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Remarks of President Barack Obama at the White House Forum on Health Reform
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much, Travis, for the wonderful introduction. Thank you for Melody Barnes, who has done more than anyone to help coordinate this forum and its extraordinary work. And so we appreciate her leadership.
We’re here today to discuss one of the greatest threats not just to the well-being of our families and the prosperity of our businesses, but to the very foundation of our economy — and that’s the exploding costs of health care in America today.
In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. An additional 9 million Americans have joined the ranks of the uninsured. The cost of health care now causes a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. Even for folks who are weathering this economic storm, and have health care right now, all it takes is one stroke of bad luck — an accident or an illness, a divorce, a lost job — to become one of the nearly 46 million uninsured or the millions who have health care, but really can’t afford what they’ve got.
We didn’t get here by accident. The problems we face today are a direct consequence of actions that we failed to take yesterday. Since Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform nearly a century ago, we have talked and we have tinkered. We have tried and fallen short, we’ve stalled for time, and again we have failed to act because of Washington politics or industry lobbying.
And today, there are those who say we should defer health care reform once again — that at a time of economic crisis, we simply can’t afford to fix our health care system, as well.
Well, let me be clear: The same soaring costs that are straining families’ budgets are sinking our businesses and eating up our government’s budget, too. Too many small businesses can’t insure their employees. Major American corporations are struggling to compete with their foreign counterparts. And companies of all sizes are shipping their jobs overseas or shutting their doors for good.
Medicare costs are consuming our federal budget; I don’t have to tell members of Congress this. Medicaid is overwhelming our state budgets; I don’t need to tell governors and state legislatures that.
At the fiscal summit that we held here last week, the one thing on which everyone agreed was that the greatest threat to America’s fiscal health is not Social Security, though that’s a significant challenge; it’s not the investments that we’ve made to rescue our economy during this crisis. By a wide margin, the biggest threat to our nation’s balance sheet is the skyrocketing cost of health care. It’s not even close.
That’s why we cannot delay this discussion any longer. That’s why today’s forum is so important — because health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it’s a fiscal imperative. If we want to create jobs and rebuild our