I wondered when Barack Obama was going to get back into campaign mode around health care. The answer seems to be: now. And he’s still pretty good at it. From Obama’s Arcadia University speech today (Video here.):
The insurance companies continue to ration health care based on who’s sick and who’s healthy; on who can pay and who can’t pay. That’s the status quo in America, and it is a status quo that is unsustainable for this country. We can’t have a system that works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people. (Applause.) We need to give families and businesses more control over their own health insurance. And that’s why we need to pass health care reform — not next year, not five years from now, not 10 years from now, but now.
Now, since we took this issue on a year ago, there have been plenty of folks in Washington who’ve said that the politics is just too hard. They’ve warned us we may not win. They’ve argued now is not the time for reform. It’s going to hurt your poll numbers. How is it going to affect Democrats in November? Don’t do it now.
My question to them is: When is the right time? (Applause.) If not now, when? If not us, who?
Think about it. We’ve been talking about health care for nearly a century. I’m reading a biography of Teddy Roosevelt right now. He was talking about it. Teddy Roosevelt!
We have failed to meet this challenge during periods of prosperity and also during periods of decline. Some people say, well, don’t do it right now because the economy is weak. When the economy was strong, we didn’t do it. We’ve talked about it during Democratic administrations and Republican administrations. I got all my Republican colleagues out there saying, well, no, no, no, we want to focus on things like cost. You had 10 years. What happened? What were you doing?
Every year, the problem gets worse. Every year, insurance companies deny more people coverage because they’ve got preexisting conditions. Every year, they drop more people’s coverage when they get sick right when they need it most. Every year, they raise premiums higher and higher and higher.
Just last month, Anthem Blue Cross in California tried to jack up rates by nearly 40 percent — 40 percent. Anybody’s paycheck gone up 40 percent?
Yes, it’s hard. It is hard. That’s because health care is complicated. Health care is a hard issue. It’s easily misrepresented. It’s easily misunderstood. So it’s hard for some members of Congress to make this vote. There’s no doubt about that. But you know what else is hard? What Leslie and her family are going through — that’s hard. The possibility that Natoma Canfield might lose her house because she’s about to lose her health insurance — that’s hard. Laura Klitzka in Green Bay having to worry about her cancer and her debt at the same time, trying to explain that to her kids — that’s hard. What’s hard is what millions of families and small businesses are going through because we allow the insurance industry to run wild in this country.
So let me remind everybody: Those of us in public office were not sent to Washington to do what’s easy. We weren’t sent there because of the big fancy title. … We weren’t sent there just so everybody can say how wonderful we are. We were sent there to do what was hard. We were sent there to take on the tough issues. We were sent there to solve the big challenges. And that’s why we’re there.
And at this moment — at this moment, we are being called upon to fulfill our duty to the citizens of this nation and to future generations.
So I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know how passing health care will play politically, but I do know that it’s the right thing to do. It’s right for our families. It’s right for our businesses. It’s right for the United States of America. And if you share that belief, I want you to stand with me and fight with me. And I ask you to help us get us over the finish line these next few weeks.
The need is great. The opportunity is here. Let’s seize reform. It’s within our grasp.