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. Oh Please

    Mr. President, you are so clueless! There needs to be reform, but how can reform happen when not everyone wants to pay or will pay! If you have a pre-existing condition, you will pay more, because you are high risk, makes sense, and by making insurance mandatory, the insurance companies are the true winners here. BTW if we need it now, why do we have to wait 3 years? I could go on and on, but I wont, you are a true disappointment!

    March 8, 2010 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  2. Sam Sixpack

    Obama made a deal to cut out the insurance companies so pharmaceutical companies and political cronies could divide up ALL the pie.

    How does this effect you? As Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, the White House's Special Advisor for Health Policy, put it, "services should not be guaranteed to individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia."

    Obama will pull the plug on your grandmother and there will be NO pie for you.

    The only people in favor of this scam are those in on it and those who don't understand it.

    Unfortunately, big pharma spends lots and lots and lots of money on advertizing (e.i. cash payments to news outlets).

    Thankfully, more and more people are catching on to this scam each and every day.

    March 8, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  3. tpbco

    Interesting, First he demonized the Oil Industry, then he demonized the Auto Industry, then he demonized the Financial Industry and now he demonizes the Insurance Indusrty. All to gain more power.

    History tells us the last governement leader to demonize his "enemies" real or imagined to this degree was....Adolf Hitler.

    Fine company you keep...MR. President.

    March 8, 2010 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  4. MatthewDetroit

    Profit is 3% for the insurance companies.

    Stop Lying and stop screwing with our health care Obama.

    We DO NOT WANT your socialist agenda.


    March 8, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  5. George James

    Most of the times,Obama makes sense.The reason why it is nonsense all the time, for some, is either poltical or monitary self interest.

    March 8, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  6. Victim of GOP Taliban

    TRANSLATION: Republicans and phony Democrats back-off and stop taking bribes from the lobbyists. Bart Stupak also gets special deals from tax exempt underground religious group at C street, yet lies and doesn't claim it as income.

    March 8, 2010 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  7. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    kpAT March 8th, 2010 12:44 pm ET

    Did you mind when the Shrub actually took control over some of your civil liberties? Stuck you with a tab for 2 wars NOT on the budget? Was "elected" our President via Ginsburg in the Supreme Court NOT through the actual vote of the people of this country? No? Then sit back and enjoy THIS ride. This one's legit.

    March 8, 2010 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  8. Tram

    Go for the jugular, Mr. President!

    March 8, 2010 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  9. tpbco

    Pray tell, Dominican mamma, if the President was white, would you still be as ardent supporter as you spew continuously?

    Methinks not.

    March 8, 2010 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  10. MatthewDetroit

    OBAMA will Charge you for 10 years and spend it in 6 years.


    Many of you can not do math, but you need to figure it out.

    IT IS ILLEGAL and there is not enough money.
    REDUCE THE SIZE of goverment now.

    March 8, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  11. U.S. Common Sense

    "It's within our grasp."

    It "was" within your grasp. But your failure to pass it early on, the constant brow-beating by your office and party leadership in Congress, and the lack of consideration of the will of the people has lead to your own party fracturing over the issue as well as losses in key elections.

    A "smart" and "gifted" leader would have noted these issues early on and changed the tone and process for the legislation, but I guess Obama can't live up to his own hype.

    March 8, 2010 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  12. CHIPS

    Put in the health care bill, no coverage for reps. since they don't need it and maybe they can vote on it..

    Question: Did I miss something, when did you people lose your country?
    Was there a war in the US and we were taken over by another country and I slept threw it? HeHeHeHe LOL. Get a grip?

    March 8, 2010 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  13. MR AMERICA, average American

    The GOP complains about paying for it. Obama said it will be paid for by cutting Pharma and Insurance subsidies (corporate welfare) and "medicare waste." I'd like some more details, to be fair. However the time to act is now on this. Obama is correct...why wait?

    My company just lost our Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan because they raised the rates on us by 35%, for no reason at all.

    -MR AMERICA, average American

    March 8, 2010 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  14. Jack in Lombard IL

    OK... Everyone proposes that we become better shoppers of health care. Fair enough. However, can ANYONE lead me to a doctor that even discusses the costs, let alone has a price list posted somewhere??? I'll accept all this 'comparative shopping' jazz when someone shows me how to do this today. Wake up – you don't find out prices until the bill shows up!

    March 8, 2010 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  15. MJ

    Obama seems to get more belligerent and cocky as time moves on. This Bill will include all the sweet-heart deals that are so very offensive. It also has many new committees to oversee our health care. Great. Government is going to decide what tests and treatment I may receive based on age, sex, and statistics. This will take years to implement, but taxes wont. This is not "free health care" for those who are adamant about passing this ridiculous bill. We need reform – not Socialized Medicine! Obama just wants this passed for his own personal agenda. Wrong!!

