March 8th, 2010
12:39 PM ET
4 years ago

Obama slams health insurance companies

 Congress 'owes the American people a final up or down vote on health care.  It's time to make a decision,' President Obama said Monday.
Congress 'owes the American people a final up or down vote on health care. It's time to make a decision,' President Obama said Monday.

Glenside, Pennsylvania (CNN) - President Barack Obama tore into private health insurers for recent rate hikes Monday, taking a more aggressive rhetorical turn as the administration continued to push for final congressional passage of the president's top domestic priority.

He repeated his assertion that the plan now being considered includes the best Democratic and Republican ideas. The time for debate, he argued, has ended.

The White House has called for sweeping reform legislation to be on the president's desk before the congressional Easter break at the end of the month.

Congress "owes the American people a final up or down vote on health care. It's time to make a decision," he told an enthusiastic crowd at Arcadia University near Philadelphia.

"Stand with me and fight with me. ... Let's seize reform. It's within our grasp."

Two Democratic leadership aides told CNN last week that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is aiming to have the House of Representatives pass the Senate's health care bill by March 17.

A separate package of changes designed in part to make the overall measure more palatable to House liberals would then be approved by both chambers - getting through the Senate under a controversial legislative maneuver known as reconciliation. Bills passed under reconciliation require only a bare Senate majority of 51 votes.

Democrats lost their filibuster-proof 60-seat Senate supermajority with the election of Massachusetts GOP Sen. Scott Brown in January.

Obama opened his remarks by targeting Anthem Blue Cross in California for recently boosting its rates by almost 40 percent. He was introduced by a diabetic Philadelphia-area woman who was told by her insurer in January that her rates would more than double.

"The price of health care is one of the most punishing costs for families, businesses, and our government," Obama said. "The insurance companies continue to ration health care. ... That's the status quo in America
and it's a status quo that's unsustainable."

Insurance companies, the president argued, have made a calculation. He cited a recent Goldman Sachs conference call in which an insurance broker told investors that insurers are willing to lose some customers through premium hikes because of an overall lack of competition in the industry.

"They will keep doing this for as long as they can get away with it," he said. "How much higher do premiums have to rise until we do something about it? How many more Americans have to lose their health insurance? How many more businesses have to drop coverage?"

Obama dismissed GOP criticism that his nearly $1 trillion proposal fails to sufficiently control spiraling medical costs.

"You had 10 years," Obama said in reference to GOP control of Congress. "What were you doing?"

He also brushed aside warnings by political observers that health care reform may lead to major Democratic losses in the looming midterm elections.

Washington is "obsessed with the sport of politics," he said. "We have debated health care in Washington for more than a year. ... When's the right time? If not now, when? If not us, who?"

The Senate's top Republican made clear Sunday that his party won't relax any of its efforts to block the overhaul package.

"What the American people would like us to do is not make this gargantuan mistake," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told ABC's "This Week."

And if the bill does go through, avoiding a Republican filibuster in the Senate by using reconciliation, the battle will move to its next stage, he added.

"Every election this fall will be a referendum on this bill," McConnell warned.

Obama said Monday that he's not inclined to take "advice about what's good for Democrats" from McConnell.

But "the issue here is not the politics of it," he said - Congress and the president were sent to Washington to "solve the big challenges."


Filed under: Health care • Pennsylvania • President Obama
soundoff (153 Responses)
  1. Fenarkleman

    Let's face it. Health insurance companies smell bad. Go get 'em, Mr. President!

    March 8, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  2. southerncousin

    Who do these insurance companies are making a 2% profit. I am sure that if they were unionized by the SEIU or UAW, we would be giving them money from the Treasury under some sort of stimulus program Obozo and the libertards would make up. Dominican mama 4 obama is such an idiot. She believes that corrupt president she elected.

    March 8, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  3. gt

    all of this performing and speeches would of been uncall for if each side had not tried to protect there special interst groups.... trial lwayers and insurance companies,,, the american people have been short change all the way around,, pityful way to run a government...

