October 17th, 2009
06:00 AM ET
5 years ago

President Obama cites progress in health care debate


WASHINGTON (CNN) – In his weekly radio and internet address, President Barack Obama continued the new Democratic assault on the insurance industry over what he called "bogus" charges - but sounded a note of cautious optimism over the progress of health care legislation currently being considered by Congress

"Now, I welcome a good debate. I welcome the chance to defend our proposals and to test our ideas in the fires of this democracy," Obama said. "But what I will not abide are those who would bend the truth – or break it – to score political points and stop our progress as a country. And what we all must oppose are the same old cynical Washington games that have been played for decades even as our problems have grown and our challenges have mounted."

The release of an insurance industry report that predicted President Obama's health care proposal would not stop costs and premiums from surging was met by a fierce pushback from Democrats this week. The Democratic National Committee made the industry the latest target of its "Call 'em Out" campaign targeting critics of the president's plan to overhaul the nation's health care system.

The president commended legislators Saturday for progress on health care legislation, which cleared the Senate Finance Committee this week, but said a tough fight still lay ahead.

"There are still significant details and disagreements to be worked out in the coming weeks," Obama said. "And there are still those who would try to kill reform at any cost. The history is clear: for decades rising health care costs have unleashed havoc on families, businesses, and the economy. And for decades, whenever we have tried to reform the system, the insurance companies have done everything in their considerable power to stop us. "

Health care negotiations are expected to resume in Congress Monday afternoon.

Read the full transcript after the jump.


Remarks of President Barack Obama
As Prepared for Delivery
Weekly Address
October 17, 2009

Over the better part of the past year, a great debate has taken place in Washington and across America, about how to reform our health care system to provide security for people with insurance, coverage for those without insurance, and lower costs for everyone. From the halls of Congress to the homes of ordinary Americans, this debate has helped us to forge consensus and find common ground. That’s a good thing. That’s what America is all about.

Now, as the debate draws to a close, we can point to a broad and growing coalition of doctors and nurses, workers and businesses, hospitals and even drug companies – folks who represent different parties and perspectives, including leading Democrats and many leading Republicans – who recognize the urgency of action. Just this week, the Senate Finance Committee approved a reform proposal that has both Democratic and Republican support. For the first time ever, all five committees in Congress responsible for health reform have passed a version of legislation. As I speak to you today, we are closer to reforming the health care system than we have ever been in history.

But this is not the time to pat ourselves on the back. This is not the time to grow complacent. There are still significant details and disagreements to be worked out in the coming weeks. And there are still those who would try to kill reform at any cost. The history is clear: for decades rising health care costs have unleashed havoc on families, businesses, and the economy. And for decades, whenever we have tried to reform the system, the insurance companies have done everything in their considerable power to stop us.

We know that this inaction has carried a terrible toll. In the past decade, premiums have doubled. Over the past few years, total out of pocket costs for people with insurance rose by a third. And we know that if we do not reform the system, this will only be a preview of coming attractions. A new report for the Business Roundtable – a non-partisan group that represents the CEOs of major companies – found that without significant reform, health care costs for these employers and their employees will well more than double again over the next decade. The cost per person for health insurance will rise by almost $18,000. That’s a huge amount of money. That’s going to mean lower salaries and higher unemployment, lower profits and higher rolls of uninsured. It is no exaggeration to say, that unless we act, these costs will devastate the US economy.

This is the unsustainable path we’re on, and it’s the path the insurers want to keep us on. In fact, the insurance industry is rolling out the big guns and breaking open their massive war chest – to marshal their forces for one last fight to save the status quo. They’re filling the airwaves with deceptive and dishonest ads. They’re flooding Capitol Hill with lobbyists and campaign contributions. And they’re funding studies designed to mislead the American people.

Of course, like clockwork, we’ve seen folks on cable television who know better, waving these industry-funded studies in the air. We’ve seen industry insiders – and their apologists – citing these studies as proof of claims that just aren’t true. They’ll claim that premiums will go up under reform; but they know that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that reforms will lower premiums in a new insurance exchange while offering consumer protections that will limit out-of-pocket costs and prevent discrimination based on pre-existing conditions. They’ll claim that you’ll have to pay more out of pocket; but they know that this is based on a study that willfully ignores whole sections of the bill, including tax credits and cost savings that will greatly benefit middle class families. Even the authors of one of these studies have now admitted publicly that the insurance companies actually asked them to do an incomplete job.

It’s smoke and mirrors. It’s bogus. And it’s all too familiar. Every time we get close to passing reform, the insurance companies produce these phony studies as a prescription and say, “Take one of these, and call us in a decade.” Well, not this time. The fact is, the insurance industry is making this last-ditch effort to stop reform even as costs continue to rise and our health care dollars continue to be poured into their profits, bonuses, and administrative costs that do nothing to make us healthy – that often actually go toward figuring out how to avoid covering people. And they’re earning these profits and bonuses while enjoying a privileged exception from our anti-trust laws, a matter that Congress is rightfully reviewing.

Now, I welcome a good debate. I welcome the chance to defend our proposals and to test our ideas in the fires of this democracy. But what I will not abide are those who would bend the truth – or break it – to score political points and stop our progress as a country. And what we all must oppose are the same old cynical Washington games that have been played for decades even as our problems have grown and our challenges have mounted.

