Helping Gamers Get Health Care Coverage (An Epic Win)

You heard it from Shaq himself: on Monday, December 12, the White House will host a competitive gaming event to help people sign up for health care coverage at HealthCare.gov. Tune in to twitch.tv/GetCovered to join in!

Millions of Americans participate in eSports (that’s Electronic Sports, or competitive video games) to connect with friends, to challenge themselves, to root for their favorite eSports team, and to be part of a rapidly growing community. In fact, more people now watch major eSports competitions than the number of people who watch the NBA finals or World Series.

As eSports grow in popularity and become increasingly mainstream, gamers are increasing in numbers and diversity. About 77 percent of men between ages 18-29 say that they play games, and so do 57 percent of women in the same age group.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 20 million Americans now know the peace of mind and financial security of having health insurance. Young adults had the highest uninsured rates before the Affordable Care Act and have seen the sharpest drop in uninsured rates since 2010. But millions of millennials remain uninsured, and many of those uninsured young adults could qualify for tax credits on the Health Insurance Marketplace to keep insurance affordable. In fact, most HealthCare.gov consumers can find a plan for under $75 a month, less than their cell phone bill.

Gamers, like everyone, deserve high-quality health care coverage. Engaging the expanding gamer community is part of the Administration’s effort to meet people where they are to help them find a health care plan that’s best for them. That’s why last year, many from the eSports industry, including ESL, Twitch.tv and GEER, helped launch an initiative to encourage more gamers to sign up for health care at HealthCare.gov. And this year, HHS has forged innovative partnerships with digital platforms to help young adults understand that quality, affordable health care is within reach.

I know the power of video games first hand, and how incredible the gaming community can be. In high school, I had severe health challenges that led to hospitalization (and fortunately my care was covered as a dependent under my parent’s plan). During my recovery after the hospital, I helped lead a guild in the popular multiplayer online game World of Warcraft. Playing the game was empowering; it gave me a community where I could be myself, and I met players who became lasting friends, like Aceris the Druid, who’s also a librarian in Boston, or Chyra the Healer, who’s also a Maker in Michigan. 

And we also absolutely rekt (humiliatingly defeated) our opponents in PvP (Player versus Player). The competitions brought us together, helped make our group a family, and made us part of a community. We looked out for each other. Gamers have other gamers’ backs FTW (For the Win).

So join us and members of the gaming community for a live-streamed event at twitch.tv/GetCovered on Monday, December 12, and help your fellow gamers #GetCovered at HealthCare.gov.

Erik Martin is a Policy Advisor for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. 

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Over 100 Companies Sign the Equal Pay Pledge

President Barack Obama signs executive actions to strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws for women, at an event marking Equal Pay Day in the East Room of the White House, April 8, 2014. The President signs the Presidential Memorandum -- Advancing Pay Equality Through Compensation Data Collection, and an Executive Order regarding Non-Retaliation for Disclosure of Compensation Information. Lilly Ledbetter stands to the left of the signing table. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
President Barack Obama signs executive actions to strengthen enforcement of equal pay laws for women, at an event marking Equal Pay Day in the East Room of the White House, April 8, 2014. The President signs the Presidential Memorandum — Advancing Pay Equality Through Compensation Data Collection, and an Executive Order regarding Non-Retaliation for Disclosure of Compensation Information. Lilly Ledbetter stands to the left of the signing table. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

Growing up, I never once thought that my gender could influence my perceived worth. I was lucky that my mother and father set a standard for me that as long as I worked hard and earned it, I could do anything or be anyone that I wanted, and expect to be treated the same as everybody else.

My mother was an amazing public school teacher, and while the hours were often long and intense, she never questioned whether her work was valued the same as her male counterparts. To a fault, I continued to believe that policies and practices like this were a given, never once wondering if it would be any different in any other sector.

The truth is that fair pay policies are not the norm. Many people are unaware that women and men are not equally paid for equal work. That is, until people start talking about it.

As Director of the White House Business Council, it has been an honor to work for a President and Administration that places such high importance on women’s equality and opportunity. The President signed into law Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act as his first piece of legislation, and the work to support America’s working families has continued from there. He created a National Equal Pay Task Force, signed a Presidential Memorandum directing the Office of Personnel Management to develop a government-wide strategy to address the gender pay gap in the federal workforce, and issued an Executive Order to protect employees from being discriminated against for wanting to inquire or discuss their compensation.

