President Obama: Rally for Health Insurance Reform in Minneapolis

The President:
Hello, Minnesota! (applause) Hello, Minneapolis! (applause) Thank you. Thank you,
everybody. Are you fired up? (applause) Thank you. Thank you.
Thank you, everybody. Audience:
(chanting) Yes we can!
Yes we can! Yes we can! (applause) The President:
Thank you. Thank you, everybody.
All right, all right. Thank you. Everybody — everybody
take a seat, take a seat. Great to see you. It
is good to see you all. It’s good to be
back in Minnesota. (applause) Now, before I do anything else, I want to get to some
very important news. I hear the Gophers have their
home opener in their brand new stadium a little later today. (applause) I want to make sure you
know I wish the Gophers luck. (applause) But they are playing Air Force, and I have to fly back
home on one of their planes in a few hours. (laughter) So I got to be careful
about what I say. We’ve got some wonderful people
who are here today with me, and I just want to make some
special acknowledgments. First of all, your two
outstanding senators, Senator Amy Klobuchar
and Senator Al Franken, are in the house. (applause) My great friend who was
part of the Obama for President movement before I
decided to run for President, R.T. Rybak, Mayor of
Minneapolis, is in the house. (applause) The Mayor of the great
city of St. Paul, Chris Coleman is in the house. (applause) Your Attorney General Lori
Swanson is in the house. (applause) Your State Auditor
Rebecca Otto is here. (applause) And one of the finest
public servants in the country, my Secretary of Health
and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius is here. (applause) Also, the biggest Obama fan
in the country is in the house. (applause) Love this guy. Michelle has
a picture where she looks like Sasha, thanks to this guy. (laughter) He’s a great supporter, and
it’s great to see you again. (applause) You know, I don’t know if
any of you caught it on television — you may have been
watching “So You Think You Can Dance” — (laughter) — but — Michelle loves
that show, by the way. But the other night
I gave a speech to Congress about health care. (applause) And I have to say, I can
already see that this crowd is a lot more fun. (laughter and applause) But listen. I didn’t go to
Congress just to speak to senators or representatives. I went to speak on behalf
of the American people. (applause) Because, you see, I ran
for this office because I believed it was time for a
government that once again made possible the dreams of
middle-class Americans — that we’re looking out for ordinary
people — (applause) — a government that understands the
quiet struggles that you wrestle with at the kitchen table when
you’re going through all the bills or when you’re lying awake
at night at the end of a long day and trying to figure out
what you’re going to do about health care for your children or
what you’re going to do about the situation with
your mortgage; worrying about how stable your
job is and what’s happening with the economy; seniors
who are worrying about their retirement security. You know and I know that health
care is one of those fundamental struggles — (applause) —
because if you’re one of the tens of millions of Americans
who have no health insurance, you live every day
just one accident or illness away from bankruptcy. And contrary to some
of the myths out there, these aren’t primarily people
who are deep in poverty. A lot of those folks
are on Medicaid. These are people who
are working every day. These are
middle-class Americans. (applause) Maybe your employer
doesn’t offer coverage. Maybe you’re self-employed and
you can’t afford it because it costs you three times more
in the marketplace than it does for big companies. (applause) Maybe you’re one of the
millions of Americans who’s denied coverage because of a
previous illness or condition — no fault of your own, but the
insurance companies decide it’s too risky or too expensive
for you to cover. In the last 12 months alone,
6 million more Americans lost their health insurance
— 6 million more. Today, we received
more disturbing news. A new report from the Treasury
Department found that nearly half of all Americans under 65
will lose their health coverage at some point over
the next 10 years. Think about that. (Boos!) More than one-third will
go without coverage for longer than one year.
We’ve got to do something. (applause) We’ve got to do something
because it can happen to anyone. There but for the
grace of God go I. It could happen to anyone. But I don’t need to tell you
that our health care problems don’t stop with the uninsured. How many of you who have
insurance have ever worried that you might lose it if you lost
your jobs or you changed jobs or you had to move? (applause) How many stories have
you heard about folks whose insurance company decided to
drop their coverage or water it down when they get sick
and need it the most? (applause) How many of you know somebody
who paid their premiums every month only to find out
that their insurance company wouldn’t cover the full
cost of their care like they thought they would get? (applause) We’ve all heard these stories. There’s the father I met in
Colorado whose child was diagnosed with severe hemophilia
the day after he was born. Now, they had insurance,
but there was a cap on their coverage. So once the child’s medical
bills began to pile up, the father was left to
frantically search for another option, or face
tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills. Another woman from Texas was
about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company
canceled her policy because, they said, she forgot to declare
a case of acne — true story. (Boos!) By the time she had
her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer had
more than doubled in size. Small business people —
I got a letter just this week from a small businessman. He said, “I don’t
know what to do. I’ve always provided health
insurance for my families, but here, the attached bill,
shows that the premiums have gone up 48 percent
in the last year, and I think that I’m probably
going to have to stop providing health insurance
for my employees. I don’t want to, but
I don’t have a choice.” These stories are wrong.
