Without further ado, let’s get into it, shall we?
When I spoke here last winter, this nation was facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month. Credit was frozen. And our financial system was on the verge of collapse.
Holy smokes, the president actually started off this 45-minute odyssey into the farcical with a real fact. Yes, indeed, we were losing jobs at the rate of about 700,000 per month. And yes, some indicators show that joblessness is starting to even out a bit.
The problem? The mandatory nature of health coverage as detailed in the president’s plan would rip apart small business in particular, and could chase away millions in entry-level and other low-income positions, thus increasing the overall number of jobless in America.
As any American who is still looking for work or a way to pay their bills will tell you, we are by no means out of the woods. A full and vibrant recovery is many months away. And I will not let up until those Americans who seek jobs can find them; until those businesses that seek capital and credit can thrive; until all responsible homeowners can stay in their homes. That is our ultimate goal. But thanks to the bold and decisive action we have taken since January, I can stand here with confidence and say that we have pulled this economy back from the brink.
Pulled the economy back from the brink? Pulled the economy back from the brink?!?
I knew that, at some point, he would argue that the economy is better than it already is. Health care represents one-sixth of the American economy, and the president and his party simply cannot pass something as monumental as health care reform unless the American public have some confidence in the economy as a whole. Still, I didn’t expect his language to be so overt.
I read civil lawsuits for a living. Occasionally, I’ll see a class action securities complaint filed on behalf of all purchasers of stock in XYZ Corporation within a certain time period, arguing that fraudulent misrepresentations made by the corporate officers regarding the true financial condition of the company induced class members into investing where they otherwise would not have, had they known the unstable nature of XYZ Corp.
The way I look at it, the lies and misrepresentations being spewed by the White House and disseminated by an obedient mainstream press is no different — the American people are being fed false information with regard to the true financial condition of the United States of America, and are being induced into investing the future of the nation itself into the far-left agenda of this president, an investment they might not otherwise make if they knew the unstable nature of our economy.
I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. It has now been nearly a century since Theodore Roosevelt first called for health care reform. And ever since, nearly every President and Congress, whether Democrat or Republican, has attempted to meet this challenge in some way. A bill for comprehensive health reform was first introduced by John Dingell Sr. in 1943. Sixty-five years later, his son continues to introduce that same bill at the beginning of each session.
I can’t say anything one way or another about John Dingell’s father, but I have no doubt that the primary bill currently working its way through the House has been sitting alongside the cap-and-trade nightmare in Henry Waxman’s desk drawer for decades now, just waiting for a chance to make an entrance and destroy the free market economy this nation was built upon.
And there are reasons that it has never passed. First, the American people don’t want it — they never have, and when it comes to giving up freedoms as such plans require, they never will. Second, fiscally such proposals are unsustainable. Even the president’s own goofy budget guru, Peter Orszag, admits that the president’s own cost-cutting measures would be ineffective.
Furthermore, the comment that Obama is “determined to be the last” president to take up the cause of health care reform is merely irresponsible rhetorical garbage. If the Democrats pass the proposals they’re weighing now, every president is going to be required to deal with the downhill consequences.
Our collective failure to meet this challenge – year after year, decade after decade – has led us to a breaking point. Everyone understands the extraordinary hardships that are placed on the uninsured, who live every day just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. These are not primarily people on welfare. These are middle-class Americans. Some can’t get insurance on the job. Others are self-employed, and can’t afford it, since buying insurance on your own costs you three times as much as the coverage you get from your employer. Many other Americans who are willing and able to pay are still denied insurance due to previous illnesses or conditions that insurance companies decide are too risky or expensive to cover.
Fine. So there are about 15 million people truly uninsured in this country. I’ve been there myself, and I don’t like it either. But let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Let’s not destroy everything that is the envy of the world with regard to our current system in order to cover 15 million more people.
Heck, the Congressional Budget Office pointed out a few weeks ago that, even after 10 years, 17 million people would still be without health insurance.