Last November, the American people went to the polls in historic numbers and demanded change. They wanted a change in our policies; but they also sought a change in our politics: a politics that too often has fallen prey to the lobbyists and the special interests; that has fostered division and sustained the status quo. Passing health insurance reform is a great test of this proposition. Yes, it will make a profound and positive difference in the lives of the American people. But it also now represents something more: whether or not we as a nation are capable of tackling our toughest challenges, if we can serve the national interest despite the unrelenting efforts of the special interests; if we can still do big things in America.

I believe we can. I believe we will. And I urge every member of Congress to stand against the power plays and political ploys – and to stand up on behalf the American people who sent us to Washington to do their business.

Thank you.


Filed under: Health care • President Obama
soundoff (40 Responses)
  1. D.

    I like this president like the "truth" and I wished he had himself abide by this rule, but he is the "super politician" that can afford claiming everyone else is not telling the truth while he himself tells different things to different people and changes things over time. At least with Bush the lies or claimed lies were known universally. Now go argue which type of not sticking to true facts is more dangerous!? It seems that if people like a politician they allow him to lie (with a smile); in the long run this superficial approach by the public will back fire!

    October 17, 2009 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  2. annie s

    Ensuring passage of a public option is the only progress that matters.

    October 17, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  3. Joe S,

    If they don’t pass the public option, everyone should drop the insurance companies. Deposit the money that they shell out to the insurance companies into their own personal account. Then when and if they need to see a doctor, pay out of that account, keeping any money left over as their own, instead of the insurance companies pocketing their money.

    Who needs to keep shelling out big bucks to the insurance companies for them to treat us like we’re the sucker in ‘Three Card Monty’.

    That’s been my theory for fifty years,. The only person who has
    gotten rich off of my money is ME.

    October 17, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  4. chubby

    Bending the truth is all nobama has done since he has been in office. All he talks about is working together but he sends his lap dogs to attack anyone who opposes him and that includes members of his own party. He will get the votes for his health care debacle by sending members to their reelection defeats just to further his liberal agenda which is spending our country into debt so far no one will be able to bring us back.

    October 17, 2009 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  5. Fitz in Texas

    Why does he not listen to the American people. 70% DO NOT want the government to own us or our health care.

    October 17, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  6. W. Spivey

    Keep plugging Mr President. If say it loud and long enough these idiots will soon get the message.

    October 17, 2009 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  7. ib

    If Obama calls destroying medical care for senior citizens progress well I guess he is making progress. His cuts in medicare prove that he doesn't care anything about us. Obama makes Carter and Nixon look like real good presidents compared to him. I know I lived through both of their terms and I thought they were the worse until Obama came on the stage. Pathetic.

    October 17, 2009 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  8. call them out

    an honorable thing to do with a side that is NOT honorable

    Mr. Obama is treating the GOP and its henchmen (FOX news, Rush, Bech et al) as though they were mature adults, they clearly are not

    while you give them the chance to say 'no' and continue to act with out shame, know that the public supports you and that you need to continue moving forward

    a shame, we assume people will treat you as you treat them, act honorably and they will act honorably as well

    the U.S. holds out hope for the GOP, but continues to move forward with or without them

    October 17, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  9. April in Texas

    I would like to inform others of our health care issue. My husband was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer Jan 1st 2009. He lost medicaid when his disability of 1044.00 kicked in and has to wait now for another year and a half for medicare to kick in. The lung cancer has now spread to his brain and and with no insurance he can not get the treatment he needs. With the current laws here in Texas, he is basically stuck with no healthcare insurance. The system is flawed and without treatment it is possible he will die before medicare takes over. How is this the american way for one to have worked hard until his disability only to have no options available to him?

    October 17, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  10. R in Maine

    A country like ours should be ashamed if it cannot care for its people. The threat by the insurance industry to get together and fix the prices is a violation of the RICO statute, and the health industry executive ought to be treated that way.

    October 17, 2009 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  11. Millie McGuire

    Democrat's "health care" proposals do not contain anything about Health Care. The democrats are interested only in tying us all up into federal government red tape and controlling us for political purposes. If the government wanted to provide insurance to presently uninsured Americans, that could be easily done without involving every citizen of the US, those of us who have already protected ourselves with insurance and those of us who follow sensible guides for a day-to-day healthy life. I for one don't want to have to pay for smokers' lung cancer treatments or for people who ride motorcycles or bungee jump or the many other dangerous and reckless activities of life. And I certainly don't want to have to pay to destroy little babies made by irresponsible adults.

    October 17, 2009 10:46 am at 10:46 am |
  12. gary davis Harbor Oregon

    its difficult for the president to get ahead when all the republicans lie
    but he is doing a great job ,and we americans shall stand with him ,to take back what the INSURANCE indusrty is riping off ..more choices is what we need and the government one will be like social security . it works

    fire it up ready to go

    October 17, 2009 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  13. annie against biased news

    Would you pay in full for a new car today but you won't get it for 3 yrs.? Same with this atrocity this administration calls 'health care'.

    October 17, 2009 10:48 am at 10:48 am |
  14. D. Tree

    Most Americans understand that offering the same public option our Senators get, to small businesses and the uninsured makes sense. It has already been tested to work, so all the Republican talking points about an "experiment" are flat out wrong.

    Give small businesses and the uninsured access to the same plans our Senators get. It will save us the most money, and we already know it works.

    October 17, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  15. Voted4HealthCare

    Keep up the great work, Mr. President!

    Americans need these healthcare reforms with a majority-supported public option to extend affordable coverage by increasing competition against a dishonest, greedy insurance lobby.

    Health Reforms Now...
    Godspeed!

    October 17, 2009 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
1 2