Thank you Ron Pollack
and thank you Families USA for inviting me to speak here this morning.
On this January morning
of two thousand and seven, more than sixty years after President
Truman first issued the call for national health insurance, we find
ourselves in the midst of an historic moment on health care. From
Maine to California, from business to labor, from Democrats to Republicans,
the emergence of new and bold proposals from across the spectrum
has effectively ended the debate over whether or not we should have
universal health care in this country.
Plans that tinker and halfway
measures now belong to yesterday. The President's latest proposal
that does little to bring down cost or guarantee coverage falls
into this category. There will be many others offered in the coming
campaign, and I am working with experts to develop my own plan as
we speak, but let's make one thing clear right here, right now:
In the 2008 campaign, affordable,
universal health care for every single American must not be a question
of whether, it must be a question of how. We have the ideas, we
have the resources, and we must find the will to pass a plan by
the end of the next president's first term.
I know there's a cynicism
out there about whether this can happen, and there's reason for
it. Every four years, health care plans are offered up in campaigns
with great fanfare and promise. But once those campaigns end, the
plans collapse under the weight of Washington politics, leaving
the rest of America to struggle with skyrocketing costs.
For too long, this debate
has been stunted by what I call the smallness of our politics -
the idea that there isn't much we can agree on or do about the major
challenges facing our country. And when some try to propose something
bold, the interests groups and the partisans treat it like a sporting
event, with each side keeping score of who's up and who's down,
using fear and divisiveness and other cheap tricks to win their
argument, even if we lose our solution in the process.
Well we can't afford another
disappointing charade in 2008. It's not only tiresome, it's wrong.
Wrong when businesses have to layoff one employee because they can't
afford the health care of another. Wrong when a parent cannot take
a sick child to the doctor because they cannot afford the bill that
comes with it. Wrong when 46 million Americans have no health care
at all. In a country that spends more on health care than any other
nation on Earth, it's just wrong.
And yet, in recent years,
what's caught the attention of those who haven't always been in
favor of reform is the realization that this crisis isn't just morally
offensive, it's economically untenable. For years, the can't-do
crowd has scared the American people into believing that universal
health care would mean socialized medicine and burdensome taxes
- that we should just stay out of the way and tinker at the margins.
You know the statistics.
Family premiums are up by nearly 87% over the last five years, growing
five times faster than workers' wages. Deductibles are up 50%. Co-payments
for care and prescriptions are through the roof.
Nearly 11 million Americans
who are already insured spent more than a quarter of their salary
on health care last year. And over half of all family bankruptcies
today are caused by medical bills.
But they say it's too costly
Almost half of all small
businesses no longer offer health care to their workers, and so
many others have responded to rising costs by laying off workers
or shutting their doors for good. Some of the biggest corporations
in America, giants of industry like GM and Ford, are watching foreign
competitors based in countries with universal health care run circles
around them, with a GM car containing twice as much health care
cost as a Japanese car.
But they say it's too risky
They tell us it's too expensive
to cover the uninsured, but they don't mention that every time an
American without health insurance walks into an emergency room,
we pay even more. Our family's premiums are $922 higher because
of the cost of care for the uninsured.
We pay $15 billion more
in taxes because of the cost of care for the uninsured. And it's
trapped us in a vicious cycle. As the uninsured cause premiums to
rise, more employers drop coverage. As more employers drop coverage,
more people become uninsured, and premiums rise even further.
But the skeptics tell us
that reform is too costly, too risky, too impossible for America.
Well the skeptics must
be living somewhere else. Because when you see what the health care
crisis is doing to our families, to our economy, to our country,
you realize that caution is what's costly. Inaction is what's risky.