There are free market-friendly options. We can make health insurance more affordable by opening up interstate competition, by enacting some modicum of tort reform, and for those who still cannot afford even the most basic catastrophic care coverage, providing government assistance in some form resembling food stamps would be a viable–albeit undesireable–option. Better yet would be the establishment of charities that could work together with private insurers to provide for the few million uninsured Americans. Combine that with tax measures offering greater incentive for charitable donations, and everybody wins.
We are the only advanced democracy on Earth–the only wealthy nation–that allows such hardships for millions of its people. There are now more than thirty million American citizens who cannot get coverage.
Wrong. A good portion of that number are here illegally. Another portion can afford it but choose not to. And yet another portion are young people who simply prefer to spend their money on beer. I know I used to.
But the problem that plagues the health care system is not just a problem of the uninsured. Those who do have insurance have never had less security and stability than they do today. More and more Americans worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you’ll lose your health insurance too.
That’s absolutely right. And that’s something that does in fact need reform.
I think it’s important for fence-sitters to realize that those of us on the right aren’t simply looking to say “no.” It’s about the Doctrine of Constructive Obstructionism. We say “no,” but we offer alternatives. One of those alternatives would be the removal of the link between employment and health coverage. Another, as I mentioned before would be opening up the insurance industry to interstate competition would also provide for more portability. These two simple measures would take care of rising costs and portability issues without saddling our children’s children with inhibited freedoms and burdensome costs.
One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn’t reported gallstones that he didn’t even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it. Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer more than doubled in size. That is heart-breaking, it is wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America.
And that’s awful, it really is. But I’ll see the president’s attempt at tugging at heartstrings and raise him the story of the British woman who begged a pediatrician to treat her premature baby, and was instead forced to watch her baby boy die without care because at 21 weeks and five days, he fell two days short of a government-imposed threshold for treatment of premature babies.
We can swap health care horror stories all day, Mr. President, but at the end of the day, people still come to America from all across the world to be treated in our hospitals, by our doctors, with technology created by our free market system. You lose.
Then there’s the problem of rising costs. We spend one-and-a-half times more per person on health care than any other country, but we aren’t any healthier for it.
So, if there’s no direct correlation between money spent and results gleaned, why in the world should we spend another two trillion dollars?
This is one of the reasons that insurance premiums have gone up three times faster than wages. It’s why so many employers – especially small businesses – are forcing their employees to pay more for insurance, or are dropping their coverage entirely. It’s why so many aspiring entrepreneurs cannot afford to open a business in the first place, and why American businesses that compete internationally – like our automakers – are at a huge disadvantage. And it’s why those of us with health insurance are also paying a hidden and growing tax for those without it – about $1000 per year that pays for somebody else’s emergency room and charitable care.
I’m sorry, but such cost-shifting only accounts for a paltry 1.7 percent increase in private insurance premiums. For more, see a great piece entitled The Health Care Cost Shifting Myth by Austin Frakt over at The Health Care Blog.
Furthermore, I read elsewhere that such so-called “uncompensated care” only accounted for less than 2.5 percent of total health care spending in 2008. [It's 3:30am, I just finished studying Federal Income Taxation stuff for class tomorrow, and the source escapes me -- my apologies.]
Finally, our health care system is placing an unsustainable burden on taxpayers. When health care costs grow at the rate they have, it puts greater pressure on programs like Medicare and Medicaid. If we do nothing to slow these skyrocketing costs, we will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other government program combined. Put simply, our health care problem is our deficit problem. Nothing else even comes close.
So, the plan is to solve the problem created by an overreaching and incapable federal government by expanding the reach of that incapable federal government? I’m no genius, but that doesn’t make any sense at all.
These are the facts. Nobody disputes them. We know we must reform this system. The question is how.
There are those on the left who believe that the only way to fix the system is through a single-payer system like Canada’s, where we would severely restrict the private insurance market and have the government provide coverage for everyone.
On the right, there are those who argue that we should end the employer-based system and leave individuals to buy health insurance on their own.
That’s right, and it would result in reduced costs, more private sector competition, and increased portability. All solutions to the limited problems with an otherwise excellent, world-beating health care system.
I have to say that there are arguments to be made for both approaches. But either one would represent a radical shift that would disrupt the health care most people currently have. Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn’t, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch. And that is precisely what those of you in Congress have tried to do over the past several months.
