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. Enough is Enough

    You lie, you lie, you lie. Obama wants villans what the trial lawyers. Both of the current house and Senate bills punish states financially that implement tort reform that could limit attorney fees. Imagine that the bills make the reform environment worse for states. What they really need to do is throw the 2500 bill in the trash where it belongs and start over. The current proposals are much more about a new entitlement than reform. Has anyone figured out the future cost of adding 12 million illegals that Obama promised "a path to citizenship" to.

    March 8, 2010 01:08 pm at 1:08 pm |
  2. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but....

    Why do we even need health insurance? It just adds unnecessary cost for everyone involved and benefits no one. Parasites, plain and simple. Single payer is the way to go, like every other developed country on the planet. We'll get it too, after this joke of a healthcare reform plan fails to reform anything and the retired baby-boomers collapse the existing system. Have a nice day!

    March 8, 2010 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  3. get real

    We need reform, and we need it NOW!

    March 8, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  4. Ben in Texas

    I voted for Obama. I voted for every Democrat on the ballot. I held out a slim hope that this time it might be a bit different, and that steps would be taken to roll back corporate ownership of our government, and our lives. Then Obama and the Dems dropped single payer health care as their first step, and then the public option and Medicare for all, leaving us with a bill that forces everybody to buy insurance from the same bunch of crooks I wanted to see go down.

    It's funny to me that the wing nuts scream about "government takeover" of health care, and every other aspect of life. In point of fact, it's the corporations who have taken over health care and all the rest. They have taken over the government. They ARE the government, and we all serve them.

    I wanted somebody to take the government back from the corporations, but Obama and these Democrats are not going to do it. They belong to the corporations, just as the rest of us do.

    March 8, 2010 01:10 pm at 1:10 pm |
  5. Jimmy D

    If they do not have health care insurance and they grasp their chest, I will walk away. I will not pay for someone elses bills. I am not a Dr. or a hospital. They to will look the other way.

    March 8, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  6. S Callahan

    Is this the AS speech...Persuade with Power or Power to Persuade?

    March 8, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  7. The Other Michael in Houston

    All this nonsense about the President is trying to take over everything is stupid. He is trying to help people. So where were all you like kpAT when Bush practically hijacked the constitution??? Shut up haters!

    March 8, 2010 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  8. Andy

    Just another photo shoot for O Great One,who is trying to control all of America.Socialize everyone and then everyone will depend on the government,just the way NObamadoodle wants it.

    March 8, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  9. Jack

    Obama is economically ignorant. These insurance increases are the result of a broken health care system caused by government intervention.

    In free markets, quality goes up and prices go down. But in markets like health care where government intervenes via regulation, licensing, price controls, entitlements – it's a no brainer that the market will be distorted.

    In normal markets, supplies raising prices past what the market is generally willing to bear will find their business reduced. But thanks to government intervention, competition has been reduced, and consumers have few alternatives.

    Those who advocate greater government intervention instead of free-market constitutional reform have to answer the question: if more government control is the answer, why did the philosophy of government intervention bring us to this point? Are the central planners just going to be smarter this time?

    In short, Obama argues for more corporatism.... after railing against business. His hypocrisy knows no bounds.

    March 8, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  10. Dan

    Mr. President, where are the jobs you were supposedly laser-focused on 2 weeks ago? 2 months ago? A year ago?

    How's about helping people back to work rather than meddling in an area the Constitution forbids?

    1) It is unconstitutional to require me to buy something in order to stay legal. (For those who want to use car insurance as a example against that claim – I can opt out of driving and the insurance but cannot opt out of health insurance. No opt-out = unconstitutional)

    2) The 10th amendment specifically deliniates the issue of healthcare legislation (if there should be any) to the states – and forbids the fed from doing it.

    3) Those who claim the preamble phrase of "general welfare" justifies healthcare need to read James Madison's words on that – specifically that it would be a dismissal of the whole document to assert 'general welfare' to mean what we are using it to mean.

    President Obama and the whole Senate and Congress need to step back, re-read their Constitutional duties, and act accordingly.