Doing nothing is what's impossible when it comes to health care
It's time to act. This
isn't a problem of money, this is a problem of will. A failure of
leadership. We already spend $2.2 trillion a year on health care
in this country. My colleague, Senator Ron Wyden, who's recently
developed a bold new health care plan of his own, tells it this
For the money Americans
spent on health care last year, we could have hired a group of skilled
physicians, paid each one of them $200,000 to care for just seven
families, and guaranteed every single American quality, affordable
So where's all that money
going? We know that a quarter of it - one out of every four health
care dollars - is spent on non-medical costs; mostly bills and paperwork.
And we also know that this is completely unnecessary. Almost every
other industry in the world has saved billions on these administrative
costs by doing it all online. Every transaction you make at a bank
now costs them less than a penny. Even at the Veterans Administration,
where it used to cost nine dollars to pull up your medical record,
new technology means you can call up the same record on the internet
for next to nothing.
But because we haven't
updated technology in the rest of the health care industry, a single
transaction still costs up to twenty-five dollars - not one dime
of which goes toward improving the quality of our health care.
This is simply inexcusable,
and if we brought our entire health care system online, something
everyone from Ted Kennedy to Newt Gingrich believes we should do,
we'd already be saving over $600 million a year on health care costs.
The federal government
should be leading the way here. If you do business with the federal
employee health benefits program, you should move to an electronic
claims system. If you are a provider who works with Medicare, you
should have to report your patient's health outcomes, so that we
can figure out, on a national level, how to improve health care
quality. These are all things experts tell us must be done but aren't
being done. And the federal government should lead.
Another, more controversial
area we need to look at is how much of our health care spending
is going toward the record-breaking profits earned by the drug and
health care industry. It's perfectly understandable for a corporation
to try and make a profit, but when those profits are soaring higher
and higher each year while millions lose their coverage and premiums
skyrocket, we have a responsibility to ask why.
At a time when businesses
are facing increased competition and workers rarely stay with one
company throughout their lives, we also have to ask if the employer-based
system of health care itself is still the best for providing insurance
to all Americans. We have to ask what we can do to provide more
Americans with preventative care, which would mean fewer doctor's
visits and less cost down the road. We should make sure that every
single child who's eligible is signed up for the children's health
insurance program, and the federal government should make sure that
our states have the money to make that happen. And we have to start
looking at some of the interesting ideas on comprehensive reform
that are coming out of states like Maine and Illinois and California,
to see what we can replicate on a national scale and what will move
us toward that goal of universal coverage for all.
But regardless of what
combination of policies and proposals get us to this goal, we must
reach it. We must act. And we must act boldly. As one health care
advocate recently said, "The most expensive course is to do
nothing." But it wasn't a liberal Democrat or union leader
who said this.
It was the president of
the very health industry association that funded the "Harry
and Louise" ads designed to kill the Clinton health care plan
in the early nineties.
The debate in this country
over health care has shifted. The support for comprehensive reform
that organizations like Families USA have worked so hard to build
is now widespread, and the diverse group of business and health
industry interests that are part of your Health Care Coverage Coalition
is a testament to that success. And so Washington no longer has
an excuse for caution. Leaders no longer have a reason to be timid.
And America can no longer afford inaction. That's not who we are
- and that's not the story of our nation's improbable progress.
Half a century ago, America
found itself in the midst of another health care crisis. For millions
of elderly Americans, the single greatest cause of poverty and hardship
was the crippling cost of health care and the lack of affordable
insurance. Two out of every three elderly Americans had annual incomes
of less than $1,000, and only one in eight had health insurance.
As health care and hospital
costs continued to rise, more and more private insurers simply refused
to insure our elderly, believing they were too great of a risk to
The resistance to action
was fierce. Proponents of health care reform were opposed by well-financed,
well-connected interest groups who spared no expense in telling
the American people that these efforts were "dangerous"
and "un-American," "revolutionary" and even
And yet the reformers marched
on. They testified before Congress and they took their case to the
country and they introduced dozens of different proposals but always,
always they stood firm on their goal to provide health care for
every American senior. And finally, after years of advocacy and
negotiation and plenty of setbacks, President Lyndon Johnson signed
the Medicare bill into law on July 30th of 1965.
