Recognizing the Contributions of Military Spouses

First Lady Michelle Obama greets guests during a Mother’s Day Tea in the East Room of the White House, May 10, 2012. (Official White House Photo by Sonya N. Hebert)

Today is Military Spouse Appreciation Day. Military spouses have given this nation so much. Now it’s our turn to give back. We want this country to recognize, honor and support our military families – and not just through words, but through meaningful action. Today, we honor and show our military spouses our appreciation. But our military spouses have earned the support of our nation for all days, not just today.

Here are just a few things that you can do:

  • If you’re an employer, hire a military spouse – not as an act of charity, but as a brilliant business move. More than 100 private sector companies in America agree that hiring military spouses is good for a company’s bottom line – and they’ve signed on to a partnership with the Department of Defense through the Military Spouse Employment Partnership (MSEP); visit the MSEP interactive portal today.
  • If you’re a state legislator, support legislation that gives license portability for the more than 100,000 military spouses who serve in professions like Nurses and Teachers. Military spouses move at a rate 10-times greater than civilians. Every time they move, they have to get a new license in a new state — a process that can be cumbersome and can take months. The First Lady and Dr. Biden have asked the nation’s 50 Governors to pass license portability legislation by 2014.
  • If you’re good at helping to care for others, mobilize efforts in your community to support caregiver spouses of our nation’s most critically wounded. Go to see where opportunities in your area are – or create the opportunity yourself by asking those is need how you can help.
  • If you’re an educator, connect with the military mom or dad of a child in your class or school.
  • If you’re a health care provider, take the time to learn about the unique health care needs of military families. Already, the nation’s 3 million nurses have committed to learn more about military family-specific health issues.
  • And for every citizen, get to know the military spouses in your neighborhood –and extend a hand to help when you can. These spouses may not wear a uniform, but they serve right alongside those who are protecting us – all of us.

In addition to celebrating Military Spouse Appreciation Day today, the First Lady and Dr. Biden are encouraging all Americans to share their gratitude in support of military families celebrating Mother’s Day this Sunday, May 13. Learn how you can show your support for military moms by visiting the Joining Forces site dedicated to thanking them

To learn more about the White House’s Joining Forces initiative visit, follow us on Twitter @JoiningForces and on Facebook .


Guaranteeing Value for Your Premium Dollars

When we pay for health insurance, we want to know that most of what we are paying for is for health care, not advertising, executive bonuses or overhead. It’s pretty simple: we want to get a good value for our premium dollars.

Thanks to a new rule (the “80/20 rule”) in the Affordable Care Act, you can be sure that insurance companies are spending generally at least 80 cents of every dollar you pay in premiums on your health care or activities that improve health care quality. If the insurance company fails to meet this standard, or the “medical loss ratio”, in any year, they have to pay you a rebate.

Insurance companies that didn’t meet the standard for coverage provided in 2011 are required to provide these rebates no later than August 1 of this year, and to make sure you know what you are owed, insurance companies that owe rebates will also send a letter telling you how much you’ll receive. You can see what that letter will look like here. According to early estimates from the Kaiser Family Foundation, insurance companies will provide 15.8 million Americans with $1.3 billion in rebates.

Today, we’re also finalizing a notice for insurance companies to send you if they meet or exceed the standard. If your insurance company is providing fair value for your premium dollars, you should know that too. You’ll be able to see your plan’s medical loss ratio on starting this summer.

If you don’t get a rebate, that means your plan may have lowered prices or improved your coverage already.  For example, one insurer improved its medical loss ratio by lowering premiums by an average of $2,500 for 4,200 small businesses, cutting their premiums to give consumers welcome cost relief.  This is one of the ways the 80/20 rule is bringing value to consumers for their health care dollars.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act rate review program, health insurers are also being held accountable for health insurance rate increases. Insurance companies are now required to disclose to their customers rate increases of 10 percent or more and to justify these increases – and HHS and the States have the authority to determine whether these increases are reasonable. For the first time, you can find all of this information about rate increases in your State in one location, at

The 80/20 rule and the rate review program are two ways the Affordable Care Act is protecting you. You can find out more about how the Affordable Care Act increases transparency and protects consumers here:

May 11: News Roundup

Justice Department sues Arizona Sheriff Arpaio over violation of rights. There’s more at the Washington Post.

Ten most disturbing allegations in the DOJ suit against Arpaio. There’s more at ThinkProgress.

House Republicans vote for draconian cuts, passage unlikely in the U.S. Senate. There’s more at the New York Times.

