Obama on the Record: Closing Remarks at Health Forum

CLOSING REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT HEALTH CARE FORUM FOLLOWED BY Q&A

THE PRESIDENT: To Sir Edward Kennedy. (Applause.) That’s the kind of greeting a knight deserves. (Laughter.) It is thrilling to see you here, Teddy. We are so grateful for you taking the time to be here and the extraordinary work that your committee has already started to do, along with Mike Enzi; I know Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley on the Senate side; Henry, I know that you guys are gearing to go on the House side.

So I just want to, first of all, thank all of you for participating. Today was the first discussion in this effort, but it was not the last. In the coming days and weeks we’ll be convening a series of meetings with senior administration officials here at the White House to further explore some of the key issues that were raised today and to bring more voices into the conversation.

But my understanding is, is that we had an extraordinarily productive set of sessions throughout the day. And I’ve gotten a readout from some of the breakout groups and breakout sessions. And I just want to summarize a few things that my staff thought were notable and that I thought were notable and are worth mentioning before I start taking some questions or some comments.

First of all: A clear consensus that the need for health care reform is here and now. Senators Hatch, Enzi, Congressman Jim Cooper and many others agreed that we can do health care reform. Senator Hatch said that we needed leadership on both sides, and he believes that Democrats and Republicans need to put politics aside and work together to do it. Senator Whitehouse said this isn’t a “Harry and Louise” moment, it’s a “Thelma and Louise” moment. (Laughter.) We’re in the car headed toward the cliff and we must act.

Now, I just want to be clear — if you actually saw the movie, they did drive over the cliff. (Laughter.) So I just want to be clear that’s not our intention here. (Laughter.)

Insurers agree: Scott Serota with Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said to consider past opposition the past, it is not the present; the time is right for action now. The American Medical Association said that they are here to be partners and to help. Tom Donahue, with the Chamber of Commerce, said that in the previous debate we knew where everyone stood; people are in different places now, including business, and that there is a vigorous understanding with all parties that improvements are needed. And Congressman Joe Barton complimented the process we’ve begun and said that he can agree with the principles that we’ve laid out. My staff thought that was a very notable statement, they complimenting the process. Melody, I think, slipped that one in. (Laughter.)

With respect to the cost of care, Richard Kirsch with the Health Care for America Now said that we can’t have a false dichotomy between coverage and costs, that by covering

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