Obama Weekly Address: Premiums, Profits, and the Need for Health Reform

WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama used his weekly address to call on Democratic and Republican leaders to attend next week’s health care meeting in good faith to find reforms that work for American families and small businesses.  With several health insurance companies announcing steep hikes in their rates – from 10 to over 30 percent – it is clear that the status quo, while good for the insurance industry, is bad for the American people.  After a year of exhaustive debate, it is time to move forward on reform. 

Remarks of President Barack Obama
Weekly Address
February 20, 2010

The other week, men and women across California opened up their mailboxes to find a letter from Anthem Blue Cross. The news inside was jaw-dropping. Anthem was alerting almost a million of its customers that it would be raising premiums by an average of 25 percent, with about a quarter of folks likely to see their rates go up by anywhere from 35 to 39 percent.

Now, after their announcement stirred public outcry, Anthem agreed to delay their rate hike until May 1st while the situation is reviewed by the state of California. But it’s not just Californians who are being hit by rate hikes. In Kansas, one insurance company raised premiums by 10 to 20 percent only after asking to raise them by 20 to 30 percent. Last year, Michigan Blue Cross Blue Shield raised rates by 22 percent after asking to raise them by up to 56 percent. And in Maine, Anthem is asking to raise rates for some folks by about 23 percent.

The bottom line is that the status quo is good for the insurance industry and bad for America. Over the past year, as families and small business owners have struggled to pay soaring health care costs, and as millions of Americans lost their coverage, the five largest insurers made record profits of over $12 billion.

And as bad as things are today, they’ll only get worse if we fail to act. We’ll see more and more Americans go without the coverage they need. We’ll see exploding premiums and out-of-pocket costs burn through more and more family budgets. We’ll see more and more small businesses scale back benefits, drop coverage, or close down because they can’t keep up with rising rates. And in time, we’ll see these skyrocketing health care costs become the single largest driver of our federal deficits.

That’s what the future is on track to look like. But it’s not what the future has to look like. The question, then, is whether we will do what it takes, all of us – Democrats and Republicans – to build a better future for ourselves, our children, and our country.

White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 2/17/10

That’s why, next week, I am inviting members of both parties to take part in a bipartisan health care meeting, and I hope they come in a spirit of good faith. I don’t want to see this meeting turn into political theater, with each side simply reciting talking points and trying to score political points. Instead, I ask members of both parties to seek common ground in an effort to solve a problem that’s been with us for generations.

It’s in that spirit that I have sought out and supported Republican ideas on reform from the very beginning. Some Republicans want to allow Americans to purchase insurance from a company in another state to give people more choices and bring down costs. Some Republicans have also suggested giving small businesses the power to pool together and offer health care at lower prices, just as big companies and labor unions do. I think both of these are good ideas – so long as we pursue them in a way that protects benefits, protects patients, and protects the American people. I hope Democrats and Republicans can come together next week around these and other ideas.

To members of Congress, I would simply say this. We know the American people want us to reform our health insurance system. We know where the broad areas of agreement are. And we know where the sources of disagreement lie. After debating this issue exhaustively for a year, let’s move forward together. Next week is our chance to finally reform our health insurance system so it works for families and small businesses. It’s our chance to finally give Americans the peace of mind of knowing that they’ll be able to have affordable coverage when they need it most.

What’s being tested here is not just our ability to solve this one problem, but our ability to solve any problem. Right now, Americans are understandably despairing about whether partisanship and the undue influence of special interests in Washington will make it impossible for us to deal with the big challenges that face our country. They want to see us focus not on scoring points, but on solving problems; not on the next election but on the next generation. That is what we can do, and that is what we must do when we come together for this bipartisan health care meeting next week. Thank you, and have a great weekend.

  4 comments for “Obama Weekly Address: Premiums, Profits, and the Need for Health Reform

  1. lefty
    February 21, 2010 at 9:09 am

    Of course President Obama is right.

    The problem is one of priorities.

    The American public doesn’t really care about those less fortunate …. when they’re hurting & scared.

    Our economy (ruined primarily by Clinton era legislation – pandering to GREEDY Wall Street Bankers) needs to be fixed FIRST. Then people will again be able to open their hearts & minds to assist those less fortunate than themselves.(imo)

  2. Slatemag
    February 21, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Obama doesn’t get it.
    When you don’t have a job you don’t care about the healthcare reform. Voters are screaming for jobs not a big idea of reform. Get me a job then we will talk about it. That is the mentality of voters across the country. Obama, Democrats and Republicans should do now. Creating jobs should be the one and only one thing to be discussed and acted upon.

  3. Robert Lauten
    February 21, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    6 Political Suicide Health Care Reforms

    FDA Reform:
    Decades ago Congress gave the food and Drug Administration the authority to make “laws” and enforce them without congressional approval or debate.
    The FDA “law”:
    “Only a drug can cure, prevent, or treat a disease.”
    Warning: Do not make the claim that citrus fruit can cure, prevent, or treat scurvy.

    Dietary Supplement Tax Reform:
    The drugs that one takes to treat one’s disease are tax deductible, but if the same medical doctor, after review your lab results from your blood test, informs you that you’re body is deficient is some vitamin or mineral, then one should be able to claim the dietary supplements as a medical deduction.
    FDA “law”: “Only a drug can cure, prevent, or treat a disease”.

    Financial Conflict of Interest Reform:
    No member of congress, (House or Senate), or State Legislators, may own stock in HMOs or Pharmaceutical Companies.

    Lobbyist Reform:
    Lobbyist shall not be allowed to hire the children or relatives of a member of congress, or make a donation to the congressman’s foundation, or anything that a normal person would consider a “bribe.”

    Kevin Trudeau to testify:
    Kevin Trudeau the researcher and author of “Natural Cures – “They” Don’t Want You To Know About” ISBN 0-9755995-1-8 should testify before this sham Obama/Republican health care conference. Members of Congress must read this book aloud and publish their reading on YouTube, especially pager 27-28.

    House members should support impeachment.
    Obamacare is the first of four articles of impeachment.

  4. Jo
    February 26, 2010 at 5:54 pm


    U.S. Supreme Court
    Linder v. United States, 268 U.S. 5 (1925)
    Linder v. United States
    No. 183
    Submitted March 9, 1925
    Decided April 13, 1925
    268 U.S. 5


    1. Any provision of an act of Congress ostensibly enacted under power granted by the Constitution, not naturally and reasonably adapted to the effective exercise of such power but solely to the achievement of something plainly within the power reserved to the states, is invalid and cannot be enforced. P. 268 U. S. 17.

    2. Direct control of medical practice in the states is obviously beyond the power of Congress. P. 268 U. S. 18.

    3. Incidental regulation of such practice by Congress through a taxing act, like the Narcotic Law, cannot extend to matters plainly inappropriate and unnecessary to reasonable enforcement of a revenue measure. P. 268 U. S. 18.


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