Mitt Romney’s prep school classmates recall a bully. There’s more in the Washington Post.

Another Mitt Romney classmate confirms story, says, it was “far worse” than a prank. “It was an assault.” There’s more at CNN.

Romney campaign ‘Tweets’ for backup, seeking prep-school classmates who will say he wasn’t an anti-gay bully. There’s more at TPM.

Mitt Romney abolished LGBT anti-bullying commission as Governor of Massachusetts. There’s more at ThinkProgress.

Romney campaign plans to campaign in support of a national anti-marriage equality Constitutional Amendment. There’s more at the DailyKos.

President Obama mocks Mitt Romney’s recent etch-a-sketch moment. There’s more at TPM.

Tea Party darling, Congresswoman Michelle Bachman withdraws duel citizenship. There’s more at the Los Angeles Times.

Harry Reid: Senator Lugar drummed out of Republican Party by the ‘Tea Party’ for bi-partisan cooperation. There’s more at the Washington Post.

President Obama’s Los Angeles event the most successful one-night fundraiser in history. There’s more at the Los Angeles Times.

Global investors prefer President Obama on economy. There’s more at Bloomberg.

Damaging anti-labor videotape of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker surfaces. There’s more at TPM.

North Carolina Republican moves to strip domestic partner rights in North Carolina. There’s more at ThinkProgress.

New Mexico CD 3 Republican candidate Adam Kokesh says assassinating Romney to help Ron Paul “has crossed his mind.” There’s more at Steve Terrell’s Roundhouse Roundup.

Opinion: The New York Times looks at the Republican assault on fairness in “The Human Cost of Ideology.” Read it in the New York Times.

Making Regulation Smarter to Save Lives and Money

Smart regulations save lives and dollars. For example, the number of deaths on the highways is now down to its lowest level in over 60 years. This is an extraordinary achievement, produced not only by the commitment and creativity of the private sector but also by educational and regulatory initiatives from local, state, and national governments. In areas that include food and workplace safety, clean air, fuel economy, energy efficiency, and investor protection, well-designed regulations are preventing tens of thousands of premature deaths and hundreds of thousands of illnesses and accidents — and saving billions of dollars.

Under the President’s direction, we have finalized rules, in our first three years, with more than $91 billion in net benefits – over 25 times the corresponding figure in the first three years of the Bush Administration, and over 6 times the corresponding figure in the first three years of the Clinton Administration.

But we don’t need all of the regulations that are on the books. By streamlining some and eliminating others, we can save billions of dollars in unnecessary costs. As President Obama has emphasized, it is possible, even indispensable, both to issue sensible, protective regulations and to eliminate rules that are no longer justified.  Today, we are taking three important steps in that direction.

First, the President has signed a new Executive Order, making it a continuing obligation of our government to scrutinize rules on the books to see if they really make sense. The Order directs agencies to seek public comments on rules in need of review. To promote priority-setting, the Order directs agencies to emphasize reforms that produce significant quantifiable savings. To promote accountability, the Order requires agencies to provide the public with regular reports on their past efforts and their future plans — with details and deadlines. These historic steps build on, and institutionalize, the President’s Executive Order of January 18, 2011,  which first called for retrospective review of rules on the books(the regulatory “lookback”).

Second, the Council of Economic Advisers is issuing a report on the “lookback.” Thereport outlines the progress made to date. It notes that agencies have identified over 500 reforms and that a small fraction of them, already finalized or formally proposed to the public, will be saving more than $10 billion over the next five years. The report emphasizes that we need continued analysis and public participation to identify rules that should be streamlined, improved, or eliminated.

Third, we are announcing five final rules that will save nearly $6 billion as a result of the President’s directive that agencies review old rules:

  • The Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing two rules to remove unnecessary regulatory and reporting requirements now imposed on hospitals and other healthcare providers, saving more than $5 billion over the next five years.
  • The Department of Transportation is finalizing a rule to eliminate unnecessary regulation of the railroad industry, saving up to $335 million in the near future while continuing to maintain public safety.
  • The Department of Transportation is finalizing a rule to extend compliance dates on traffic control requirements (which would, among other things, require states and localities to change street signs), saving millions of dollars in the process.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency is eliminating the obligation for some states to require air pollution vapor recovery systems at local gas stations. This obligation was imposed before new vehicles were required to have increasingly ubiquitous built-in air pollution control technologies.  The anticipated five-year savings are over $300 million.

With today’s announcements, the regulatory “lookback” is becoming a standardized feature of American government. In an economically difficult time, it promises to increase the benefits and to decrease the costs of Federal regulation.