President Obama Discusses Health Care at Childrens National Medical Center


The President:
Well, I just first of all want to thank the Children’s Hospital for hosting us today. And I want to thank the
participants, Joseph Wright, Brian Jacobs, Yewande
Johnson, Michael Knappe, Regina Hartridge,
and Kathleen Quigley. I just had the opportunity
to talk to doctors, nurses, physician’s assistants,
and administrators at this extraordinary institution. We spoke about some of the
strains on our health care system and some of the strains
our health care system places on parents with sick children. We spoke about the amount
of time and money wasted on insurance-driven bureaucracy. We spoke about the growing
number of Americans who are uninsured and underinsured. We spoke about what’s wrong
with a system where women can’t always afford maternity care and
parents can’t afford checkups for their kids, and end up
seeking treatment in emergency rooms like the ones
here at Children’s. We spoke about the fact that
it’s very hard even for families who have health insurance to
access primary care physicians and pediatricians. In a city like Washington, D.C.,
you’ve got all the doctors in one half of the city, very few
doctors in the other half of the city. And part of that has to do
with just the manner in which reimbursement is taking place
and the disincentives for doctors, nurses, and physicians
assistants in caring for those who are most in need. And we spoke about where we’re
headed if we once again delay and defer health
insurance reform. These health care professionals
are doing heroic work each and every day to save the lives
of America’s children. But they’re being forced to
fight through a system that works better for drug companies
and insurance companies than for the American people that
all these wonderful health professionals entered
their profession to serve. And over the past decade,
premiums have doubled in America; out-of-pocket costs
have shot up by a third; deductibles have
continued to climb. And yet, even as America’s
families have been battered by spiraling health care costs,
health insurance companies and their executives have reaped
windfall profits from a broken system. Now, we’ve talked this problem
to death, year after year. But unless we act
— and act now — none of this will change. Just a quick statistic I heard
about this hospital: Just a few years ago, there were approximately 50,000 people coming into the emergency room. Now they’ve got 85,000. There’s been almost a doubling
of emergency room care in a relatively short span of time,
which is putting enormous strains on the
system as a whole. That’s the status quo, and
it’s only going to get worse. If we do nothing, then families
will spend more and more of their income for
less and less care. The number of people who lose
their insurance because they’ve lost or changed jobs
will continue to grow. More children will be denied
coverage on account of asthma or a heart condition. Jobs will be lost,
take-home pay will be lower, businesses will shutter, and we
will continue to waste hundreds of billions of dollars on
insurance company boondoggles and inefficiencies that add to
our financial burdens without making us any healthier. So the need for reform is
urgent and it is indisputable. No one denies that we’re
on an unsustainable path. We all know there are more
efficient ways of doing it. We just — I spoke to the chief information officer here at the hospital and he talked about some wonderful ways in which we could potentially gather up electronic medical records and information for every child not just that comes to this hospital but in the entire region, and how much money could be saved and how the health of these
kids could be improved. But it requires an investment. Now, there are some in this town
who are content to perpetuate the status quo, are in fact
fighting reform on behalf of powerful special interests. There are others who recognize
the problem, but believe — or perhaps, hope — that we
can put off the hard work of insurance reform for another day, another year, another decade. Just the other day, one
Republican senator said — and I’m quoting him now — “If we’re able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo. It will break him.” Think about that. This isn’t about me. This isn’t about politics. This is about a health care
system that is breaking America’s families, breaking
America’s businesses, and breaking America’s economy. And we can’t afford the politics
of delay and defeat when it comes to health care. Not this time. Not now. There are too many lives
and livelihoods at stake. There are too many families who
will be crushed if insurance premiums continue to rise
three times as fast as wages. There are too many businesses
that will be forced to shed workers, scale back benefits,
or drop coverage unless we get spiraling health care
costs under control. The reforms we seek would bring
greater competition, choice, savings, and inefficiencies
[sic] to our health care system, and greater stability and
security to America’s families and businesses. For the average American,
it will mean lower costs, more options, and
coverage you can count on. It will save you and
your family money, if we have a more efficient
health care system. You won’t have to worry about
being priced out of the market. You won’t have to worry about
one illness leading your family into financial ruin. You won’t have to worry that
you won’t be able to afford treatment for a
child who gets sick. We can — and we must —
make all these reforms, and we can do it in a way that does not add to our deficits over the next decade. I’ve said this before. Let me repeat: The bill I sign
must reflect my commitment and the commitment of Congress to
slow the growth of health care costs over the long run. That’s how we can ensure that
health care reform strengthens our national — our nation’s fiscal health at the same time. Now, we always knew that passing
health care reform wouldn’t be easy. We always knew that doing
what is right would be hard. There’s just a tendency
towards inertia in this town. I understand that
as well as anybody. But we’re a country that chooses
the harder right over the easier wrong. That’s what we have
to do this time. We have to do that once more. So let’s fight our way through
the politics of the moment. Let’s pass reform by
the end of this year. Let’s commit ourselves to
delivering our country a better future — and that future
will be seen in a place like Children’s Hospital, when young people are getting the care that they deserve and they
need, when they need it, and we don’t have an overcrowded
emergency room that’s putting enormous burdens on this
excellent institution. I think we can accomplish that,
but we’re going to have to do some work over the next few
weeks and the next few months. Thank you very much everyone. (applause)

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