointed out that the ACA can cross political barriers. Specifically he praised Kentucky’s exchange program, “Kynect,” which has enrolled 182,000 of its residents since Oct. 1 — more than 25 percent of the number of Kentuckians who did not have health insurance in 2011 and 2012.

With the March 31 deadline for the marketplaces’ first open enrollment period, Obama urged all Americans to help each other gain health coverage.

“Tonight, I ask every American who knows someone without health insurance to help them get covered by March 31,” he said. “Moms, get on your kids to sign up.  Kids, call your mom and walk her through the application.  It will give her some peace of mind, plus she’ll appreciate hearing from you.”

Obama also discussed the state of play on public health priorities including:

  • praising “Let’s Move, ”the nationwide anti-obesity campaign that has helped bring down childhood obesity rates for the first time in 30 years;
  • calling climate change “a fact” and championing new standards on carbon pollution;
  • reaffirming his intention to help prevent gun violence in public places, notably schools; and
  • fixing the immigration system for the nation’s betterment.

Read a full transcript of the address at Whitehouse.gov.