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. aware

    Only God's grace gives birth to the green shoot of truth. All politicking is spin and obfuscation! 🙁

    March 8, 2010 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  2. Four and The Door

    Start over. The existing Senate bill is too expensive and only increases health care costs. We can do better than that. We do not need to settle for a rushed-through health care legislation. Get it correct. We do not need a bad bill.

    March 8, 2010 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  3. The Calabash Kid

    kpAT wrote: " '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!' "

    You are insane. What rights have you lost or will you lose if uninsured Americans get health insurance? What part of "the government" threatens you? Air traffic control? Firefighters? Marines? The Air Force Academy? Medicare? The SEC? The FDIC? What?

    These conspiracy nuts can never explain exactly "what" the "government" is doing to us? I for one trust the federal government a lot more than I do my employer, my health insurance company, or any global corporation. Those organizations are the real threat to our freedoms.

    March 8, 2010 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  4. Mike in MN

    Below is a typical example of Obama smooth talk that tries to manipulate and decieve.

    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 changes the subject from criticism that Obamacare will spend $1 trillion and not do much to control spiraling medical costs, and changes it to criticism that Republicans did not make changes when they had a chance. Two different subjects. The criticism of the Republicans does not justify wasting $1 trillion on a bad bill. A solid majority of voters agree with the Repuiblicans that Obamacare is bad. That it is too much government, too many mandates, too many new taxes, too large of cuts to Medicare and too expensive.
    Criticism of Republicans past sins does not justify passing a bad bill that will make things worse.
    The American people deserve a better health care reform bill, they do not deserve this terrible one and they do not deserve to suffer under a president who does not care what they think.

    March 8, 2010 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  5. special kay

    Fired Up and Ready to Go!!!! Behind you 1000% on this issue. Let's take the fight to them Mr. President!!!

    March 8, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  6. FnordTaurus

    Now if we could just have the single payer option. you know, for some REAL reform.

    March 8, 2010 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  7. so rich even obama couldn't hurt me but you middle class folk should worry

    lol you do know the gov has been in the healthcare game for a long time right... and they haven't done a good job. I might believe this bold face liar if the bill was written in a way that took care of the uninsured and lowered cost but it doesn't! they don't even cover the poor souls they are lying too till 2014 !!!!! wow how disgusting is that!!! the LAST thing this bill about is those poor souls and the only ones stupid enough to see that is the 25% cool aid drinking sheep who spurt the stupid rhetoric fed to them by these liars!!!! you people are freaks! thank god your out numbered! I love this and I hope the 1 time these spineless dems do something it cost them big!!! say what you want if this was a gop agenda and they had control it woulda been wrapped up in a couple mos. dems are like mindless children lol fighting with eachother for over a year.... wow!

    March 8, 2010 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  8. Dar

    We do need reform but there are to many things in this bill as it stands that MOST americans dont agree with or want. But there is a lot of good in the bill too.
    Also way to many lies have been shed through out the last year about this bill, it is to the point that none of us normal american's know what to think or beleive anymore. Like the abortion in this bill, Odumbo said it wasnt in this bill, YES it is, pages 2069 thru 2078, read it for yourself. Why does Odumbo keep up with his lies about these things.
    He must think that we are all dumb and blind like his followers.
    I dont think that I can truely beleive a single word that comes out of Odumbo's mouth, or congress for that fact.
    It is a shame that it has come down to closed door deals to gain a vote and Odumbo was right in the middle of it.
    And people trust him?????
    This drive way is a few bricks short of making it to the road folks.

    2010/2012 REAL Change is coming

    March 8, 2010 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  9. Donald

    I am just saddened to see how many GOP members and Democrats are preventing 30 million plus Americans who are without health insurance from getting coverage because of concern they have about their political careers. They have stated that America have the best health care in the world. That might be true but how many can afford it. Now even those that have are being burnt by the insurance companies while almost unanimously the GOP are saying that the president should start over the process of health care reform. This thing have now been attempted for the past fifty years or more. No starting over is required. They just don't want to lose their financial backers. They ought to get the job done of reforming health care on behalf of the people by including a public option in the reform and pass it. President Obama is correct in saying the time for talking is long past, it is time to pass the bill. That is what they were sent to Washington D.C. for. Will millions more of American have to suffer before even their fellow American hwo are fighting health reform on the basis of false information have to have some consideration for those without. I must say, "Shame on many of the Americans who claim to be Chirstians as I am but they do not care how others are impacted if it will cause a penny to be taken from their pockets". Which heaven are they looking to go to when they do not have any true love in their hearts. They love money than their fellow men and women. May God have mercy on you who claim to be conservatives but would rather watch others die because it may cost you some money.

    March 8, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  10. Melissa

    President Obama is finally getting it. He cannot negotiate with the Rethugs. They aren't interested in meeting in the middle, only in obstruction. Finally he's realizing it. He's also starting to understand that the majority of this country are uneducated people, and cogent intelligent arguments aren't going to sway them to his side. He needs to present the "I am strong and I can lead you" face to these people. Its just too bad it took so long for him to realize it.

