Attempting to rally members of Congress, as well as Americans, around his plans to reform healthcare, President Obama spoke with a sense of urgency during his televised address September 10 about the need for a healthcare overhaul, and laid out his healthcare agenda.
After months of partisan divide over how healthcare reform should take shape, Obama told Congress that “the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action. Now is when we must bring the best ideas of both parties together.”
Obama also noted Senator Max Baucus’s (D-Montana), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, plans to move forward on completing a healthcare reform bill by next week. Of the five committees asked to develop bills on healthcare reform, the Senate Finance Committee is the last to deliver one.
Noting the 30 million American citizens who cannot get health insurance coverage, Obama said healthcare reform is not just about the uninsured. Those who do have insurance, he said, “have never had less security and stability than they do today.” More and more Americans, he continued, “worry that if you move, lose your job, or change your job, you’ll lose your health insurance. too. More and more Americans pay their premiums, only to discover that their insurance company has dropped their coverage when they get sick, or won’t pay the full cost of care.”
Another issue that must be addressed, Obama said, is the rising cost of healthcare. The United States, he said, spends “one-and-a-half times more per person on healthcare than any other country, but we aren’t any healthier for it. 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.”
The Administration’s plan, Obama said, 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 healthcare costs for our families, our businesses, and our government.” The plan asks everyone to help meet this challenge, he said, government and insurance companies, employers and individuals.
As for the how the Administration proposes to pay for its healthcare reform plan–which he said will total $900 billion over 10 years–Obama pledged that he would not sign a plan “that adds one dime” to the country’s deficit–now or in the future. He said that most of the plan can be paid for by finding savings within the current healthcare system, which he said is full of waste and abuse, particularly within Medicare and Medicaid. Obama said the rest of the reform plan can be paid for by charging insurance companies a fee for their most expensive policies.
Obama went on to detail aspects of his proposal, stating first that those Americans who already have health insurance through their jobs, Medicare, Medicaid, or through the Veterans’ Administration, “nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have.”
He also said that it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny individuals coverage because of a preexisting 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.” A new insurance exchange will be created, Obama said, that will provide a marketplace where individuals and small businesses “will be able to shop for health insurance at competitive prices.”
For those individuals and small businesses who still cannot afford the lower-priced insurance available in the exchange, Obama said tax credits will be provided, “the size of which will be based on your need.” And all insurance companies that want access to this new marketplace, he said, “will have to abide by the consumer protections I already mentioned.”
Individuals will also be required to carry basic health insurance. Likewise, he said, “businesses will be required to either offer their workers healthcare, 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.”