They are heartbreaking. Nobody should be treated that
way in the United States of America, and that’s why
we’re going to bring about change this year. (applause) It has now been nearly
a century since Teddy Roosevelt first called
for health reform. It’s been attempted
by nearly every President and Congress since. And our failure to get it
done — year after year, decade after decade — it has
placed a burden on families, on businesses, and
on taxpayers, and we can’t stand it any longer.
We cannot sustain it any longer. (applause) If we do nothing, your
premiums will continue to rise faster than your wages. If we do nothing, more
businesses will close down; fewer will face — fewer will be
able to open in the first place. If we do nothing, we will
eventually spend more on Medicare and Medicaid
than every other government program combined. That’s not an option for the
United States of America. So Minnesota, I may not be the
first President to take up the cause of health care reform, but
I am determined to be the last. We are going to get
it done this year. (applause) We are going to get
it done this year. The good news — here’s the
good news: We are closer now to reform than we’ve ever been. We’ve debated this issue
for better than a year now. And there’s actually some solid
agreement on about 80 percent of what needs to be done.
That’s never happened before. (applause) We’ve got — our
overall efforts have been supported by an unprecedented
coalition of doctors and nurses and hospitals and seniors’
groups — even drug companies, many of whom were opposed
to reform in the past. This time they
recognize, you know what, this is not going to be stopped;
we’ve got to get on board. Now, what we’ve also seen in
these last few months is the same partisan spectacle that has
left so many of you disappointed in Washington for so long. (applause) We’ve heard scare tactics
instead of honest debate. Too many have used this
opportunity to score short-term political points instead of
working together to solve long-term challenges. (applause) I don’t know if
you agree with me, but I think the time
for bickering is over. (applause) The time for games has passed.
Now is the time for action. Now is the time to deliver on
health care for every American. (applause) Audience:
(chanting) Yes we can!
Yes we can! Yes we can! The President:
Now, because even after
the speech there’s been a lot of misinformation out there,
I want you to know about this plan that I announced on
Wednesday so that when you go talk to your neighbors
and your friends, and you’re at the water cooler
or buying Starbucks or whatever it is that you’re doing —
(laughter) — I want you to be able to say to people,
here’s what’s going on. The plan I announced will
provide more security and stability to those who
have health insurance. (applause) It will provide insurance
to those who don’t. (applause) And it will slow the growth
of health care costs for our families, our businesses,
and our government. (applause) Let me give you some details. First of all, if you’re among
the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have
health insurance through your job, or you’ve got health
insurance through Medicare or Medicaid or the VA, nothing
— nothing in this plan will require you or your
employer to change your coverage or your doc. All right? I want you to be
clear about that. Let me repeat: Nothing in this
plan requires you to change what you have if you’re
happy with it. What this plan will do
is to make your insurance work better for you. (applause) So under this plan
— under this plan, it will be against the law for
insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a
preexisting condition. (applause) When I sign this bill, it will be against the law for
insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get
sick, or water it down when you need it the most. (applause) They will no longer be
able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage
you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. (applause) We will place a limit on
how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses,
because in the United States of America, nobody should go
broke because they got sick. (applause) And insurance companies
— insurance companies will be required to
cover, at no extra charge, routine checkups
and preventive care, like mammograms and
colonoscopies — (applause) — because there’s no reason we
shouldn’t be catching diseases like breast cancer or colon
cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves
money, it saves lives. (applause) Now, if you’re one of
the 10 million — tens of millions of Americans who don’t
currently have health insurance, the second part of this
plan is going to finally offer you affordable choices. So if you lose your job or
change jobs or want to start a business, you’ll be
able to get coverage. (applause) You will have
confidence that affordable coverage is out there for
you, and we will do this not, contrary to what folks
say, by some government takeover of health care. We will do this by setting up
a new insurance exchange — a marketplace where individuals
and small businesses will be able to shop for an
affordable health insurance plan that works for them. And because there will be one
big group — because there will be one big group, these
uninsured Americans will have the leverage to drive down costs
and get a much better deal than they get right now. (applause) That’s how large
companies do it. That’s how government employees
get their health insurance. That’s how members
of Congress get good deals on their insurance. You should get the same deal
that members of Congress get. (applause) Now, if you still can’t
afford the lower-priced insurance available
in the exchange, we’re going to provide you or a
small business owner tax credits so that they can do it. And in the first few years that
it takes up to the — it takes to set up the exchange —
because it will take a few years to get this all set up, even
after it passes — but in the meantime, we want to make sure
people get some immediate help, so we’re going to immediately
offer Americans with preexisting conditions who can’t
get coverage right now, we want to give them some
low-cost coverage that will provide them protection
from financial ruin if they become seriously ill. (applause) Now, I’ve also said that
one of the options in the insurance exchange, one of the
options — most of the folks who are going to be offering
insurance through the exchange are going to be private insurers
— Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna, all these. Well, I think one of
the options should be a public insurance option. (applause) Now let me be clear.
