For the second time in two weeks, President Obama traveled across the Potomac from his private residence in Washington, D.C., to the private residence of a family in the Falls Church area of Northern Virginia. Today, the president was driven from the White House for 20 minutes to spend an hour in the backyard of the Elmwood Drive home of Paul and Frances Brayshaw. He arrived just before noon.
The president came to talk about health care reform, with provisions of his Affordable Care Act set to take effect yesterday. He was accompanied by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and he cited as an example of the benefits of the Affordable Care Act its impact on Paul Brayshaw, a hemophiliac.
In his opening introductions to the group assembled in the back yard of the home, the president acknowledged the similarity between his first name and the last name of City of Falls Church Mayor Nader Baroukh, who was present at the event though it was a mile outside the City in the greater Falls Church section of Fairfax County behind Lohmann’s Plaza.
“I was just mentioning Baroukh means ‘blessings’ in Hebrew, one who’s blessed,” Obama said in his opening introductions. “And Barack means the same thing. So he and I, we’re right here. And I know he feels blessed to be the mayor of this wonderful town.”
The president also introduced Rep. Jim Moran as “somebody who helped to champion the kinds of reforms and patients’ rights that we’re going to talk about here today.”
In advance of the event, the White House issued the following advisory about the Brayshaw family: “Having hemophilia all his life, Paul Bayshaw understood the importance of a job with good health insurance benefits and sought work in the federal government. After five years, Paul left his position in government and enrolled in a health insurance continuation of coverage which lasted 18 months. When this extension ran out he enrolled in an individual plan in Virginia with a $1 million cap.
“In three years, Paul exhausted this policy because of costs related to the treatment of hemophilia. With options to change jobs, move to another state, or apply for disability status, Paul was faced with some very tough decisions. As it turned out, the company where Paul works enrolled him in an employee plan with a $6 million cap; Paul has already used about $1 million worth of coverage. The Affordable Care Act will lift this cap on how much health care he can receive.”
Obama reiterated Brayshaw’s story yesterday, and introduced others with similar stories of the benefits of the new law, including Dawn Josephson from Jacksonville, Florida and her son Wesley, and Gail O’Brien of New Hampshire, sufferers of pre-existing conditions that could not get health insurance coverage before.
Exchanging with a bookstore owner from Utah, he noted that “as a consequence of the Affordable Care Act, we’ve got four million businesses like yours that are now eligible for significant tax reductions that’ll pay for up to a third of the premiums that you’ve been paying yourselves and your employees. That does directly to a small business’ bottom line.”
He added, “Because employers with 50 employees or less are not subject to any penalty for not providing health insurance, about 96 percent of small businesses, will not have any requirement on them, but they can take advantage of it (the tax reduction provision – ed.).”
An unidentified person told the story of his son, Sammy, with a “pre-existing condition” that the new law will now allow to be covered by insurance. He said, “I just want to thank you and the Secretary and the congressmen and senators, because it’s life changing for a parent.”
The another person, identified as Jim Hawthorne, owner of an auto repair shop, chatted with Obama, who then walked him over to talk to the media pool, where he said that his health insurance premiums have been going up dramatically every year. He added that his accountant told him that because of the Affordable Care Act, he will get between $12,000 and $15,000 a year in tax breaks and that his premiums will rise only three percent next year.
“Keep spreading the word,” Obama told him and the others, “Nobody is a better messenger.”
The president returned to the White House, arriving shortly after 1 p.m., to prepare for his travel yesterday afternoon to New York for the annual United Nations Summit.