October 17th, 2009
06:00 AM ET
9 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. The idiot

    The real progress is that they are lying and continue to believe their lies. This boondoggle is going to cost those of us who actually work and pay taxes (as opposed to the typical Obama supporter) jobs, and money. Clean these thieves out of office in 2010 and get the big thief in 2016. Maybe he can win the Nobel prize fo early probation later in life.

    October 17, 2009 06:26 am at 6:26 am |
  2. Fred

    I still don't know what health care reform is all about.
    Most agree that socialized medicine is a disaster, but the current insurance cartel is not helping either as they keep raising rates on customers.

    The problem is that the Obama adminsttration doesn't say who is going to pay for all of this. In addition, medicare for those over 65 will suffer because of reduced benefits.

    October 17, 2009 06:59 am at 6:59 am |
  3. Nevadatom

    Come on Mr. President do what the people who elected you to do not what the people who didn't elect you to do.

    October 17, 2009 07:25 am at 7:25 am |
  4. Maria - Proud Democrat

    The sad part about your remarks Mr. President is that YOU are also
    "bending the truth"....

    By the way when we went to the polls last November and voted you in.....we did NOT vote to give you a BLANK CHECK for you to do as you please.

    It was a vote of confidence that you would keep your campaign promises. As in your promise to televise the health care discussions on CSPAN.....what happened to that empty promise? Or what about the promise that we would get the same health care Congress has......what happened to that empty promise. You promised an end to the terrible Bush years and yet you are on your way to making things worse. How can you Mr. President sign a Bill or Policy that commits the people of the US to trillions....full well knowing that Congress and your team has NOT read the full bill? That is just ridiculous and the majority of Americans would be fired for such shabby work.

    We voted you in because you were supposed to be different. So far you are not different than President Bush, you are the SAME.

    If you things don't change soon, you WILL BE a one term President, because many Democrats like myself will refuse to support a candidate that is full of EMPTY PROMISES.

    October 17, 2009 07:29 am at 7:29 am |
  5. Jack in KY

    Keep-up the good work Mr. President.

    October 17, 2009 07:30 am at 7:30 am |
  6. jules sand-perkins

    Regulation of insurance industry:
    – X – YES
    – – NO

    Public option:
    – – YES
    – X – NO

    October 17, 2009 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  7. keith a dewey

    I wish the Dems. would do a boiler plate/bumper sticker "government is good, protects, and saves."

    Ever since human kind had more then 8 people in a group there has been government. Some groups for whatever reason have tried to get along without government. They either failed or to survive encorperated government as an institution.

    Until the US public realizes government is needed and can be trusted we will continue to pass laws based on an imaginary species. By the way the end goal of Communism is no government. And to get there you need absolute power. Cheney comes to mind, now there is a real evil.

    October 17, 2009 07:35 am at 7:35 am |
  8. ib

    I agree that something needs to be done but not Obama care. From what I've seen and read this will destroy our healthcare as it is now especially for senior citizens whom Obama seems to care nothing about.

    October 17, 2009 07:40 am at 7:40 am |
  9. Reg

    Way to go President Clinton! Keep speaking the truth about this health care bill nationwide!

    October 17, 2009 07:45 am at 7:45 am |
  10. Machiavelli, Baton Rouge, LA

    Wake up Americans!!! Are you that naive to think the insurance industry is willing to spend millions of dollars on viral attack ads to thwart healt care reform because they are looking out for you? Get real!!! The industry's only hope is to stoke fear into those whom are less informed about the true benefits of a government option health plan, and they know that those whom are less informed in America far outnumber those whom are informed. If you think I am lying, just look at the Republican constituency: a bunch of plaid shir, backwoods, toothless, loud-mouthed bafoons hooping and a-yelling for the world to see their true ignorance at those "town hall" meetings. Many of them did not have adequate health care, without the help of Medicaid. Yet to get attention or notoriety, they were willing to subject themselves to the cheap display of showmanship earlier in the year. Where are they now? I can tell you. Now that many of them have seen the benefits of health reform coming to America, they are privately rooting for Obama and his Democratic colleagues to hurry and pass a much needed health care reform bill.

    October 17, 2009 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  11. Mike

    Trust your Government before insurance companies. When you have ex employees from the insurance industry that tell you that they were told to refuse all claims and wait to see if they challenge is scary as hell. I can't understand why people are not angry at insurance companies. They want your money but could care less if you live or die. Actually they rather see you dead as they do not need to pay out your claims. It's about profit and only profits. Here in Canada our government negotiates prices and pays for them. And at no time does our government make any decisions on what treatment you should receive, in your country you have someone sitting at a desk who gets paid a commision on the profitability of their company(insurance company). Your whole system is flawed. Every human being should have a right to health care that is there looking out for their interest not the interest of some rich fat shareholder sitting on beach somewhere spending the money you gave them for coverage to find out that your not covered at all????

    October 17, 2009 07:48 am at 7:48 am |
  12. Machiavelli, Baton Rouge, LA

    Another thing, Americans. The insurance industry is now saying that under the new health care proposal, health care costs will rise. Well, Hello-o-o. When has the price of anything remained stagnant in any economy. I am sure given time that there will be increases to the costs of the proposed health care package, but those increases will be far fewer and smaller than the exponential increases you would see from the insurance industry. Every working class American knows of at least one person who has suffered irrepairable financial disaster or even death because of unaffordable health care. Has anyone watched this movie called "John Q?" If not, watch it as soon as you can. You will be moved.

