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

Obama slams health insurance companies

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption=" 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. Health Reform Now

    The President dug into the insurance. He looks fired up and ready to go.

    March 8, 2010 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  2. I am the Great and Omnipotent Wizard of Rush and I Say . . .

    I'd rather pay higher taxes to the government, than higher premiums to the unregulated robber barron insurance companies.

    March 8, 2010 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  3. kpAT

    "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!"

    March 8, 2010 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  4. jfs Memhis, Tn

    This only supports the reform bill. Go get em Mr Prez. Remember that the news agencies are not on your side. The insurance companies are HUGE advertisers on network televison. The media is sort of one sided in favor of their clients...big insurance companies.

    March 8, 2010 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  5. GI Joe

    Uh oh - he's yelling at the republicans' financial base. Bet they pour even MORE money into republican wallets now.

    March 8, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  6. Independent

    I guess I was under the impression that the insurance companies had to apply to a state board if they wished for an increase in premiums. Who is granting these increases on the state level ?

    March 8, 2010 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  7. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Stand firm and strong Mr. President! You are 1000% right! We voted you in to give us, the majority of Americans that voted for you and everyone else that will benefit, health care reform. The insurance companies are getting their last licks in because they sense that you will not crumble and you unlike others will NOT BACK DOWN!

    God Bless President Obama and the USA.

    March 8, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  8. sifto77

    Slamming insurance co.s that employ thousands of folks? What else is new? He can't slam the doctors when 15% of them (AMA) executives–claim to be on his side–He is starting to sound a little like Castro–yelling and throwing his arms around–sarcastic jabs–welcome to the Third Reich–enjoy your increased costs for health care, Obamabots....that 3% profit is really making him mad–after all, that is not redistribution........miss ya, Bush....

    March 8, 2010 12:49 pm at 12:49 pm |
  9. File under "Sarcasm"

    All Campaigner in Chief Obama can do is give speeches blasting the greedy insurance industry and the Republicans as the root of all evil. But, the insurance industry is regulated by the states and,according to Forbes magazine, only makes a 2.2% profit. But, the Democrats control both houses of Congress, and they couldn't agree on a reform bill even shutting out any Republican input.

    Nobody wants to hear the word "socialist", but what else do you call a man whose cause for every problem is greedy capitalism and big business; a man whose first solution is always government control and takeover; a man who advocates wealth redistribution; a man who cuts back room deals with unions to buy their continuing support; a man who ignores the polls that says the people don't want his economy killing programs? He makes Hugo Chavez look like an amateur.

    March 8, 2010 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  10. Angie in PA

    Go President Obama! You were voted in by the Majority of people do not let the Republicans bully you or the Insurance compaines! LETS GET THIS DONE!!!!

    March 8, 2010 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  11. Tom C

    There are no state regalatory boards to which the insurance companies have to report hikes in premiums for health or car insurarance. In Illinois our car insurance did a state wide increase of 20% just because they can. I left them.

    March 8, 2010 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  12. if I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    But according to a Rasmussen poll, Americans like being screwed over by the big health insurance conglomerates.

    March 8, 2010 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  13. proud mother and sister of a soldier

    Has anyone got a grasp yet on the cost of this program???? Do you all make major purchases without knowing the cost? This whole approach and those who suppo0rt it without the facts are idiots considering the debt this man has alreadu incurred on this country. Unemployment still rises, company taxes are going up and there goes salaries. How does the pres expect to creapte jobs when the companies support his programs? Oh yeah, he's a lawyer and a community organizer....not a businessman. Yeah, he is fired up cause narssasists do not like when individuals do not worship the ground he walks on.

    You all say we should be like Canada....well the base tax for low salaries is 37% and it goes up to 51%. If more people paid taxes other than the less than 50% in our country, I'd consider it. Do you all want to give up your tax refunds? I say it would be fair!!

    March 8, 2010 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  14. ART

    Mr president you tried to include the repubilkkkans but it did not work now its time to ram it thru, we need healthcare reform and we need it now

    March 8, 2010 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  15. diridi

    I think America direly needs this health care reform. No more arguments from GOP. Any way these GOP thugs do not vote...Democrats, if you need my vote for next elections, go and vote for health care reform. I am a very educated guy. My sentor, Burr, and congress man, Jones do not vote any way. They are totally idiots, and thugs. They do not care for constitunts. I am writing again to these idiots, two, to vote yes on it. America is suffering like crazy with health care. We need to pass this, forthwith. no arugments. Mitch Mcconnol is an idiot. I wrote them letter to vote yes on it. Democrats, go and vote yes on this much needed bill. Pres. obama, you got my vote for next elections. God bless....

    March 8, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  16. if I was crazy, I'd be a conservative too

    And the conservatives continue to bend over to the health insurance industry so they can get sky rocketing insurance rates crammed down their throats.

    March 8, 2010 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  17. Marc

    I would not take any advice from Mr. McConnell either Mr. President.

    March 8, 2010 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  18. Steve

    Sooo..... let me get this straight? The insurance companies are evil, but your new bill will require everyone to give them money or pay a fine?
    We need to reform education because apparently there are a significant number of people in this country who are dumb.

    March 8, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  19. Obama Victim

    even that well known liberal organization was making fun of The Messiah and his unpopular bill on Sat.....what part of "NO" does this guy not get????

    March 8, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  20. jeremy.....Dallas...Texas

    I truly feel sorry for this country. Public insurance is good to our senators and congress people but bad to the rest of Americans. This country is doomed to the rejoice of evil Republicans.

    March 8, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  21. jen

    We are with you Prez, we want reform now not tomorrow, to hell with the insurance companies trying to get a big slice out of struggling working Americans – GOBAMA!

    March 8, 2010 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  22. rachel

    I don't trust the government. The government takes enough of my money. Keep you hands out my pocket President.

    March 8, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  23. Obama Victim

    even that well know left wing organization Saturday Night Live was making fun of The Messiah and his unpopular bill. What part of "NO" does this guy not get??

    March 8, 2010 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  24. phoenix86

    Obama's politics of demonization continue. We will all be next eventually.

    When you have no sound arguements, demonize your opponents. That's the Chicago way.

    March 8, 2010 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  25. Mike in MN

    If the bill was actually as good as Obama claims it is, he would not have to keep giving all his speeches trying to make voters believe it is.
    There are more than enough Democrats in Congress to pass Obamacare. So pass it. All that is needed is for the House to pass the Senate version and presto Obamacare becomes law. Republicans can't stop it. But the House Dems can't get enough votes. One reason is that some pro life House Dems say the Senate bill funds abortions. They want a promise that the bill will be changed to use the more restrictive House bill language. Both Pelosi and Obama claim neither bill pays for abortions, so why won't they agree to use the House language? The answer is simple. The Senate bill does fund abortions and pro choice Dems, including Pelosi and Obama want the Senate language and prefer to lie to voters and tell us it does not pay for abortion. If that was not true, it would seem like a no brainer to simply support the House language prohibiting abortion funding and get the pro life House Dems to vote for Obamacare.

    March 8, 2010 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
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