Telling Congress “the time for bickering is over…now is the season for action,” President Obama tonight offered his most detailed vision of health care reform legislation in speech before the nation and both houses of Congress.
That health care reform vision includes a public health insurance plan option that Obama says will keep “pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better.”
“It’s worth noting that a strong majority of Americans still favor a public insurance option of the sort I’ve proposed tonight. 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.”
He said his overall health care reform plan will meet three basic goals:
- Provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance;
- Provide insurance to those who don’t; and
- Slow the growth of health care costs for families, businesses and government.
The plan, says Obama,
asks everyone to take responsibility for meeting this challenge—not just government and insurance companies, but employers and individuals.
He also assured the hundreds of millions of Americans who have health coverage through their job, Medicare, Medicaid or the Veterans Affairs, “nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage you have or the doctor you have.”
Among the changes in insurance company rules, said Obama, the legislation will make it illegal for insurance companies to deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions or to drop someone from the insurance rolls or reduce their coverage when they become sick.
Health care costs have doubled in the past decade and are now rising three times faster than wages. If action isn’t taken, Obama said:
Our deficit will grow. More families will go bankrupt. More businesses will close. More Americans will lose their coverage when they are sick and need it the most. And more will die as a result.
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One Senate and three House committees have reported out health care reform bills that include many of the provisions in the Obama plan. The Senate Finance Committee is expected to act on their version next week.