Obama: A Million People Bought Health Plans On Exchanges

President Obama held a year-end press conference Friday at the White House. He touted successes under his watch including improved jobs numbers and a stronger economy, increased oil and gas production, and said a million people had signed up for private health plans on state and federal exchanges. He also chided lawmakers for allowing extended unemployment benefits to lapse. And he took questions from reporters on a range of other issues.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish. President Obama accentuated the positive at his year-end news conference today.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You know what they say, it's the most wonderful press conference of the year.

BLOCK: The president pointed to three bits of good news. First, economic growth, more than 2 million jobs produced in 2013 and an American economy that grew at its strongest pace since 2011.

CORNISH: Next, energy, the U.S. now produces more oil at home than it buys from the rest of world, he said. And healthcare, the president said insurance enrollment under the Affordable Care Act is way up this month, a half million people in the last three weeks alone.

OBAMA: Since October 1, more than 1 million Americans have selected new health insurance plans through the federal and state marketplaces so all told, millions of Americans, despite the problems with the website, are now poised to be covered by quality affordable health insurance come New Year's Day.

CORNISH: Then came subjects that were trickier to navigate. When the president opened the floor to reporter questions, there were a lot about the revelations on NSA surveillance.

BLOCK: He said he'd not made any decisions yet on changes to the system. He did admit that more checks and balances are needed.

OBAMA: In light of the disclosures that have taken place, it is clear that whatever benefits the configuration of this particular program may have, may be outweighed by the concerns that people have on its potential abuse.

CORNISH: And on the subject of the nation's finances, President Obama praised Democratic Senator Patty Murray and Republican Congressman Paul Ryan for working out a budget deal he can sign. But when it came to the debt ceiling, the president, again, made clear...

OBAMA: No, we're not going to negotiate for Congress to pay bills that it has accrued.

CORNISH: The president said he was looking forward to his year-end vacation. He said a good time to reflect and see what you can do better next year.

BLOCK: And looking forward, the president said I firmly believe that 2014 can be a breakthrough year for America.

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