On September 9, President Obama addressed Congress and the nation on the issue of Health Care Reform. His message was that reform is key to the nation’s economic future and the financial health of Americans and stressed key provisions needed, such as inclusion of a public plan option to compete with private health insurers.
The president stressed plans should meet three principles
- making the system more secure and stable for those with health insurance
- providing coverage for the uninsured
- slowing health care cost growth
Also, he stated that the cost of reform must not add to the federal deficit.
The president stated that he supports a requirement that individuals have coverage and that all but the smallest businesses be required to provide it. Costs of the reform are estimated at about $900 billion over 10 years, which can be paid for by eliminating fraud and abuse from the Medicare and Medicaid programs and by increasing the efficiency of those programs.
President Obama acknowledged there is a great deal of disagreement about the ways to reform the health care system, but said lawmakers need to act on the issue this year to help reduce the nation’s future federal debt, to help Americans cope with financial distress brought about by lack of affordable health care, and to slow rising health care costs.
The president also sought to dispel what he termed “bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost,” stating that reform legislation will not provide coverage to illegal immigrants, will not allow the federal government to take over health care, and will not empower federal panels to make life and death decisions for the nation’s seniors.
The president said four of five congressional committees have completed work on reform bills, while the fifth, the Senate Finance Committee, will mark up legislation the week of September 21.
Obama said legislation should reform the private health insurance market by, for example, requiring plans to cover individuals regardless of pre-existing medical conditions.
In addition, the president defended the inclusion of a public option in reform legislation because Americans have a right to choose the best health care plan for their needs. “Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75 percent of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies,” the president said. “Without competition, the price of insurance goes up and the quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest, by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage, and by jacking up rates.”
The president did not rule out other ways in which to provide competition for private plans, such as cooperatives. The Finance Committee plan is expected to contain a provision establishing cooperatives.
Obama also sought to address the concerns that some felt that the plans could impact seniors through the reduction in Medicare spending by as much as $500 billion over 10 years.
For further information, go to www.whitehouse.gov