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. ain't that the truth

    rather than crafting a solution, we are mired in shouting matches and pushing and swasticas

    August 15, 2009 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  2. who made you hall monitor

    LOL the only institution people trust less than the government is the media :). What a red herring, the media has so been in his pocket from the start. ROTFLMAO.

    August 15, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  3. Al Martino

    "...the media (including CNN)..."

    What a laugh. CNN is in the tank for ole Obama.

    "The President already stated a thousand time that he would not raise taxes on people..."

    Another laugher. What, you just snuck into Amerika? We've already had presidents make and break these promises buddy.

    August 15, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  4. mjm

    Yes, Obama, your town hall meetings went of without a hitch.

    ALMOST as if they were staged. Like that bogus question from the young girl who saw "all those mean signs outside". Turns out her mommy organized the event.

    The "death panels” were in the house bill. It stated that a medical review board would consider cases. Doctor's, who are already compensated for providing end of life counseling, would only be reimbursed if the patient followed though with the board’s recommendations. It used words like "shall", not words like "could" meaning it was mandatory, not voluntary.

    Now, if Obama would just say that he would not sign a bill that includes “death panels”, he would get some credit. Instead, he tries to convince us that other people are misleading us, the insurance companies and special interests are trying to mislead us.

    Nobody is buying it. Not after the drug companies just gave Obama $12 million for a pro heath care ad campaign

    The biggest special interest group opposing this bill is THE AMERICAN PEOPLE. Write a better bill and maybe we can talk.

    August 15, 2009 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  5. Ruckus is what ob does....

    Obama in his townhallmeeting talking a lot...but what is he really delivering to the American people? There are no bills as of
    we hear over and over again...yet the Democrats are out in full force
    selling us excactly what...? who is full of ruckus.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 15, 2009 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  6. John

    Today was the first time I've seen video of Acorn unloading busses outside of a town-hall meeting... all holding questions to ask and pre-generated signs...

    Who's hiding what?

    August 15, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  7. John Miller

    We are being ill served by the media, instead the media prey on these ruckus Town Halls like vultures and gives the impression to the world that we are uncivilized wild animals.
    I have been reading the European newspapers blogs and you would think that Americans were rabid wild animals.

    August 15, 2009 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  8. Anthony

    The bottom line is that no one really understands the unfair, horrendous nature of our current healthcare system except for those who experience it on a daily basis – doctors and nurses. The AMA and ANA are staunch supporters of healthcare reform. What does this tell you? All this "ruckus"/"hands off my healthcare" nonsense is dangerously idiotic. The healthcare industry we have NOW is bleeding this country dry, and the government is fronting the bill...though usually indirectly. With the influential hand of big healthcare, this debate has devolved into many, many people very angry about things they dont even begin to understand. The Obama administration is doing something that no president before, save Clinton, had the (healthy) gonads to tackle. Persevere and we will ALL be much better off.

    August 15, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  9. Give me a break. . .

    Of coarse T.V. is licking its chops over anticpated brawls. CNN is as complicit as the rest of MSM.

    Unfortunately, those of us who want real journalism - fact finding, calling out a lie for what it is - are generally out of luck.

    This has been happening now for a year, coinciding with Palin's entree to the lower 48.

    August 15, 2009 01:18 pm at 1:18 pm |
  10. LG

    The media - especially television news - plays into this constantly.

    I've served on some local boards and conducted public hearings. 10 people can stand up and ask tough thoughtful questions. 1 person then throws a temper tantrum. We all know which one will appear on the evening news. The sad thing is that the intelligent questions and subsequent discussion never gets a mention.

    Similarly, we're now getting lots of attention to the tantrums but no discussion of the key ideas, the potential alternatives, and how we can achieve a balance that we can all tolerate.

    August 15, 2009 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  11. The Who

    OBAMA simple steps you must take
    READ this (or any) bill you are proposing.
    LISTEN to ALL the people you work for.
    Take the TIME to fix what is broken in health care.
    DO NOT make this about politics and winning.
    DO what works for everyone, not a small group of vocal supporters.

    August 15, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  12. Moderate

    I'm one of those that agrees that the system is broken and needs to be fixed. But, as a person who has received an Ivy League education, I refuse to support this version of reform for several reasons; not the least of which is that fact that, although the President keeps reiterating that he will not raise taxes on the middle class and that this reform will be implemented in a fiscally responsible way, he has yet to tell us HOW? The thing that is most disconcerting is that this question has been posed by voters and media pundits alike, but we have yet to receive and answer. If you're supporting health care reform for the betterment of society (like I am), you should also care about how this reform will be paid for; because the cost on society if this reform is implemented improperly will be just as detrimental to society as the currently millions of uninsured.

    August 15, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  13. annie s

    The President deserves our gratitude and support for taking up this battle on behalf of the American people. Democrats have been trying to reform this bloated for-profit system of health care since Harry Truman, and President Obama seems determined to finally get us there, even if it is beginning to look like the special interest groups will stop us short of the full reform that is needed. I would ask only that the President stay focused and on message, as our only hope is his direct involvement in this critically important issue.

