President Obama told ABC News today he is confident that health care reform legislation will pass.
"I believe we are going to get the votes, we're going to make this happen," Obama told ABC's Jake Tapper in an exclusive interview. Obama said Democrats continue to work to get a bill ready for a vote by the end of the week.
Natoma Canfield is a 50-year-old cleaning woman and cancer survivor from Medina, Ohio. She says she had to drop her Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield insurance because her monthly premiums kept skyrocketing.
"You want to know why I'm here, Ohio? I'm here because of Natoma," Obama said in remarks at a senior center. "I'm here because of the countless others who have been forced to face the most terrifying challenges in their lives with the added burden of medical bills they can't pay. I don't think that's right."
After the event, Obama told ABC News that if Congress passes this health care reform legislation, Canfield and millions of Americans like her could not be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition and would not face difficult financial decisions that Canfield is facing.
"Natoma would have been able to be part of this exchange, this marketplace that gave her a choice of plans, just like members of Congress have," the president said. "But, because she'd be a part of a million people who are in a pool, her rates would be lowered and so you wouldn't have seen her being put into a choice where she's got to chose between her house or her health care."
Tapper asked Obama about what his message is to Americans and the members of Congress who are worried about this bill. The president did not directly answer the question but said that most of the "misinformation" circulating about things like so-called "death panels" and a government takeover of health care "turned out not to be true."
Obama said what is true, and what came out in last month's health care summit, is that there is a "philosophical disagreement" between Democrats and Republicans on how best to proceed with reform.
"For most people who already have health insurance, they're not going to see much of a change except they'll have more protection in the insurance they already have,"Obama said. "But for millions of Americans, they'll be in a more secure position and the federal government and state governments are going to be in a position where they are not running these huge, outside multibillion-dollar deficits over and over again each year that add up to an unsustainable debt we'll be imposing on future generations."
In December 2009, the chief actuary from the independent Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services reported that the Senate reform bill, rather than lowering the bottom line of government health spending, would increase government obligations by $234 billion over 10 years .
Asked about the potential for such unintended consequences, Obama said that the nation's health care crisis is currently "affecting every aspect of American life" and the time to take action is now.
"If we don't tackle it now in a serious way, not only are you going to see folks like Natoma get in a tougher and tougher spot," he said. "But what you're also going to find is a federal government that can't pay its bills on Medicare and Medicaid."
Obama said once the bill is passed, reforms would start "right away," but he cautioned that fully enacting every new measure will take time.
"These insurance reforms would start right away," the president said. "But getting in place a system that works over time, including making sure we get more primary care physicians, more nurses into the system, working with hospitals and doctors to reduce medical error rates that drive up cost -- all those things are going to be changes that happen year after year over a period of time, but we've got to start now.
"If we don't start now, it's going to be too late," Obama said. "If we don't start now, then it won't be in place three, four, five years from now and then we'll be waiting another decade or another 15 years or another 20 years to actually take on this problem."