    March 8, 2010 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  4. catmom

    kpAT: March 8th, 2010 12:44 pm ET

    "Stand with me and fight with me. ... Let's seize reform. It's within our grasp." TRANSLATION:= "Let me seize control of every aspect of your life! Absolute government control and power and It's within my grasp!"
    ????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
    OR Translation = It is about time we do something for the American people. This is what President Obama campaigned on and this is what the American people voted for. There is no surprise here.

    I believe you are mistaken about President Obama wanting control. It seems to be Republicans who are desperate for the control. That is the reason they are in such a tizzy. We are talking about access to affordable health care but Republicans are acting as if it is the end of the world. Republicans are afraid that if this bill passes, President Obama and the Democratic party will be given credit and they will have a hard time regaining power.

    March 8, 2010 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  5. Wisconsonite - It's Not Socialism, It's SANITY

    "TRANSLATION:= "Let me seize control of every aspect of your life! Absolute government control and power and It's within my grasp!"

    I guess you think it's BETTER to have the Insurance industry have control over your life???? Let me tell you something. I work FOR and Insurance company. My premiums have almost DOUBLED in the last two years and . . . let me repeat just so you hear it . . . I WORK FOR AN INSURANCE COMPANY.

    March 8, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  6. Mr. John A. Estes, II (L)

    "Captialism, rule's! Bank, Credit card's & Corp bonuses? "Reform" don't work! And, will allways be gotton around for 'profits'. Allway's. Faith-Based & NGO's ARE going to have to take-up the Slack.

    March 8, 2010 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  7. Desmond in Canada

    All US citizens with brains greater than peanut- size will see that their President is fighting for them. They will also see the desperate, dishonest battle by the insurance companies and their backers to stop his Health Care bill

    March 8, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  8. walleye

    kpAT says the Govt is trying to control every aspect of our lives. What better example is there than the Bush Admin sending 4000 of our men to fight an unnecessary war in Iraq built on fabricated LIES.

    The time has come to get this health bill passed. After Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans, on Sept 11, we went to war and spent hundreds of billions of dollars ensuring that this would not happen again. Yet every two months, that many people die because of our failure to provide universal insurance — and yet many members of the GOP want us to do nothing?

    March 8, 2010 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  9. fair

    Why did he not get it? We want health care reform, but not his. Why could he start with small reform plan, one by one and let American people know what exactly in the reform, not like his, 2800 pages.

    March 8, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  10. Wisconsonite - It's Not Socialism, It's SANITY

    "TRANSLATION:= "Let me seize control of every aspect of your life! Absolute government control and power and It's within my grasp!"

    I guess you think it's BETTER to have the Insurance industry have control over your life???? Let me tell you something. I work for an Insurance company. My premiums have almost DOUBLED in the last two years and . . . let me repeat just so you hear it . . . I WORK FOR AN INSURANCE COMPANY! Also, this very same insurance company is going to drop the provider which I have had for the last 20 years! I am two-time survivor of breast cancer . . . had the same doctor both times and next year I will have to find a new doctor because my employer, AN INSURANCE COMPANY, doesn't want to use them anymore because the premiums are to high. If they can do this to me, they can, and will, do this to everyone!

    March 8, 2010 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  11. Tune in to FOX for news

    The people have spoken, Mr. Obama....in surveys, polls, elections....they DON"T want what you are trying to sell!!!!!! You and your thugs need to pack up shop and leave us alone!!!

    March 8, 2010 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  12. VB Lincoln Park NJ

    I was glad to see that the House of Reps. passed the law removing the anti-trust exemption of the health insurance corps. Let us hope the Senate shows some guts and follows suit, as they need to do.

    March 8, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  13. sharon

    Go President Obama !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    There are so many people that are being denied....
    The list is to long.
    Health is to precious to loose.
    Time is to short.
    Illness abounds.
    People are just one short step from the experience of loosing it all.

