In an address to a coalition of faith leaders today, President Barack Obama reitereated his stance on the need for health-care reform, while seeking to dispel “ludicrous ideas” on the issue that have come from those who oppose his legislation.
Appearing on 40 Minutes for Health Reform, a live BlogTalkRadio special sponsored by more than 30 religious denominations and organizations seeking to make clear to Congress that quality, affordable health care for every American family is a moral priority, the president called on congregations nationwide to assist in his charge.
“I’m going to need the help of all of you. I’m going to need you to knock on doors, talk to your neighbors; I need you to spread the facts, and speak the truth,” Obama said during the event, which was part of the “40 Days for Health Reform” cam- paign launched Aug. 10.
“Time and again, men and women of faith have helped to show us what’s possible when we’re guided by our hopes and not our fears.”
The president also analogized his health-care reform efforts to 20th century struggles for other, then-controversial social programs.
“Throughout our history, whenever we’ve sought to change this country for the better, whenever we’ve sought to promote justice, there have always been those who wanted to preserve the status quo,” he said.
“And these struggles always boil down to a contest between hope and fear. That was true in the debate over Social Security, when FDR was accused of being a socialist. That was true when JFK and Lyndon Johnson tried to pass Medicare. And it’s true in this debate today.”
To hear 40 Minutes for Health Reform, including President Obama’s full address, click here.
To read more about “40 Days for Health Reform,” click here.
Following is the full transcript of the president’s address.
President Barack Obama
40 Minutes for Health Reform on BlogTalkRadio
An Address to members of the ’40 Days for Health Reform’ Coalition
August 19, 2009
I know we’ve got thousands of people on this call from many different denominations and faiths. But the one thing that you all share is a moral conviction. You know that this debate over health care goes to the heart of who we are as a people. I believe nobody in America should be denied basic health care because he or she lacks health insurance. And no one in America should be pushed to the edge of financial ruin because an insurance company denies them coverage or drops their coverage or charges fees they can’t afford for care that they desperately need. And these are the stories I’ve heard all across the country.
Families that are denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions. Folks who’ve had their health insurance revoked because they got sick. Millions of people paying shy-high premiums and exorbitant out-of-pocket expenses. If you haven’t had an experience like this yourself, then I guarantee you know somebody who has.
And that’s why it’s so important that we pass health-insurance reform. I know there’s been a lot of misinformation in this debate. And there are some folks out there who are, frankly, bearing false witness. But I want everyone to know what health-insurance reform is all about.
First of all, if you’re one of the nearly 46 million people who don’t have health insurance, you’ll finally have quality, affordable options. If you do have health insurance, we’re going to help make sure that insurance is more affordable and more secure through a set of common-sense consumer protections.
Insurance companies will no longer be able to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition, or to revoke your coverage just because you get sick. We’ll place limits on what insurance companies can charge for out-of-pocket expenses on top of your premiums. And we’ll eliminate arbitrary caps on your benefits. And finally, we’ll require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies. All of that saves money, but it also saves lives.
Now, I’ve said this before; I want to repeat it so that every member of your congregations understands this: If you like your health-care plan, you can keep your health-care plan. Nothing that we’re doing obligates you to choose any plan other than the one that you have. If you like your doctor, you can keep seeing your doctor. We’re not going to interfere with that.
Now, I don’t want government bureaucrats meddling in your health care, but I also don’t want insurance company bureaucrats meddling in your health care. And that’s what health-insurance reform is all about.
We are closer to achieving that reform than we have ever been. And that’s why we’re seeing some of the divisive and deceptive attacks – you’ve heard some of them. Ludicrous ideas – let me just give you one example.
This notion that we are somehow setting up death panels that would decide on whether elderly people get to live or die. That is just an extraordinary lie. This is based on a provision in the House legislation that would allow Medicare to reimburse you if you wanted counseling on how to set up a living will, or other end-of-life decisions. Entirely voluntary; it gives you an option that people who can afford fancy lawyers already exercise. That’s the kind of distortion that we’ve been hearing too much of out here.
We’ve heard that this is all designed to provide health insurance to illegal aliens. That’s not true. There’s a specific provision in the bill that does not provide health insurance for those individuals. You’ve heard that there’s a government takeover of health care. That’s not true. You’ve heard that this is all going to mean government funding of abortion. Not true.
These are all fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation. And that is that we look out for one another. That I am my brother’s keeper and my sister’s keeper. And in the wealthiest nation on earth right now, we are neglecting to live up to that call.
We also have an inter-generational commitment. People are concerned about spending right now, and deficits and debt. And by far the single biggest driver of our deficit and our debt is federal government spending on Medicare and Medicaid. And Medicare is about to go into the red in eight years. Many of you have older members of your congregations. They’re all now scared to death that someone is talking about cutting Medicare benefits. That is again simply not true.
What we have said is we should stop subsidizing insurance companies who participate in Medicare Advantage – and skim $17 billion to $20 billion in profits that could be used to expand care and give seniors better discounts on prescription drug.
Now, all of this is not a surprise. Throughout our history, whenever we’ve sought to change this country for the better, whenever we’ve sought to promote justice, there have always been those who wanted to preserve the status quo. And these struggles always boil down to a contest between hope and fear. That was true in the debate over Social Security, when FDR was accused of being a socialist. That was true when JFK and Lyndon Johnson tried to pass Medicare. And it’s true in this debate today.
So I’m going to need the help of all of you. I’m going to need you to knock on doors, talk to your neighbors; I need you to spread the facts, and speak the truth. Time and again, men and women of faith have helped to show us what’s possible when we’re guided by our hopes and not our fears.
That’s what you’ve done before. That’s how you were able to succeed in establishing Social Security and Medicare and bring about justice through the Civil Rights movement. That’s what you can do again today to help us achieve quality, affordable health care for every American so that you don’t have families out there who are worrying about going bankrupt because a child gets sick. So that you don’t have people who are desperate about a situation where they lose their job and suddenly can’t find health insurance again.
That’s not the way that our religious faith instructs us. And I think it’s absolutely critical that we make sure that we’re on the side of promoting the well-being and security of all Americans.
So I thank all of you. God bless you. And I hope that you will all help us move this process forward in the months to come.