Obama Respond To Senate Health Care Bill

The fol­low­ing is a state­ment released a short while ago by for­mer President Barack Obama on the occa­sion of the release of the Senate’s health care repeal bill.

Former President Barack Obama

about an hour ago

Our pol­i­tics are divid­ed. They have been for a long time. And while I know that divi­sion makes it dif­fi­cult to lis­ten to Americans with whom we dis­agree, that’s what we need to do today.

I rec­og­nize that repeal­ing and replac­ing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and mea­sure what’s real­ly at stake, and con­sid­er that the ratio­nale for action, on health care or any oth­er issue, must be some­thing more than sim­ply undo­ing some­thing that Democrats did.

We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the pub­lic square for any per­son­al or polit­i­cal gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, pre­vent finan­cial mis­ery, and ulti­mate­ly set this coun­try we love on a bet­ter, health­i­er course.

Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thou­sands of Americans, includ­ing Republicans, threw them­selves into that col­lec­tive effort, not for polit­i­cal rea­sons, but for intense­ly per­son­al ones – a sick child, a par­ent lost to can­cer, the mem­o­ry of med­ical bills that threat­ened to derail their dreams.

And you made a dif­fer­ence. For the first time, more than nine­ty per­cent of Americans know the secu­ri­ty of health insur­ance. Health care costs, while still ris­ing, have been ris­ing at the slow­est pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insur­ance, young adults can stay on their par­ents’ plan until they turn 26, con­tra­cep­tive care and pre­ven­tive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insur­ance alto­geth­er due to a pre­ex­ist­ing con­di­tion – we made that a thing of the past.

We did these things togeth­er. So many of you made that change pos­si­ble.

At the same time, I was care­ful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act rep­re­sent­ed a sig­nif­i­cant step for­ward for America, it was not per­fect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put togeth­er a plan that is demon­stra­bly bet­ter than the improve­ments we made to our health care sys­tem, that cov­ers as many peo­ple at less cost, I would glad­ly and pub­licly sup­port it.

That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remem­ber that pub­lic ser­vice is not about sport or notch­ing a polit­i­cal win, that there’s a rea­son we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hope­ful­ly, it’s to make people’s lives bet­ter, not worse.

But right now, after eight years, the leg­is­la­tion rushed through the House and the Senate with­out pub­lic hear­ings or debate would do the oppo­site. It would raise costs, reduce cov­er­age, roll back pro­tec­tions, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opin­ion, but rather the con­clu­sion of all objec­tive analy­ses, from the non­par­ti­san Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 mil­lion Americans would lose insur­ance, to America’s doc­tors, nurs­es, and hos­pi­tals on the front lines of our health care sys­tem.

The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a mas­sive trans­fer of wealth from mid­dle-class and poor fam­i­lies to the rich­est peo­ple in America. It hands enor­mous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insur­ance indus­tries, paid for by cut­ting health care for every­body else. Those with pri­vate insur­ance will expe­ri­ence high­er pre­mi­ums and high­er deductibles, with low­er tax cred­its to help work­ing fam­i­lies cov­er the costs, even as their plans might no longer cov­er preg­nan­cy, men­tal health care, or expen­sive pre­scrip­tions. Discrimination based on pre-exist­ing con­di­tions could become the norm again. Millions of fam­i­lies will lose cov­er­age entire­ly.

Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a fam­i­ly – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next cou­ple weeks, under the guise of mak­ing these bills eas­i­er to stom­ach, can­not change the fun­da­men­tal mean­ness at the core of this leg­is­la­tion.

I hope our Senators ask them­selves – what will hap­pen to the Americans grap­pling with opi­oid addic­tion who sud­den­ly lose their cov­er­age? What will hap­pen to preg­nant moth­ers, chil­dren with dis­abil­i­ties, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will hap­pen if you have a med­ical emer­gency when insur­ance com­pa­nies are once again allowed to exclude the ben­e­fits you need, send you unlim­it­ed bills, or set unaf­ford­able deductibles? What impos­si­ble choic­es will work­ing par­ents be forced to make if their child’s can­cer treat­ment costs them more than their life sav­ings?

To put the American peo­ple through that pain – while giv­ing bil­lion­aires and cor­po­ra­tions a mas­sive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fath­om. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fer­vent hope that we step back and try to deliv­er on what the American peo­ple need.

That might take some time and com­pro­mise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what peo­ple want to see. I believe it would demon­strate the kind of lead­er­ship that appeals to Americans across par­ty lines. And I believe that it’s pos­si­ble – if you are will­ing to make a dif­fer­ence again. If you’re will­ing to call your mem­bers of Congress. If you are will­ing to vis­it their offices. If you are will­ing to speak out, let them and the coun­try know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your fam­i­ly.

After all, this debate has always been about some­thing big­ger than pol­i­tics. It’s about the char­ac­ter of our coun­try – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fight­ing for.