Tuesday in Washington D.C. at the the Catholic Health Association’s annual assembly, President Barack Obama defended his Affordable Care Act saying it was a “critical part” of his administration’s attempt to “restore the basic promise of America.”
Partial transcript as follows:
It was — remember in the wake of an economic crisis with a very human toll? And it was integral to restoring the basic promise of America, the notion that in this country if you work hard and you take responsibility, you can get ahead. You can make it if you try. Everything we’ve done in these past 6 1/2 years to rebuild our economy on a new foundation, from rescuing and retooling our industries, to reforming our schools, to rethinking the way we produce and use energy, to reducing our deficits, all of that has been in pursuit of that one goal, creating opportunity for all people. Health care reform was a critical part of that effort.
For decades, a major barrier to economic opportunity was our broken health care system. It exposed working families to the insecurities of the changing economy. It saddled our businesses with skyrocketing costs that made it hard to hire or pay a good wage. It threatened our entire nation’s long-term prosperity, it was the primary driver of our deficits. And for hospitals like yours, the fact that so many people didn’t have basic care meant you were scrambling and scratching every single day to try to figure out—how do we keep our doors open? Leaders from Teddy Roosevelt to Teddy Kennedy wanted a reform.
For as long as there were Americans who couldn’t afford decent health care, as long as there were people who had to choose between paying for medicine or paying the rent, as long as there were parents who had to figure out whether they could sell or borrow to pay for a child’s treatment, just a few months more and beg for God’s mercy to make it work in time, as long as those things were happening, America was not living up to our highest ideals. And that’s why providers and faith leaders like you called for expanding access to affordable care.
Every day you saw the very personal suffering of those who go without it. And it seemed like an insurmountable challenge. Every time there was enough political will to alleviate that suffering and to reform the health care system—whether it was under Democratic presidents or Republican presidents, you had special interests, keeping the status quo in place. And each year that passed without reform, the stakes kept getting higher.
By the time I took office, thousands of Americans were losing their health insurance every single day. Many people died each year because they didn’t have health insurance. Many families who thought they had coverage were driven into bankruptcy by out of pocket costs. Tens of millions of our fellow citizens had no coverage at all in this, the wealthiest most powerful nation on Earth. And despite being the only advanced nation in the world without universal health care, our health care costs grew to be the most expensive in the world, with no slowing in sight. And that trend strained the budgets of families and businesses and our government. And so we determined that we could not keep kicking that can down the road any longer. We could not leave that problem for another generation to solve or the generation after that.
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