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. Thamaran

    Here is the math:

    Assuming cost of insurance $1200 (average a family of four with good health)
    Assuming 22 work days and 8 hr work day. the cost per/hr health insurance is $6.20 per hour.


    August 15, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  2. adam peart

    How dare they question the pius one?

    August 15, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  3. goobs

    The majority of Americans believe that health care reform is needed. That's not in question. The concern is about coverage and cost. The house and senate will have to debate these issues and come with a solution. Easier said than done.

    What this has turned into is political show instead of focusing on the real tragedy...Americans that are not insured or under insured while costs are devastating families. A lot of misinformation and down-right lies are out there and the President and proponents of health care need to do a better job of getting the truth out. Let's get it right!

    For those against health care reform, that's your perogative.

    August 15, 2009 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  4. Dave Wyman

    At the moment, health care is rationed. Those with enough money can pry more care out of the current system. Insurance companies are not advocates of health care, they are in fact adversaries. Insurance companies decide what kind of care and how much care is due to those who pay for insurance.

    There is no way everyone in the U.S. can receive the top of the line technology for every illness. Rationing will occur with government-run health insurance. At the moment, though, millions of citizens in the U.S. receive little or no care under the existing system. That's not right.

    August 15, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  5. Gene

    I love people like Anee who declare Obama's health care plan a failure without it ever being tried.

    You know.. back in the old days.. they would say that democracy and capitalism will never work... that without one voice.. a monarchy, nothing will get done.

    August 15, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  6. al

    I am a business owner with 4 employees. I feel guilty about it but I can not afford to provide them with health insurance – it would make my business unprofitable.

    So I SUPPORT reform. I am hoping we get an affordable public option so that we can all have consistent coverage and we won't have to worry about this anymore.

    For me and my employees – it can't come soon enough.

    August 15, 2009 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  7. Steve

    It's great that legitimate concerns are being voiced at these meetings. Most of the footage/reports of the ruckus appears to be of the type of people that condone torture than then rant about 'Christian values".

    The Hitler references are highly offensive to everyone. Wanting to care for everyone in society is a CHRISTIAN value, not a Nazi one.

    August 15, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  8. Not my president

    ...but he will raise the taxes on those of us considered to be middle class. He will. The guy is not working for the American people but for self. His issue is that he needs some sort of historical precedence and he will hose anyone to get it. Go ahead and call me a racist (as I know you will) but when he hoses you who voted for him, don't whine. You assisted him and will reap the rewards. BTW, what tax break?

    August 15, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  9. The Constitutionalist

    Wouldn't raising taxes on only those making greater than $250,000 constitute a bill of attainder? For those of you who don't know, those are expressly FORBIDDEN under Article 1 Section 9 of the Constitution.

    August 15, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  10. There's only a ruckus because....

    Obama cannot explain any of the details of ObamaCare such as how will it be paid for? Will you have gov't nurses in your home? How will care be rationed among the elderly and disabled? With no additional doctors, how will the system handle 50 million new patients?

    Obama has not read the plan and neither has anyone else in the White House-yet they expect us to buy into it.

    August 15, 2009 03:28 pm at 3:28 pm |
  11. Haas

    Republicans don't want to reforrn health care. Now they say support reform only because Obama is front and center on the issue. Bush didn't take on the issue and McCain wouldn't have either. The republicans are a bunch of sheep who feed off the lies of the establishment. Insurance companies have done a good job of screwing the American people.

    August 15, 2009 03:29 pm at 3:29 pm |
  12. Dan P Mills Jr

    It just amazing how everyone is only out for there best interests.There are millions with no coverage and cant get it.Listen to these protesters at these town halls.Bet if the shoe was on there foot they would feel diffrent about reform.I say let the democrats try to do what there doing.After all where was the republicans for 8 years?I guess they were busy spending on a war that should have never been fought.Just think how all that money could have been spent on healthcare.I say ram it down there troats.Maybe people will wake up and relize its just not about them.

    August 15, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  13. Carl

    I find it hard to believe that you have u.s. senators like the one from Georgia saying something and then telling an untruth like he did not say it. I can relate to what president Obama is talking about because the same thing happen to me. So for all those people who think that it can not happen tell them to live on.

    August 15, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  14. Mark from Louisiana

    All the ordinary folks coming out to meetings and complaining about government. Then the government says they are there because the insurance companies sent them. Although there may be some ringers in the bunch most are just plain old folks who are scared of the direction obama wants our country to go. The government and the media continue to call these people names and say how bad they are. Then the government busses in Acorn folks. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.

    When obama and the other politicians started putting down the protestors they lost credibility, obama was a organizer now he puts down folks who don't agree with his loony visions.

    The protesters will speak again in the next elections...................