The signing ceremony was
held in Missouri, in a town called Independence, with the first
man who was bold enough to issue the call for universal health care
- President Harry Truman.
And as he stood with Truman
by his side and signed what would become the most successful government
program in history - a program that had seemed impossible for so
long - President Johnson looked out at the crowd and said, "History
shapes men, but it is a necessary faith of leadership that men can
help shape history."
Never forget that we have
it within our power to shape history in this country. It is not
in our character to sit idly by as victims of fate or circumstance,
for we are a people of action and innovation, forever pushing the
boundaries of what's possible.
Now is the time to push
those boundaries once more. We have come so far in the debate on
health care in this country, but now we must finally answer the
call first issued by Truman, advanced by Johnson, and fought for
by so many leaders and Americans throughout the last century. The
time has come for universal health care in America. And I look forward
to working with all of you to meet this challenge in the weeks and
months to come. Thank you. 098-Floor-Statement-on-Iraq-War-Deescalation-Act-of-2007-Obama-Speech.htm
Floor Statement on Iraq
War De-escalation Act of 2007- Complete Text
Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Floor Statement on Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007
Mr. President, today in Iraq, we sadly find ourselves at the very
point I feared most when I opposed giving the President the open-ended
authority to wage this war in 2002 - an occupation of undetermined
length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences in
the midst of a country torn by civil war.
The American people have
waited and the American people have been patient. We have given
chance after chance for a resolution that has not come, and, more
importantly, watched with horror and grief the tragic loss of thousands
of brave young American soldiers.
The time for waiting in
Iraq is over. The days of our open-ended commitment must come to
a close. And the need to bring this war to an end is here.
That is why today, I'm
introducing the Iraq War De-escalation Act of 2007.
This plan would not only
place a cap on the number of troops in Iraq and stop the escalation,
more importantly, it would begin a phased redeployment of U.S. forces
with the goal of removing of all U.S. combat forces from Iraq by
March 31st, 2008 - consistent with the expectations of the bipartisan
Iraq study group that the President has so assiduously ignored.
The redeployment of troops
to the United States, Afghanistan, and elsewhere in the region would
begin no later than May 1st of this year, toward the end of the
timeframe I first proposed in a speech more than two months ago.
In a civil war where no military solution exists, this redeployment
remains our best leverage to pressure the Iraqi government to achieve
the political settlement between its warring factions that can slow
the bloodshed and promote stability.
My plan allows for a limited
number of U.S. troops to remain as basic force protection, to engage
in counter-terrorism, and to continue the training of Iraqi security
And if the Iraqis are successful
in meeting the thirteen benchmarks for progress laid out by the
Bush Administration itself, this plan also allows for the temporary
suspension of the redeployment, provided Congress agrees that the
benchmarks have actually been met and that the suspension is in
the national security interest of the United States.
The U.S. military has performed
valiantly and brilliantly in Iraq. Our troops have done all that
we have asked them to do and more. But no amount of American soldiers
can solve the political differences at the heart of somebody else's
civil war, nor settle the grievances in the hearts of the combatants.
It is my firm belief that
the responsible course of action - for the United States, for Iraq,
and for our troops - is to oppose this reckless escalation and to
pursue a new policy. This policy that I've laid out is consistent
with what I have advocated for well over a year, with many of the
recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, and with what
the American people demanded in the November election.
When it comes to the war
in Iraq, the time for promises and assurances, for waiting and patience,
is over. Too many lives have been lost and too many billions have
been spent for us to trust the President on another tried and failed
policy opposed by generals and experts, Democrats and Republicans,
Americans and many of the Iraqis themselves.
It is time for us to fundamentally
change our policy.
It is time to give Iraqis
their country back.
And it is time to refocus
America's efforts on the challenges we face at home and the wider
struggle against terror yet to be won.