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. Anthony

    I don't see how much more plain English he can make his speech on Healthcare, good for you Mr. President. For those of you that have actually read the bills (both senate and house, me included) it is an interesting piece of legislation and I would suggest those that have concerns to READ THE BILL before you open your mouths.

    August 15, 2009 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. notsofast

    I wonder whose side Obama would have been on during the Vietnam protests? How about the recent protests in Iran? It is fine when the protests suit his side of the equation but when they go against his agenda then it is wrong.

    August 15, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  3. rob c

    I wish that those who bash Obama,s attempt to help Americans who can't help themselves would sit and have a national no holds barred debate where they could use everyday language. This would be the best way to debunk all the lies and distortions out there. Obama could bring the actual congress written facts of the bill and the opposition could bring its lies and smears and I hate having a black man in charge mentality that way we could see the truth about who's working for who. Obama would have the facts and the opposition would have the minds of those who came up being taught that minorities were inferior.

    August 15, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  4. Walter

    I think that President Obama is correct. TV does love a ruckus and that explains a lot of what is going on at these town hall meetings.

    But if you think that those meetings are tumultuous, just wait to see what will happen if the President folds on the public option.

    There wont be a ruckus, there will be a revolt.

    August 15, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  5. big papa

    The more conservative retards have access to the truth about health care reform...

    ...the more WILLfully IGNORANT and obstinate they become...

    ...their objective is clear...

    ...kill President Obama's presidency by killing health care reform...

    ...these are not bargainers in good faith...

    ...right wing conservative Fox-Bush-Cheney-Limbaughites are treasonous assassins...

    ...time for the rest of us SANE Americans to fight back...

    ...these conservative confederates are your family members, co-workers, neighbors, church members, and friends..., chastise, and ostracize them on their destructive obstructionism...

    ...the country's economy is depending on President Obama's health care reform plan– WITH the PUBLIC OPTION– being passed!

    August 15, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  6. meltem

    I'm tired of being the "silent majority". Liberals may disagree with my conservative perspective. That's fine, but quit insulting those whom you disagree with. Are we forgetting the democratic protesters who were screaming and yelling for the last 8 years and even before that, the protesters who were spitting on US soliders coming home to a "grateful country" from Veitnam. The hypocricy is insulting on all levels.

    August 15, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  7. Not Making Up My Stuff to Suit My Agenda

    I am so pleased to see President Obama talking about the issues, explaining his ideas and plans and debunking the scare-tactic nonsense!

    August 15, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  8. Brandonious

    Republicans had 8 years to do something about skyrocketing health care costs. They did nothing. Now they seem to have all kinds of ideas, just as long as they aren't the ones the democrats are using. Well folks, you had your chance. You lost the election, and now you are starting to realize that if a successful reform bill is passed your chances in the NEXT election are even dimmer. That explains the huge volume of lies coming from the right these days. Glenn Beck in January 2008 went on his show ripping into health-care in this country, saying how horrible it was after he had surgery. Now he goes on the air saying it's the best in the world. Funny how 18 months and an election that your side loses suddenly turns our health-care system from horrible to the best in the world. It would seem that according to him the level of quality of care in this nation depends completely upon whether the current president has an "R" or a "D" after his name.

    August 15, 2009 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  9. Annie, Atlanta

    I forgot one more thing in my rant. If the President is successful, it could literally destroy the GOP for years to come. So they are pushing against him with everything they have, even coming close to encouraging domestic terrorism, in order to win. Call it scorched earth, win at all costs, whatever. Come on CNN, if me, a housewife from Atlanta can see it, you certainly can.

    August 15, 2009 01:40 pm at 1:40 pm |
  10. Rich

    We need health care reform just not what the democrats are proposing and definitely not the nothing the republicans are proposing. We need true tort reform to control costs. We need assistance for med students to enlarge the number of people entering the medical profession. And we need regulation on the insurance and drug industries so that the average Joe does not get gouged.

    August 15, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  11. Rick CT

    Yea, blame the media. He said yesterday, it will cost only $30B/yr to cover the 46 million uninsured and that will be covered by only taxing the rich. That works out to only $652/yr to cover 46 million people. Won't get a lot of health care for that price. No, it's not the media's fault St. Barack. Those numbers don't even come close to adding up and we know it.

