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The Speech Obama Should Give About Health Insurance Reform

barack-obama-1.jpgby Jerry Kolber
It’s a shame that with such initial popular support for his health insurance reform President Obama is running into such difficulties making it possible for all American’s to be healthy.  While I tend to vote Democrat, I have voted for Republicans several times in the past few years, but on health care it’s clear that their interests lie somewhere other than the welfare of the people they were elected to represent (unless they were only elected by health insurance company owners). I don’t see health as a political issue – I see this as some people in DC using the health of fellow citizens as a pawn in their political game.


While his nuance for the issues is appreciated, it’s time for Obama to take a real stand on the issues that got him elected, and to do it in an unequivocal and gutsy way.  If health insurance reform goes down, I’d like to see it go down fighting. So here’s the speech I’d love to hear.

Proposed Speech for President Barack Obama, January 20, 2010:

“We stand at a historic crossroads tonight.  The issue of health insurance reform will determine what we stand for as a country – whether we still believe that everyone in America counts regardless of how much money they make or how much political influence they wield, or whether from this day forward we measure the worth of a life of a man, woman, or child by the fortune of their circumstance.  This is an issue that demonstrates the core of who we are as a nation.


The American Dream was to provide a land of opportunity, justice, liberty and happiness for all – and that includes the ability to wake up in the morning knowing that you will be cared for if you are sick. I stand here today to tell you that there is an industry that stands in the way of the American dream.  Over the last four decades, the cost of private health care has risen, and risen, and risen to the point where many Americans of moderate income cannot afford health care or health insurance; and the health insurance industry has put itself in a position to ration healthcare even to those who can afford it.  I tell you this: a nation where every citizen cannot afford to be healthy is a nation that itself is not healthy.  


Americans have demonstrated time and again their willingness to offer themselves up in times of crisis: in the wake of 9/11, Katrina, and most recently Haiti, we prove why we are known as a people who reach out our hands when someone falls.  There’s no more perfect definition of the American spirit of cooperation. I ask you this: have you ever felt that you made a mistake by reaching out to lend a hand to a neighbor in need, or helping a friend, or assisting a family member who had fallen on tough times?

Because that’s what health insurance reform is about, folks; it’s about letting everyone in America know that if they wake up sick, or with a disease, we will lend them a hand.  It’s about letting you know that if you lose your job, or run a small business, you will also have access to affordable health insurance options for yourself, your family and your employees.  It’s about taking power back from the hands of a select few who profit from our sickness, and putting it back in the hands of the people so that we may all profit from our health.


I understand that there are voices that oppose giving health care to all Americans.  And those voices must be heard, but they do not have to be heeded.  Those voices are driven by what I call “today motives” – profits, elections, corporate interests. But I offer you this thought: Taking care of the sick, taking care of your neighbors, taking care of your fellow citizens goes far beyond the “today motives”.  Taking care even goes beyond an American motive.  Taking care speaks of each of us as decent and compassionate human beings.

By reforming the health insurance industry, we have an opportunity to stand as a beacon of all that can be good about a nation. We have an opportunity to show that as prosperity begins to bloom again within our borders, so too does compassion, consideration, and a renewed commitment to the bedrock principles that inspire our character.  When we look out for each other and stand together, we are a great nation; when we allow ourselves to be divided into the health-care haves and have-nots, as we have today, we strike at the core of what makes us such a productive, creative people. You cannot build a healthy nation without a foundation of healthy citizens.
Now I’m not going to stand here and tell you this a fight of good vs. evil.  I’m not one for making broad generalizations. But I will say this. The entire Republican party has banded together against making all of America a healthy America.  My grandmother, a very wise woman, used to say: follow the money and you can follow the story. And in this case, my colleagues in the Republican party may even have themselves convinced that the same health insurance companies that are profiting from their obstruction have your interests in mind.  But I think we all know better. 


My colleagues in the Republican party will often tell you that God has endorsed their vision. But I will tell you this: God does not want unhealthy Americans.

I’m not going to stand here and tell you that the proposal for health insurance reform is a perfect system. There is no perfect system. But it’s the best we can do right now to ensure a nation that is built upon a foundation of health and prosperity.  I would rather an imperfect system that shows the best of who we believe ourselves to be, than the system that the Republican party would prefer to leave in place – a system that only shows the best of how four decades of lobbying, campaign contributions, and back room deals can put the profit motives of a handful of companies ahead of the health of the American people.


So I stand before you today to say this; it is my duty as a Christian, as a citizen of the United States, and the President of this great nation to fight to the end to slay the dragon of special interests, Washington fat cats, and the forces that would leave tens of millions of Americans unhealthy, diseased, and dying to protect their profits.  It’s going to take all of our efforts – calling our congressman and senators, town hall meetings, making our voices heard- but I believe in you America, and I believe that in your hearts you know how to do the right thing. Call your Senators, call your Representatives, and tell them you believe in a healthy America.  I’m fighting for a healthy America, and I ask each of you to join me in this fight.  Good night and God Bless You All, and God Bless America.”