Let me be clear. Let me be clear: It
would only be an option. Nobody would be
forced to choose it. No one with insurance
would be affected by it. But what it would do is,
it would provide more choice and more competition. (applause) It would keep pressure
on private insurers to keep their policies affordable,
to treat their customers better. I mean, think about it. It’s the same way that public
colleges and universities provide additional choice
and competition to students. That doesn’t inhibit private
colleges and universities from thriving out there. The same should be true
on the health care front. (applause) Now, Minnesota, I have
said that I’m open to different ideas on
how to set this up. But I’m not going to back down
from the basic principle that if Americans can’t find
affordable coverage, we’re going to
provide you a choice. (applause) And I will make sure that
no government bureaucrat or insurance company bureaucrat
gets between you and the coverage that you need.
That’s a promise I will make. (applause) Now — now, a lot of you
might think this plan sounds pretty good, or when you’re
talking to your friends or neighbors, they might say,
yes, that sounds all right, but let me ask you this: How
are you going to pay for it? And that’s a legitimate concern. We’ve got — we inherited some
big deficits and some big debt. And we’ve had a big economic
crisis that has required us to take some extraordinary steps. So we’re going to have to get
control of our federal budget. We have to do it. So it’s a legitimate question,
but here’s what you need to know: First of all, I will not
sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits — either
now or in the future. No ifs, ands, or buts. (applause) Part of the reason I
faced these trillion-dollar deficits when I walked into
the door of the White House is because there were a lot of
initiatives over the last decade that weren’t paid for
— from the Iraq war to tax breaks for the wealthy. I will not make the same mistake
when it comes to health care. (applause) Second of all, we’ve
estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding
savings within the existing health care system — money
that’s already being spent but spent badly, wasted and abused. Right now, too much of your
taxpayer dollars and too much of your savings, frankly, are
spent on health care that doesn’t make us healthier. That’s not my judgment — that
is the judgment of medical experts and doctors and nurses
— health care professionals all across the country. We love nurses. I love them. (applause) As I said on Wednesday night, this is also true when it comes
to Medicare and Medicaid. And Medicare is one of these
issues that has been really distorted in the debate. So I want — I spoke directly
to seniors on Wednesday; I want to repeat what I said. We have stood up for four
decades for the principle that after a lifetime of hard work,
our seniors should not be left to struggle with medical
bills they can’t pay. (applause) That’s the essence of Medicare.
That’s how Medicare was born. It remains a sacred trust. It needs to be passed on from
one generation to the next. That’s why not a dollar of the
Medicare trust fund will be used to pay for this plan
— not one dollar. (applause) We will not be lowering
benefits for senior citizens. The only thing that we will be
doing is eliminating hundreds of billions of dollars
of waste and fraud, as well as subsidies
that are going to insurance company HMOs — (applause) — subsidies that pad their
profits but don’t improve care. The other thing we want to do is
we want to create an independent commission of doctors and
medical experts charged with identifying more waste
in the years ahead. And that’s going to ensure
that Americans, seniors, get the benefits that
they’ve been promised. We’ll ensure that Medicare is
there for future generations, and we can use some of the
savings we get to actually fill the gap of costs on
prescription drugs that so many seniors are
struggling with. We can save them
thousands of dollars on prescription drug costs. That’s what the plan will
do for senior citizens. (applause) So don’t pay attention
to these scary stories about how your
benefits will be cut. That will not
happen on my watch. (applause) In fact, the folks who
are making the accusations, they’re the ones who have
been talking about cutting Medicare in the past.
