August 15th, 2009
12:22 PM ET
9 years ago

Obama on health care reform debate: 'TV loves a ruckus'

Related: Ensuring access to health care 'an American issue,' says Hatch

(Read the text of President Obama's weekly address after the jump)

Text of President Obama's weekly radio and Web address:

This week, I’ve been traveling across our country to discuss health insurance reform and to hear directly from folks like you – your questions, your concerns, and your stories.

Now, I know there’s been a lot of attention paid to some of the town hall meetings that are going on around the country, especially those where tempers have flared. You know how TV loves a ruckus.

But what you haven’t seen – because it’s not as exciting – are the many constructive meetings going on all over the country where Americans are airing their hopes and concerns about this very important issue.

I’ve been holding some of my own, and the stories I’ve heard have really underscored why I believe so strongly that health insurance reform is a challenge we can't ignore.

They’re stories like Lori Hitchcock’s, who I met in New Hampshire this week. Lori’s got a pre-existing condition, so no insurance company will cover her. She’s self-employed, and in this economy, she can’t find a job that offers health care, so she’s been uninsured for two years.

Or they’re stories like Katie Gibson’s, who I met in Montana. When Katie tried to change insurance companies, she was sure to list her pre-existing conditions on the application and even called her new company to confirm she’d be covered. Two months later, she was dropped – after she’d already gone off her other insurance.

These are the stories that aren’t being told – stories of a health care system that works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people. And that’s why we’re going to pass health insurance reform that finally holds the insurance companies accountable.

But now’s the hard part. Because the history is clear – every time we come close to passing health insurance reform, the special interests with a stake in the status quo use their influence and political allies to scare and mislead the American people.

As an example, let’s look at one of the scarier-sounding and more ridiculous rumors out there – that so-called “death panels” would decide whether senior citizens get to live or die. That rumor began with the distortion of one idea in a Congressional bill that would allow Medicare to cover voluntary visits with your doctor to discuss your end-of-life care – if and only if you decide to have those visits. It had nothing to do with putting government in control of your decisions; in fact, it would give you all the information you need – if you want it – to put you in control of your decisions. When a conservative Republican Senator who has long-fought for even more far-reaching proposals found out how folks were twisting the idea, he called their misrepresentation, and I quote, “nuts.”

So when folks with a stake in the status quo keep inventing these boogeymen in an effort to scare people, it’s disappointing, but it’s not surprising. We’ve seen it before. When President Roosevelt was working to create Social Security, opponents warned it would open the door to “federal snooping” and force Americans to wear dog tags. When President Kennedy and President Johnson were working to create Medicare, opponents warned of “socialized medicine.” Sound familiar? Not only were those fears never realized, but more importantly, those programs have saved the lives of tens of millions of seniors, the disabled, and the disadvantaged.

Those who would stand in the way of reform will say almost anything to scare you about the cost of action. But they won’t say much about the cost of inaction. If you’re worried about rationed care, higher costs, denied coverage, or bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor, then you should know that’s what’s happening right now. In the past three years, over 12 million Americans were discriminated against by insurance companies due to a preexisting condition, or saw their coverage denied or dropped just when they got sick and needed it most. Americans whose jobs and health care are secure today just don’t know if they’ll be next to join the 14,000 who lose their health insurance every single day. And if we don’t act, average family premiums will keep rising to more than $22,000 within a decade.

On the other hand, here’s what reform will mean for you.

First, no matter what you’ve heard, if you like your doctor or health care plan, you can keep it. If you don’t have insurance, you’ll finally be able to afford insurance. And everyone will have the security and stability that’s missing today.

Insurance companies will be prohibited from denying you coverage because of your medical history, dropping your coverage if you get sick, or watering down your coverage when it counts – because there’s no point in having health insurance if it’s not there when you need it.

Insurance companies will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or lifetime, and we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses – because no one in America should go broke just because they get sick.

Finally, we’ll require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – because there’s no reason we shouldn’t be saving lives and dollars by catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end.

That’s what reform means. For all the chatter and the noise out there, what every American needs to know is this: If you don’t have health insurance, you will finally have quality, affordable options once we pass reform. If you do have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need. And we will deliver this in a fiscally responsible way.

I know there’s plenty of real concern and skepticism out there. I know that in a time of economic upheaval, the idea of change can be unsettling, and I know that there are folks who believe that government should have no role at all in solving our problems. These are legitimate differences worthy of the real discussion that America deserves – one where we lower our voices, listen to one another, and talk about differences that really exist. Because while there may be disagreements over how to go about it, there is widespread agreement on the urgent need to reform a broken system and finally hold insurance companies accountable.

