Obama on the Record: Healthcare Reform Town Hall

I think that activism right now, in calling your congress people, calling your senators, making sure they know this is important — that’s something that everybody here needs to do because, frankly, they are hearing from the other side. All those folks who are out there saying we can’t afford this, this is socialism, this will lead to government-run health care; all the folks who are getting ginned up on talk radio and some of these cable news shows — I have to say that they have an effect on members of Congress. It makes members of Congress nervous. So they need to hear from folks who are saying in a very common-sense way, this is something we can do.

It’s going to be paid for. It is not going to add to the deficit. It will, in fact, control the deficit over the long term. And young people should particularly be concerned about that, because if health care inflation keeps going up at the rate that it is, you won’t — when your generation is running things — won’t be able to afford anything else in the federal budget. Medicare and Medicaid will consume all our health care dollars — or all our federal dollars. That’s a huge problem.

But the last thing I just want to emphasize to people, when you contact your senators, when you contact your members of Congress, make sure to make this a personal testimony. Tell your story about why you’re concerned. Because sometimes these debates get so abstract, and I have to remind people — you know, I get a story about a woman who contracts cancer, and suddenly not only is she worrying about her cancer, but she’s also worrying about the $100,000 worth of unpaid medical bills that she’s having to deal with and her family can’t afford.

I hear from people who say, “I’ve always worked hard, I’ve always done well, I’ve got a good job. I left my job to start my business. Suddenly I find out I can’t get health insurance because of a preexisting condition. And so I’m going to have to close up my business and I’m going to have to go back to doing something where I can get health insurance.”

I mean, those stories, everybody knows them. And one of the things that I emphasized yesterday that people I think don’t maybe think about enough is, if all that money is being eaten up in premiums, even if your employer is paying for them, guess what. That means that employer has got less money to give you a raise. So you wonder why, for the last 10 years, wages and incomes have been flat. If you look, on average, people haven’t gotten a raise. Why is that? Well, part of it is because it’s all been taken up in increased health care costs, even if the companies are profitable.

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