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Obama Chief of Staff, Alumnus Speaks at Affordable Care Act Forum

Denis McDonough Screenshot

“Fighting to deliver quality affordable health insurance and the security that comes with it to every American is paramount," says Denis McDonough (G'96), President Obama's chief of staff and a graduate of Georgetown's Master of Science in Foreign Service Program. "This is about making sure everyone in the United States gets a fair shake.”

December 4, 2013 – White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough (G’96), a graduate Georgetown's Master of Science in Foreign Service Program; three former senators; and a Georgetown professor and were among those attending a public policy forum on the Affordable Care Act (ACA) yesterday in downtown Washington, D.C.

“The website didn’t work the way it should have Oct. 1,” McDonough said at the forum in reference to healthcare.gov. “That’s on us. …No matter what, as problems arise, we’ll fix them, just as we’re fixing the website.”

Arent Fox LLP and Georgetown’s McCourt School of Public Policy sponsored the forum, called “Public Policy Forum 2013: The Implementation of the Affordable Care Act – Opportunities and Challenges,” at the law firm’s K Street location.

At a separate health care event at the White House Tuesday, Obama said, “We're not repealing [the ACA] as long as I'm president.”

A Fair Shake

Former Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) and McDonough gave keynote presentations at the forum, which is part of a partnership between the university and Arent Fox.

A panel discussion included McCourt School professor Judith Feder; Diane Lewis, chair of the board of Washington, D.C.’s Health Benefit Exchange Authority; Kevin Lucia, senior research fellow at the Georgetown’s Center on Health Insurance Reforms; and Dan Durham, executive vice president, policy and regulatory affairs for America’s Health Insurance Plans.

Former Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), now a senior policy advisor at Arent Fox, moderated the panel.

McDonough said that before the Affordable Care Act, America was “spending more each year and getting less.”

“Our economy suffered, families suffered, and all of it was unnecessary,” he said. “Fighting to deliver quality affordable health insurance and the security that comes with it to every American is paramount. This is about making sure everyone in the United States gets a fair shake.” 

Ready and Steady Enrollment

Judy Feder, a recognized health policy leader who served as dean of the McCourt School’s predecessor, the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, was dismayed about the resistance to the Affordable Care Act on both the state and federal level.

Feder served as principal deputy assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services during the Clinton administration.

“Do the problems we are seeing with ACA, especially healthcare.gov, mean government doesn't work?” she said.  “Of course not. Let's note that the government program that is being expanded under the ACA – Medicaid – is working in the states that are expanding it and we are seeing a ready and steady enrollment in that critical program.” 

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