    August 15, 2009 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  14. Limbaugh is a liberal

    If CNN or Fox were running a special on the THEORY of a round Earth, I'm sure they'd devote 50% of their time to flat Earth advocates, and the public would start thinking that 'well, the scientific community is divided, the question is not settled.' The media will find controversy where there is no controversy, and present counter arguments in spite of overwhelming facts too. Remember when Fox gave credence to the 'Moon hoax' nuts?

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

    I think the problem isn 't so much Republican ideology, it's Republican inbreeding, which is wide-spread in most of the red states. This leads to an increased number of Mongoloid idiots being born every year. These Mongoloids will then inbreed and give birth to even more supporters. No wonder Republicans are against abortion! The right-wing media can in turn attract more of these poor creatures to support the Republican Party, and this goes on for generations. But the good new is that Darwin's Law of Natural Selection always wins out in the end and these creatures will eventually die of disease brought on by genetic defects, so there is still hope for breaking the cycle. God bless America and let freedom ring!

    August 15, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  16. joann

    All I have to say is from my observation...alot of people against health care reform seems to just down right racist, hateful people!!


    I'm totally confused because I thought this was my country too!! Oh I forgot, as an African American I guess this is not my country...I never heard such hate against any other President....


    August 15, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  17. Peter E

    At least people at Obama's town halls are real skeptics. At Bush's town halls they pre-screened the audience, and wrote their questions for them to make sure all they ever do is kiss up.

    August 15, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  18. JZ

    American Idiots–as a 45 year old insurance regulatory attorney, I can sadly say Greenday is more insightful than most of our so called main stream media.

    We're so in love wih a circus, we haven't figured out that we're the clowns. The insurance industry is paying 100's of millions to politicians to protect their billions, using terms like "socialism" to make you forget about their monopolies.

    And there' boogie man Obama–what incentive has he shown other than to actually help us improve things. By the way, the best answer IS a single payer system–it's most efficient. Second best in a public option. By hey, what is my honest opinion compared to those who want to so eagarly willing to help their local insurance conglomerate.


    August 15, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  19. chi town

    Obama loves a ruckus too. Ask the community he organized here in Chicago.

    August 15, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  20. renlin

    did all the congressmember read the healthcare reform bill
    how many healthcare providers (doctors, nurses etc) read the bill
    how much malpractice insurence premium doctors pay
    how much legal fee every year involving malpractice law suit
    how much drug smuggler cost united states
    what is the fiancial situation regarding medicare
    what about medicaid
    what about social security

    August 15, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  21. LLB

    Also, $250,000 in most U.S cities is not rich! After $75,000 in Federal taxes and the fact that people in that income category pay for everything, no freebies, no breaks on tuitions, etc. and most are paying back college loans as well. And, most people at that income started in the $20,000 range and worked our way up. And even when we made $20,000, we paid for health insurance. But I have an alcoholic sister who manages to get care despite her inablity to pay for insurance or services. Working as a court advocate for abused kids (mainly underprivileged), I never saw any of them get denied services. In fact, they received more services than most middle class children. How many times have we seen medicare and medicaid frauds to the tune of billions of dollars? Let's fine tune what we have instead of giving our politicians more to squander away. Aren't most of them politicians because they couldn't find success in the private sector?

    August 15, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  22. Never Repub again

    Republicans dont love America, only money. Vote them suckers out. Donate to the DNC and now.

    August 15, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  23. karenc

    President Obama indicates that some of the money will come from eliminating subsidies to the insurance companies. Won't the insurance companies come back to us (the payers) to make up the difference?

    August 15, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  24. JonDie

    President Obama is absolutely right. The media (especially FOX and CNN) do not serve the public, they served only the shareholders, and FOX and CNN constantly and deliberately emphasize not just misinformation but deliberate lies and distortions, in particular from the extreme right (Gingrich, Palin and Limbaugh).

    E.g., has any journalist asked Palin or some other jingoistic folk celebrity why she does NOT consider NOT providing health care to millions of Americans, many of them children, is NOT a form of slow EUTHANASIA?

    August 15, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  25. mjm

    "First, no matter what you’ve heard, if you like your doctor or health care plan, you can keep it."

    If you employer provides your insurance like BCBS, he can switch it any time he wants. There is no way for Obama to stop him. He can switch it to UHC, Humana, an HMO or a PPO. That's how it works today. Employers provide health care IF THEY WANT TO.

    If your employer decides to dump BCBS for a "public option", guess what? YOU GET THE GOVERNEMENT INSURANCE. Considering nobody knows what this new government insurance will cover, there is concern.

    Why would a business owner flip the bill for BCBS when he can dump everyone into a government funded plan?

    Obama is lying.

    August 15, 2009 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
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