Let’s see — Medicare is going bankrupt quicker than Bill Clinton in a cigar shop, the VA system is well short of where it should be in terms of quality, and employment-based health coverage brings forth portability issues and other problems. It seems like “what works” doesn’t really work at all. Perhaps what we need is a “radical shift.” And they accuse us right-wing extremists of simply being obstructionist.
We have seen many in this chamber work tirelessly for the better part of this year to offer thoughtful ideas about how to achieve reform. Of the five committees asked to develop bills, four have completed their work, and the Senate Finance Committee announced today that it will move forward next week. That has never happened before. Our overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented coalition of doctors and nurses; hospitals, seniors’ groups and even drug companies – many of whom opposed reform in the past. And there is agreement in this chamber on about eighty percent of what needs to be done, putting us closer to the goal of reform than we have ever been.
I don’t know about that. His percentage seems to be off. Especially considering that, later on in the remarks, Obama admits that much of the details still need to be worked out.
Then again, numbers and stuff have never been this White House’s strong suit.
But what we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government.
Wrong. Disdain for this government is born from elected representatives on Capitol Hill who refuse to listen to their constituents, who belittle those who dare ask topical questions, who compare concerned Americans to Nazis, and who deem anything but blind, deaf subservience to be un-American. That’s what brings about disdain toward government.
Instead of honest debate, we have seen scare tactics. Some have dug into unyielding ideological camps that offer no hope of compromise. Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.
Yeah, Sarah Palin. Are you listening? How dare you point out that the House bill plans to provide end-of-life counseling to seniors not in the form of information, education or outreach, but in the context of cutting costs! How dare you, Sarah Palin?
The plan I’m announcing tonight would meet three basic goals:
It will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don’t. And it will slow the growth of health care costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.
When has the federal government ever slowed the growth of costs in any industry it has injected itself into, either constitutionally or unconstitutionally?
When Medicare was first brought about in 1966, the entire program cost $3 billion. At the time, the House Ways and Means Committee estimated that it would only cost $12 billion by 1991, including an allowance for inflation. Whoops — they were only $95 billion off! In 1991, Medicare cost American taxpayers $107 billion. Last year, the budget for Medicare was $444 billion. So much for the government promises when it comes to slowing the growth of health care costs.
It’s a plan that asks everyone to take responsibility for meeting this challenge – not just government and insurance companies, but employers and individuals.
In other words, to pay for this monstrosity, the federal government will increase taxes on businesses and insurance providers, who will in turn pass that increased tax burden on to the average American. But don’t worry — to paraphrase what was said by former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson at last year’s GOP convention, they won’t take too much water out of your side of the bucket.
And it’s a plan that incorporates ideas from Senators and Congressmen; from Democrats and Republicans – and yes, from some of my opponents in both the primary and general election.
Any more evidence needed that the fine people of Arizona need to send Sen. John McCain his pink slip? Come on, people.
Furthermore, aren’t the plans now being praised by this shallow president the very same proposals he dismissed as being “dangerous” back in the month leading up to the election?
Here are the details that every American needs to know about this plan:
First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.
Nope. He’s lying. In fact, following similar promises made by President Obama at town hall meetings held across the country, the folks at FactCheck.org noted that, in fact, “under the House bill, some employers might have to modify plans after a five-year grace period if they don’t meet minimum benefits standards,” and that “[f]urthermore, some firms are likely to buy different coverage for their workers than they have now, or simply drop coverage and pay a penalty instead, leaving workers to buy their own private coverage or go on a new federal insurance plan.”
What this plan will do is to make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They 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. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – because there’s no reason we shouldn’t be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.
During the 1990s, congressional leaders forced lenders to relax lending standards in order to advance a liberal agenda which wrongly viewed homeownership as a right and not a privilege. We see where that got us. Now, Obama wants to force the private insurers to abandon the very checks and balances they have in place to counterbalance the risks inherent in the industry.