And as part of the United State of Women Summit in June, the White House issued a call to action to America’s businesses, both large and small, to pledge to be open and transparent about their pay-bands and to address unconscious bias and structural barriers.

Today, we’re announcing 44 new employers who have signed on to the Equal Pay Pledge, bringing the total number to over 100 businesses who have embraced equal pay policies and who understand that doing good is also good for business.

Equal Pay

Women make up nearly half of the U.S. labor force and more women than ever are the breadwinners in their families. Companies like SoulCycle, whose studio leadership positions are 86 percent held by women, understand that empowering women leads to a thriving culture and business. 
And if companies already implement these types of policies, they understand that those policies are just the beginning, not the end. Companies like Adobe have already published their pay data but will continue their commitment to these measures. Companies like Autodesk know that reviewing their data regularly is important, but so is the constant self-reflection to make sure they are living up to their own standards. 

I am proud to stand with the over 100 businesses who are taking on a critical role to reduce the national gender pay gap and create a world where our daughters have the same chance to pursue their dreams as our sons. 

Learn more about the Equal Pay Pledge, and see the full list of companies that have signed on.

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Michelle Obama on Election Night: ‘I Went to Bed’

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In an interview with People magazine, first lady Michelle Obama with asked about her emotions on election night given the outcome had Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump emerging victorious over Democrat Hillary Clinton, who the Obamas had supported. According to the first lady, the election outcome did not have an emotional impact on her because she went to bed and that she has not been one that has interest in flowing the blow-by-blow of politics. “I went to bed,” Michelle Obama said, with her husband President Barack Obama nodding to acknowledge. “I tend not to — you know, I don’t watch debates. I don’t like to watch the political discourse. I never have. I barely did with [Barack Obama]. Once you do what you can do, then you rest easy. It was in the hands of the American people. I think anything I felt about the election I said and I stand by it.” “This is our democracy, and this is how it works,” she continued. “And we are ready to work with the next administration and make sure that they are as successful as they can be because that’s what’s best for this country.” (h/t The Hill) Follow Jeff Poor on
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FDA Takes Action to Deliver Lower-Cost, Innovative Hearing Aids to Millions More Americans

Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is launching a process to facilitate the availability of over-the-counter hearing aids—an announcement with the potential to positively impact millions of Americans.

Tens of millions of Americans currently suffer from mild to moderate hearing loss, often age-related, but many either don’t realize they’ve been affected or cannot afford basic hearing aids—which currently cost an average of $2,300 apiece. (That means, for a pair, most consumers are forced to plunk down a hefty sum of more than $4,600.)

Today, consumers can buy simple corrective lenses—reading glasses—over the counter, but the same is not true for hearing aids. And while hearing aids do not restore perfect hearing, allowing over-the-counter sale would facilitate the availability of more innovative, lower-cost products, enabling millions of people who are negatively impacted by hearing loss to better their daily lives. 

Why this matters, by the numbers:

30 million

30 million Americans currently suffer from mild to moderate hearing loss, which is often age-related.

>$2,300

Hearing aids currently cost an average of more than $2,300 apiece (i.e. for both ears, they cost an average of more than $4,600.) Over-the-counter products offer the prospect of bringing these costs down into the hundreds—instead of thousands—of dollars.

< 1/5

Due to the high cost and the overly burdensome steps needed to access hearing aids, fewer than one in five Americans who could benefit from technology to help them hear better actually get the assistance of a hearing aid. Many of these consumers who don’t suffer from severe hearing loss just need help hearing a little better in a loud restaurant, for example.

10,000

Roughly 10,000 Americans are turning 65 every single day. Over 25 percent of Americans aged 60-69 have hearing loss, and that rises to over 50 percent for 70-79 years of age and over 75 percent for Americans aged 80+ years. The ongoing retirement of the baby boomers and increased longevity mean that the number of Americans who could benefit from an over-the-counter hearing aid will only be growing. That’s why AARP and the Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA) have both supported allowing an over-the-counter product.