I will protect Medicare. (applause) And here’s the best thing
— and this is important, especially for Minnesota. Because Medicare is such a big
part of the health care system, making that program more
efficient can help usher in changes in the way that we
deliver health care that reduces costs for everybody. We have long known that some
places, including Minnesota, offer high-quality care
at costs below average. (applause) Look at what the Mayo
Clinic is able to do. It’s got the best quality and
the lowest cost of just about any system in the country. (applause) So what we want to do is
we want to help the whole country learn from
what Mayo is doing. (applause) We want to help the whole
country learn some of the good things that are
going on in Minnesota. That will save everybody money. The commission can help
encourage the adoption of common-sense best practices
— everything from reducing infection rates for hospitals
to helping teach doctors how to work together so when you
go to the doctor’s office, you don’t have to take a test
each time you see a doctor; you take one test and they
e-mail it to every doctor. Common-sense stuff like that. (applause) Now, this is the
plan I’m proposing. It incorporates ideas from
Democrats and Republicans. And I’m going to
keep on seeking common ground in the weeks ahead. And I’ve said to
everybody in Congress, if you come to me with a
set of serious proposals, I’m going to be there to listen
and my door is going to be open. But I also said — some of you
heard me on Wednesday night — I will not waste time with people
who think that it’s just good politics to kill health care. (applause) I’m not going to — I’m
not going to allow the special interests to use the
same old tactics to keep things the way they are. I’m not going to let people
misrepresent what’s in my plan. (applause) I will not accept
the status quo. (applause) Not this time. Not now. Minnesota, we are closer to
reform than we’ve ever been before, but this
is the hard part. This is when the special
interests and the insurance companies and the folks
who think, you know, this is a good way to bring
Obama down – (boos) — this is when they’re going to fight
with everything they’ve got. This is when they’ll spread all
kinds of wild rumors designed to scare and intimidate people.
That’s why I need your help. (applause) Audience:
(chanting) Yes we can!
Yes we can! Yes we can! The President:
You know, there have
been — there have been some of the pundits in
Washington who have been saying, well, maybe you’ve been
trying to do too much. Audience:
No! The President:
Maybe you’ve been
pushing too far too fast. Audience:
No! The President:
And I try to remind
them, I said, listen, I never said change
would be easy. (applause) Change is hard.
It’s always been hard. When FDR — when FDR decided
that Social Security was something that seniors needed —
(applause) — when FDR decided — when FDR introduced
Social Security, you know what happened?
They called it socialism. But senior citizens decided
that, you know what? If I’ve got some protection
in my golden years, that’s something that’s
worth fighting for. (applause) When Medicare — when
Medicare was introduced as an idea, they said this
is going to be a government takeover of Medicare. But imagine what seniors would
be dealing with right now if they didn’t have Medicare. Every time we’ve made progress
it’s because ordinary people banded together and they
stood up and they said, we’ve got to make progress, and
we’re going to push and we’re going to prod until Washington finally reacts,
finally responds. (applause) I’ve always believed —
because I’ve always believed that change doesn’t
come from the top down; it comes from the bottom up. It doesn’t start
in Washington, D.C.; it begins in places like
Minneapolis, it begins in places like St. Paul. (applause) It begins with you
sharing your stories, fighting for something better. (applause) That’s how change happens. That’s what’s
happening right now. (applause) Audience:
(chanting) Yes we can!
