Thursday, October 31

President Obama and Governor Deval Patrick on the Affordable Care Act Page 3

PROTESTOR: Mr. President, ban the Keystone Pipeline! For our generation, you need to do this!

THE PRESIDENT: Because of the tax credits that we’re offering and the competition between insurers, most people are going to be able to get better, comprehensive health care plans for the same price or even cheaper than projected. You’re going to get a better deal.

Now, there’s a fraction of Americans with higher incomes who will pay more on the front end for better insurance with better benefits and protections like the Patient’s Bill of Rights. And that will actually save them from financial ruin if they get sick. But nobody is losing their right to health care coverage. And no insurance company will ever be able to deny you coverage, or drop you as a customer altogether. Those days are over. And that’s the truth. (Applause.) That is the truth.

So for people without health insurance, they’re finally going to be able to get it. For the vast majority of people who have health insurance that works, you can keep it. For the fewer than 5 percent of Americans who buy insurance on your own, you will be getting a better deal.

So anyone peddling the notion that insurers are cancelling people’s plan without mentioning that almost all the insurers are encouraging people to join better plans with the same carrier, and stronger benefits and stronger protections, while others will be able to get better plans with new carriers through the marketplace, and that many will get new help to pay for these better plans and make them actually cheaper -- if you leave that stuff out, you’re being grossly misleading, to say the least. (Applause.)

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But, frankly, look, you saw this in Massachusetts -- this is one of the challenges of health care form. Health care is complicated and it’s very personal, and it’s easy to scare folks. And it’s no surprise that some of the same folks trying to scare people now are the same folks who’ve been trying to sink the Affordable Care Act from the beginning. (Applause.) And frankly, I don’t understand it. Providing people with health care, that should be a no-brainer. (Applause.) Giving people a chance to get health care should be a no-brainer. (Applause.)

And I’ve said before, if folks had actually good ideas, better ideas than what’s happening in Massachusetts or what we’ve proposed for providing people with health insurance, I’d be happy to listen. But that’s not what’s happening. And anyone defending the remnants of the old, broken system as if it was working for people, anybody who thinks we shouldn’t finish the job of making the health care system work for everybody -– especially when these folks offer no plan for the uninsured or the underinsured, or folks who lose their insurance each year -- those folks should have to explain themselves. (Applause.)

Because I don’t think we should go back to discriminating against kids with preexisting conditions. (Applause.) I don’t think we should go back to dropping coverage for people when they get sick, or because they make a mistake on their application. (Applause.) I don’t think we should go back to the daily cruelties and indignities and constant insecurity of a broken health care system. And I’m confident most Americans agree with me. (Applause.)

So, yes, this is hard, because the health care system is a big system, and it’s complicated. And if it was hard doing it just in one state, it's harder to do it in all 50 states -- especially when the governors of a bunch of states and half of the Congress aren't trying to help. Yes, it's hard. But it's worth it. (Applause.) It is the right thing to do, and we're going to keep moving forward. (Applause.) We are going to keep working to improve the law, just like you did here in Massachusetts. (Applause.)

We are just going to keep on working at it. We're going to grind it out, just like you did here in Massachusetts -- and, by the way, just like we did when the prescription drug program for seniors known as Medicare Part D was passed by a Republican President a decade ago. That health care law had some early challenges as well. There were even problems with the website. (Laughter.) And Democrats weren’t happy with a lot of the aspects of the law because, in part, it added hundreds of billions of dollars to the deficit, it wasn't paid for -- unlike the Affordable Care Act, which will actually help lower the deficit. (Applause.)

But, you know what, once it was the law, everybody pitched in to try to make it work. Democrats weren’t about to punish millions of seniors just to try to make a point or settle a score. So Democrats worked with Republicans to make it work. And I'm proud of Democrats for having done that. It was the right thing to do. (Applause.) Because now, about 90 percent of seniors like what they have. They've gotten a better deal.

Both parties working together to get the job done –- that’s what we need in Washington right now. (Applause.) That's what we need in Washington right now.

You know, if Republicans in Congress were as eager to help Americans get covered as some Republican governors have shown themselves to be, we'd make a lot of progress. I'm not asking them to agree with me on everything, but if they’d work with us like Mitt Romney did, working with Democrats in Massachusetts, or like Ted Kennedy often did with Republicans in Congress, including on the prescription drug bill, we’d be a lot further along. (Applause.)

So the point is, we may have political disagreements -- we do, deep ones. In some cases, we've got fundamentally different visions about where we should take the country. But the people who elect us to serve, they shouldn’t pay the price for those disagreements. Most Americans don’t see things through a political lens or an ideological lens. This debate has never been about right or left. It’s been about the helplessness that a parent feels when she can’t cover a sick child, or the impossible choices a small business faces between covering his employees or keeping his doors open.

I want to give you just -- I want to close with an example. A person named Alan Schaeffer, from Prattsburgh, New York, and he's got a story to tell about sacrifice, about giving up his own health care to save the woman he loves. So Alan wrote to me last week, and he told me his story.

Four years ago, his wife, Jan, who happens to be a nurse, was struck with cancer, and she had to stop working. And then halfway through her chemo, her employer dropped coverage for both of them. And Alan is self-employed; he's got an antique business. So he had to make sure his wife had coverage, obviously, in the middle of cancer treatments, so he went without insurance.

Now, the great news is, today, Jan is cancer-free. She's on Medicare, but Alan’s been uninsured ever since. Until last week -- (applause) -- when he sat down at a computer and -- I'm sure after multiple tries -- (laughter) -- signed up for a new plan under the Affordable Care Act, coverage that can never be taken away if he gets sick. (Applause.)

So I just want to read you what he said in this letter. He says, “I’ve got to tell you I’ve never been so happy to pay a bill in my entire life." (Laughter.) "When you don’t have insurance at my age, [it can] really feel like a time bomb waiting to go off. The sense of relief from knowing I can live out my days longer and healthier, that’s just a tremendous weight off my shoulders.”

So two days later, Alan goes over to his buddy Bill’s house. He sits Bill down, and his wife, Diana, at their computer. And after several tries -- (laughter) -- Alan helped lift that weight from their shoulders by helping them to sign up for a new plan also. And compared to their current plan, it costs less than half as much and covers more.

See, that's why we committed ourselves to this cause -- for Alan, and Jan; for Bill, Diana.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: Annie.

THE PRESIDENT: For Annie. For anyone who wrote letters, and shared stories, and knocked on doors because they believed what could happen here in Massachusetts could happen all across the country. (Applause.) And for them, and for you, we are going to see this through. (Applause.) We’re going to see this through. (Applause.) We are going to see this through. (Applause.)

This hall is home to some of the earliest debates over the nature of our government, the appropriate size, the appropriate role of government. And those debates continue today, and that’s healthy. They’re debates about the role of the individual and society, and our rugged individualism, and our sense of self-reliance, our devotion to the kind of freedoms whose first shot rang out not far from here. But they are also debates tempered by a recognition that we’re all in this together, and that when hardship strikes -- and it could strike any of us at any moment -- we’re there for one another; and that as a country, we can accomplish great things that we can't accomplish alone. (Applause.) We believe that. We believe that. (Applause.)

And those sentiments are expressed in a painting right here in this very hall: “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable.” That’s the value statement Deval was talking about. That’s what health care reform is about. That’s what America is about. We are in this together, and we are going to see it through. (Applause.)

Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America. (Applause.)

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