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ago, when I took office in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression,
I promised you two things. The first was that there would be better days ahead. And
the second was that the road to recovery would be long, and sometimes bumpy.
That was brought home again yesterday. We learned that in November, our economy saw
its first month of job gains in nearly two years – but last month, we lost more than
we gained. Now, we know that no single month makes a trend, and job losses for the final
quarter of 2009 were one-tenth what they were in the first quarter. But until we see a
trend of good, sustainable job creation, we will be relentless in our efforts to put America
back to work. That task goes even deeper than replacing
the seven million jobs that have been lost over the past two years. We need to rebuild
our economy in such a way that our families can feel a measure of security again. Too
many of the folks I’ve talked with this year, and whose stories I read in letters
at night, tell me that they’ve known their own private recessions since long before economists
declared one – and they’ll still feel the recession long after economists have declared
it over. That’s because, for decades, Washington
avoided doing what was right in favor of doing what was easy. And the result was an economy
where some made out well, but the middle class too often took a beating.
Over the past decade, the income of the average household actually declined, and we lost as
many jobs as we created. Hardworking folks who did everything right suddenly found themselves
forced to downscale their dreams because of economic factors beyond their control. We’re
talking about simple dreams. American dreams. A good job with a good wage. A secure and
dignified retirement. Stable health care so you don’t go broke just because you get
sick. The chance to give our kids a better shot than we got.
That’s why, as we begin to emerge from this crisis, we will not return to the complacency
that helped cause it. Even as we focus on putting America back to work today, we’re
building a new foundation for our economy to create the good, lasting jobs and shared
prosperity of tomorrow. We’re making historic investments in science
and in a clean energy economy that will generate and keep the jobs and industries of the future
right here in America. We’re reforming our education system, so
that our kids are fully prepared to compete with workers anywhere in the world and win
the race for the 21st century. We’re fixing our broken health insurance
system that’s crushing families, eating away at workers’ take-home pay, and nailing
small businesses with double-digit premium increases.
And that’s what I’d like to focus on for a minute. After a long and thorough debate,
we are on the verge of passing health insurance reform that will finally offer Americans the
security of knowing they’ll have quality, affordable health care whether they lose their
job, change jobs, move, or get sick. The worst practices of the insurance industry
will be banned forever. And costs will finally come down for families, businesses, and our
government. Now, it’ll take a few years to fully implement
these reforms in a responsible way. But what every American should know is that once
I sign health insurance reform into law, there are dozens of protections and benefits that
will take effect this year. Uninsured Americans with a pre-existing illness
or condition will finally be able to purchase coverage they can afford.
Children with pre-existing conditions will no longer be refused coverage, and young adults
will be able to stay on their parents’ policy until they’re 26 or 27 years old.
Small business owners who can’t afford to cover their employees will be immediately
offered tax credits to purchase coverage. Early retirees who receive coverage from their
employers will see their coverage protected and their premiums go down.
Seniors who fall into the coverage gap known as the donut hole will receive discounts of
up to 50 percent on their prescriptions as we begin to close that gap altogether.
And every patient’s choice of doctor will be protected, along with access to emergency
care. Here’s what else will happen within the
first year. Insurance plans will be required to offer free preventive care to their customers
– so that we can start catching preventable illnesses and diseases on the front end.
They’ll no longer be allowed to impose restrictive annual limits on the amount of coverage you
receive or lifetime limits on the amount of benefits you receive. They’ll be prohibited
from dropping your coverage when you get sick and need it most. And there will be a new,
independent appeals process for anyone who feels they were unfairly denied a claim by
their insurance company. In short, once I sign health insurance reform
into law, doctors and patients will have more control over their health care decisions,
and insurance company bureaucrats will have less. All told, these changes represent
the most sweeping reforms and toughest restrictions on insurance companies that this country has
ever known. That’s how we’ll make 2010 a healthier and more secure year for every
American – for those who have health insurance, and those who don’t.
We enter a new decade, now, with new perils – but we’re going to meet them. It’s
also a time of tremendous promise – and we’re going to seize it. We will rebuild
the American Dream for our middle class and put the American economy on a stronger footing
for the future. And this year, I am as hopeful and as confident as ever that we’re going
to rise to this moment the same way that generations of Americans always have: as one nation, and
one people. Thanks for listening. Š ‹ ô B* OJ PJ QJ ph&&& É ´
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