Remarks by the First Lady at the Affordable Care Act Prevention Roll-Out Event
I want to start by thanking Maggie for that wonderful introduction, and both her and Nancy for sharing their stories with us.
Today, Maggie's son is living a healthy and happy life. But too many families in this country aren't so lucky. Too many people aren't getting the checkups and screenings they need to catch a disease like cancer in the early stages so it can be treated. And that's why I want to thank her for being with us today and serving as such a powerful example of just how important prevention can be.
Thank you Kathleen…
Thank you Jill…
I also want to recognize Congresswoman Lois Capps and Congresswoman Doris Matsui who worked so hard to help make health care reform a reality. Thank you for being here.
Four months ago, the Affordable Care Act was signed into law. After decades of trying, this landmark bill finally puts in place comprehensive health insurance reforms that will give families the control they need over their health care.
Once it takes full effect, this reform will help lower costs, hold insurance companies accountable, and give our families the security of knowing that their insurance coverage will be there when they need it most.
It starts by making it illegal for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you are sick, or deny your children coverage because of a preexisting condition.
And it also focuses on prevention. Because we know that the best way to keep our families healthy and cut health care costs is to keep people from getting sick in the first place.
That's why today, we're taking an unprecedented step towards implementing a provision that requires all new private health insurance plans to cover recommended preventive services like mammograms, colonoscopies, cervical screenings, treatment for high blood pressure, childhood immunizations, and measuring BMI. And these services would come without a deductible, co-pay or coinsurance.
Two weeks ago, we announced a similar requirement for Medicare, and today's announcement expands it even further. Because we know that services like these will go a long way in preventing chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and high-blood pressure that consume over 75 percent of the health care spending in our country.
And good preventative care will also help tackle an issue that is particularly important to me as First Lady and as a mother – and that is the epidemic of childhood obesity in America today.
Right now, nearly a third of the children in this country are either overweight or obese. A third of them will suffer from diabetes at some point in their lifetime – and in the Hispanic and African American communities, that number goes up to half. And a recent study found that treating obesity-related diseases costs our nation $147 billion per year.
None of us wants this kind of future for our kids or our country. That's why, earlier this year, I started the Let's Move! campaign with a simple mission: to address the challenge of childhood obesity in this country so that kids born today reach adulthood at a healthy weight.
I first came to this issue several years ago as a Mom. Like many other families in this country, we were rushing from place to place, eating a little too much fast food and take-out, having too many unhealthy snacks, and not really paying a whole lot of attention to how much TV we were watching or how much exercise we were getting.
So, when I brought my daughters in for an annual well-child visit, our pediatrician kind of waved the flag and said, "You may want to keep an eye on your children's BMI."
Now, to be honest, I really wasn't sure what BMI was. It stands for Body Mass Index, and it's a way of gauging whether or not your child is within a healthy weight range for his or her height and age and growth pattern.
I was fortunate that our pediatrician practiced medicine in a predominantly urban community, and was paying attention to the trends of childhood obesity – especially in African-American communities. Because I never would have known to ask for a screening on my own.
That's why today's announcement is so important – both for parents, and for health care professionals.
As doctors, nurses and health care practitioners, you all are trusted voices in our communities. And we need your help educating parents and families about the tools available to them. That's why one of the key partnerships we've established as part of Let's Move! is with the American Academy of Pediatrics. Together with the broader medical community, they're working to educate doctors and nurses across the country about obesity, and to help ensure that they regularly monitor children's BMI.
We're working to provide nutrition counseling to help families make healthy choices for their kids right from the beginning. And we've worked together to develop a new program through which doctors will be able to write a prescription for parents laying out simple things they can do to help their kids eat right and stay active.
But we also know that a child's health can be shaped before he or she even has his first appointment with a doctor. We know the impact that things like good prenatal care and breastfeeding can have on the life and health of a child – including on their chances of becoming obese later in life.
That's why I'm so glad that the Affordable Care Act includes screenings for an array of conditions that affect pregnant women and their babies – everything from folic acid supplementation to iron deficiency to vaccines. And it also makes it easier for women to breast-feed once they've gone back to work.
But in the end, of course, no matter how many times you push these tests as doctors – no matter how much information you provide – it will ultimately be up to parents to help their children live healthy lives.
That's why I want to send a message to every mom and dad out there – these prenatal screenings, these BMI measurements, these things are included in your health care plan. They're incredibly important.
And that's why I'm encouraging everyone to visit healthcare.gov, to get customized information and learn about the choices they can make to stay healthy.
Ultimately, each of us needs to be part of the solution here. Each of us needs to take responsibility for our own health. Each of us needs to use all of the tools available to us to ensure that our kids get every possible chance to lead happy, healthy lives.
And with these new provisions, we can keep costs down, and hold insurance companies accountable. We can give families the security of knowing that their insurance coverage will be there when they need it most, and we can provide preventive services that will help keep all of us healthy.
These are terrific tools, and now it's up to us to use them.
NOTE: As prepared for delivery.
Michelle Obama, Remarks by the First Lady at the Affordable Care Act Prevention Roll-Out Event Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/320678