This afternoon the President continued his conversation on health reform with a roundtable at the Children's National Medical Center, a conversation that has taken him to every region of the country and encompassed every imaginable perspective on health care reform.
It has been a conversation that has brought more people and more stakeholders into the fold supporting strong reform than ever before, and taken us further down that road than ever before. And so it is no surprise, perhaps, that those who feel they would profit financially or politically have come out swinging furiously to try to kill reform.
Surrounded by those who heroically do everything they can to help the young and the ill, today the President made clear
that whereas those special interests and their voices in Congress have stopped change in the past, they would not win this time:
And over the past decade, premiums have doubled in America; out-of-pocket costs have shot up by a third; deductibles have continued to climb. And yet, even as America's families have been battered by spiraling health care costs, health insurance companies and their executives have reaped windfall profits from a broken system.
Now, we've talked this problem to death, year after year. But unless we act -- and act now -- none of this will change. Just a quick statistic I heard about this hospital: Just a few years ago, there were approximately 50,000 people coming into the emergency room. Now they've got 85,000. There's been almost a doubling of emergency room care in a relatively short span of time, which is putting enormous strains on the system as a whole. That's the status quo, and it's only going to get worse.
If we do nothing, then families will spend more and more of their income for less and less care. The number of people who lose their insurance because they've lost or changed jobs will continue to grow. More children will be denied coverage on account of asthma or a heart condition. Jobs will be lost, take-home pay will be lower, businesses will shutter, and we will continue to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on insurance company boondoggles and inefficiencies that add to our financial burdens without making us any healthier.
So the need for reform is urgent and it is indisputable. No one denies that we're on an unsustainable path. We all know there are more efficient ways of doing it. We just -- I spoke to the chief information officer here at the hospital and he talked about some wonderful ways in which we could potentially gather up electronic medical records and information for every child not just that comes to this hospital but in the entire region, and how much money could be saved and how the health of these kids could be improved. But it requires an investment.
Now, there are some in this town who are content to perpetuate the status quo, are in fact fighting reform on behalf of powerful special interests. There are others who recognize the problem, but believe -- or perhaps, hope -- that we can put off the hard work of insurance reform for another day, another year, another decade.
Just the other day, one Republican senator said -- and I'm quoting him now -- "If we're able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him." Think about that. This isn't about me. This isn't about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America's families, breaking America's businesses, and breaking America's economy.
And we can't afford the politics of delay and defeat when it comes to health care. Not this time. Not now. There are too many lives and livelihoods at stake. There are too many families who will be crushed if insurance premiums continue to rise three times as fast as wages. There are too many businesses that will be forced to shed workers, scale back benefits, or drop coverage unless we get spiraling health care costs under control.
(President Barack Obama roundtable with health care providers at Children's Hospital, July 20, 2009. Official White House Photograph by Pete Souza)