The President is continuing to travel across the country to talk to Americans about his plan for health insurance reform. In Belgrade, Montana, today the President had a strong message
for insurance companies who unfairly deny coverage to Americans: "We are held hostage at any given moment by health insurance companies that deny coverage, or drop coverage, or charge fees that people can't afford at a time when they desperately need care. It's wrong. It's bankrupting families, it's bankrupting businesses. And we are going to fix it when we pass health insurance reform this year."
Some people who are happy with their current insurance plans may not think health insurance reform will benefit them. However, as the President explained, all of us can be victims of these unfair practices. That’s why reform will benefit everyone – by providing more security and stability for you and your family:
First, health insurance reform will mean a set of common-sense consumer protections for folks with health insurance. So those of you who have health insurance, this is what it will mean. Insurance companies will no longer be able to cancel your coverage because you get sick. (Applause.) That's what happened to Katie. It can't happen anymore.
If you do the responsible thing, if you pay your premiums each month so that you are covered in case of a crisis, when that crisis comes -- if you have a heart attack or your husband finds out he has cancer or your son or daughter is rushed to the hospital -- at the time when you're most vulnerable and most frightened, you can't be getting a phone call from your insurance company saying that your insurance is revoked. It turns out, once you got sick, they scoured your records looking for reasons to cancel your policy. They'd find a minor mistake on your insurance form that you submitted years ago. That can't be allowed to happen. (Applause.)
One report -- one report found that three insurance companies alone had canceled 20,000 policies in this way over the past few years. One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer discovered he hadn't reported gall stones he didn't know about. True story. Because his treatment was delayed, he died. A woman from Texas was diagnosed with an aggressive form of breast cancer, was scheduled for a double mastectomy. Three days before surgery, the insurance company canceled the policy, in part because she forgot to declare a case of acne. True story. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, the cancer had more than doubled in size.
And this is personal for me. I'll never forget my own mother, as she fought cancer in her final months, having to worry about whether the insurance company would refuse to pay for her treatment. The insurance company was arguing that she should have known that she had cancer when she took her new job -- even though it hadn't been diagnosed yet. If it could happen to her, it could happen to any one of us. It's wrong. And when we pass health insurance reform, we're going to put a stop to it once and for all. That is what Max Baucus is working on. (Applause.)
Number two: Insurance companies will be prohibited from denying coverage because of your medical history. A recent report found that in the past three years, more than 12 million Americans were discriminated against by insurance companies because of a preexisting condition. No one holds these companies accountable for these practices. But we will.
And insurance companies will no longer be able to place an arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. (Applause.) And that will help -- that will help 3,700 households in Montana. We'll place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, as well, because no one in America should be broke when they get sick. (Applause.) And finally -- finally, we'll require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies, because that saves money and that saves lives. (Applause.)
So that's what health care reform is all about. Right now we've got a health care system that all too often works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people. We want to change that.
The President was eager to take on questions from those who are critical of his plan. One skeptic wanted to know how health reform would be paid for without raising taxes on the middle class. The President explained that while we can’t get something from nothing, the money will not come off the backs of the middle class:
Look, you are absolutely right that I can't cover another 46 million people for free. You're right. I can't do that. So we're going to have to find some resources. If people who don't have health insurance are going to get some help, then we're going to have to find money from somewhere.
Now, what I've identified, and most of the committees have identified and agreed to, including Max Baucus's committee, is that there -- overall this bill will cost -- let's say it costs $800 billion to $900 billion. That's a lot of money. That's a lot of money. That's over 10 years, though, all right? So that's about $90 billion -- $80 billion to $90 billion a year.
About two-thirds of it -- two-thirds -- can be obtained by doing some of the things I already mentioned, like eliminating subsidies to insurance companies. So you're right, that's real money. I just think I would rather be giving that money to the young lady here who doesn't have health insurance and giving her some help, than giving it to insurance companies that are making record profits. (Applause.) Now, you may disagree. I just think that's a good way to spend our money.
There’s a misconception floating around that reform will harm small business, but the President outlined how his plan will help, not hurt, small businesses:
So there are two ways we want to help. Number one, we want the small business to be able to buy into the exchange. That allows you then to use the purchasing power of everybody who is in the exchange to get the best rates from the insurance companies. That right away would drive down the premiums that you'd have to pay.
And the second thing we want to do is for employers who are doing the right thing and providing health insurance that is real, then we want to give you a tax break so that it's easier for you to make your bottom line.
Now, this is something that a lot of small businesses would benefit from. Nobody is talking about it. And since small businesses are the place where you're seeing the fastest job growth, it makes sense for us to provide this kind of protection. This, I guarantee you, will end up being an important component of whatever we pass out of Washington.
The President and his administration will continue to take these questions head on, keep watching and keep an eye on our Reality Check site to sort out fact from fiction.