March 6th, 2010
10:59 AM ET
8 years ago

Obama singles out insurance companies

Washington (CNN) - In the weekly White House address released Saturday, President Obama singled out insurance companies for rising health care costs and said, "The proposal we've put forward would end the worst practices of the insurance industry."

The President said the enactment of health care reform is "very close," adding that action is necessary to prevent insurance companies from raising premiums.

"I just met with some of them on Thursday and they couldn't give me a straight answer as to why they keep arbitrarily and massively raising premiums – by as much as 60% in states like Illinois. If we do not act, they will continue to do this," Obama said.

Read President Obama's full statement below:

This week, I asked Congress to schedule a final vote on reform that will give families and businesses more control over their health care by holding insurance companies more accountable. This comes after nearly a year of debate, as well as a seven hour summit with Democrats and Republicans where we had a public and substantive discussion on health care. Since then, I've said that I'm willing to incorporate some ideas offered by Republicans, and we're eliminating special provisions that had no place in health care reform.

Now, despite all the progress and improvements we've made, Republicans in Congress insist that the only acceptable course on health care is to start over. But you know what? The insurance companies aren't starting over. I just met with some of them on Thursday and they couldn't give me a straight answer as to why they keep arbitrarily and massively raising premiums – by as much as 60% in states like Illinois. If we do not act, they will continue to do this. They will continue to drop people's coverage when they need it. They will continue to refuse coverage based on pre-existing conditions. These practices will continue.

That's why we must act now. That's why the United States Congress owes the American people an up-or-down vote on health insurance reform.

The proposal we've put forward would end the worst practices of the insurance industry, lower costs for millions of Americans, and give uninsured individuals and small businesses the same kind of choice of private health insurance that Members of Congress get for themselves. And while it will take a few years to fully implement these reforms, there are numerous protections and benefits that would start to take effect this year.

This year, small business owners will receive tax credits to purchase health insurance.

This year, thousands of uninsured Americans with pre-existing conditions will finally be able to purchase coverage. Insurance companies will no longer be allowed to deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions. And they will no longer be allowed to drop your coverage when you get sick.

This year, all new insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive care to their customers – so that we can start catching preventable illnesses and diseases on the front end. There will no longer be lifetime limits or restrictive annual limits on the amount of care you receive. Young adults will be able to stay on their parents' insurance policy until they're 26 years old. And there will be a new, independent appeals process for anyone who feels they were unfairly denied a claim by their insurance company.

Finally, seniors who fall into the gap in coverage known as the donut hole will receive $250 to help them pay for their prescriptions.

What won't change when this bill is signed this: if you like the insurance plan you have now, you can keep it. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. Because nothing should get in the way of the relationship between a family and their doctor.

If we act now, all of this will happen this year. Millions of lives will improve. Some will be saved. Many families and small business owners will have health insurance for the very first time in their lives. Doctors and patients will have more control over their health care decisions, and insurance company bureaucrats will have less. This future is within our grasp.

But we also know what the future will look like if we don't act – if we let this opportunity pass for another year, or another decade, or another generation. More Americans will lose their family's health insurance if they switch jobs or lose their job. More small businesses will be forced to choose between health care and hiring. More insurance companies will raise premiums and deny coverage. And the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid will sink our government deeper and deeper into debt.

I don't accept that future for the United States of America. I know it has been a long and hard road to this point. And we are not finished with our journey just yet. But we are close. We are very close. And so I ask Congress to finish its work. I ask them to give the American people an up or down vote. And let's show our citizens that it's still possible for Washington to look out for their interests and their future. Thanks for listening.

Filed under: Health care • President Obama
soundoff (79 Responses)
  1. wait a minute

    Each state's utilities commission has to approve of any rate increase.
    Why haven't we had a health insurance commission to regulate health insurance industry for decades?
    Instead, our Congress gave the industry an anti-trust exempt and the Senate is still keeping this exempt.

    Humans can live without electricity, but not without medical care.

    March 6, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  2. Mike in MN

    Obama is a total joke.
    Notice how he says the insurance companies could not give him a straight answer about rate increases, but he does not share one word of what the insurance companies told him. His meeting with the insurance compainies was not on C-SPAN was it, that would have been an interesting watch. We only get to hear Obama's side, this does not provide the American people of all the information and is not fair to the insurance companies.
    Obama also does not share that all the states approve insurance company rate increases and have the authority to block them when they are exessive and not justified.
    Notice Obama has not once shared with the American people that in America the prices for hospital care, physican services and drugs are the highest in the world and that the CBO says 50% of the annual increase in health care costs is due to advances in technology. Notice Obama has never shared with the American people that insurance rates have to cover these costs.
    For political reasons Obama paints insurance companies as the only bad guy because they are the only point of sale for most consumers.
    Most consumers have no idea what the price of their hospital care, physican services or drugs are.
    Obama care will not bring down the true costs of health care, it may put insurance companies out of business.