    October 17, 2009 07:56 am at 7:56 am |
  13. jules sand-perkins

    A comment from England asked yesterday how the USA can have so many uninsured, when nationalized health care works in her country.
    My answer to her:
    England does not have nearly as many citizens who choose to produce nothing except endorsed entitlement checks.
    Socialized medicine works somewhat in a society of productive persons.
    We don't have that in the USA. Here, we need to protect the producers from the bums.

    To the comment that ended, "what would Jesus do?"
    Here is what Jesus DID:
    He took a coin and showed both sides to his manipulative questioners. If you don't know what He said, don't ask anything more about what Jesus would do.

    October 17, 2009 07:58 am at 7:58 am |
  14. Perusing-through


    However, because President Obama decided to make every effort to appear bipartisan; and because the president "trusted" the Republican Party, Health Insurance industry, and snake-rat Blue Dawg Democrats to play nicely, health-reform has been unmercifully and viscously attacked and delayed while 130 Americans die everyday due to lack of health-coverage.

    October 17, 2009 08:01 am at 8:01 am |
  15. Patriot

    GO BILL!

    October 17, 2009 08:11 am at 8:11 am |
  16. rjt

    Obama needs to be the one listening to us. There is such thing as healthcare reform without doing it his way. THere are plenty of ideas out there from the right and left but everytime anyone brings anything up he says the same thing..."you just want to kill reform at any cost"...NO obama we want reform but we don't want a huge new government system that will cost at least a trillion dollars (that we will borrow from the chinese)

    October 17, 2009 08:17 am at 8:17 am |
  17. Vermonter

    Take note. Here in Vermont, we have a law that insurance coverage may not be denied because of pre-existing conditions. The result Blue Cross is the only option for individuals without coverage unless they are employed by a firm using the Chamber of Commerce CIGNA policy.

    Bottom line is Obama's right. The industry wants to be sure health care reform ends up in the toilet so they can go on their merry way of screwing policy holders. Repeal the anti-trust exemption now.

    October 17, 2009 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  18. Hugo

    The unsustainable path that we are on is more of Obama and his big Government spending and expansion. If Government were to do its' intended job of maintaining a Fair and level playing field in a free market and enforcing our laws we would not have any of the problems that we are now seeing. Government corruption to serve the lobbyists and special interest groups in re-payment for the bribes (aka: Campaign contributions) skews the way our Nation now functions. Why should Insurance companies be exempt from anti-trust laws, how can you have competition in an industry when it is a monopoly? Where was the SEC while Madoff stole billions? Why is medicaid and medicare insolvent and ripe with fraud? Why is social security soon to be insolvent? Why is the FDIC insolvent? Why did Dodd relax regulation in the banking and finance industries that went hand in hand with an insolvent Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Have any of the things that led to the economic collapse been corrected or just had our money poured on them? The question is NOT healthcare Reform, the question America needs to be asking itself is about Government Reform. Vote every incumbent out in 2010 and in 2012, break the lobbyist and special interest web of corruption, find and VOTE Independent in 2012!.

    October 17, 2009 08:30 am at 8:30 am |
  19. Willy Brown

    How you going to pay for this Barry? Why are you avoiding the troops?

    October 17, 2009 08:41 am at 8:41 am |
  20. Darrell Burks

    Inusrance companies have been unfair and ripping off us for most of our lives. It time to take a stand – good heathcare is a right.

    October 17, 2009 08:46 am at 8:46 am |
  21. terry,va

    If you think people are bending the truth when they say illegal aliens and abortion are covered under your health care proposal, then put clear specific language in the bill that exempts these two items. These amendments have been rejected by the Dems several times. If you want to keep your promise of not increasing taxs on anyone who makes under $250,000, then you won't sign any of the bills that are making their way through congress. When these things happen, you can state that you are doing your part in not bending the truth.

    October 17, 2009 09:21 am at 9:21 am |
  22. Larry S

    What about the deficit???? When is Obama and CNN starting to talk about the terrible deficit??? CNN, you are not doing your job as a news organization . . . but maybe what is being said is correct and you are only part of Obama's media.

    October 17, 2009 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  23. phoenix86

    $1.4 trillion deficit this year.
    Plans to spend another $1.3 trillion on healthcare which will still leave 25 million uninsured and increase the costs for everyone (not to mention reduce or eliminate some medicare programs).

    Last year, people went to the polls and wanted a change from George W. Bush. They did not want this. Had Obama been truthfull then, he would be back doing "community outreach" in Chicago.

    The Obama presidency can be described in three words: Deceit, Incompetence and Weakness.

    October 17, 2009 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  24. Lois

    We Stand with you Mr. President in your words 'FIRE UP!READY TO GO! Lets get this done. Already called my Representatives to voice my opinion in support for Health Care and We believe we will get this done

    October 17, 2009 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  25. Bj

    The problem with this president is that he doesn't care what is passed as HCR. AS long as he gets a tick along HCR on his list of campaign promises. He is the most self centered, egotistical man I think I've ever seen in the political arena. The plan is flawed and needs to be started over, but as long as this fool is worried more about his legacy than he is worried about the American public, he will try to shove this crap down our throats. The president is as flawed as the health care plan.

    October 17, 2009 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
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