Hello, and thank you for joining us.
As you all know, yesterday the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. That's great news for American families.
Over the last two years, I've seen firsthand the huge difference the law is making in the lives of millions of hard-working Americans.
It's saved more than 5.2 million seniors with the highest prescription drug costs $600 each on their medications. It's ensured that 3.1 million young adults can start their careers with the certainty of health coverage. It's meant nearly 100 million Americans with Medicare and private insurance can get preventive services like mammograms and vaccinations at no charge. And it's finally begun to hold insurance companies accountable, ending their worst abuses.
I've met and spoken to many of the people benefitting from the law myself, from Helen Rayon, a grandmother in Philadelphia who's saving money on her medications that she can put towards helping her grandson with his education, to Abby Schanfield a student at the University of Minnesota who was born with a rare congenital disease and now no longer has to worry about losing coverage on graduation day.
Helen, Abby, and millions more Americans have more peace of mind today knowing that the benefits and protections that are critical to their economic security will not be taken away.
Yesterday's decision also means that we will keep moving forward with efforts to make the health insurance market work better for middle class families and small business owners who buy their own coverage.
Over the last two years, we've worked closely with states to begin building new health insurance marketplaces where these Americans will have more control over their insurance choices.
In these marketplaces, families and small business owners will be able to get accurate information they can use to make apples-to-apples comparisons of their private insurance plans, get financial help to make coverage more affordable if they're eligible, and be protected from insurers discriminating against pre-existing conditions.
This will ensure that every American -- whether they lose their job, change jobs, retire early, or start a business --will be able to find a health insurance plan that works for their family without breaking the bank.
And this afternoon, I'm pleased to be joined by Mike Hash and Amanda Cowley to announce a new grant opportunity that will help states deliver these marketplaces to their residents.
Since the law passed, 49 states and the District of Columbia have accepted grants to help plan their health insurance marketplaces. And 34 of those states and the District have taken additional steps to make sure they will be ready by 2014.
These funds will allow states to continue building on that progress.
States will be able to use these funds for activities like streamlining the process for consumers to enroll in coverage or making it easier for them to find information on plans. These grants will be available to all states, no matter where they are in their process of setting up their marketplace, and no matter whether they plan on running it themselves, partnering with another state, or partnering with the federal government.
And states will also be able to apply for these grants until the end of 2014, using funds for the building and start up costs of their marketplaces.
As we have all along, we are going to be working with states every step of the way.
This July, we'll begin holding meetings around the country that will bring together officials from our department with state leaders, and stakeholders to address challenges, answer questions, and talk about how we can keep moving forward.
Our ultimate goal is to ensure that in 2014, every American who goes to buy their own health insurance coverage can find affordable options and the accurate information they need to choose the plan that's best for them and their families.
Looking ahead, we're going to keep working closely with states and other partners to implement this law. And as we've said from the start, we'll also keep looking for opportunities to improve it.
What we can't afford to do is spend any more time refighting political battles or go back to the days when insurance companies operated without accountability.
We need to make sure all Americans have the economic security of being able to get affordable health insurance, and today's announcement is another step forward towards making that happen.