    March 8, 2010 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  11. Why is it so hard to tell the truth?

    He can yell all he wants...This is not about Republicans vs. Democrats. This is 100% about our government doing what is right by the American people.

    This bill will not give us the reform most are looking for.... READ the bill...UNDERSTAND the bill.... Support H. Res. 554 (Read the Bill).

    I doubt if anyone, for or against this bill....has actually read the bill and understands what the bill will do for us.

    We are so ignorant and take a stand without full facts or information. This is why we the people...allow politics to be politics. We can't hold them accountable because, as a whole, we fail to arm ourselves with accurate information. We just open our mouths and let the ignorance poor out....

    This bill is a complete political both the right and left.

    March 8, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  12. WeThePeopleofVirginia

    I did not trust him during the campaign and distrust him even more today.

    March 8, 2010 01:14 pm at 1:14 pm |
  13. Ferret out the BS

    It would be interesting to see how many representatives are taking funds from insurance companies and bouncing against their voting records and how hard they speak out against reform. It all should all be in the public domain and available.

    March 8, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  14. Average American

    The President's proposal includes many republican ideas. Now those same republicans are against their own ideas. This makes no sense!

    March 8, 2010 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  15. Chris L.

    I really like and am happy that President Obama is fighting for the people and not going out without a fight. To hear these Teabaggers say that Obama is trying to destroy America because he simply wants to reform health care so that all people can have it affordable and not be discriminated upon, just blows my mind how they are against this President. This goes to show you how some of these Teabaggers and republicans are fools and stupid. It doesn't matter even if Obama accepts even 70 or 80 % of Republican or Tea party activists for the Constitutions rights or ideas. They just don't like the fact that its a Democrat and/ or black person that is coming up with these good ideas across the political spectrum. Its just bindboggling to see how the obstructionist out there(mainly Republicans and Teabaggers) can just say no or refuse whatever good ideas or policy(even some of there own) this intelligent and charismatic President we have.

    I was watching on some other International news network or political shows, of how the responders or just normal people or pundits from other countries are shocked at how some people in the U.S are such obstructionist, naysayers, cynics, birthers, racists at a thoughtful, decisive, intelligent, personable, for the people president we have in Barack Obama. It is mindboggling. But then again..this is the reality of the american society. We tend to listen to lies, distortion and fear more than understanding, reasoning, hope, faith and common sense.

    Health care is a right! Not a privilege...simple as that!

    March 8, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  16. Jake

    Same old same old The Mezziah says what he thinks will give him the most points,MOST of America has wised up to his egotistical agenda.He is a control freak, and must control his subjects like a dictator or king.I say impeach him for impersonating a president.

    March 8, 2010 01:16 pm at 1:16 pm |
  17. Candi

    He is in the same bed with big business,look @ his contributions,just more show/dance and NO results.All show and NO go.

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

    Obama is lieing about the ins. companys just like everything else. The ins. companys have to raise premins because the medical cost are out of controll. Tort reform will help bring down these costs. The ins. company profit margin is not to high. Only around 5%. It is what the hospitlscharge that are driving up premin costs. Why would a hosp. charge $1,000 for a tooth brush. How about over $100 for an asprin. Charge you for 41 bags of saline when only one was used. You ins. company haters tell me the answer. Why can a person go over seas and get the needed care for half price or better. The medical care is just as good as ours or maybe better. We are right back to what the hosp. is charging. You people are focused on the wrong bus.

    March 8, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  19. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Why does it matter to me if my insurance rates go up because the insurance companies raise them or because Obama and the far Left start robbing me in taxes to subsidise welfare bums? It doesn't make any difference either way: I still get soaked.

    Obama is right about one thing, though, The time for debate has ended. 53% of American voters are opposed to Obama's plan, only 42% approve. 55% think it's time to start over completely, this time really making it a health care reform–i.e., something that saves everyone money–rather than making it health care welfare that raises the expenses of most of us in order to subsidise the indolent, improvident, and irresponsible leeches.

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

    Why don't you take your health bill and scrap it like it needs to be done.

