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. Sniffit

    Well, someone needs to...they've been "slamming" the American public (from behind) for far too long.

    Premiums are no different than protection money. It's time to stick some cement shoes on the insurance mafia and send them for a long walk off a short pier.

    March 8, 2010 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  2. Aunt Bea and Opie

    Its time to march on these companies,not on washington.

    March 8, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  3. Henry Miller, Libertarian

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

    I'd rather pay the insurance companies–at least they can't throw you in jail for telling them to go away. And at least "robber barron insurance companies" do something for the money–all government does is either waste it or give it to welfare bums who can't be bothered to work for a living.

    March 8, 2010 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  4. Tammy

    Where is the passion about real American concerns: JOBS, JOBS

    March 8, 2010 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  5. Mathew

    kpAT, get a grip. As if the GOP stances of anti-gay rights, anti-gay marriage, and pro-Christian policy aren't intrusive at all. If you're going to blame one party for being power-hungry, be consistent and blame both of them.

    March 8, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  6. demo

    i'd rather stand with Castro, Kruschev, and Mussolini, at least they were open and upfront about their intentions.

    March 8, 2010 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  7. terry,va.

    Obummie is against all businesses in this country. He is against any individual that does well also. Remember he said Doctors would cut off a foot to get a higher fee or a Doctor would take out tonsils if someone had a cold to get more money? Here's the bottom line on Obummie. He wants to make us a welfare state dependate on his socialist government. He knows that 50% of the people that have to file tax returns don't pay taxes and most get refunds. How does that work? It works because we have become a nation of handouts. Ask not what you can do for your country, but ask what your country can do for you. That's where we are; and that is why we will be bankrupt and collapse into financial ruin within a decade.

    March 8, 2010 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  8. Ken in NC

    Health Insurance Companies, Drug Companies, Big Oil Companies, Auto Insurance Companies and Wall Street and it's Big Banks are all ripping off the American citizens and they have figured out how to do it. They first bought the politicians off to work for them.

    Now all they have to do is sit back and let the "Goodie Two Shoes" try to right the wrong. They can sit back now because they own enough politicians to drag down anything they don't want while giving up enough to satisfy those sitting on the fence.

    We have a President that wants to fight them but even he is fighting his own party because many of them are either partially or wholly owned by these companies. The greed of these companies is going to be the down fall of our country.

    March 8, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  9. Al Chesapeake, VA

    Aren't these the same ones he was wheeling and dealing with at
    the White House some months back. Just like the Medical field.
    Seems like all he can do is blame everyone but himself.

    March 8, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  10. Steve in North Carolina

    This is more showmanship to try and impose this monstrocity of a bill on the American people.

    You want reform? Start over! Cut the waste and fraud out of Medicare and Medicaid for starters. Quit giving sweetheart deals to the Insurance Companies (like "mandatory health insurance").

    Do things to make medical costs and our taxes to go down, not up.

    March 8, 2010 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  11. sammieb51

    Don't care what anyone says, I like this guy - he doesn't back down from hsi position - anyone who is against this reform is doing so because they trust the insurance companies to make their life and death decisions. I'd rather the doctors were doing that for me.

    March 8, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |

    Isn't it odd that a person has to become President before speaking out about the abuses of Insurance Companies?

    Where was the GOP years ago ... you know, that same GOP that swears it cares about health insurance reform now???

    Deductables have been going up, Co-pays have been going up, Premiums have been going up FASTER THAN INFLATION for DECADES.

    But the GOP .... the Party that WORKS ON BEHALF OF THE RICH .... hasn't cared because if you are wealthy, the portion of your income that you spend on healthcare is small as compared to the amount you spend on Taxes. That's why the GOP is always pushing tax cuts for the wealthiest in the country

    Sure they include a token reduction for the less well off too but that is Smoke and Mirrors. What I don't understand is how the six-pack and cigarette crowd keep falling for this trick? They keep voting against their self interests.

    A government that curbs the greedy increases in health care costs that get transferred to the common citizen has reduced the biggest "TAX" so-to-speak that everyday Americans face.

    The biggest thing the government could do to control the RUNAWAY cost increases from PRIVATE INSURANCE would be to offer the PUBLIC OPTION to cover some small subset of medical expenses (Pregnancy, Heart Disease Prevention, Stroke Prevention, etc.). With such competition for the insurance that covers these common ailments, the PRIVATE INSURANCE companies would be forced to not be so GREEDY.

