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. s.castro

    We can no longer ignore the problems with America's SickCare System. It is not a health care system but a money pit for Health Care Corporations and Pharma Corps. America is one of the ONLY industrialized nation with such a pitiful healthcare system...were millions cannot afford health insurance, hundreds die every months because they cannot get health insurance, infant mortality rate is way too high when compared with other countries, poverty is way too high for the riches Nation in the World!! Stop being afraid of Change!!! Everyone in the Military has Government Health Care, we enjoy Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security. People went against Roosevelt and Kennedy also.....they were afraid of Social Security and Medicare! Nobody likes change and the right wing nuts fuel the fear of the masses!!! Intelligent discussions are needed to mitigate this burning fire of ignorance. All Americans deserve to be able to get Health Care without fear of bankruptcy and financial ruin! NO MORE! NO MORE. Let support our President in this.

    August 15, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  2. jon

    Who uses the word ruckus anymore? What are ya, 100?

    August 15, 2009 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  3. Andy D.

    GOD BLESS President Obama, he is taking the hard road to helping the middle class, it will not be easy, but he will win!

    August 15, 2009 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  4. BlackSmithAnvil

    The debate is over. The electorate has completely rejected this attempt to hijack 20% of the ecconomy and tread all over the Constitution.

    Socialized medicine is Unconstitutional.

    Now to make matters worse this President has aE-mailgate to deal with and weather federal law has been violated as to invading people's privacy.

    August 15, 2009 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  5. CJ

    Oh please, enough blaming this on Republicans. Look, as a Republican I'm clear who won the election. And I dont disagree that health care reform is needed...nor do most Republicans.

    It's only that THIS TYPE OF REFORM is not what we want, fortunately many Democrats don't either. Liberals can bash Republicans all they want but it is a group of DEMOCRATS who are putting the brakes on this.

    Do you forget that Dems have a filibuster proof majority? Dems can railroad this through anytime they want. They just cant agree because many Dems also think this proposal stinks. Blame Obama or Pelosi or Reid for crafting garbage so stinky that a large number of their own party aren't willing to support it.

    What is true is that the MAJORITY of the country doesnt want THIS reform. You have Republicans against it and quite a few Dems, put those together and you have a MAJORITY WHO DOES NOT WANT THIS TYPE OF REFORM.

    August 15, 2009 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  6. Bridgette

    There thousands of peaceful town hall meetings going on every day but the media only wants to show the nuts with the ridiculous signs and foolishness going on.

    August 15, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  7. Hope

    We want reforms now, we want a strong public option, It is not free of charge we will pay the same premiums we pay to Blue Cross, we are fed up of denial of cover and explanation of benefits. The Blue Cross Democrats will know that there are Dark Blue Dogs in 2010, they have been warned.

    August 15, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  8. David

    The most troubling thing about the 'ruckus' at town hall meetings is the outbursts have little to do with healthcare.

    Perhaps even more troubling is the amount of misinformation that's being spread to incite such responses.

    I hope we can get down to debating alternative plans instead of this fear mongering...

    August 15, 2009 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  9. The Vampire

    The vulgar mob...

    I've noticed two groups with the most participants in this brouhaha- veterans and seniors. Both benefit from the VA Hospitals and Medicare – two federally run programs.

    August 15, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  10. Tom

    Republicans: Please wake up and open your ears. How many times do things have to be explained to you before you start listening? The GOP is preying on the misinformed and scared because hey, IT WORKS EVERY TIME with you guys. Obama will only increase taxes on those who make over $250K. The vast majority of Americans will receive a tax break. I'm a doctor, and have had a blessed life, and I would be HAPPY to pay more taxes to make sure the less fortunate have access to health care. C'mon people, it is not exactly a moral conundrum.

    August 15, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  11. Dan p Mills Jr

    Its time americans stop just caring about themselves.What about all the people that have serious medical problems and cant get insurance?What ever happened to people caring for others?Its really sad to see how people can really be.

    August 15, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  12. Bob carr

    Why does CNn call Obama's address "health care reform' when Obama is calling it ' Insurance industry reform?'

    August 15, 2009 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  13. Debby

    I will give an A for Obama trying, but we are to large of a country to have universal healthcare and we surely don't have enough rich people to pay for it either. It works in France, Canada and Germany because they are smaller countries with strong visa regulations so they don't get the flow of people that the US does from other countries.

    August 15, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  14. Tariq

    You may be afraid of so called "death panels" (although they don't exist)...but isn't that what insurance companies do everyday? They can only make profit if they deny you health care. Thank you, but I'll take my chances with reform.

    You may be afraid of a raise in taxes...but you already are paying more premiums every year because millions of uninsured are getting some sort of health care in emergency rooms....we all get sick or in accidents, but not all of us pay the bill.

