Obama Takes Healthcare Reform to AARP

So I’m hoping that I can answer any questions that you have here today. I’m absolutely positive that we can make the health care system work better for you, work better for your children, work better for your parents, work better for your families, work better for your businesses; work better for America. That’s our job.

So thank you very much. (Applause.)

MR. CUTHBERT: Much as it would be every broadcaster’s dream to share the podium with the President of the United States, he has to get wired up for sound. So I’ll start with a question that was e-mailed in before the program, which combines a couple of factors you spoke about, Mr. President.

He says: My brother is 56 and uninsurable. He could afford to buy insurance, but he can’t get it because he has a preexisting condition and in his state there is not a high-risk pool. When the President’s program starts, will insurance companies be required to cover people with preexisting conditions? Will he be able to get insurance in the first phase of the plan, even if he’s willing to pay the full amount?

THE PRESIDENT: The answer is yes. And so let me talk just a little bit about the kind of insurance reform that we’re proposing as part of the broader reform package.

Number one, if you’ve got a preexisting condition, insurance companies will still have to insure you. This is something very personal for me. My mother, when she contracted cancer, the insurance companies started suggesting that, well, maybe this was a preexisting condition; maybe you could have diagnosed it before you actually purchased your insurance. Ultimately, they gave in, but she had to spend weeks fighting with insurance companies while she’s in the hospital bed, writing letters back and forth just to get coverage for insurance that she had already paid premiums on. And that happens all across the country. We are going to put a stop to that. That’s point number one.

Point number two: We’re going to reform the insurance system so that they can’t just drop you if you get too sick. They won’t be able to drop you if you change jobs or lose your job, as long as you’re willing to pay your premiums. They are — we’re going to make sure that we eliminate sort of the lifetime cap that creates a situation — a lot of times people get sick, then they find out the fine print says that at a certain point they just stop paying, or they’ll pay for your hospitalization but they don’t pay for your doctor, or they pay for your doctor but not your hospitalization.

We want clear, easy-to-understand, straightforward insurance that people can purchase. So that’s point number one.

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