    It's simple economics .... it's hardly socialism.

    March 8, 2010 01:30 pm at 1:30 pm |
  13. mar

    Only if people actually listened to him. Some people have closed their eyes, ears and hearts and nothing he says can change that.

    Go Mr. president. We are fired up and ready to go with you.

    March 8, 2010 01:31 pm at 1:31 pm |
  14. Jeffer65

    Great but what about the hospitals who are charging patients $20 for one little a disinfecting wipe, like the ones you can buy in the store for a few dollars for a pack of 100?
    I agree we need reform, but we should also be allowed to buy insurance across state lines, and we need tort reform.

    March 8, 2010 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  15. Go...Go...Go!

    I am all for healthcare. I have insurance and I have seen the gluttony of this system. If everyone is paying, wouldn't the premiums be lower. With respect to the CEO's of these companies, you would think that they would be delighted to have new clients such to boost their salaries. No there is something bigger here! They are also thieves! I am a Republican, but I am with the President on this one.

    March 8, 2010 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  16. Bob in Pa

    Americas Middle Class Unite ! Defeat Obama / Pelosi and their friends. This is a no-win situation.

    As we pay to the government our higher taxes, we will be spending less on other items. Our quality of life will decrease, more people will be added to the unemployment rolls.

    As the government intrudes, Insurance companies will be forced to merge or be absorbed by the government. Watch as your neighbors in the Insurance and related industries join the rolls.

    As fewer people have disposable income, more companies will flounder and add more to unemployment.

    These two and their friends want only the destruction of America's middle class society. They desire only that the proletariat and the aristrocrats survive.

    March 8, 2010 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  17. Max

    Same old lies, he's a looser and incompetent. He should move to France where they like Socialism. Even Russia has moved away from the Goverment controll.

    March 8, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  18. Jim


    So it's OK for the Government to regulate your beliefs, and illegalise abortions and gay marriage, but not regulate health care? Puhleeze....

    March 8, 2010 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  19. Not again

    I support the president's opposition to reconciliation for HCR.

    March 8, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  20. Blimie Shackleford

    It is POTUS' intention to put insurance companies (corporations) out of business. But, why would any thinker believe that the government can do better? Government only pays an ever-smaller part of Medicare and still that program is going broke.

    March 8, 2010 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  21. haren

    One word for you IGNORANT.
    and stop watching FOX news.
    Learn meaning of socialism from dictionary.
    for your info. FBI and CIA has all american citizen's file since 2000 under Cheney's adminstration no typo over here, it is true president Cheney.

    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!"

    March 8, 2010 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  22. Pat

    Go get'em, Mr President!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    March 8, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  23. Democrat dude is Ohio

    Come Mr. President,, This is not reform and you and everyone else knows it.

    March 8, 2010 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  24. WoW

    Sorry, but this isn't going to work. People who are already insured are going to receive less quality and quantity of care. We work hard to go to work everyday for our salaries and our insurance. It's ashame that the liberal agenda is to hand out everything instead of making people work for them.

    Higher taxes and less quality and quantity of care is unacceptable to me. Rather than the liberal doctrine of giving everything for free to everyone, how about assisting people to work for a living. How about giving them the ability to work? Non citizens of who are living in this country already receive free healthcare, welfare, reduced college tuition. Who pays for that? Us, the hardworking American citizens.

    Our dollar is going to continue to decline because companies are sending more jobs overseas. That needs to end.

    Bottom line, the liberal party needs to stop being the "give everything to everyone for free" party and get people back to work.

    March 8, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
  25. Padraig

    I thought he said job recovery is his top priority? Once again our President cannot stay on one path. Fearless Leader once again trying to take control of our lives.

    Governent controlling any aspects of our lives is always more expensive and more repressive. The focus of his administration is of such. His friend Andy Stern who controls the SEIU who is good friends with Fearless Leader openly said to his union that it is better for government control than free enterprise. In short people he is a socialist/communist as is our Marxist president.

    Indepedent is correct, the state OIC needs to be notified, this is a state issue not a federal issue.

    March 8, 2010 01:39 pm at 1:39 pm |
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