    March 8, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  11. State of Tennessee

    Another phoney deadline by the chief j@ckass. November 2010 and 2012 cannot come soon enough. Jimmy Carter must be thanking his lucky stars that this fool somehow got elected so he is now only the second worst president in the pat 50 years.

    March 8, 2010 02:40 pm at 2:40 pm |
  12. Obama the Arrogant Liar

    Another day, another LIE.

    March 8, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  13. Great Northwest

    These same fence setter Fat Cats NEVER refuse their pay checks from the Goverment.
    These same fence setter Fat Cats never refuse Medicare / Social Security checks paid by the Goverment .
    These same fence setters vote against citizens having Goverment run Health Care while standing up for the Big Insurance so they can continue filling their packets .

    VOTE the fence setters OUT

    March 8, 2010 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  14. Monkey wrench

    What a joke this guy is, mandate healthcare, who makes the money? Remove existing conditions, which way do premiums go for older consumers?
    Fail to enact real and meaningful tort law reform and where do premiums go?

    20% unemployed, hello, come in Tokyo, anyone home?

    2020, National deficit of 20 trillion dollars, 95% GDP.... I cannot wait for this idiot and his dumb ass followers to be done! I say Impeach his dumb ass!

    March 8, 2010 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  15. wait a minute

    If Democrats do not pass the health care reform bill, they will suffer a landslide loss in November.

    We have the fiscal as well as moral obligation to reform our health care as the status quo is not sustainable. We cannot afford status quo, period.

    March 8, 2010 02:45 pm at 2:45 pm |
  16. Tony

    Go get those greedy, evil health insurance companies that earn astronomical 3% profit margins and help save millions of lives every year, Mr. President! Go get 'em, violate their rights and take 'em over so we don't have to deal with the choices of which insurer we'd like to use. No interstate competition! No HSAs! We want single-payer, we want not contingency to the government-only option! You'll save us, because we voted for you and you'd never lie to us!

    March 8, 2010 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  17. AXH

    We don't want your plan Obama!!!

    We don't want to pay for this bill long after you've gone!

    We don't want to pay more taxes for your failed programs!

    Where will you be went this fails and the American people are once again put in a hole!

    Get the message, we don't want this health bill!!!!

    March 8, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  18. Mike in MN

    There is a striking difference between the instances when Republicans used reconcilliaton to pass welfare reform and the Bush tax cuts. Polls showed a large majority of voters supported welfare reform and the Bush tax cuts. Polls show a majority of voters are opposed to Obamacare. The Republicans did not use reconciliation to pass bills that were opposed by voters, but to pass popular bills that voters wanted but were being obstructed by Democrats.
    Anyone notice that Democrats are opposed to the will of the people on all of these bills? I did. The difference between what Republicans did in the past and what Democrats want to do is that Democrats will be using reconciliation to cram a health care bill down the throats of voters who don't want it.

    March 8, 2010 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  19. Stop the Obama tyranny!

    A government mandate that all citizens purchase insurance - and then makes them criminals if they do not - is tyranny. It stands against everything we believe in. Stop this tyranny NOW!

    March 8, 2010 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  20. wait a minute

    To those that are anti-government takeover of our health care:

    Our VA health care has been run efficiently for decades.
    Our Medicare is sought after by many seniors.

    What we need to change is to expand our Medicare to include younger subscribers so it is more sustainable. It is against the healthy spread of risk to insure only old people for health insurance. Medicare will collapse without younger groups to help pay for it.

    March 8, 2010 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  21. Bedtime for Obonzo

    "He repeated his assertion that the plan now being considered includes the best Democratic and Republican ideas."

    Pants on fire. The plan "now being considered" for reconciliation is the Senate healthcare takeover plan, which must be voted on without amendments by the House. It contains NO GOP ideas, as the GOP was shut out of the process that produced such gems as the Cornhusker Kickback and Louisiana Purchase.

    March 8, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  22. voice of reality

    Dang, if you all think health care cost a lot now, wait until its free. most of you must be morons to think the goverment can run health care.

    Social security= broke
    Medicare = broke
    Medicaid = broke
    Welfare = broke

    When will America get it right, big government = poor life for all........

    March 8, 2010 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  23. JonDie

    Only a public option and a government agency to regulate insurance rates will stop this fleecing of the insured and the denial of coverage to the uninsured.

    March 8, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  24. John

    Thank you Mr. President. This kind of passion and willingness to stand up for your beliefs is what the American people have been waiting to see from you since you entered office.

    You must never back down, the GOP is all bark and no bite.

    March 8, 2010 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  25. Angry White Male

    The President has got to stop doing this. He has no business whatsoever in telling these legitimate American companies what to do!

    I'm sick of all the entitlement pigs that seem to flock to this board. The problem is the govt.

    Insurance is not a right, it's never been.

    This is not about reform, it's about control.

    The Dems have done a good job relying on fear tactics to make this seem like some crisis, which it is not.

    This is not about race, the whole idea stinks and the guy pushing it the hardest just happens to be black.

    Republicans were never invited to the table, until it was politcally expedient to do so. But the Dems were not going to move of the giant govt. takeover idea. So it was a waste of time.

    Mr. President, here's some ideas.

    Why not focus on jobs?

    Why not go win the war in Afghanistan?

    March 8, 2010 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
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