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Public Statements

Weekly Address: President Obama Says Washington Must Use This Opportunity to Enact Health Reform

Statement

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

In his weekly address, President Barack Obama said that the nation cannot lose the current opportunity to finally enact meaningful health care reform. At Thursday's meeting on reform, both sides were able to find several areas of agreement, but there were some differences. While the President is willing and eager to move forward with members of Congress from both parties, American families and businesses cannot afford to wait another generation for reform.

As the Winter Olympics draw to a close this weekend, I just want to take a minute to congratulate all the athletes who competed in these games. And I especially want to say how proud I am of all the American men and women have achieved over the last few weeks.

Whether it was the men's hockey team's stunning upset of the Canadians on their way to the gold-medal game, Lindsey Vonn's heroic gold-medal comeback from a shin injury, or Apolo Ohno becoming the most decorated American winter Olympian of all time, you can't help but be inspired by the sheer grit and athletic prowess on display in Vancouver.

And it's not just the medal count that's inspiring -- though we've certainly done great on that score. What's truly inspiring is the character of the men and women who have won those medals. The sacrifices they've made. The integrity they've shown. The indomitable Olympic spirit that says no matter who you are or where you come from or what difficulties you may face, you can work hard and train hard and still triumph in the end. That is why we watch. That is why we cheer. That is why in the middle of an extremely challenging time for America, we've been able to come together as one nation for a few weeks in February and swell with pride at what our citizens have achieved.

Now, when it comes to meeting the larger challenges we face as a nation, I realize that finding this unity is easier said than done -- especially in Washington. But if we want to compete on the world stage as well as we've competed in the world's games, we need to find common ground. We need to move past the bickering and the game-playing that holds us back and blocks progress for the American people.

We know it's possible to do this. And we were reminded of that last week when Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together to pass a jobs bill that will give small businesses tax credits to hire more workers. We also saw it when Democrats and Republicans in the House came together to pass a bill that will force insurance companies to abide by common-sense rules that prevent price-fixing and other practices that drive up health care costs.

We need that same spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship when it comes to finally passing reform that will bring down the cost of health care and give Americans more control over their insurance. On Thursday, we brought both parties together for a frank and productive discussion about this issue. In that discussion, we heard many areas of agreement. Both sides agreed that the rising cost of health care is a serious problem that plagues families, small businesses, and our federal budget. Many on both sides agreed that we should give small businesses and individuals the ability to participate in a new insurance marketplace -- which members of Congress would also use -- that would allow them to pool their purchasing power and get a better deal from insurance companies. And I heard some ideas from our Republican friends that I believe are very worthy of consideration.

But still, there were differences. We disagreed over whether insurance companies should be held accountable when they deny people care or arbitrarily raise premiums. I believe they should. We disagreed over giving tax credits to small businesses and individuals that would make health care affordable for those who don't have it. This would be the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history, and I believe we should do it. And while we agreed that Americans with pre-existing conditions should be able to get coverage, we disagreed on how to do that.

Some of these disagreements we may be able to resolve. Some we may not. And no final bill will include everything that everyone wants. That's what compromise is. I said at the end of Thursday's summit that I am eager and willing to move forward with members of both parties on health care if the other side is serious about coming together to resolve our differences and get this done. But I also believe that we cannot lose the opportunity to meet this challenge. The tens of millions of men and women who cannot afford their health insurance cannot wait another generation for us to act. Small businesses cannot wait. Americans with pre-existing conditions cannot wait. State and federal budgets cannot sustain these rising costs.

It is time for us to come together. It is time for us to act. It is time for those of us in Washington to live up to our responsibilities to the American people and to future generations. So let's get this done.

Thanks for listening.


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