    August 15, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  12. GG

    So what now...should we censor news, whats reported, and burn books....and create a list of anyone thinking our way

    What is this personality disorder? Narcistic, maybe alittle pinch of schizotypical personality perhaps

    August 15, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  13. Freeman

    I consider myself a hard working American. And for the record I have excellent medical insurance. However, I still believe that EVERYONE should have health care. Employed or not. You GO Mr.Obama!

    August 15, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  14. mark

    Now it is not health care reform, but health insurance reform. They must have used a focus group to come up with a new slogan. Doesn't matter: Republican or Democrat: Big Oil is a villian, Drug companies, Why not the Lawyers????? Oh that is right- most politicians are lawyers.

    August 15, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  15. RR

    Attack the messenger.

    How long will it take for the media to do the bidding of their greatest love?

    August 15, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  16. Gary

    Very sad stories indeed. So why not create a safety net for these people – like the auto insurance industry did with high risk catergories.
    Everybody could get insurance and no problem!

    But by God! leave the rest of us alone! We do not want a government run socialist health care system. All the polls show that a majority of us do not want this but you would force it upon us? No! you will not!

    You are painting roses on a bucket of crap!

    August 15, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  17. Robert Rasband

    We FINALLY have a president who cares about the nation's people...and I am thankful.

    August 15, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  18. ck

    If only ONE of the politicians would stand up and say that they are choosing the plan they are trying to push through over what the politicians have now, maybe the plan would have some credibility.

    As yet, NONE will switch. That should tell the American people a lot.

    Any politicians who support this health care plan brave enough to say why they wont change plans???

    I didnt think so!


    August 15, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  19. Ric

    How can we ask health insurance companies to insure patients with pre-existing conditions and make a profit at the same time?

    I am responsible for over $45,000 in medical bills incurred in the past 4 months by an unemployed underinsured relative. Is it possible to create a public system that is low cost and also low benefit, that can be placed to cover patients (US citizens) that do not qualify for Social Security disability and are currently uninsurable?

    That option should not be a threat to private insurance providers that have medium to high-end products.

    August 15, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  20. April in Texas

    We need health care reform period! The republicans had years in control and never mentioned affordable health care for the american people and now they think wse are stupid enough to believe they care? We know the republicans are the party of NO just as they have been. Just pass health care already as people are losing their insurance every second and others are dying...

    August 15, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  21. PG

    The US media is the worst ennemy of this country's progress. Instead of clarifying the debate around the healthcare issue, the media focuses on stupidity, vulgarity and ignorance. You just need to trash President Obama and/or be loud in townhall meeting to get the attention of the media and become a Media Star. Instead of denouncing the ignorance and studipity in townhall meetings, the media is encouraging them. It is unfortunate to see this country is moving from civility to vulgarity with the help of the media.

    August 15, 2009 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  22. Kevin in Atlanta, GA

    The president is absolutely correct. Their intense coverage of these fanatics disrupting town hall meetings is fueling fear into people about reforming the health care system.

    If the media were truly "liberal" as the right-wingers claim,, networks would be talking more about people have been financially ruined by the current health system, and also investigating which right-wing online groups are promoting these unruly demonstrations.

    August 15, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  23. Right Leaning Independent

    June 25th – Washington Post – Obama meets with Bi Partisan group to discuss granting "legal status" to illegal aliens. He wants this done by end 2009 or beginning of 2010. The current healthcare bills state that no illegal aliens will be provided health care under these bills. Obama reiterates this in response to recent town hall meeting question. So once Obama passes a law to grant "Legal Status" to the 12 million illegals in our country, does that mean they are eligible for health care paid for by the American taxpayers????? Important questions that need to be answered!!!!!!

    August 15, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  24. Claudia in Houson

    You deserve healthcare reform. Haven't you seen our Government bring people from other countries here to receive that most expensive healthcare procedures that you pay for while citizens of our country can't get the same. Think about it and you will better understand why President Obama is fighting so hard for you.

    August 15, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  25. Weezer

    Many people who voted for Obama were quite happy with their health care. A "yes" vote doesn't mean "do whatever you want".

    August 15, 2009 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
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