Obama Makes Health-Care Pitch

March 8, 2010 by Post Team 

Obama Makes Health-Care PitchObama Makes Health-Care Pitch:GLENSIDE, Pa.—Seeking to add fresh urgency to his drive for a health-care overhaul, President Barack Obama took insurance companies to task Monday, saying rising premiums underscore the need for reform “right now.”

“How much higher do premiums have to rise until we do something about it?” Mr. Obama said in a speech at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa.

Mr. Obama’s focus on health-insurance premiums comes as he looks to muster support for a nearly $1 trillion overhaul package. The administration wants the House of Representatives to pass a Senate-approved measure by March 18, but it is unclear if the bill has enough support among Democrats.

Mr. Obama asked for public support getting the measure to the “finish line” in the “next two weeks.” He acknowledged that the politics surrounding the issue are “hard,” but said lawmakers shouldn’t shirk tough issues.

“The United States Congress owes the American people a final up or down vote on health care,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s time to make a decision, the time for talk is over.”

The president has targeted rising premiums in his effort to rally public backing. Last week, he met with top insurance executives to discuss the White House’s concerns about premium increases.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wants the industry to post online information that justifies the increases. Ms. Sebelius, who joined Mr. Obama in Pennsylvania, on Monday asked UnitedHealth Group Inc., WellPoint Inc., Aetna Inc., Cigna Corp. and Health Care Service Corp., an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, for estimates of cost and utilization increases, as well as changes in the pools of enrollees in insurance plans.

Mr. Obama pointed to a Goldman Sachs conference call in which an insurance broker told investors that companies will continue to raise premiums, even though they know they will lose customers.

“We can’t have a system that works better for the insurance companies than it does for the American people,” Mr. Obama said. “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.”

Emphasizing the administration’s recent focus on insurance costs, the president was introduced by Leslie Banks, a self-employed single mother who was notified in January that her premiums would more than double.

The White House said about 1,800 people attended Monday’s speech at tiny Arcadia University, which is just outside Philadelphia.

Around 75 Tea Party activists gathered at the college’s entrance to protest the president’s health-care plan.

“I do not think the government has the right to run our health care,” said one of the protesters, Mary Shingler of Lewistown, Pa. Ms. Shingler, a senior citizen, gets coverage through a Medicare Advantage plan, and she fears Mr. Obama’s plan would curtail her benefits.

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