NEW YORK — An hour inside Barack Obama’s post-presidential life included boxed sandwiches, scores of money managers and a treatise on health care reform.
Those were the main ingredients Monday when Obama spoke in Manhattan at a conference on health care sponsored by the brokerage firm Cantor Fitzgerald — at least his ninth paid speech since leaving office.
Steel-jawed and wearing a dark suit and an American-flag lapel pin, Obama was reserved in describing the dogfight over health care in Washington, which threatens to derail his signature legislative accomplishment, the Affordable Care Act.
During his 25-minute prepared remarks, Obama’s laugh lines were few, and his swipes at the Trump administration even fewer. Instead, he undertook a professorial review of what the health-care law had accomplished, considered its remaining problems, and swept through some potential solutions.
“This is a big system, and it’s complicated, but what to do that would make it better is actually not that mysterious,” Obama told a ballroom of some 500 people. “But it does require putting ideology aside.”
The speech was Obama’s third to a financial crowd in the past month — he also spoke to clients of the money-management firm Northern Trust Corp. and the private-equity firm Carlyle Group — and gave some indication of how he has been navigating the moneymaking opportunities of his newly private life. Since leaving the White House in January, the former president and his wife Michelle have reportedly won a $60 million joint book deal, and his speaking fees — including to Cantor — have gone as high as $400,000 per speech. He has also vacationed on an exclusive island and taken up residence in an $8.1 million home.
That is all in addition to a spate of unpaid speeches.
After his prepared remarks and a few longer questions at the Cantor event, Obama participated in what the brokerage firm’s chief executive, Howard Lutnick, called a “lightning round.” But Obama ended up fielding only one inquiry — about technology and government health care costs — and answered it soberly and at length, running out the clock. Obama then beseeched the audience of health care business professionals to keep the sick and scared at the core of what they did.
“If you’re going to make money this way, you better think about it,” he said.