Former President Obama Speaks Out On Efforts To Replace Affordable Care Act

Sep 20, 2017
Originally published on September 20, 2017 7:27 pm
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Former President Obama has been relatively quiet since President Trump took office, issuing only an occasional statement or tweet. But today he spoke out against intensifying efforts to repeal and replace his signature health care law. And he unmistakably rebuked Trump's remarks from yesterday at the U.N. General Assembly. NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith reports.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Barack Obama is still talking about hope and change.

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BARACK OBAMA: By just about every measure, America is better, and the world is better than it was 50 years ago, 30 years ago, or even 10 years ago.

KEITH: The former president spoke today at an event focused on global health put on by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation is among NPR's financial supporters. And while Obama argued for optimism and hard work over cynicism, he was blunt about what he sees as outstanding challenges - economic inequality, climate change, terrorism, extreme poverty, girls denied education.

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OBAMA: The rise of nationalism and xenophobia and a politics that says, it's not we but us and them, a politics that threatens to turn good people away from the kind of collective action that has always driven human progress.

KEITH: In the Trump era, public statements by other leaders are often interpreted as rebukes of the president, and that's sure what it sounded like today as Obama defended global organizations like the United Nations.

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OBAMA: So number one, you have to start with the premise and believe that multilateral institutions and efforts are important. And you don't have to cede all your sovereignty, or it doesn't make you less patriotic to believe that. You just have to have some sense and read.

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KEITH: President Trump used the word sovereign or sovereignty 21 times in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly yesterday, arguing that the U.S. had to put its own interests first. Obama also expressed frustration with the latest congressional effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

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OBAMA: It is aggravating. And all of this being done without any demonstrable economic or actuarial or plain common sense rationale - it frustrates. And it's certainly frustrating to have to mobilize a couple of months to keep our leaders from inflicting real human suffering on our constituents.

KEITH: So it's pretty clear how Obama feels. Tamara Keith, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.