    March 6, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  3. Ann

    We must act now.. otherwise I can't fool the naive Americans the next campaign.. and it's coming soon!

    March 6, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |

    Aaaaaaand.... que the obligatory pants-wetting liberal hate machine! Holy cow you guys are like a Swiss watch... very reliable in your formulated talking points. Yup... insurance company evil.... Obama good.... Republicans bad... grumble grumble grumble. If it wasn't so painful to watch you guys act like little girls in the schoolyard... it would almost be funny.

    March 6, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  5. T'SAH from Virginia

    To all of the HATERS – my insurance went up and I had to CUT my dental plan as a result!!! I pay over $400 a month for insurance and that is not even HALF of it – my company picks up the rest!!!

    I am fortunate to have a job that would cover most of the cost and I truly feel for small businesses who cannot aford to insure their employees!!!

    WE NEED REFORM!!! President Obama will DELIVER!!!

    March 6, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  6. JP

    How about ending the worst practices in the legal industry Mr Lawyer and Chief.

    March 6, 2010 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  7. Repugnants are Taliban

    You can certainly see how uneducated and illiterate Repuglibans are from the posts here on many of the issues. They do not even bother finding out facts for themselves, they get force fed talking points by Repugliban politicians who are in the pockets of the Insurance companies of this country who are spending billions to stop this reform. If it is so bad for Americans WHY are the insurance companies so upset about it and want it overturned? Has anyone on the right wing nutclub got an inkling of sense to understand this? Monies go out the door into the election coffers of Repugliban politicians in exorbitant amounts and they speak like parrots for the Insurance companies and thier supporters do not even question it but run with the latest scare mongering they are fed. If you had to have a brain to vote in this country not one Repugliban would ever get elected because they would never have enough constituents to get them into office, NUFF SAID!

    March 6, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  8. Stallion

    To Darrell: If you cannot afford your premiums now then you not want this healthcare bill either. This healthcare bill does not stop the insurance companies from raising their premiums in the forces all of us to give them even more money. Do your homework.....

    March 6, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  9. Rasaq Seriki

    No one can satisfy everyone needs even if Prez decides today to distribute million of dollars to all Americans you will see some big calibre that would against it because of their sychoparity they always enjoy premiun interpre (first among the equal) Mr. President the voice of human being is the voice of God you are elected to fight for all Americans if not entire World.

    March 6, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  10. Eyes wide OPEN!!!

    @Jake March 6th, 2010 11:10 am ET
    What part of America does not want this bill as is does he not understand?He will cram this as well as his personal socialist agenda down our throats.He is a FOOL & a LIAR.****Speak and Think for yourself .....Wonder who pays for the Party Of No (INSURANCE) By the Way Water is Wet!!!! ( He is a FOOL & a LIAR???)Shame on You!!!!

    March 6, 2010 01:47 pm at 1:47 pm |
  11. MJ

    This is a massive Government takeover of Health care. You won't have to worry about Insurance Premiums. Insurance Companies will be put out of business. Instead, you will have a Government Panel decide if you should receive treatment or tests. This will be based on your age, sex, and statistics. Not your Doctor. This plan will take several years to manifest. In the mean time, taxes will be raised to prepare for this. Medicare will have massive cuts. Our own Family Doctor is no longer accepting new Medicare Patients. Payments to Doctors will be decreased substantially. We need reform – not Government control of our health. Should we start over? You bet!

    March 6, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  12. Hammerer

    The healthcare bill is no longer about the good for the American people! It has become about Obama forcing his will on the American people. The issue now is to dictate to the people.
    If Obama can cram this bill through he can control every aspect of your life with government control rammed through congress the same way.

    March 6, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  13. Repugnants are Taliban

    I know I am a democrat and proud of it, but I am also an ex insurance agent for several compnies, let me tell you the President is dead on on this issue, if you think for one moment the insurance companies have your interests at heart guess again. What really bothers me is all the scare and hate mongering by the GOP, if you look at the facts you have to understand the ONLY reason they spread these lies is for the benefit of the Insurance comapnies. Before you jump o n a band wagon and go spreading the tripe they are spreading you should at least see who is actually funding the band wagon. When it comes to the ideas and reasoning of the Republican party it is all funded and fed to them by the insurance companies who know they need millions to get reelected and will sell out thier own mothers to get the money to get back into power. Since when has a party who has always supported Wall Street going to stop supporting them and support your interests instead? When are you ignorant Repugliban going to wake up to the truth, your party is leading you to the slaughter.

