STRONGSVILLE, Ohio (March 16, 2010) — President Barack Obama used this Republican stronghold as the site of his latest admonition to Congress to stop putting partisan politics ahead of Americans and to pass much-debated health care legislation.
“The status quo for health care is simply unjust,” President Obama said in a speech at the Strongsville Recreation Center in suburban Cleveland. “We can´t have a system that works better for the insurers than it does for the American people.”
He cited the case of a local woman, Natoma Canfield, who had to drop her insurance coverage after finding out that her premiums were going to be raised 40 percent this year. She wrote President Obama about her ordeal and was invited to introduce him today in Strongsville. However, she collapsed at work last week and was diagnosed with leukemia and now is in the hospital, said the president, who was introduced, instead, by her sister, Connie Anderson.
If reform is denied, the president said more people will be priced out of the insurance market due to rising costs. In addition, the federal deficit will widen, health care costs will rise and small businesses will drop coverage for employees because they no longer can afford to provide insurance, he said.
However, President Obama said his bill will end some of the worst practices by insurance companies, provide the same health care coverage that Congress receives to the uninsured and small businesses, and will decrease healthcare costs.
“This is like a patient´s bill of rights on steroids,” he said, pausing at one point to call a medic for someone who had fainted in the audience.
Under his plan, the president said insurers no longer would be able to drop people from coverage for pre-existing conditions or for becoming ill, there would be no lifetime limits on insurance coverage, and young, uninsured people would be able to remain on their parents´ insurance until age 26.
The plan has been criticized for being too expensive, but President Obama said the plan would be paid for by eliminating existing government subsidies now paid to private insurers and through a new fee to be paid by insurers.
“We will set a new fee on insurance companies because they will gain money from new customers,” he said. “There´s nothing wrong with them giving something back.”
President Obama said the Congressional Budget Office estimates that, under the proposed reform plan, health care premiums would decline between 14 percent and 20 percent because more people would be buying into the health insurance pool.
Lawmakers also would seek to reduce waste and abuse in the health care system, especially in Medicare, which is billed billions each year in unwarranted fees.
President Obama ended his speech by calling for Congress to put aside partisan politics.
He then borrowed a quip shouted out by an audience member: “We need courage.”
This report appeared in Crain's Cleveland Business magazine, a sister publication of Tire Business.