By being forced to provide coverage for pre-existing conditions–kind of like calling Allstate and asking for an automobile insurance policy as your Ford Taurus careens off a cliff–and being obligated to further artificially upset that risk balance, insurers will be forced to recoup that money elsewhere. What’s going to happen is that the cost of premiums will skyrocket.
But that’s exactly what this president wants. Remember that this isn’t about health care, but rather about control. Insurance companies bound by profit will never be able to compete with the federal government, which never needs to report a profit and which can set the rules as it goes along. That’s the idea. And that’s why a government option and even some types of co-ops will eventually descend into the same single-payer system as we see in Canada and England.
Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those – particularly the young and healthy – who still want to take the risk and go without coverage. There may still be companies that refuse to do right by their workers. The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money. If there are affordable options and people still don’t sign up for health insurance, it means we pay for those people’s expensive emergency room visits. If some businesses don’t provide workers health care, it forces the rest of us to pick up the tab when their workers get sick, and gives those businesses an unfair advantage over their competitors. And unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek – especially requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions – just can’t be achieved.
That’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance – just as most states require you to carry auto insurance. Likewise, businesses will be required to either offer their workers health care, or chip in to help cover the cost of their workers. There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still cannot afford coverage, and 95% of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements. But we cannot have large businesses and individuals who can afford coverage game the system by avoiding responsibility to themselves or their employees. Improving our health care system only works if everybody does their part.
In other words, if Americans are free to make their own decisions with regard to health care, the Democrats’ health care reform plan simply will not work.
And that’s where the employer mandate comes in, the same mandate which will cost millions of jobs. And, on an individual level, that’s where the $3,800 fine for those who refuse to obtain coverage, the one proposed by Max Baucus, comes into play.
Ahh. Nothing says “big government was here” like a mandatory option.
While there remain some significant details to be ironed out, I believe a broad consensus exists for the aspects of the plan I just outlined: consumer protections for those with insurance, an exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable coverage, and a requirement that people who can afford insurance get insurance.
And I have no doubt that these reforms would greatly benefit Americans from all walks of life, as well as the economy as a whole. Still, given all the misinformation that’s been spread over the past few months, I realize that many Americans have grown nervous about reform. So tonight I’d like to address some of the key controversies that are still out there.
In other words: “Trust me.”
You wish, Mr. President. I can’t wait to see your poll numbers in coming days.
Some of people’s concerns have grown out of bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost. The best example is the claim, made not just by radio and cable talk show hosts, but prominent politicians, that we plan to set up panels of bureaucrats with the power to kill off senior citizens. Such a charge would be laughable if it weren’t so cynical and irresponsible. It is a lie, plain and simple.
The president is lying again. End-of-life counseling provisions were included in the House bill as a measure intended to cut costs, not educate seniors. There is an enormous difference. We’ve covered this ad nauseum here at America’s Right. For more details, see Filling in the Blanks: Death Panels. Furthermore, the president himself has admitted to the existence of such decision-making entities.
There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false – the reforms I’m proposing would not apply to those who are here illegally.
If the skin weren’t stretched so tightly across House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s empty skull, I think her head might have exploded right then and there.
I have a theory on this tidbit of “misinformation,” too. Wanna hear it? See, I think the president was telling the truth when he said that health care reform would not provide coverage to those who are here illegally — what he didn’t care to mention, though, was that after he provides amnesty to some 20 million illegal immigrants through a comprehensive immigration reform bill sure to come up soon, those folks won’t be here illegally anymore.
And one more misunderstanding I want to clear up – under our plan, no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions, and federal conscience laws will remain in place.
Again: “Trust me,” says the man who argued against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act.
My health care proposal has also been attacked by some who oppose reform as a “government takeover” of the entire health care system. As proof, critics point to a provision in our plan that allows the uninsured and small businesses to choose a publicly-sponsored insurance option, administered by the government just like Medicaid or Medicare.
So let me set the record straight. My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75% of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90% is controlled by just one company. 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.
Insurance executives don’t do this because they are bad people. They do it because it’s profitable. As one former insurance executive testified before Congress, insurance companies are not only encouraged to find reasons to drop the seriously ill; they are rewarded for it. All of this is in service of meeting what this former executive called “Wall Street’s relentless profit expectations.”
Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business. They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable. The insurance reforms that I’ve already mentioned would do just that. But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear – it would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance. In fact, based on Congressional Budget Office estimates, we believe that less than 5% of Americans would sign up.
First of all, it’s not really even the whole “public option” thing that would constitute a “government takeover” of health care as much as it is the employer and individual mandates.
Secondly, the president is once again lying when he says his “guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition.” Take a look again at the first of the two videos above. Always has been?
It’s worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I’ve proposed tonight. But its impact shouldn’t be exaggerated – by the left, the right, or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and should not be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles. To my progressive friends, I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end – and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal. And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have.
For example, some have suggested that that the public option go into effect only in those markets where insurance companies are not providing affordable policies. Others propose a co-op or another non-profit entity to administer the plan. These are all constructive ideas worth exploring. But I will not back down on the basic principle that if Americans can’t find affordable coverage, we will provide you with a choice. And I will make sure that no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat gets between you and the care that you need.
Except, of course, for those bureaucrats I said, back in June on the ABC News health care special, would come between you and the care that you need.
Finally, let me discuss an issue that is a great concern to me, to members of this chamber, and to the public – and that is how we pay for this plan.
Here’s what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future. Period. And to prove that I’m serious, there will be a provision in this plan that requires us to come forward with more spending cuts if the savings we promised don’t materialize. Part of the reason I faced a trillion dollar deficit when I walked in the door of the White House is because too many initiatives over the last decade were not paid for – from the Iraq War to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make that same mistake with health care.
Second, we’ve estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system – a system that is currently full of waste and abuse. Right now, too much of the hard-earned savings and tax dollars we spend on health care doesn’t make us healthier. That’s not my judgment – it’s the judgment of medical professionals across this country. And this is also true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid.
In fact, I want to speak directly to America’s seniors for a moment, because Medicare is another issue that’s been subjected to demagoguery and distortion during the course of this debate.
More than four decades ago, this nation stood up for the principle that after a lifetime of hard work, our seniors should not be left to struggle with a pile of medical bills in their later years. That is how Medicare was born. And it remains a sacred trust that must be passed down from one generation to the next. That is why not a dollar of the Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for this plan.
Wait — is there still a Medicare trust fund? I’ll bet it looks a whole lot like my savings account. Empty.
Also, if what I’m hearing is correct, the president is suggesting that we fund this brand new, exponentially bigger government program by finding and excising waste from other similar but smaller, nearly bankrupt government programs. Now, again, I’m no genius, but if this was so easy, wouldn’t it have been done by now?
The only thing this plan would eliminate is the hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and fraud, as well as unwarranted subsidies in Medicare that go to insurance companies – subsidies that do everything to pad their profits and nothing to improve your care. And we will also create an independent commission of doctors and medical experts charged with identifying more waste in the years ahead.
These steps will ensure that you – America’s seniors – get the benefits you’ve been promised. They will ensure that Medicare is there for future generations. And we can use some of the savings to fill the gap in coverage that forces too many seniors to pay thousands of dollars a year out of their own pocket for prescription drugs. That’s what this plan will do for you. So don’t pay attention to those scary stories about how your benefits will be cut – especially since some of the same folks who are spreading these tall tales have fought against Medicare in the past, and just this year supported a budget that would have essentially turned Medicare into a privatized voucher program. That will never happen on my watch. I will protect Medicare.
Essentially, this is the same thing as education. Just as the president will not permit parents to control where their own children attend school, he will not allow seniors to have any input whatsoever over their health care options.
And that, folks, was pretty much it. Sure, the president spoke for a little longer, but most of it was restating lies about not disrupting Medicare and shamelessly playing the Ted Kennedy card. If you’ve read The Inherent Hypocrisy of Kennedycare here at America’s Right, you know how we feel about that.
All in all, it was a restatement of the same arguments the White House and the Democrats have been making for months now. And in much the same way that the need to explain a joke means that the joke probably isn’t very funny in the first place, the president’s need to constantly manage and restate his arguments for health care reform suggest that the problem likely isn’t so much in the message as it is in the substance.