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posted January 20, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Bravo! I don’t think Obama could have said it better himself. Especially in the last paragraph where you emphasize “as a Christian…”. I think a lot of Republicans still think he’s a Muslim, non-U.S. citizen.
I’m not really sure why the Republican party is so adamantly against healthcare reform. It can’t possibly be solely about money. How much money is already spent in E.R.s across the country who treat non-insured patients? Surely, it would be more cost-effective to enable every citizen to be pro-active in their health, with preventive programs and education, i.e. “do you know how much salt is in a Big Mac?” Stop eating that fast food!

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Anan E. Maus

posted January 20, 2010 at 7:44 pm

I think that every expression of caring and compassion leads us one step closer to a fulfilling society for everyone!

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steve pickett

posted January 20, 2010 at 8:02 pm

thank you. this is beautifully said. what will president obama do? it is my sincere hope that he will represent the unrepresented, the unpowerful, and insist on reasonable health care reform. we need leaders to stand for something.

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posted January 20, 2010 at 8:38 pm

This is the worst proposed speach I have ever heard. Americans will not be healthy because of healthcare reform. Health insurance doesn’t cure people, doctors do. Most people would find that they did need the doctor if they took care of themselves. Your own two feet and 30 minutes a day of cardio, and preparing your own food will cure most of your problems. Liberal morons continue to preach the rhetoric that people shouldn’t have to take care of themselves as long as the very same people will vote for a government that will.
Everyone seems to think it is they evil insurance company that is denying wellness to individuals, but none of you idiots seem to realize that the doctors and hospitals are gouging everywhere they can. The evil insurance company has been guilty of paying outrageous claims, while the evil doctors have been taking advantage of a blank check everytime someone walks in the door with a Blue Cross card. The Liberals in congress are even worse than the Conservatives because they are selling the American people a crippling deal as the only possible way of being healthy. It is a scare tactic. Were all screwed if we don’t get health insurance. Go for a walk.

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posted January 20, 2010 at 11:09 pm

Tens of millions? Hyperbolic speeches are already in vogue in Washington, sir.
Personally, I am tired of liberals taking some imaginary high road on this issue. Perhaps 15-30 million Americans who need health care cannot get it. A surprising number of citizens have access to care and choose not to use it or pay cash. Do we abandon these people? Absolutely not – but we don’t hand over the entire health care system to the federal government – that’s not how America works.
Most of the people who can’t get insurance have preventable chronic issues; type II diabetes, hypertension, obesity, heart disease, poor nutrition, etc. I would be willing to subsidize public/private Community Wellness Centers where people who don’t have insurance can buy into – on a sliding scale. If Walmart can make money on cheap prescription drugs and glasses, they could find a way to make this work. If we engaged in proactive, preventive care we will be able to save billions in reactive treatment. These CWCs could be staffed by Nurse Practitioners or Physician Assistants.
This system will cost a lot less money. You could be treating people within one year – the Obama plan leaves people out in the cold for at least 4 years – and will leave at least 10-13 million people out altogether. And it will not destroy those of us who have worked hard, made good career choices, maintained our health, and got jobs with good benefits…. oh, and I grew up pretty poor, and the son of an immigrant so do me the courtesy of not trotting out the advantages of the middle class. And I am Hispanic, so let’s spare the racism too, please.
It’s not about money. It’s about a president and congressional leadership who think they are above the law. Closed door sessions, hundreds of billions of dollars in pork and bribes, and bald-faced assertions that Pelosi, Reid, and Obama are quite comfortable circumventing constitutional principles are the issue.
I don’t know about you, but my wife and I donate more than 15% of our salary…actually, quite a bit more most years. This is on top of paying more then one-third of my salary in state and federal income taxes. Actually, I donated a greater percentage of my annual income in ’08 then the Obamas. And we donated quite a bit more in actual cash value then the Vice-President. So please don’t lecture conservatives about generosity. Frankly, less then half of the population pays 100% of federal income taxes – and as that percentage, I am paying enough thank you very much.
I live in a city and work with the poor. People living in subsidized housing and food stamps with expensive sneakers, cell phones, ipods, and game systems. I listened to a man complain about trouble paying his electric bill only to show me his new $500 Google Nexus cell phone a few minutes later. I don’t have a Google phone.
There are people who because of pre-existing conditions can’t get care. They need help and I want to help them…actually, I am helping them through my parish. There are those who would rather spend their money on junk food and toys then to invest in any number of inexpensive health programs. Health Savings Accounts, Humana and other insurance programs….all these are means that people who put necessity over desire can access.
Unlike many liberals, I see this every day. Every day. Liberals want government to take care of everything … so they don’t have to see the suffering. Me? Soup kitchens, emergency, short-and long term shelters, walking the streets at night with blankets and sandwiches….been there, done that. Don’t lecture me. Don’t tell me I am selfish.
It’s not very Christian.

