Photo: White House Flickr
By Sierra Marquina
President of the United States Barack Obama phoned in to On Air with Ryan Seacrest on Friday to encourage young people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act and revealed how he was able to keep a straight face during his comical appearance on Between Two Ferns with Zach Galifianakis.
And of course we had to ask about how he conquered shopping in the women’s section at Gap this week for his daughters, Malia and Sasha, and wife First Lady Michelle Obama.
How & Why You Should Sign up for the Affordable Care Act by March 31
The Affordable Care Act was signed in to law by Obama in 2010 with the goal of increasing the quality, affordability, and attainability of health insurance and to date, over 4.2 million people have signed up. But President Obama stresses there are many more who need and should sign up for ObamaCare.
“The main thing they need to do is to check out their options,” he explains. “If they’re already getting health insurance on the job, they don’t have to do anything.”
However, for those who do not have health insurance, Obama stresses: “You should go to healthcare.gov and compare the prices that are available for various private plans. And they’re the same kind of plans that you’d get on the job that people are familiar with, things like Blue Cross and Aetna, depending on the state. And what healthcare.gov will show is the kinds of plans that are available, the prices that are available and whether you’re eligible for some sort of tax credit. And for a lot of people, they will find that for $100 or less, they can get really good health insurance – in some cases, it’s going to be less than the cost of their cellphone bill or their cable bill.”
Why is it so important to make sure you’re covered? Obama explains it’s because “you never know what kind of curveballs life throws at you.”
“If you get into an accident, or heaven forbid, have an illness or someone in your family does and you do not have health insurance, it can bankrupt you or you may not get the treatment you need,” Obama adds. “And for a relatively modest cost there are millions of people who have already signed up and have been able to get health insurance – we have 4.2 million who have signed up as of the beginning of the month and that means there are a whole lot of people out there who could still use it.”
As for what happens if you don’t have health insurance or don’t sign up for the ACA by March 31?
“Then you will not be able to sign up again until November,” Obama explains. “So if you want health insurance this year, you need to make sure you that you are signing up by March 31.”
For those who are concerned they won’t be able to afford health care, the president reassures them that “there’s a hardship exemption and you will not suffer any penalty.” However, “if you can afford it and you just decide you don’t want to get it because your attitude is ‘Nothing is ever going to happen to me,’ then you’ll be charged a penalty and the reason is because if you end up having an accident and you go to the emergency room, somebody’s got to pay for it and that somebody is folks who have been responsible about getting health insurance.”
In short, Obama concludes: “Essentially, what we need to do is to make sure everybody before March 31 has taken the time to go to healthcare.gov, check out your options, make sure that you are well informed and if you don’t want to go on a website you can always call 1-800-318-2596 or you can find a facility near you where somebody will walk you through the options. But the key thing to remember is that this is affordable health care. You can get free mammograms and preventative care and flu shots and check ups as part of the package and it’s something every family should have.”
On His Between Two Ferns Interview With Zach Galifianakis
The president feels so strongly about the ACA, he even faced comedian Zach Galifianakis on his Funny or Die comedy series Between Two Ferns, where Zach called him a nerd, amongst other things.
“Zach actually was pretty nervous,” Obama reveals with a laugh. “It was funny to watch because this whole Between Two Ferns schtick – which I wasn’t familiar with before my staff told me that we had been pitched to do this – his whole character is to go after the guest and I think he was looking around and seeing all these Secret Service guys with guns and thinking, ‘I wonder what happens here if I cross the line?’ But we had a great time.”
Although Obama wasn’t familiar with Zach’s spoof talk show, his 15-year-old daughter Malia knew all about it.
“And as I said, I wasn’t familiar with this thing, but when I was at the dinner table with the girls and I said, ‘Well today I did something with Zach, it’s called Two Ferns I think?’ Malia was so excited! She had seen all the previous episodes, so I figured it was going to reach our target audience, which is a lot of young people and it turns out we’ve had close to 15 million hits. And the amazing thing is afterwards people actually did link to healthcare.gov and people actually signed up for health insurance, so it ended up working, but I think I have to keep my day job.”
On Shopping at The Gap For His Daughters and the First Lady
While the president may not think comedy is his calling, he did a great job shopping for his daughters and wife at The Gap in New York City this week.
“They thought for a dad, I displayed reasonably good taste,” Obama shares about choosing $44 lightweight cardigans for his girls. Still, he jokes, “the bar is fairly low. But I didn’t get too adventurous. It was your basic sweaters and solid colors, [I] didn’t get too wild.”
So how is Obama so comfortable in the women’s department?
“The key thing, the first thing I did, was walk in and said, ‘We’re just getting a sweater or a blouse or a T-shirt’ because when you start getting into pants or shoes, then suddenly you’re doomed.”
And it was lucky Gap employee Susan Panariello who was able to help assist the president on his successful shopping mission.
In fact, Susan herself phoned in to On Air with Ryan Seacrest on Thursday and revealed yes, it was a surprise to be helping Obama, but also, he had a good understanding of his girls’ sizes. Still, she hinted, the president himself may be in need of a new pair of jeans.
“I’ve been unfairly maligned about my jeans,” Obama jokes. “The truth is, generally I look very sharp in jeans. There was one episode like four years ago in which I was wearing some loose jeans mainly because I was out on the pitcher’s mound and I didn’t want to feel confined while I was pitching and I think I’ve paid my penance for that. I got whacked pretty good. Since that time, my jeans fit very well.”
Obama opted to wear a suit during his visit at The Gap and despite bringing home gifts to his girls, he revealed there was an explanation behind his shopping spree.
“The reason we were at The Gap was they announced they were going to make sure they increase the starting salaries for all their employees to at least a $10-hour wage. Over the next couple of years, they’re going to be staggering up. And it’s part of my general pitch that a lot of employers can afford to provide at least a $10.10 minimum wage. We’re trying to get Congress to pass that as well, but my basic attitude is, if you work full time in this country you shouldn’t be in poverty and a lot of folks, particularly women, work in low-wage jobs. Raising the minimum wage really makes a difference and so I wanted to acknowledge The Gap is doing the right thing and I hope more companies do the same thing.”
For more information about the Affordable Care Act and how to sign up, visit healthcare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596.