August 15th, 2009
12:22 PM ET
13 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. DumbFounded

    That's right try for censorship now!!!

    When the spotlight is on the news other than the garbage sprewing forth from his mouth Obama wants to shut it up or belittle it.

    When is he going to stop being a candidate and start being the president?????

    People are only trying to be heard. Quite orderly discord won't work. One has to shout to get above the junk.

    Bottom line is, with Obama is you don't agree with him you are wrong!!!

    August 15, 2009 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  2. Larry S

    It is somewhat amusing . . . the media and democrats talked about the dumbness of Bush . . . my, my, we now have a president that proves Bush was really intelligent. The stupidity of the current president (he can not be called a leader) is very high. Why does stations like CNN keep giving him support . . . is it because he is so dumb that it is easy to look better than the dork.

    August 15, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  3. Independent Voter

    The Democrats are no better than the Republicans. They both know what's best for everyone else. They both know how best to spend someone else's money. Obama is no different than Bush in that regard. He's as far Left as Bush was Right. And like Bush, he's either misinterpreting his slim victory as a mandate, or, more likely, taking advantage of his win to claim a mandate.

    Let's face it folks. Obama was underqualified to be in the job he holds. He got elected to the Senate because his Illinois Democratic primary and Republican challengers were both involved in sex scandles in Illinois. He won becasue he wasn't them. After one tem he wins the Presidential primary becuause he no one liked Hillary. And then a large swath of people voted against Bush (err, McCain/Palin) and the Republicans and not necessarily for Obama. The Republicans deserved to get thrown out. But that doesn't mean the country wants to swing wildly to the Left. The Democrats will over play their hand just like the Republicans did.

    August 15, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  4. Curmudgeon

    In my 17 years of working politics I learned a few thingsw. One is that politicians ALL play footloose and fancd free with the truth. The second is that if you really want to know what's happening or about to, follow the money! Obama's hubris is amazing.

    August 15, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  5. eddoc

    Let's hope that BLembergMD provides a better analysis of his patien'ts condition than s/he has done of the proposed health bill(s). There is nothing in these bills that suggests any physician should practice other than evidence-based medicine, something about which most are clueless. Too many of the antibiotics, imaging studies and other costly procedures we do are now done becuase the patient wants it and we are afraid to stand up for what is right and say "no" you do not need an MRI for a sprained ankle. It is simply crazy for folks to scream about rationing of health care when all they really want is to have whatever they want whenever they want it.

    August 15, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  6. Precious

    I thought we had to rush to pass a bill on Healthcare reform. Now I am hearing about health insurance reform. Does the draft bill that Congress came to explain deals with healthcare reform or health insurance reform? Which is it?

    One is considered a party of "NO", and the other is considered a party of "SPIN".

    God bless America.

    August 15, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  7. Doug Harrod

    A very good address of what is being attempted to reform a system that is long past due for reform. We elect people to lead and then when they do we do not trust them, Why bother to elect people to represent us and then bash their legitimate attempts?
    Discussion and presenting our concerns is fine but we need to be sure we are not misled. Their are so many rumors put out that are regularly found to be untrue from those opposing reform.
    Also, I have good health insurance but tens of millions do not have any coverage in the richest country in the world. What a shame.

    August 15, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  8. Grosser Hund

    Once again he makes no mention of how this whole thing would be funded. He continues to promise no tax increases for those making under $250,000 and the CBO puts the pricetag at $1 trillion over the next decade. I noted the other day that Federal tax revenues are down17%, to the lowest level since 1932. Hmmmm. Billions and trillions going out – nothing coming in. Now somebody explain to me how this would be funded without a substantial tax increase. How about you guys straighten out Medicase and the Postal Service first, showing the American people that you have at least a modicum of sense. Then let's talk about reforming health insurance.

    August 15, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  9. JSL

    Anee!!: Ging rich/Phalin 2012!!!


    August 15, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  10. John

    During the Bush administration local police escorted any loudmouthed, rowdy protestors to a "Free Speech Zone" a few blocks away from the event.

    So why isn't the same being done now?

    August 15, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  11. Patrick

    If Obama hates the "ruckus" at town hall meetings, then why is his administration sending out emails to unions and ACORN to "push back twice as hard"? Why are Obama supporters attacking the town hall attendees with legitimate questions with ridicule and perposterous comparisons to nazis. These are the very people in the middle of politics who voted for Obama in droves and are the very people who the Democrats will need next year in elections to keep their Republican-proof margins in place. I don't think the Democrats' plan to "Insult independants now – woo them next year" is very well though out.

    August 15, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
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