In his remarks, President Obama espouses support for a plan that uses both Republican and Democratic ideas to make three changes to the current health care system:
- End certain insurance industry practices
- Give coverage to uninsured Americans
- Lower health care costs.
WHITE HOUSE, MARCH 3, 2010
We began our push to reform health insurance last March, in this room, with doctors and nurses who know the system best. And so it's fitting to be joined by all of you as we bring this journey to a close.
Last Thursday, I spent seven hours at a summit where Democrats and Republicans engaged in a public and very substantive discussion about health care. This meeting capped off a debate that began with a similar summit nearly one year ago. And since then, every idea has been put on the table. Every argument has been made. Everything there is to say about health care has been said and just about everybody has said it.
Status Quo is Not Affordable
So now is the time to make a decision about how to finally reform health care so that it works, not just for the insurance companies, but for America's families and America's businesses.
Now, where both sides say they agree is that the status quo is not working for the American people:
- Health insurance is becoming more expensive by the day.
- Families can't afford it.
- Businesses can't afford it.
- The federal government can't afford it.
- Smaller businesses and individuals who don't get coverage at work are squeezed especially hard.
- And insurance companies freely ration health care based on who's sick and who's healthy; who can pay and who can't.
Democrats and Republicans agree that this is a serious problem for America. And we agree that if we do nothing -- if we throw up our hands and walk away -- it's a problem that will only grow worse. Nobody disputes that.
More Americans will lose their family's health insurance if they switch jobs or lose their job. More small businesses will be forced to choose between health care and hiring.
More insurance companies will deny people coverage who have preexisting conditions, or they'll drop people's coverage when they get sick and need it most.
And the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid will sink our government deeper and deeper and deeper into debt. On all of this we agree.
So the question is, what do we do about it?
Time to Give Americans More Control
On one end of the spectrum, there are some who've suggested scrapping our system of private insurance and replacing it with a government-run health care system. And though many other countries have such a system, in America it would be neither practical nor realistic.
On the other end of the spectrum, there are those, and this includes most Republicans in Congress, who believe the answer is to loosen regulations on the insurance industry -- whether it's state consumer protections or minimum standards for the kind of insurance they can sell.
The argument is, is that that will somehow lower costs. I disagree with that approach. I'm concerned that this would only give the insurance industry even freer rein to raise premiums and deny care.
Less Power for Both Insurers, Government
So I don't believe we should give government bureaucrats or insurance company bureaucrats more control over health care in America. I believe it's time to give the American people more control over their health care and their health insurance.
I don't believe we can afford to leave life-and-death decisions about health care to the discretion of insurance company executives alone. I believe that doctors and nurses and physician assistants like the ones in this room should be free to decide what's best for their patients.
Now, the proposal I put forward gives Americans more control over their health insurance and their health care by holding insurance companies more accountable. It builds on the current system where most Americans get their health insurance from their employer.
If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. I can tell you as the father of two young girls, I would not want any plan that interferes with the relationship between a family and their doctor.
Three Changes to Current Health Care System
Essentially, my proposal would change three things about the current health care system.
First, it would end the worst practices of insurance companies. No longer would they be able to deny your coverage because of a preexisting condition. No longer would they be able to drop your coverage because you got sick. No longer would they be able to force you to pay unlimited amounts of money out of your own pocket. No longer would they be able to arbitrarily and massively raise premiums like Anthem Blue Cross recently tried to do in California -- up to 39 percent increases in one year in the individual market. Those practices would end.
Second, my proposal would give uninsured individuals and small business owners the same kind of choice of private health insurance that members of Congress get for themselves -- because if it's good enough for members of Congress, it's good enough for the people who pay their salaries.
The reason federal employees get a good deal on health insurance is that we all participate in an insurance market where insurance companies give better coverage and better rates, because they get more customers. It's an idea that many Republicans have embraced in the past, before politics intruded.
And my proposal says that if you still can't afford the insurance in this new marketplace, even though it's going to provide better deals for people than they can get right now in the individual marketplace, then we'll offer you tax credits to do so -- tax credits that add up to the largest middle-class tax cut for health care in history.
After all, the wealthiest among us can already buy the best insurance there is, and the least well off are able to get coverage through Medicaid. So it's the middle class that gets squeezed, and that's who we have to help.