THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
RADIO ADDRESS BY THE PRESIDENT
The Roosevelt Room
10:06 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. In the next few days, you'll have a chance to pick up what may be the most important book of information you'll read for yourself, your children, your parents, and others you care about. It's a book that's also very important for the future of our nation. The book is called "Health Security: The President's Report To The American People." And while it deals with a very complex issue -- the overhaul and reform of our health care system -- it does so in straightforward, very human terms.
The book describes our plan to solve the nation's health care crisis by guaranteeing every working American comprehensive health care that's always there, that can never be taken away. While many people worked hard on this book -- especially the First Lady and her Task Force on Health Care Reform -- in many ways, the book was written by you, the American people. For a long time, since I was the governor of my state, I've been talking with Americans who, against their will, become all to familiar with the failings of our health care system. Americans caught without insurance or with inadequate insurance, when they or a loved one became ill, and when they needed the coverage the most. People who had their bank accounts emptied, their trust in the system betrayed, and too often their hearts broken.
Many of you listening today know someone who has fallen through the cracks of our health care system. These cracks have become chasms that swallow hard-working Americans. More than 37 million Americans don't have health insurance at all, and 25 million more have very inadequate coverage with very high deductibles.
Every month, 100,000 Americans lose their health coverage permanently. Who are these people caught in this broken system? They are a working mother with a sick child who had to buy her own insurance and who, every month, must ask herself: Do I pay the rent or the medical bills? A seventh grade teacher with breast cancer whose insurance provider disagreed with doctors over her care. The teacher had to run herself into debt to pay for her own chemotherapy. A doctor, frustrated by miles of red tape and forms that steal time he should have with his patients.
These stories are not unique. Here at the White House, Hillary and I have had over 700,000 letters about health care and 10,000 more pour in every week. Every one of them is a cry for action. So now we have a plan for action. Our health security legislation is a detailed bill to provide comprehensive, universal coverage for our people. Of course, it's only fair to ask who pays and how much.
There's been some confusion on this, so today let me give it to you straight. Under our plan, 60 percent of all the American people will pay the same or less to get the same or better benefits. I'll repeat that: Six out of 10 of all Americans, and even more as the reforms begin to take effect and cost increases go down, will pay the same or less for the same or better benefits.
About 25 percent of our people -- people who are now underinsured or people without insurance at all who can afford to pay, will pay a little more for coverage. But many of them will actually pay less in medical bills.
Right now, there are lots of people with cheap premiums, because their deductibles, their up-front costs are so high --$2,500, $3,000, even $5,000. Under our plan, their premiums may be a little higher, but their out-of-pocket costs will be lower.
Finally, about 15 percent, and only 15 percent of the American people or their employers, will pay more for the same benefits. These are the young, healthy, usually single Americans whose insurance companies gamble under the current plan that they won't get sick. Is it fair to ask them to pay a little more so we can have broad-based community rating? I believe it is. Why? Because there are lots of young people who can't get insurance at all, because all these younger people will be older themselves someday with children, and they'll need this fair rate.
And when these young people do get sick or have an accident, or even marry someone with a preexisting health condition, well, then, all bets are off. The insurance company may double their rates or drop them altogether. With our plan, their premiums may be a little higher -- just a few dollars a month, but they'll be guaranteed coverage no matter what happens. And a guarantee that rates won't rise unchecked.
That's another thing I want to emphasize. Under our plan, there is a limit to what anyone can have taken away from them in health care. That's not true today. So 100 percent of the American people get something no one has today -- absolute security. This plan is based on the principles of security, simplicity, savings, maintaining the quality of our health care system, maintaining and even increasing choice for consumers of health care, and insisting on more responsibility.
We focus on keeping people healthy, not just treating them after they get sick. We reduce paperwork and crack down on fraud. We protect the right to choose doctors and preserve and strengthen Medicare.
Right now I'll say again: There is no guarantee for anyone that health care will be there tomorrow. One of our citizens wrote us and said even employed, insured people are one major illness away from financial disaster.
Before the end of the year, I want our lawmakers to pass a bill to guarantee health security for every American. That's the end of the congressional session next year. And I want to be clear on this. We'll debate many points of this plan. But this point must remain nonnegotiable: The health care plan must guarantee every American a comprehensive package of benefits that can never be taken away. And I will only sign a bill into law that meets that fundamental commitment to the American people. We have delayed making good on it for too long.
Our lawmakers have a big job ahead, but they won't be alone. We've seen extraordinary support from both parties to reform health care. And I promise to work with Congress every step of the way. As a responsible citizen, you have a job, too. Learn all you can about this plan. Start with a book called "Health Security," and join the debate. Thanks for listening.
END 10:11 A.M. EDT