    August 15, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  15. mattie

    I can't believe my own party, when people came to St Paul to protest the Republican Convention they threw urine on police officers, they intimidated people in the streets, they damaged cars and other property. They were called heros by the Dems, as a Minnesota I was disgusted by their behavior. Now the same people who say these people were heros, are calling people who oppose them mobs. I guess the hypocricy is lost on some of you. Everyone in this country has a right to protest, everyone!
    We do need health care reform, I don't believe there are death panels or other such nonsense, but we should start reforms slowly, and put thought into it, not rush things through. President Obama just made a behind closed doors deal with the drug companies, this deal prohibits competition with Canada and Europe. This is exactly what Bush did, hope and change sure looks like the same old, same old to me. Also those of you who say he isn't going to raise taxes, aren't facing reality. It's raise taxes or have the biggest deficits in the history of this country. Nice choice!

    August 15, 2009 03:33 pm at 3:33 pm |
  16. George Guadiane - Austerlitz, NY

    If ignorance is bliss, these screaming dittohead sycophants must be about as happy as humans can be.
    FACTS are of little interest or concern for them, talking points RULE and the louder they scream them (no matter how preposterous), the more "true" they must be.
    I am ABSOLUTELY POSITIVE that there will be elements of the bill that finally gets signed, that I will not like, but they cannot be any more of a problem for America (including the elderly) than having control of health care choices left up to corporate bureaucrats concerned with their bottom lines and profit sharing.
    I don't know, but I know what he WOULD NOT DO: Place profits and special interest ahead of human well being.
    You "Right" wing ideologues need to get right with Jesus and do more than CALL yourselves Christians.

    August 15, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  17. Dd

    For a nation that prides itself on freedom and liberty, I'm astounded at the way the Right has lied and misrepresented an issue that is supposed to help ALL Americans. It's about time the Right figured out that you don't have to be rich, white and christian to be an American. The level of hatred from the Right flies in the face of what it means to be an American. Shameful.

    August 15, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  18. rob

    You know its getting tough when President Obama starts criticizing the media in its coverage of the town halls. This is quite a laugher. When the first reports came out, the Dems characterized the protesters as angry, uncivilized etc. and the MSM dutifully parroted them in the reporting. Everything was "Organized Anger and Shouting Down" when it came to the protesters. However, even as the Dems have upped their rhetoric to "Un American and Nazi's", the press is realizing the large number of protesters and the polls showing growing disapproval of the Presidents and the Dems Health Care Plans. Except for the real hardline liberal media outlets like MSNBC, the Media can't continue to just spew the Dem line on the news without losing even more viewers and readers.

    Nov. 2010 can't come fast enough.

    August 15, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  19. unshrub

    Just because some 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 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 it is so. 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 understand that those loud mouths that come to these meetings are not going to vote for them. I voted for Obama and other Democrats 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 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  20. Fred Dean Weaver Oklahoma city

    Why do Americans listen to lies & outragious lies from Blue Dog Democrates and Republicans but refuse to listen To President Obama Health Plan? I think its Greed. Congress has taking money from IRA, Health insurance and Drug companies. American has 3 Helthcare right now That is socialize medicine and run by US government VA, Medicare and Congress Health care. Yet America keep saying they dont want Socialize medicine run by Government. When America gives up these Heathcare they should shut up.

    August 15, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  21. mach

    tv is not fair and definitely unbalanced. mostly caters to the evil, lying, unGodly , loud-mouth, hate-filled republicans.

    August 15, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  22. Deep Throat

    My question is still not answered. What is being done to insure that Physicians and medical facilities have to accept medicare up front? I spent over thirty years in the military to earn my medicare. The closest military facility to me is 120 miles. I am over seventy and this is not feasible for me to go to. We've paid for this coverage and still are so make them treat us.

    August 15, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  23. Cliff

    He is desperate to pass his socialist health care program...even to the point of not telling the "whole" truth.
    Sort of reminds you of some of his "czars" doesn't it?

    August 15, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  24. Rob in Nova Soctia Canada

    I find it funny that instead of debating what kind of health your country wants, is done by bashing the system we have here in Canada. I am happy with our system .As far as waiting goes if you are really sick then you get the care you need right away .I would much rather wait if my illness,or procedure I need is not that serious ,then to have to pay between 800 to 1800 hundred a month for a policy that has a 10 000 dollar deductible or have to use my nest egg to pay for medical care but that's just me, so you all keep the present system you have but do not get sick or lose your jobs

    August 15, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  25. Steve

    Obama is correct. We need to reform health care. The media plays into the hands of the crazy and the loud, who haven't though out an idea that would ironically help them in their everyday lives. If health care reform dies it will laid at the door step of media that is more interested in sensational as opposed to though full. The fact is that we are all one job loss or serious illness away from the insurance company pulling the plug on your health care. Insurance companies are a for profit bottom line concern that likes you only when your healthy. Where would this country be without government social security and medicaid. The same people who are shouting now would go off the deep end if someone took their rights to social security and medicaid away.

    August 15, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
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