    March 6, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. Mike in MN

    Obama is trying to mislead the American people when he lays all the blame on insurance companies. Both Republicans and Democrats agree that new insurance regulations are needed to protect consumers regarding pre existing conditons, dropping people when they get sick and annual and lifetime benefit limits. But everyone knows states already approve insurance company rate increases and block any increases that are excessive. Obama is just doing political grandstanding when he says the federal government must do this and fails to tell voters states already do.
    In America we pay the highest prices in the world for hospital care, physican services and drugs. Insurance rates have to cover those health care costs and Obama care does nothing to bring them down.
    The CBO says 50% of the annual increase in health care costs is due to advances in technology. Insurance rates have to cover that. Obama never talks about how advances in technology increases the cost of health care.
    Obama preaches against the evils of high deductible insurance plans that make families pay for health care out of pocket. Well we all should have high deductible insurance that still covers catostrophic health care needs. The rates for high deductible plans are thousands less than full coverage plans. A family would then have thousands of dollars availble for out of pocket spending on health care if they need it. If in a good year they don't need much of it then they saved it, it was not spent on out of pocket health care needs or higher insurance premiums.
    Bottom line is Obama is on video many times before he became president saying he wants single payer Universal health care. Some of the insurance regulations in Obama care are good and needed. But some, I believe, are designed to give the government the power to put insurance companies out of business and then move America to single payer Universal health care.

    March 6, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  15. Mike in MN

    Obama makes it sound like only Republicans in Congress want to kill Obamacare. Poll after Poll after poll shows a majority of the voters want the same thing.
    Obama is a smooth talker, and like most smooth talkers, he uses his gift to manipulate and decieve. Obama is a master of manipulation and deception. That is what he calls his gift.
    His agenda is to manipulate and decieve the American people into accepting his desire to transform America into a socialist government. Obama is a progressive and progressive is just another word for socialist.

    March 6, 2010 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  16. jane

    Of course, this is true - for both health insurance and malpractice insurance companies, and it's a huge part of the problem. But wasteful hospital management that lends itself to mistakes, unnecessary complications and re-admissions, not to mention the stress both staff and patients are under is also a huge problem.

    It is a system in which even the best health professionals, especially nurses, often cannot practice well. We have grown to have the finest technology and surgical techniques, but we still have a system full of expensive - and deadly - problems.

    The reason for this is that we now have business types - who have little understanding of the healing process - managing our hospitals rather than the health professionals themselves.

    March 6, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |

    Annie: You have obviously been a victim of Faux News biased and grossly distorted "reportage" of this health care issue. It is NOT a government take-over of the health insurance industry. I'd like to see some of the rabid right educate themselves to the facts instead of drinking the poisonous kool-aid. You cannot have an informed opinion if you only listen to and believe one side of any issue. You are brain-washed, not informed.

    March 6, 2010 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  18. Jose

    To all those that keep insisting that insurance companies pay so much to doctors and lab work, keep in mind that insurance companies with their reduce rates (In network) get away with paying pennies for the services, case in point, I go to my doctor last month, his charge for my visit is $235 my insurance gets a special rate reduced to $79.00 for my visit. Baloney that they pay outrageous fees to doctors! They are making profits all the way to the bank!

    March 6, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  19. JOE

    I know a lot of people who would like to give this GUY special attention.

    March 6, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  20. Mike in MN

    Talk, talk, talk and more talk. If Obama and the Democrats have the votes to pass health care, than just do it and shut up. If not then shut up and move on or better yet, do what a majority of voters really want and start over.
    And quit crying about the Republican opposition. All the Democrats need to do is have the House pass the Senate version as is and you have Obamacare. Doesn't need one Republican vote to do that. And after that the Democrats can use reconcilliation to make changes to it, again it would take no Republican votes to do that.
    So Obama should just grow up and stop crying about the Republicans. If the Democrats want to pass Obamacare they can do it today. What a joke we have for a president.

    March 6, 2010 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  21. Independant in Missouri

    Debt is dangerous. In principle, providing health care is a good thing, but do a cost-benefit analysis. America is quickly losing ground to the EU and China as a world power. Why devalue the dollar further and spend more money than is necessary when we need to preserve our economic standing? The stimulus bill created fake jobs (temporary construction jobs) instead of long-term sustainable jobs. The very people who move America forward, large employers and the wealthy, will be taxed higher to provide health care for the underachieving, leading to huge future layoffs and the demise of American industry. I like health care, but right now it is just not economically feasible, and is quite irresponsible.

    March 6, 2010 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  22. Insurance companies make, on average......

    about 3 1/2% profit on sales.......that is extremely low compared to other U.S. industries.............