6

Currently only six manufacturers produce nearly all hearing aids, and only one of those companies is based in the United States. Opening up the hearing aid market to innovative, lower-cost, over-the-counter options brings with it the prospect of expanding the number of options for consumers and creating opportunities for economic growth and job creation in the United States. That’s why consumer electronics stakeholders representing innovative American companies have supported expanding the options and technologies available.

So, what happens next?

As a first step toward breaking down barriers, the FDA will immediately stop enforcing an unnecessary requirement for Americans to get a medical evaluation before obtaining a hearing aid. The vast majority of people waive this requirement already. Currently, audiological services are bundled into the overall price of a hearing aid—and the market is constrained by bulk purchasing arrangements between hearing aid dispensers and the major manufacturers. Allowing the sale of over-the-counter hearing aids has the potential to deliver tens of millions of Americans the prospect of better hearing at much lower cost by increasing competition and innovation in the hearing aid market.

In 2015, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) examined the technology, regulation, and marketplace of hearing aids, leading them to recommend that FDA approve an over-the-counter device.  Now—after a two-year study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that also called for an over-the-counter product in alignment with the PCAST recommendation—FDA is announcing it’s ready to take the necessary steps to move forward. Today’s actions are yet another in a series in response to President Obama’s Executive Order promoting competition to benefit consumers, workers, and small businesses.

The Bottom Line

Today’s announcement could start a movement toward over-the-counter hearing aids that will cost a fraction of the $2,300 apiece of current products, helping the more of the 30 million Americans who need assistance.

Charlie Anderson is a Special Assistant to the President for Economic PolicyAshley Predith is the Executive Director of PCAST. 

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Obama: ISIS’ Ability To Launch ‘Major Land Offensives,’ Wasn’t On My Intel ‘Radar Screen’

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During an interview set to air on Wednesday’s CNN special, “The Legacy of Barack Obama,” an excerpt of which was aired on Wednesday’s “New Day,” President Obama answered a question on whether the rise of ISIS surprised him by saying that “The ability of ISIL to initiate major land offensives, that was not on my intelligence radar screen.” Follow Ian Hanchett on Twitter @IanHanchett
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Report: Advisers Working On Mid-January ‘Farewell Tour’ for Obama

President Barack Obama speaks during a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras at Maximos Mansion in Athens, Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) )
On Wednesday’s broadcast of “Fox & Friends,” Fox News Chief National Correspondent reported, “I’m hearing this morning that, quietly behind the scenes, advisers to President Obama are working on sort of a farewell tour in mid-January.” Henry said, “I’m hearing this morning that, quietly behind the scenes, advisers to President Obama are working on sort of a farewell tour in mid-January. I’m told there’s at least three cities, that President Obama will be giving major speeches in arenas. one of them is Chicago, his sort of adopted hometown. they’re looking at the United Center there, where the Chicago Bulls play.” He continued, “And what it tells us is maybe President Obama doesn’t quite want to leave the stage yet. We heard Joe Biden doesn’t want to. He’s already talking this week about running for president in 2020. But there’s a vacuum, guys, at the top of the Democratic Party. You’ve got a limping [House Minority Leader Representative] Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). You talked to [Representative] Tim Ryan (D-OH) last hour, who almost took her out as the leader. You’ve got [Representative] Keith Ellison (D-MN), who’s very controversial as a potential Democratic National Committee Chair. So what this tells me, I think
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Watch Live: President Obama Reviews His Approach to Counterterrorism


Watch live at 4:10pm ET to hear President Obama speak on his Administration’s approach to counterterrorism: 


President Obama is in Tampa, Florida today to personally thank some of the men and women who have been at the forefront of the global fight against terrorism. While at MacDill Air Force Base, he will also deliver his last major speech dedicated to his national security record in which he will summarize what we’ve accomplished at home and abroad over the last eight years; how we’ve approached the threat of terrorism; ;and how he he believes the nation can pursue a successful and sustainable counterterrorism policy in the years to come. 

From the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the emergence of ISIL, to the importance of diplomacy and global development, President Obama will review exactly what he did as Commander-in-Chief and the lessons that can be drawn from this approach. Make sure you watch at 4:10pm ET. 

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