President Barack Obama used his weekly radio address Saturday to tout the benefits of health care reform that have been taking effect in the month since the $940 billion overhaul was signed into law.Insurance companies can no longer raise rates on or drop coverage for people who get sick, the president said, and four million small businesses have been notified that they may be eligible for a health care tax cut. In the near future, retirees will be eligible for a rebate if they fall into the prescription drug coverage gap, and young adults will be able to stay on their parents insurance plan until they are 26, Obama said.Already, we are seeing a health care system that holds insurance companies more accountable and gives consumers more control, Obama said. He said he also plans to put in place in the next month a new patients bill of rights that explains consumers rights and sets up an appeals process to enforce them. At long last, this is what health care reform is achieving. This is what change looks like. And this is the promise we will keep as we continue to make this law a reality in the months and years to come, Obama said.In the Republican response, Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs ranking member Richard Shelby (Ala.) blasted Democrats for pushing through reckless financial reform legislation that doesnt include reforms of government-sponsored housing agencies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.For years, Democrats blocked meaningful reform of Fannie and Freddie, and not much has changed. Their legislation to reform the financial system touches nearly every corner of the economy, but these major contributors to the crisis are left unscathed, Shelby said. In the days to come, Republicans will be demanding that financial reform include Fannie and Freddie.Shelby also criticized Democrats for planning a new, independent Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as part of financial reform. Such an entity could reach into every small business who provides credit and place unreasonable burdens on them, which only means higher costs and fewer choices for consumers, he warned.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.