Weekly Address: Real Conversations About Health Insurance Reform

this week I've been traveling across our country to discuss health insurance reform and to hear directly from you your questions your concerns and your stories now I know there's been a lot of attention paid to some of the town hall meetings that are going on around the country especially those where tempers have flared you know how TV loves a ruckus but what you haven't seen because it's not as exciting are the many constructive meetings going on all over the country where Americans are airing their hopes and concerns about this very important issue I've been holding some my own and the stories I've heard have really underscored why I believe so strongly that health insurance reform is a challenge we can't ignore there's stories like Laurie Hitchcock's who I met in New Hampshire this week Laurie's got a pre-existing condition so no insurance company will cover her she's self-employed and in this economy she can't find a job that offers health care so she's been uninsured for two years or there's stories like Katie Gibson's who I met in Montana when Katie tried to change insurance companies she was sure to list her pre-existing conditions on the application and even calls her new company to confirm she'd be covered two months later she was dropped after she'd already gone off her other insurance these are stories that aren't being told stories of a health care system that works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people and that's why we are going to pass health insurance reform that finally holds the insurance companies accountable but now's the hard part because the history is clear every time we come close to passing health insurance reform the special interest with a stake in the status quo use their influence and political allies to scare and mislead the American people as an example let's look at one of the scarier sounding and more ridiculous rumors out there that so-called death panels would decide whether senior citizens get to live or die that rumor began with the distortion of one idea in a congressional bill that would allow Medicare to cover voluntary visits with your doctor to discuss your end-of-life care if and only if you decide to have those visits had nothing to do with putting government and control your decisions in fact it would give you all the information you need if you want it to put you in control of your decisions when a conservative Republican senator who supported this idea in fact had long fought for even more far-reaching proposals found out how folks were twisting the idea he called their misrepresentation and I quote nuts so when folks with a stake in the status quo keep inventing these boogie men in an effort to scare people it's disappointing but it's not surprising we've seen it before when President Roosevelt was working to create Social Security opponents warned it would open the door to federal snooping and force Americans to wear dog tags when President Kennedy and President Johnson were working to create Medicare opponents warned of socialized medicine sound familiar not only were those fears never realized but more importantly those programs have saved the lives of tens of millions of seniors the disabled and the disadvantaged those who would stand in the way of reform will say almost anything to scare you about the cost of action but they won't say much about the cost of inaction if you're worried about rationed care higher costs denied coverage or bureaucrats getting between you and your doctor then you should know that that's what's happening right now in the past three years over 12 million Americans were discriminated against by insurance companies due to a pre-existing condition or saw their coverage denied or dropped just when they got sick and needed it most Americans whose jobs and healthcare are secure today just don't know if they'll be the next to join the 14,000 who lose their health insurance every single day and if we don't act average family premiums will keep rising to more than $22,000 within a decade on the other hand here's what a reformed health care system will mean for you first no matter what you've heard if you like your doctor or health care plan you can keep it if you don't have insurance you'll finally be able to afford insurance and everyone will have the security and stability that's missing today insurance companies will be prohibited from denying you coverage because of your medical history dropping your coverage if you get sick or watering down your cover when it counts because there's no point in having health insurance if it's not there when you need it 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 just because they get sick finally we'll require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care like mammograms and colonoscopies because there's no reason we shouldn't be saving lives and dollars by catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end so that's what reform means for all the chatter and the noise out there what every American needs to know is this if you don't have health insurance you will finally have quality affordable options once we pass reform 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 deliver this in a fiscally responsible way now I know there's plenty of real concern and skepticism out there I know that in a time of economic upheaval the idea of change can be unsettling and I know that there are some folks who believe that government should have no role at all in solving our problems these are legitimate differences worthy of the real discussion that America deserves one where we lower our voices listen to one another and talk about differences that really exist because while there may be disagreements over how to go about it there is widespread agreement on the urgent need to reform a broken system and finally hold insurance companies accountable nearly 50 years ago in the midst of the noisy early battles to create what would become Medicare President Kennedy said I refuse to see us live on the accomplishments of another generation I refused to see this country and all of us shrink from these struggles which are our responsibility in our time now it falls to us to meet the challenges of our time and if we can come together and listen to one another I believe as I always have that we will rise to this moment we will build something better for our children and we will secure America's future in this new century you

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