Nearly fifty years ago, in the midst of the noisy early battles to create what would become Medicare, President Kennedy said, “I refuse to see us live on the accomplishments of another generation. I refuse to see this country, and all of us, shrink from these struggles which are our responsibility in our time.” Now it falls to us to meet the challenges of our time. And if we can come together, and listen to one another; I believe, as I always have, that we will rise to this moment, we will build something better for our children, and we will secure America’s future in this new century.

Related: Health care in America

Filed under: Health care • Popular Posts • President Obama
soundoff (211 Responses)
  1. Dixon

    I hate to say this but the ruckus is everywhere. I have one friend who had a guy pull up next to her and scream hail hitler using the straight arm nazi sign. It scared her since her 2 year old daughter was in the car. Another friend had a similar incident while driving. These are the same type people who accuse all Democrates of being under educated and with out a job. You know the people who claim a higher standard for morals. Give me a break.

    August 15, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  2. unshrub

    Just because these loud mouths think they own the country, they need to remember that they lost the last election and Obama won. More importantly, he is doing what the majority wanted him to do when they voted for him. I am sick and tired of those on the right who think they have a God given mandate to get their way. This country is not mob rule, and just because they may think liberals are here to destroy the country, that does not mean they know what they are talking about. I love my country and I went to war to prove it. Now it is time, for those who put most of them in office to get what they asked for in the last election, and not what the minority mob thinks they have a God given right to have. Democrat politicians need to know that those loud mouths that come to these meetings are not going to vote for them anyhow. I voted for them and I expect them to do that the majority wanted in the last election. I want everyone covered with health care, and for the record, I have good health insurance.

    August 15, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  3. g ontario

    in a country where guns are constitutional but health care is not you better hope the shooter is acurate

    August 15, 2009 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  4. Willy Brown

    More DNC controlled tripe

    August 15, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  5. katiec

    The MEDIA loves sensationalizing. They give full camera to these misguided protestors, but never give attention to response given
    by person holding town meeting.
    Consequently, we see only those protesting against a crucial
    health care reform and do not get to hear or see the defenders
    of this plan.
    Both sides should be represented equally but this is not
    happening. The media obviously supports the defeat of health
    care reform and support of the republicans, but, could we at least see an attempt to be a little fair and a little balanced??

    August 15, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  6. BLembergMD

    The president is misleading the public. We do need reform but not this one. The house plan changes the entire focus of health care. The current focus is on the importance of the individual and cost reflects that. The house bill puts the focus on society and what the cost is for society regardless of the individual's need and/or desire. Therefore, doctors would be forced to consider needs based on cost to society. There will be much further rationing of health care. So called death panels will be unecessary because physicians will naturally limit care to the elderly as a way to save cost.

    August 15, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  7. Anee

    Poor, Poor Obambi, when people disagree with him its never his fault, its someone else's , in this case the media, but I thought the media was in his back pocket, come on CNN try harder for the One.

    Ob is a cry baby and won't admit his Obamacare is a failure.

    August 15, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  8. Roscoelette

    People do not trust politicians and constituents would like to be listened to. The anger comes from politicians assuming they know what's best for everyone, and not considering the will of the people. There are better ways to deal with the health care issue than the plan President Obama is pushing. No one is focusing on that.

    August 15, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  9. BigC

    President Obama is starting to take the lead on Health Care reform. I've never seen a president that has worked so hard for the American people. Glad he is mentally and physiclally strong enough to deal with the extreme conservatives, the media (including CNN), and other radicals such as Palin, Limbaugh, and Glen Beck. Here is an example of how the media is fighting against Obama. At the town hall in Montana, and gentlemen ask the President a pointed question that the President will have to raise taxes. The President specially stated that he would not raise taxes on people that makes less than 250,000 a year. The media writes in a way that causes panic and makes people fear that the President would raise taxes on everyone. The President already stated a thousand time that he would not raise taxes on people making less than $250,000. But the media always spends it in a way that seems like the government will raise taxes on everyone. People don't realize it but 95% of Americans received a tax break earlier this year.

    August 15, 2009 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  10. wally

    Maybe all the dissenters should watch Bill Moyer's interview of Wendell Potter on!

    August 15, 2009 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  11. history repeats

    the media does this for profit. ratings. news should not be corporately sponsered. they should be listener sponsered like democracy now! youll get informed reporting that is not based on corporate dollars, so you will be hearing about issues that effect you and people just like you in the rest of the world. health care reform must happen now! the people need to speak out against the uninformed citizens of this country crying about the constitution. lets debate, like the founding fathers did. obama just gave a great speech right would be smart to listen.

    August 15, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  12. rethuglicans= extremists

    First, the rethug put us into this mess by passing a program that they did not pay for it. Now, they are talking about deficit. those people have short memory.