    You will not listen to the majority of people you are starting to act like a Dictator and not the United States President. Shame on you for trying to ram more debt ladden bils down the tax payers throats. All you and your party can think about is how to spend more money then tax more. Before you and the government passes another bill you should be required to balance the budget and stop trying to blame everyone but yourself.

    The buck should stop in your office not out of the tax payers pockets.

    We might get the change everyone thought they would get in 2010 when they vote you out of office.

    You have done nothing but disgrace this country.

    March 8, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  21. John L. - NYC

    Once again, O and the machine imply that if I'm not on-board with this bill then I must be against health care reform. Wrong. I voted for Obama and support health care reform but this bill is an enormous, reckless government initiative we can't afford and that won't even take effect for years if it is passed. He realizes that it's monstrous and that one of the only ways to get the public on-board is to use the "us vs. them" mentality. They should start with issues everyone agrees on such as pre-existing conditions and, one that he focused on here as if the other side doesn't agree, premium regulation. That would take cost out of the system right away and woud allow for necessary debate on the other issues. His choice to ram this through makes independents like me nervous, I didn't sign up for this...

    And by the way, if I remember correctly, the Democrats controlled Congress for the last 2 years of Bush's presidency and have had control of both houses for nearly a year and a half now and haven't moved the needle. Stop blaming others for your own inaction.

    March 8, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  22. Mike

    To: Independent@12:46

    I was under the same impression. In California, (From the LA Times) this oversight is split between two government agencies. Contact the Department of Insurance if your policy is a preferred-provider organization (PPO). If you have health maintenance organization (HMO) coverage, the Department of Managed Health Care is the place you should check.

    If you feel the most recent rate increase is unreasonable, find out from your state's insurance commission, which enforces state insurance laws, if there is a forum through which to voice your concern. In some states, rate increases MUST receive prior approval from the insurance commission before going into effect.

    March 8, 2010 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  23. Stacie

    As someone with a preexisting condition, I support Pres. Obama! I work and get insurance through my employer. Last year, my insurance carrier raised our premiums AND decided not to cover the one medication I need. Without that prescription it would be very difficult for me to keep working. So, I pay the higher premium, I pay out of pocket for my prescription and I try to make ends meets. What will they do to us this year? We need some common sense rules the insurance companies need to follow. I am a person...not just part of an insurance company's bottom line!

    March 8, 2010 01:21 pm at 1:21 pm |
  24. Tommy

    Hey kpAT:

    The government can control as much as my life as long as the insurance companies aren't bending me over any more.

    Given your complaints, it seems to me that people like you must like a certain kind of pain...

    March 8, 2010 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  25. Mike in MN

    The only thing keeping Obamacare from becoming law is House Democrats who do not like it and won't pass the Senate bill.
    Maybe they eventually will find the votes to pass Obamacare.
    If that happens, Republicans will campaign to promise to clean it up.
    They will promise to remove the mandate that everyone has to purchase health insurance. They will promise to remove the tax increases. They will promise to remove the 500 billion in cuts to Medicare and preserve Medicare advantage. They will promise to scale back the excessive federal help for families to pay for insurance. Obamacare would help families making 400% over the poverity line pay for insurance. That is families making $100,000. They don't need any help. They will just use the extra money to pay for nice vacations, fancy cars or SUVs and big screen TVs. Republicans will promise to strip down Obama care and keep what is good. They will promise to keep the insurance consumer protections regarding pre existing conditons, dropping people when they get sick and annual and lifetime limits. They will keep the change to allow children up to the age of 26 to stay on their parents plan. And they will promise to shift paying for the cost from cuts to Medicare and tax increases to cutting spending elsewhere. With Obama's just released 3.8 trillion dollar budget, it should not be too hard to find hundreds of billions of spending that is a lower priority than health care. And Republicans will promise to put in new measuses to lower costs like real tort reform, insurance competion accross state lines and expanding health care savings plans. Finally, Republicans will promise to reduce fraud in Medicare and use the savings to help keep Medicare from going broke and reduce the deficit.
    If Obamacare is passed. Republicans will listen to the majority of voters and campaign to promise to clean up Obama's mess.

    March 8, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
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