    I mention this because Obama never deals in facts....he just blusters and certain people buy it.......

    March 6, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  23. JT the MO college freshman

    Coming from a family who has direct contact with the insurance companies (my mother has been a GI Nurse for 25 years now), I have to agree with him. They are not totally to blame though; it as to do with greed throughout our system. Unfortunately, greed is a natural part of human nature, and no one can help that, but greed to this level by both the insurance companies, big banks, wall street, and even by some in our government, including us have gone way beyond the boudaries for what is considered safe. We have to stop fighting with one another and start working together as one America, instead of Democrat or Republican. Here is one way we could work together and accomplish if we put our mind to it.
    I am 19 years old, and I know full well about what is going to happen regarding the debt. I think we have been avoiding the unavoidable for too long, and delaying action will not help. We are all going to have to make some sacrifices to reduce our standard of living to ensure a prosperous future for later generations.Think of these questions for yourself: Do you really need that new flat screen TV? Do you really need that new cell phone? Do you really need that new 2010 Mustang? Do you really need that 2 million dollar house? I think those questions can be answered by common sense. We have to remember who we are as Americans, and make the hard, tough sacrifice that will pay off in the future. Take a look at American history; we have gotten out of tough spots by hard work before, and we can do it again with hard work.
    I have some ideas regarding how we can fix our debt/ economic problem, but it is not short term; let me explain:
    What then are attributes of a sustainable economy in the information age?
    1. Populations of humans and other organisms living in harmony with the natural support systems such as air, water, and land (including ecosystems).
    2. An energy policy that does not pollute the atmosphere, cause climatic damage, or present unacceptable risk ( a political or social decision).
    3. A plan for renewalbe resources such as water, forests, grasslands, agricultural lands, solar, wind and fisheries that is produced here in America and will not deplete the resources or damage ecosystems.
    4. A plan for nonrenewable resources such as natural gas and nuclear produced here in America and that does not damage the regional to global environment while ensuring a share of our nonrenewable resources is left to future generations.
    5. A social, legal, and political system that is dedicated to sustainability with a democratic mandate to produce such an economy.
    To achieve a sustainable United States economy, it is necessary that we:
    1. Develop an effective population control strategy.
    2. Completely restructure our energy programs; a sustainable US economy cannot run on fossil fuels for too much longer. Conservation of energy must have a central place in our energy management plans.
    3. Institute economic planning, including development of a tax structure that will encourage population control and wise use of resources.
    4. Implement social, legal, political and educational changes that provide for maitenance of a quality local, regional, and universal environment.
    To make this happen though, in my personal opinion, we have to make some tough, unpopular choices; we have been avoiding them for too long. We need to take responsibility for the debt and economy that all of us contributed to; we need to cut down to our basic needs as a country; Healthcare, Education, basic housing, energy produced here, and defense. The rest, in my opinion, needs to be cut down if we are to start to tackle our debt that we have built up the past couple of decades; cuts alone would not solve the debt and economic hole we put oursleves in. Someone is going to have to make the very unpopular and not well liked choice; raise taxes on someone. If anyone took a look at our debt that has been built up for the past couple of decades, anyone with common economic sense would realize that the only way to pay off that big of a debt built up in the past couple of decades, is to raise taxes on the wealthy.
    If we are to make the necessary reform to our economy to clean energy independence, while cutting our debt at the same time, those tough choices are going to have to be made, in my view. We need to show the world again how great of a country America can be; we need to show them that we can be fiscally responsible, while still achieving something great and historic.

    March 6, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  24. hmmm...

    I don't know how many of these you have been through but I have so many of these it is predicatable- somedbody, something has to be made the bad guy to rally support. Since Kennedy I have seen this and so...this is more the same. Unfortunate thing is the guy doing it is so inexperienced that he doesn;t even know how to do that correctly. In other words, most understood you focus and take small bites for others to get their anger around- but this guy is so all over the place and moving from one group to another that most of us know someone in the group or know something about the group to know he is incorrect in his assesment. So...heck...keep going -he's slicing his own wrists.

    March 6, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  25. Co

    All the Obama haters are in for an awakening. HCR will pass. Watch.

    And, boy, I tell you, if I were left on a deserted Island with a republican I would definitely give myself a vasectomy with a coconut just to avoid breeding their offspring. Republicans are obstructionist, self-serving LIARS & we'll crush them again like bugs come 2010 & 2012. We can see through their propaganda at Fox noise. Now Mr. President, its time to fire things up a notch. Lets get HCR done & let's keep building our economy. You're doing an great job cleaning up the republican EPIC MESS that was handed to you.

    March 6, 2010 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
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