    March 8, 2010 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  16. Dad of a Diabetic

    In 1948, President Truman called for Medicare and Medicaid. The Republicans fought Medicare and Medicaid and delayed itheir passage until 1965. Republicans said Medicare and Medicaid would mean the Government would have absolute control over peoples lives. The Republicans were wrong. How many elderlly adults and poor children suffered and died, because they didnot get the health care they needed, during that 17 year period from 1948 to 65, because of Republican fearmongering????? How many children who are fighting cancer or juvenile diabetes will suffer and die premature deaths in the future, if the Republicans prevail and kill the reform that will allow uninsurable children to be able to get health insurance????? Democrats pass the reform, and then do what Democrats did after the passage of Medicare, show the American People that the Republicans were just fearmongering. Let the American people see that there are no death panels, and that the Government does not have total control of our lives!! Today, elderly Republicans say thank God for Medicare. Tomorrow, Republicans who have a child with cancer, or juvenile diabetes, will say thank God my child can get health insurance.

    March 8, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  17. Trust me

    The president does still oppose reconciliation to pass HCR?
    Not again.

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

    I will admit this isn't the best plan , but it's a plan and it's a start !. Let's get this implemented and then work out the kinks as we move along .....but one thing is certain healthcare needs to be changed , and for people to stand on the sidelines wanting to start over is un- acceptable....republicans no exactly what their doing any attempt to start over means that they want the same practices to continue , now how wrong is that ?

    March 8, 2010 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  19. Slobbering Liberal

    As a slobbering lib, I hope Obama completely shuts down all insurance companies. Then, there will be no one but the almight gov't who can give "insurance". And by "insurance", we mean taxpayer moneys.

    Then, with no competition left, the govt will be able to dole out healthcare like tax refunds, to their most favored constituents. Thankfully, I"ve been a good little drone this year, so hopefully, they'll take care of me nice!!

    YAY OBAMA!!!

    March 8, 2010 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  20. jp,michigan

    THE HEALTH CARE BILL IS ONE BIG SHAM, GREAT BIG SHAM!, SAID SAM I AM. IT'S A SHAM AND SO IS 'BAM. 'BAM THE SHAM, SAID SAM I AM. 'BAM THE SHAM IS BAD FOR YOU, BAD FOR YOU AND WILL NOT DO AND FULL OF POOH! 'BAM THE SHAM THE BILL HE'LL CRAM. CRAM THE BILL, SAID SAM I AM. AUTHOR UNKNOWN. President Obama wants to take the half trillion dollars supposably saved in Medicare ( fraud money) and not put it back in Medicare but use it to start another entitlement program. Abuse senior Americans by stopping Medicare advantage. Seniors like and pay for and rely on medicare advantage plan to help cover what medicare does not. Seniors majority do not take home $100,000 a year in pensions and social security, like members on the Hill would or Presidents do when they retire.

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

    To kpAT: I suppose it is OK with you to let private insurance companies and corporations "seize control of every aspect of our lives" , including deciding who gets coverage or treatment or medicine. President Obama does not need or want to "seize control" over anybody....he has enough problems already.

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

    We need reforms not Governmnet Healthcare! Eliminate state restrictions and let people purchase private insurance!

    March 8, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  23. Llivng in America

    Go Obama Go. You are doing it and doing it well. Let them have it. I have never seen a President work as hard as you for the American people.

    March 8, 2010 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  24. Greg in MO

    Aren't you supporters of the president getting tired of his political plays. I thought you voted for change, not another government branch that will be on the verge of going broke. How is this change? You got social security – broke. You got medicare and medicade – broke and broke. Doesn't this seem familiar? Are you blind? Another bad bill from another good politician full of bad ideas. Where is the change?

    You want real change? Put Wal-Mart in charge of health care.
    Wouldn't you rather have an entity that created 1.4 million jobs and gave us four dollar prescription medicine while maintaining a profit than the entity that generated incredible debts and deficits? Stop and think about your answer because, if you think the government and Obama cares more about you than Wal-Mart, then you are either impossibly dumb or you are one of the biggest suckers in America.

    March 8, 2010 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  25. Doug,lib jersey

    The man who has written two autobiographies and even goes as far as to name the family dog B.O, clearly channels the inner narcissist that exists in almost every Democrat.

    No lib can get beyond me and see we. Its like telling a lib that the dollar they donated went to a corrupt charity, they could care less, they gave the dollar for themselves to feel good, they don’t care about it actually doing any good for someone who would need it, in fact even better, keep people down and voting for entitlements.

    March 8, 2010 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
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