In Weekly Address, President Obama Says Health Care Reform Can’t Wait

By MichaelJames

Jul 18, 2009 12:34pm

ABC News' Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report:

The president, not surprisingly, continues his full-court press on health care, devoting his weekly address to urge lawmakers on Capitol Hill to pass health care reform before the August recess.

“This is what the debate in Congress is all about: Whether we’ll keep talking and tinkering and letting this problem fester as more families and businesses go under, and more Americans lose their coverage," the president said, "or whether we’ll seize this opportunity – one we might not have again for generations – and finally pass health insurance reform this year, in 2009.”

The president said, as he has all week, that there will be those who will oppose reform no matter what and cautioned people to not buy into their arguments.

“I know that once you’ve seen enough ads and heard enough people yelling on TV, you might begin to wonder whether there’s a grain of truth to what they’re saying.  So let me take a moment to answer a few of their arguments,” Obama said.

He then went point by point in an attempt to debunk what he deems arguments against reform – that under his plan, for instance, bureaucrats will choose your doctor (“Under our proposals, if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor.  If you like your current insurance, you keep that insurance.  Period, end of story,” he said) or that his plan really constitutes "some big plot" for socialized medicine ( “That’s not true either.  I don’t believe that government can or should run health care," he said).

"I will not sign on to any health plan that adds to our deficits over the next decade," the president pledged.

The Congressional Budget Office reported this week that the House Democrats' health care reform legislation "would result in a net increase in the federal budget deficit of $239 billion over the 2010-2019 period." (The White House and congressional Democrats have been voicing concern with CBO analyses, saying CBO doesn't factor in savings they anticipate will happen through, say, an emphasis on preventative health measures.)

President Obama again referenced the recent support of the American Medical Association and the American Nurses Association and called on the House and the Senate to “seize this opportunity and vote for reform.”

In the Republican response to the president's address, Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., claimed the congressional Democrats' plan "would increase spending by more than $2 trillion when fully implemented," and, "would empower Washington, not doctors and patients, to make health care decisions."
 
The basis for these claims was unclear.
 
Referring to cost savings the president has said he wants to achieve in Medicare, Kyl said, "The president and congressional Democrats have even proposed cutting Medicare to pay for their plan.  How can we justify dipping in to funds for seniors care to pay for a new government plan, especially since Medicare is already in financial trouble?" 
 
The $313 billion in Medicare and Medicaid savings President Obama has proposed would come from three big areas:  $110 billion from incorporating productivity adjustments and Medicare payments, $106 billion from reducing disproportionate hospital payments and $75 billion from better pricing of Medicare drugs.
 
But painting the starkest picture possible, Kyl described the Medicare savings as ones that "would ultimately lead to shortages, rationing and the elimination of private plan choices, something our seniors rightly fear."
 
Kyl charged that President Obama "and some Democrats insist we must rush this plan through. Why? Because the more Americans know about it, the more they oppose it."

- Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller

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