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Carney: President Will Enroll in Obamacare

Carney: President Will Enroll in Obamacare

By Alexis Simendinger - December 3, 2013

President Obama intends to enroll for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Monday.

“I know that he will, and has said that he will, or the White House has said that he will,” Carney said, “but I don’t have any update.”

White House officials did not clarify whether the president’s interest is part of a public relations demonstration aimed at touting an improved HealthCare.gov website, or if Obama intends to alter his federally provided medical coverage.

As with his predecessors, Obama’s health care is provided through the Defense Department as a federal benefit that also affords security for the nation’s commander-in-chief. The U.S. Navy provides doctors who staff the White House Medical Unit and serve the president and his family around the clock. Specialists at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center perform periodic physical examinations, and Obama’s last such exam there took place in October 2011. The president also underwent a battery of fitness tests in January at a Pentagon health clinic.

As enacted, the Affordable Care Act does not compel presidents to obtain private health coverage through the state-based insurance marketplaces, although one Republican lawmaker tried to make that change in 2009.

White House and Office of Personnel Management officials contacted by RCP did not immediately respond to questions Monday.

As the White House and Senate Democrats labored four years ago to move the health reform bill through Congress, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa sponsored an amendment to expand the legislation’s provisions to cover the president and the vice president. But the Senate sidestepped his amendment before the law passed, 60-39. Grassley’s language sought to bring presidents and vice presidents into the insurance exchanges operating where they resided, and would have funneled “employer contributions” on their behalf through OPM to the issuers of the qualified health plans they selected. Those contributions, in their situation, would have been taxpayer funds.

Shortly after the bill’s passage, an administration official told USA Today that Obama intended to enroll in the program, even though the law was designed for Americans who are uninsured or under-insured, not necessarily for the majority of Americans whose health coverage is provided through their employers.

Since 2010, White House officials have pointed to those remarks as evidence of the president’s intentions. They have not said whether Obama would pay for a private insurance plan himself; whether he would do so through the marketplace in Illinois or Washington, D.C.; or whether he would purchase a plan that covered his wife and daughters. 

Also during Monday's press briefing, Carney told reporters that administration officials are comfortable with the ACA’s nickname: “I know I'm fine with calling it Obamacare. The president is fine with it." He added, "We're focused on making sure that the 'care' part is delivered to the Americans who want it." 

Alexis Simendinger covers the White House for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at asimendinger@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @ASimendinger.

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