    If the Repugs do not understand this then......they should ALL LOOSE
    THEIR INSURANCE !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    iF HEALTH REFROM DOES NOT PASS......................OUT WITH ALL THOSE THAT DO NOT VOTE FOR THE BILL !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 8, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  14. Stallion

    Of course he slammed the insurance companies.....if he doesn't it will reveal to the public that his so called healthcare bill will make them too wealthy to comprehend. His plan is a farce....it addresses none of the causes of rising healthcare costs and rising premiums. If his monstrousity should ever pass it would block true healthcare reform for years to come. Not to mention take away our constitutional liberties which will be challenged in the courts immediately.....so you have to ask yourself "what is his real motive? Is he just plain stupid? Is this a blatant manipulation? Is he trying to bankrupt the nation? Does he even hear what the majority of the voters that he is supposed to represent are saying to him? Doesn't he realize the election is over? Are his motives to keep him in office? Etc Etc Etc.

    March 8, 2010 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  15. Charlie in Maine

    Message to my fellow Dems same as Repubs lead follow or get out of the way.

    March 8, 2010 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  16. Greg, San Francisco, CA

    I have Anthem/BC and my rates are due to go up 34% and I have never actually used my insurance/filed a claim. Any right wing knuckle dragger want to justify my rate increase? kpAt – you are utterly and stupefyingly paranoid. The "government takeover" argument is a straw man. I'm certain you were yelling about gov't takeover when BushCo was spying on every Americans' phone calls right? Not likely.

    March 8, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  17. molincoln

    Independent has a point. I'm curious what is behind these increases. Is it utilization? Adverse selection? State and federal mandates? Any one of these can drive up costs but so far no one in the press, certainly not in this article, has provided that information. You can have talking points with this information but to have a discussion more information is needed.

    March 8, 2010 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  18. James Cunningham

    In this Free Land, even the President of the United States, can not say a debate is over and that we who disagree with him should just "sit down and shut up!". I would remind this so-called expert in constitutional law about Justice Roberts opinion in the famous Flag Salute Case, "that no offical no matter how high or how mighty can proscribe what shall be orthodox in matters of thought , belief or opinion or compell individuals to ascribe to those beliefs." Back to the Constitution Mr. President. Try reading it sometime for a change.

    March 8, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  19. In the West

    Good start, Mr. President, but hospital and physicians' costs need to be controlled, too.

    And kpAT: Read the bills and read a little history. Even the initial congressional plan was far from government control of every aspect of our lives. You only make yourself look foolish.

    March 8, 2010 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  20. Pat

    If insurance companies have to provide insurance no matter what the pre-existing condition is, then what is the motivation to purchase insurance? Why not pay the penalities which will be less than the premiums until you actually get sick – then go purchase insurance?

    Sounds reasonable to me – thank you Obama, I love ways to save money and put other people out of business – or do I need to explain this in simplier terms?

    March 8, 2010 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  21. Teachamantofish

    Yes! Lets blame the insurance companies....

    Why are benefits going down and costs going up? Insurance companies are following the lead of medicare and medicade (aka Government run health c

    What can we learn from that? If you think that having government run health care is going to make the world better than you are incredibly naive. Just because you have health coverage doesn't mean you are going to get health care. Don't forget a high ranking Canandian official recently flew to Miami for a routine heart surgery. If national health care is so great (like in Canada and UK) and ours is so bad, then why would a Canadian politician fly to America for a heart procedure? According to the politician it was so he wouldn't have to wait in line (why? because he would have likely been dead before it was his turn)

    Put politics, party affiliation, and emotions aside and think, and I mean independently think about whats going on.

    March 8, 2010 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  22. valwayne

    Why is it that failing politicians always find a scapegoat?

    March 8, 2010 02:01 pm at 2:01 pm |
  23. .....

    oh kpaT go shut it along with the rest of you right wing nut jobs and your retarded tea baggers! suck on this!

    March 8, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  24. Tom in Delaware

    Somebody needs to tell Mussolini that the 36th speech on Health Care is NOT the charm.

    Start over with something the American people WANT....the one's that are actually paying taxes, that is.....

    March 8, 2010 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  25. .....

    go head on Mr. President! and for you CNN reporters and journalists it's NOT "Mr. Obama"...it's "MR. PRESIDENT"! HE'S EARNED THE TITLE!

    March 8, 2010 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
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