    You may be afraid of socialized medicine....but the whole idea of any type of insurance is the transfer of the financial cost of a loss from one group to another. It is only possible because millions pay the other words, sharing the wealth. Even insurance companies are insured!

    You may be afraid of government run health care....well, I submit to you medicare. I submit to you TRICARE which is military health care. I submit to you Veterans health care. They have all had their bad days, but even on their worst day they are still better quality care than the ones run by greedy private insurance companies.

    August 15, 2009 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  15. In this corner

    The People of the United States of America


    The worlds biggest richest scam artist, The For Profit Insurance Industry....

    the prize.......your health, the health of your family and the humanity of a medical profession.

    Good luck America.....youre gonna need it.... never lay down

    August 15, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  16. A citizen

    This country has a real president. He wants to get involve himself on the issue. I've never seen something like this. He thinks about the american people who do not have heath insurance. In this country when you thinks about other people' well being, people say you doing socialism!! So my question is what do they want???Just do nothing and leave the country at the mercy to special interest??? This change will hurt them, believe me!! And also I think that the fact that the republicans, and the conservatives lost the last election has made things very difficult for them. Here is a good revange for them.

    August 15, 2009 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  17. Jeffery Meaux, Sr.

    I cannot believe the elderly U.S. citizens will get reduced Medicare benefits in order to provide medical benefits to l2 million illegal immigrants. This whole Obama health plan is to provide benefits to 47,000,000 unensured or underensured many of whom are drug addicts, alcholics, or extremely obese on the way to serious health problems and early death. They have no idea of what a wellness program is and don't care to know. Many can afford health insurance but do not have their proiorites in the right places, they are without pride and want a handout.

    August 15, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  18. Tony in Maine

    Grow up Anee

    August 15, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  19. Ethel in Florida

    God bless President Obama...always fighting for the people, but what a job. The party of NO is always criticizing every move he makes with the help of Fox news and Lou Dobbs. I don't know how he keeps his cool. He can handle more than one task at a time which is a good thing !!

    August 15, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  20. m jeff

    Private insurance is a complete failure, yet most Republicans will not admit this,I guess when you are getting a cut of their huge profits it is a sucess.

    August 15, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  21. Dealt, Lisbon

    When I see those shouting matches on TV I keep hoping Americans are not as dumb as they sometimes seem. Your health care was rated as mediocre! Those that have enough money to pay for health-care will get it anywhere (even in Thailand or India). My country is a small and poor country and has a public healthcare system. And it also has private insurance health care plans for those that can afford it or want it. The two systems co-exist very comfortably. I had a major surgery recently and I didn't want to stay in a hospital where it would have more people around when I wanted quiet. So I paid for the surgery to be done in a private hospital and had the following treatment done for free in a public hospital (which are actually better because the equipment is paid for by the government and not by profit overly-conscious managers and the doctors are not just any doctors but university teachers and doctors with proven credentials. And that is NOT socialism (you sound half crazy with all that shouting about socialism. Do you even know what sort of political system socialism is apart from being an outdated bogeyman?!)

    August 15, 2009 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  22. welches, oregon

    Obviously many of did not read what the President actually cleared up for you.

    Here's one part:
    "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."

    Read the rest, about how it'll lower your medical costs and finally put focus on the health of all American citizens.

    What the heck is wrong with that?

    August 15, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  23. Jeffrey Berkin

    I am disgusted by the repeated efforts of people like Sarah Palin to undermine any health reform bill by lying and distorting facts. Nobody forced her to have her son, who doctors told her would have serious health issues. She was selfish in having Trip because she condemned him to a life where he will need constant supervision. If she thinks the situation with heath care is difficult now, in 30-40 years it will be a lot worse. People are living longer, and are being given medication regularly, even if it will not help. My mother had two strokes, five operations, and had a foot amputated. God forbid somebody would say "She must live!". My step-mother is in a vegetative state–but is being kept "alive" by my father (who is sick himself) because there was never any advance decision made. At least the President is making an effort to get some reform passed, and I just hope for this country's sake, it gets passed.

    August 15, 2009 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  24. Shawn D

    Man, must be frustrating for Obama. Every question he's asked, he answers. We all know that any bill that comes out won't be perfect, but I think he's done a fine job trying to get the best bill.

    I especially hate when ppl say he hasn't outlined his ideas and the ways to save money when he explicitly lists ways every time he answers a question. If he explains too much then they say he's not being honest.

    I say do the townhalls and then get a bill passed asap, some ppl will never be convinced, and no matter how well you explain they will still believe the same thing.

    August 15, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  25. providence, Ri

    lolz Dixon. Everything but the kitchen sink, Godwin's Law included! Sweet internet anonymity lets you push your false left-wing talking points. Good thing the American people as a whole are seeing past the lies of your statist president and Congressmen.

    August 15, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
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