WASHINGTON — Congress must “act now” on health-care reform, and “owes” the country an up or down vote, President Barack Obama said in his weekly Saturday morning address.
Reform will give consumers more control over their health care “by holding insurance companies more accountable,” Obama said, adding that failure to act means companies will continue to “arbitrarily and massively” raise premiums.
“They will continue to drop people’s coverage when they need it. They will continue to refuse coverage based on pre- existing conditions,” Obama said.
The weekly address comes as the battle over health-care reform enters its endgame on Capitol Hill, with the president and congressional Republicans digging in their heels. Obama is scheduled to make fresh pushes for a comprehensive bill this week. The president expects to “get something done” by March 18, the day he leaves for a trip to Indonesia, Guam and Australia, a spokesman said.
The current legislative proposal would end the insurance industry’s “worst practices,” lower costs for millions, and increase coverage for the uninsured, the president said, adding that those who like their current insurance will be able to keep it.
“If we act now, all of this will happen this year. Millions of lives will improve. Some will be saved,” Obama said. “But we also know what the future will look like if we don’t act — if we let this opportunity pass for another year, or another decade, or another generation. More Americans will lose their family’s health insurance if they switch jobs or lose their job. More small businesses will be forced to choose between health care and hiring. More insurance companies will raise premiums and deny coverage. And the rising cost of Medicare and Medicaid will sink our government deeper and deeper into debt.”
Also in the weekly address, Obama criticized Republicans for stalling reform.
“I’ve said that I’m willing to incorporate some ideas offered by Republicans, and we’re eliminating special provisions that had no place in health care reform,” Obama said. “Now, despite all the progress and improvements we’ve made, Republicans in Congress insist that the only acceptable course on health care is to start over. But you know what? The insurance companies aren’t starting over.”
In the weekly Republican address, Rep. Parker Griffith, R-Ala., a retired doctor who switched parties, said Democrats are trying to “jam through a massive government takeover of health care,” and that Americans want Congress to start over with a “clean sheet of paper.”
“President Obama, (House) Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid refuse to listen to the American people. For them, health care reform has become less about the best reforms and more about what best fits their ‘Washington knows best’ mentality — less about helping patients and more about scoring political points,” Griffith said.
He added that using the legislative tool known as “reconciliation,” which is a fast-track legislative maneuver used to stop filibusters in the Senate, would enable Democrats “to make a few last-minute backroom deals and rely on only Democratic votes.”