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. sensible Cape Coral Fl

    I think the emphasis in the Health Care debate is wrongly placed. It is as much a LEGAL issue as a MEDICAL one. Until tort reform becomes a major item in the debate, we are just spinning our wheels – but then maybe that's what the politicians want, a delay.

    August 15, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  2. Karen

    Most of these people are REAL American citizens with very real concerns about this health care that no one can define.

    August 15, 2009 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  3. Keith

    Here come the fascist right wingers with their cutesy names for the president of the United States. These are not Americans that are attacking the most intelligent and caring president that perhaps this country has ever had, they are Republicans and make that clear at every step. Divisive right wingers trying to upset the calm and get back to politics of fear and anger.

    Why don't you all move to Montana so we can keep track of you. It's clear you want to be in your little homogenous world with nothing but frothing, angry white folk as neighbors.

    August 15, 2009 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  4. Tabeth

    Dear America Friend,

    1. We reached to the moon
    2. We made an atomic bomb
    3. We invented automobile
    4. We abolished slavery and brought in civil rights
    5 How a country like america fails to give health care to its people?

    Amen and shalom!

    August 15, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  5. nick

    Lets face it, while these shouters claim to be exercising their 1st Amendment rights, what they really want is to maintain the white racist majority rule. Look at them, they are 99% white, mostly over 50, usually gun nuts, and they Obama just becuse he's black. This issue is being used by the nativist to vent te neo-Nazi fustration.

    August 15, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  6. To: Anee

    shame on you

    you have no respect

    you obviously had a poor upbringing and parents that did not teach you manners

    you shame your family and yourself

    August 15, 2009 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  7. joe

    The right wing extremists are doing way too much whining about this issue. It just seems obvious that reform will be good for the average American. When costs come down it will ultimately save us all money – and by all – I mean the taxpayers.

    For once, tax money will actually help the taxpayers themselves – it's about time !

    I would save the whining for something else.

    August 15, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  8. Fear

    "There are better ways to deal with the health care issue than the plan President Obama is pushing" – Roscolette

    "We do need reform but not this one. So called death panels will be unecessary because physicians will naturally limit care to the elderly as a way to save cost." – BlembergMD

    Well. We are all dying (some of us literally) to hear your "better" plans.
    Why, why, why are people trying to prevent me and thousands of other heard working Americans from accessing needed health care?!?! And to the extent that they are willing to LIE? THERE ARE NO DEATH PANELS!!!! RESEARCH!!!

    August 15, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  9. bam

    Thank goodness for President Obama's level-headed leadership.

    August 15, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  10. St. Louis Jake

    The right misleading the public. We do need reform – just this kind of reform. The house plan changes the entire focus of health care. The current focus is on the profit of the insurance companies, large medical providers, the pharmasutical industry and their investor – and cost reflects that. The house bill puts the focus on the individual's right to top quality care and the effect on society – as a whole – if this right is not realized Therefore, doctors would be free to consider needs based on results. There will be less rationing of health care than under the current insurance company-controlled system. So called death panels are a figment of the right-wing imagination. Physicians will never limit care to the elderly as a way to save cost. They don't now under Medicare and thge wont under the Reform Plan.

    August 15, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  11. kw1919

    Never easy when you're trying to take the power away from status quo. Can you honestly tell me you are satisfied with the current high cost of healthcare ? Lead the way President Obama. Let the discussion take its course. Be wary of those who feel they must SHOUT and push their way onto everyone else. Cooler heads and dialogue must prevail.

    August 15, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  12. annie for Palin

    Everything that comes out of this man's mouth is a LIE!!! The only meetings he held only included obamanut kool-aid drinkers. He doesn't give a dam# about what REAL AMERICAN CITIZENS think. Just the same for the communist government run cnn and msnbc and I am sure cnn will not publish this blog.

    August 15, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  13. Can't handle it now that a dem is being criticized can you?

    Any of you who think the media (especially CNN) gives our current president anything near a hard time must have been in a coma the previous 8 years. Stop crying, wake up, and realize he's eating up the attention like a bowl of ice cream.

    And seriously, what's wrong with you people that you think no one is allowed to question our leaders. Again, have you forgotten the cries and whines of the last eight years?