    August 15, 2009 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  13. Chris

    Can the government cap your salary?

    Yes we can!

    Can the government nationalize banks, automakers, and healthcare in one year?

    Yes we can!

    Can the government paint skeptics as lunatic extremists?

    Yes we can!

    Can the government claim to be the solution when it's actually the problem?

    Yes we can !

    August 15, 2009 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  14. sunshine

    after my husband died, I lost my insurance, I lived in fear everyday. All Americans deserve health insurance, Bless our President for trying to make this a reality.

    August 15, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  15. Hawaii gal

    You're right Mr. President, the media is only showing the loud mouth ill-informed public on the issue of health care reform. There is another side, the rational side, that wants reform and wants a civil discussion of the subject. I wish CNN and others would cover that part of the issue, not just the lunatics that are trying to block this reform because they don't like the fact that we elected a Black President. If these older white Republicans (many on Medicare, which, hello, is a government program!) would shut up and listen they would find out that they will benefit from reform, as would almost every other American.

    Keep up the good work Pres. Obama!

    August 15, 2009 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  16. elana

    Does the media really think they can outsmart President Obama??????? NOT!!!!!

    August 15, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  17. Steve In Tampa

    There are few things more laughable than a liberal screaming foul over the resistance to the health care issue, after 8 years of their campaign of Bush hating... The sanctimonious hypocrisy is quite the spectacle!... Keep on dividing the nation you liberal twits..... The truth is closer to the center than the fringe, and you know it!

    August 15, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  18. Skye, Eastern OR

    This is the man I voted for. He is correct–listen more, yell less, get real. I'm so very dismayed at the BEHAVIOR of the right...I would welcome reasoned discourse from them based on real suggestions. When my retired, Vietnam era vet husband has to pay $850 a month (yes, every month) for health insurance (no VA or medicare involved)...and it doesn't even include any other member of the family...the "right" can't convince me that their cause is worth a dime. As far as I can tell, they think the reality we have now is just fine. Guess what–it's not.

    August 15, 2009 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  19. katiec

    If one says they do not trust politicians than that must mean they trust big business.
    Big business, lobbyists, special interests and those who support them have had control of our country, making crucial decisions on our welfare for far too long.
    They have let greed and power overtake integrity, honor and fairness.
    Our health care is in shambles, no need to state all the diasters and the raping of the American people that have occurred these last
    several years.
    At least politicians have to run for elections. Big business has a
    free rein on everything.

    August 15, 2009 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  20. Alan

    Why wasn't Obama critical of the media when they were all over Bush. Way back then, 2006, protestors were just passionate and performing their American duty.

    August 15, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  21. George the Democrat Obama fanatic.

    Nice message Mr. President. we need to hear more of these.

    August 15, 2009 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  22. Nuts

    What MSM is that? Almost all MSM is in the tank for Obama.

    Can it be the 2 or 3 news outlets that don't bend off and kiss Obama's butt.

    We know CNN kisses Obe butt and look at their ratings.

    August 15, 2009 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. LLB

    None of these comments relate to anything Obama said. He is a master at taking the focus away from the issue at hand, health care. The two examples he used involved pre-existing conditions and getting dropped from insurance. We don't need a massive overhaul for this. Sign a bill saying that if a person has a pre-existing condition and their job changes, then the new insurance company has to cover them. Easy fix. My concern is that people who choose not to pay for healthcare over all these years are NOW going to get it for free. Poor people have healthcare through medicaid. Others would rather spend their extra income on a fancy car. I have a 1999 paid off car so I can afford things that are more important to me, like healthcare. On distorting the truth, what about the Obama's campaign manager in Texas posing as a physician????? What a mess!

    August 15, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  24. floridian

    "Finally, we’ll require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – because there’s no reason we shouldn’t be saving lives and dollars by catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end."

    Get your facts straight, President Obama. Colonoscopies don't catch prostate cancer - a simple PSA blood test will determine if something more is needed. Then biopsies would be taken from the prostate. Colonoscopies might be used to determine additonal possible cancerous areas but not any where near the prostate. I know, I am a prostate cancer survivor.

    August 15, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  25. Al Martino

    Oh please, Obama is a liar and a whiner. He cannot have the media 100% in his back pocket, someone needs to sell car ads on TV by showing what's happening out there...and since we are still a capitalist society (albeit on life-support and under attack by this administration and their backers behind the scenes, Soros, et. al.) anything that sells, and thus makes someone going to get reported.

    One they complete their planned transformation, we'll have the red lights go out in many a studio, certain voices silenced...and Mr. Obama will no longer have the annoying sound of dissent to complain about.

    August 15, 2009 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
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