The President hosted a town hall
in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on health insurance reform, telling the crowd, "I don't think government bureaucrats should be meddling, but I also don't think insurance company bureaucrats should be meddling. That's the health care system I believe in." The President was introduced by Lori, a woman who can’t find coverage because of her medical condition. We all know someone like Lori who has been discriminated against because of pre-existing conditions, and can't receive the care they need. This is a personal issue for the President, who recounted his mother's battle with insurance companies as she battled with cancer in the last months of her life.
(President Barack Obama arrives at a town hall meeting at Portsmouth High School in Portsmouth, N.H., to speak bout health care reform, Tuesday, Aug. 11, 2009. Official White House photo by Pete Souza)
The President outlined how his plan will end these unfair, and often deadly, practices:
Under the reform we're proposing, insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage because of a person's medical history. Period. (Applause.) They will not be able to drop your coverage if you get sick. (Applause.) They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it. (Applause.) Your health insurance should be there for you when it counts – not just when you're paying premiums, but when you actually get sick. And it will be when we pass this plan. (Applause.)
Now, when we pass health insurance reform, insurance companies will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because no one in America should go broke because they get sick. (Applause.)
And finally – this is important – we will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – (applause) – because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end. That makes sense, it saves lives; it also saves money – and we need to save money in this health care system.
So this is what reform is about. For all the chatter and the yelling and the shouting and the noise, what you need to know is this: If you don't have health insurance, you will finally have quality, affordable options once we pass reform. (Applause.) If you do have health insurance, we will make sure that no insurance company or government bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need. And we will do this without adding to our deficit over the next decade, largely by cutting out the waste and insurance company giveaways in Medicare that aren't making any of our seniors healthier. (Applause.) Right. (Laughter.)
You may have heard some of this "chatter" and false claims about the President's health care plan. As the President explained, this is to be expected, as proponents of the status quo fight against reform:
But let's face it, now is the hard part – because the history is clear – every time we come close to passing health insurance reform, the special interests fight back with everything they've got. They use their influence. They use their political allies to scare and mislead the American people. They start running ads. This is what they always do.
We can't let them do it again. Not this time. Not now. (Applause.) Because for all the scare tactics out there, what is truly scary – what is truly risky – is if we do nothing. If we let this moment pass – if we keep the system the way it is right now – we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day. Your premiums will continue to skyrocket. They have gone up three times faster than your wages and they will keep on going up.
Our deficit will continue to grow because Medicare and Medicaid are on an unsustainable path. Medicare is slated to go into the red in about eight to 10 years. I don't know if people are aware of that. If I was a senior citizen, the thing I'd be worried about right now is Medicare starts running out of money because we haven't done anything to make sure that we're getting a good bang for our buck when it comes to health care. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against people for the simple crime of being sick. Now, that's not a future I want for my children. It's not a future that I want for the United States of America.
The President wrapped up the town hall by describing his ultimate goal for health insurance reform:
But I want everybody to understand, though, the status quo is not working for you. (Applause.) The status quo is not working for you. And if we can set up a system, which I believe we can, that gives you options, just like members of Congress has options; that gives a little bit of help to people who currently are working hard every day but they don't have health care insurance on the job; and most importantly, if we can make sure that you, all of you who have insurance, which is probably 80 or 90 percent of you, that you are not going to be dropped because of a preexisting condition, or because you lose your job, or because you change your job – that you're actually going to get what you paid for, that you're not going to find out when you're sick that you got cheated, that you're not going to hit a lifetime cap where you thought you were paying for insurance but after a certain amount suddenly you're paying out of pocket and bankrupting yourself and your family – if we can set up a system that gives you some security, that's worth a lot.