    The hypocrisy is so thick it makes the health care bill look like a pamphlet.

    August 15, 2009 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  14. Jeanne

    If anyone if misrepresting the health care takeover, it's this administration. You will not be able to keep your current plan if there are any changes at all (deductible, coverage, etc). Policies change every year (just like your car and homeowners insurance).

    You can't add millions of people to a system and not have rationing. Oh, and about those 47 million uninsured, only 12 mil are actually uninsured. The other 35 mil are illegals, those that could afford it but don't buy insurance, people eligible for existing programs, and some that are temporarily between insurance programs- usually about 4 months.

    This bill is just about power and control.

    August 15, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  15. Gary

    Its amazes me how Healthcare is being twisted into so many different strories. I'm also amazed at how many people are unknowingly and willingly being used to fight against reform. I couldn't imagine not accepting additional options for healthcare. I would also like to know that I'm covered for any sickness/illness vs what currently exist. NO TAX INCREASE AND WE HAVE A WAY TO PAY FOR HEALTHCARE REFORM! wow – Watching the President spell it out at Town Hall meetings is refreshing. The President gives me the feeling that he is trying to do what is best for this country despite the push back from those with very questionable motives. Keep up the great work Mr. President. You have awakened many sleeping giants and we support you one hundred percent!

    August 15, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  16. A disappointed Democrat

    I am very distressed at what is being pushed down our throats. If this Health Care Reform is so great, let the U.S. President, Congressmen and Senators be the FIRST to step up and say they will the the first to participate in this program. Until then, leave our insurance programs the way they are–they are working for us!

    Stop selling us a basket of lies and start telling the truth–the whole help you God!

    August 15, 2009 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  17. Joe the carpenter

    Lets see, Hmm, I got a question for the 'religious' right, "what would Jesus do?". Would he prefer to ensure the profits of the insurance industry by going with the status quo, or would he rather have every person have the ability to recieve (at least) adequate health care, HMMM gee I'll have to think about this.

    I hate to break it to the far right fascists, but Jesus was a liberal.

    August 15, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  18. Tony

    For all those against health care for all and health care reform. Do you understand that if we don't reform the system, the cost of health insurance will continue to rise and soon more people won't have health insurance and this may include YOU.

    August 15, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  19. Diane in Kennewick WA

    People need to understand that there is a difference between dissent, which is the very foundation of our country, and shouting down people and disrupting meetings. Honest discourse is a tremendous resource, but preventing anyone who disagrees with you from speaking, shouting and calling people names, and threatening people's lives is not democracy–it's jack booted thuggery.

    August 15, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  20. Albo58

    This president has no creditability and he has surrounded himself with politicians that lack moral fiber!

    August 15, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  21. John

    Republicans lie. It is really that simple. They do it over and over and oever again. Some people see it and some refuse to. Those people are the most dangerous force in America today. They do more damage than terrorism, poverty, unemployment, disease, and natural deisaters combined because they are the fule that feeds tragady.

    August 15, 2009 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  22. Jasmine in Germany

    Well said, President Obama. The US health care system is out of date, it desperately needs improvements, and NOW is the time to do it.

    August 15, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  23. Grrr-awful-o

    Sorry, comrade, we're still an open society. At least until you can address that problem...

    August 15, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  24. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    No, it's not possible that more than half the population thinks Obamacare is an appalling waste of money, an unwarranted and unconstitutional intrusion of government, a give-away to bums wanting to sponge off of everyone else for their medical care, or some combination of the above. It's just has to be the media stirring up a ruckus.

    Even a lot of Democrats are finally figuring out that wasting trillions of dollars of money we don't have in order to fix some fairly minor problems, and more or less destroying American health care in the process, is not only imbecilic but will costs them their jobs next election.

    August 15, 2009 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  25. John

    This is finally a well-reasoned, logical explanation of what needs to be done and why. I would just keep repeating the same thing over and over until the "none so blind as those who will not see," actual listen and think ( see examples in previous comments) The purposeful misinformation campaign is truly treasonous. There are apparently people who would rather see our country go down in flames than have "the other side" gain a victory. Shameful.

    August 15, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
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