Yes we can! Yes we can! The President:
You know, I asked you
— I asked you at the beginning of the rally
whether you were fired up. (applause) Some of you may have heard
where that story comes from. But for those of
you who don’t know, I want to just tell
this story real quick. My staff loves this story,
so they always tell me, “Tell that story.” (laughter) But it bears on what’s happening
with health care today. This is back at the
beginning, when I was running for President. Nobody thought I could win;
nobody could pronounce my name. (laughter) Nobody except R.T., that was
the only person who believed. (applause) So I went down to —
it was right at the beginning of the campaign. I went down to South Carolina to
a legislative conference where I was supposed to be
one of the speakers. And I was sitting next to a
state representative there — nobody was that
excited to see me. (laughter) You know, I was — but I
really needed some support and endorsements because South
Carolina was an early state. So I said to this
state representative, “Will you endorse my campaign?” And she looked
at me and she said, “I will endorse your campaign
if you come to my hometown of Greenwood, South Carolina.” So I had had some wine and I
was feeling kind of desperate. (laughter) I said, “Yes, I’ll
come to Greenwood. Be happy to do it.” Only to find out that
Greenwood is like an hour and a half from everyplace else. (laughter) You can’t fly into Greenwood. About a month later, I’ve been
campaigning in Iowa for weeks — (applause) — haven’t seen my family — got
some Iowa folks in the house? (applause) I’m exhausted. I get into
Greenville, South Carolina, about midnight. I get to my hotel about 1:00 a.m. I’m dragging to the hotel. I’m carrying my bags,
ready to hit the pillow. And suddenly my
staff says, “Sir?” I said, “What?” (laughter) They said, “Sir, you have to
be in the car at 6:30 a.m. tomorrow — in the morning.” (laughter) I said, “Why is that?” They said, “Because
you’ve got to go to Greenwood like you promised.” Next morning, I wake up and
I feel awful, I feel terrible. I’m exhausted. And I stagger over to the
window to pull open the blinds, and it’s pouring down rain
outside, terrible day. I go out and I get some coffee
and open up the newspaper — bad story about me in
The New York Times. (laughter) I pack up, I go downstairs. As I’m walking to the
car my umbrella blows open and I get drenched. (laughter) So by the time I’m in
the car I’m wet and I’m sleepy and I’m mad. (laughter) And I drive — and we drive
and we drive and we drive — hour and a half, we
just keep on driving. (laughter) Finally we get to Greenwood
— although you don’t know that you’re in
Greenwood right away. (laughter) It’s not like Minneapolis. (laughter) So there’s a little
field house in a park, and we go into the
field house, I walk in, I get a little more wet. I walk in — lo and
behold, 20 people there. (laughter) Twenty people. And I’m already
thinking about the fact I’ve got another hour and a half
I’ve got to drive back. (laughter) And they’re all kind of
damp and they don’t look like they’re that happy to be there. The state rep had dragged
them to the meeting. But that’s okay.
I have a job to do. I’m running for President,
I shake their hand, I say, “How do you do, what do
you do, nice to meet you.” Suddenly I hear this voice
should out behind me: “Fired up?” (laughter) And I almost jumped
out of my shoes. (laughter) But everybody else acts
like this is normal and they all say, “Fired up!” And then I hear this
voice: “Ready to go?” And the people around me,
they just say, “Ready to go!” I don’t know what’s going on. So I look behind me, and there’s
this little woman there. She’s about 5’2″, 5’3″, she’s
maybe 50, 60 years old. And she looks like she’s
dressed for church. She’s got a big church hat. (laughter) And she’s just grinning
at me, just smiling. And she points at me
and she says “Fired up?” (laughter and applause) Wait, wait, the
story gets better here. It turns out that she is a city
councilwoman from Greenwood named Edith Childs — that’s her
name — and she’s also known as the chant lady because she does
this chant wherever she goes. She goes, “Fired up?”
“Fired up!” “Ready to go?” “Ready to go!” (laughter) And she does this at
every event she goes to. She’s also, by the way,
we discovered later, she also moonlights as a private
detective but that’s a — (laughter) — true story. True story. But
she’s well known for her chant, so for the next five minutes,
she starts chanting. She says, “Fired up?” And
everybody says, “Fired up!” “Ready to go?” “Ready to go!” And this just keeps on going. And I realize I’m being
upstaged by this woman. (laughter) And I’m — she’s getting
all the attention, and I’m standing there looking
at my staff and they’re shrugging their shoulders. (laughter) But here’s the
thing, Minneapolis. After about a minute, maybe two,
I’m feeling kind of fired up. (laughter and applause) I’m feeling — I’m feeling
like I’m ready to go. (applause) And so — so for
the rest of the day, every time I saw my staff,
I’d say, “Are you fired up?” They’d say, “I’m fired up.” “Are you ready to go?” They’d say, “I’m ready to go.” (applause) And it goes to show you how
one voice can change a room. (applause) And if it changes a room
it can change a city. And if it can change a
city it can change a state. And if it can change a state
it can change a nation. If it changes the nation
it can change the world. (applause) It can bring health
care to every American. It can lower our costs. It can make your
insurance more secure. I want to know, Minnesota,
are you fired up? Audience:
Fired up! The President:
Ready to go? Audience:
Ready to go! The President:
Fired up? Audience:
Fired up! The President:
Ready to go? Audience:
Ready to go! The President:
Fired up? Audience:
Fired up! The President:
Ready to go? Audience:
Ready to go! The President:
They can’t stop us.
Let’s go get this done. Thank you, everybody. God bless you.

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