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Jerry Kolber

posted January 21, 2010 at 7:36 am

Adam: The health insurance industry is not designed to encourage people to take a walk; it thrives on people being sick. That is why health insurance industry stocks surge on any news that health insurance reform isn’t going to happen. It’s true that some people who would get publicly funded health insurance should have taken better care of themselves, but it’s also true that many people who get sick and need help did take care of themselves. Disease and cancer and sickness unfortunately doesn’t always obey our orders to only strike people who as you seem to suggest deserve it.
John: 15 to 30 million Americans is tens of millions of Americans – and the number is closer to 40 million w/o health insurance. While I totally respect that you pay taxes (as do I) and your efforts to help those in need, I’m not sure how you helping at soup kitchens, your church, or establishing more wellness centers will help people with catastrophic illness and no health insurance. Those people need insurance, doctors, and hospitals, and it is not Christian for those in power to prefer the interests of profit over the welfare of people.
I agree that there is another component to all of this, and that is that the American food system has failed by delivering cheap toxic food that is more affordable and available than healthy and nutritious food. There’s a whole industry that makes a whole lot of money doing nothing other than designing ways to convince other people’s tastebuds to prefer unhealthy foods to healthy foods. So yes, there is a whole other piece to this, but just because it’s a complex and long-term issue doesn’t mean we should just say why bother.

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posted January 21, 2010 at 6:27 pm

I’m not sure what to do about healthcare. I veer between thinking a private Swiss style system would be good or implementing the ideas proposed in the notorious Whole Food’s head’s editorial in the Wall Street Journal, letting those policies percolate through the health care system for a time and then adjusting and adding as needed to cover the gaps.
In any case I do not think “interdependence” should be a code word for a top down, well intentioned tax-spend-regulate nanny state, a form of soft totalitarianism – forced “interdependence”. This would a simplification of our society’s “ecosystem” reducing private, non government initiative because heavy taxes would siphon off private resources and regulation would stifle innovation, reducing the intelligence and flexibility flowing in the “civil body politic” (words from the Mayflower Compact).
For instance in an earlier version of the health care bill private, cooperative Christian ventures were threatened. These have successfully taken care of the health needs of tens of thousands of people through a mutual sharing of prayers and money. It isn’t a perfect system because there are strict limits on pre-existing conditions and you must be a Christian, though once you’re part of the group you will not be dropped as long as you make your monthly contribution (lower than the normal insurance premium) and follow the health practices standard. One example of this is the organization Medishare – they even promote veganism. Any religious group is free to start the like. Excessive government coerced “interdependence” could reduce private voluntary interdependence and initiative in different areas reducing societal creativity.

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Patrick Groneman

posted January 21, 2010 at 8:13 pm

Is there a system that could guarantee health insurance to every citizen, encourage diversity in means and organizations providing treatment, and also reward those who provide health insurance for themselves without it being considered a penalty to those who can’t?

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posted January 21, 2010 at 11:41 pm

I hope so, the American genius has been to have diversity and freedom and prosperity in an orderly society based on private property and free enterprise with a limited government. While of course imperfect it is a rare achievement that should be zealously guarded.

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Your Name

posted January 22, 2010 at 7:08 am

Whatever it is, all I hope is that President Obama will do his duties for his people and country men. He should give better better health care insurance for all as health is very important for the success of his country.

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Willaim Dunigan

posted January 22, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Greetings to one and all: In that most precious name. That name which is above every name, the name: “Jesus” ____There’s tremendous power in that name. I’d suppose we’ll never fully realize all that can truly be accomplished, by us simply calling out that name in true faith.____There’s an old, old, gospel song that goes like this: Faith in the Father, faith in the Son, faith in the Holy Spirit, great victories are won. Demons will tremble and sinners will awake, faith in Jehovah will anything shake.____For you who have never come into this realization, if you’re reading this, just give him a welcome into your heart and life. You will both feel and see an awesome difference. You will have also purchased the ticket to heaven (by accepting, therefore making him welcome to come into your life. You will also sup from His cup that contains living water. (As did the woman at the well of Bethesda.) John 4:10____Much love, ____Your brother in Christ Jesus, who is both our Lord, and… “” …

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posted January 23, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Bravo! Jerry Kolber I absolutely love your comment. Thank you for putting John and Adam in their place. This subject is so touchy and unfortunately some people are afraid of change. If you put change in this world and show that it is ok to have compassion for your neighbor and it is ok for a person who has no food to feed his child to at least know if his child is ill he can be helped. It sickens me that Americans can be so selfish and self absorbed that we judge people from the color of their skin and their social status in this world. We have forgotten to say hello to our neighbors because we worry about such dribble as “MY NEIGHBOR IS GETTING FOOD STAMPS AND I AM NOT” What business is it of yours if your neighbor is riding around in an expensive car or getting stamps, that person may have worked for years and is unable because of the BUSH economy and needs a helping hand. Is he supposed to sell his car because after he paid his taxes to earn the right to stand in that line and ask for assistance?. How dare you suggest that someone is not worthy because you say “I give at the church, I volunteer, I-I-I, what about WE THE PEOPLE- OF THE UNITED STATES..
Get a grip Americans if we don’t stop separating each other we are going to have a generation of children that is going to hurt one another even more because we teach them separation.
I love the speech and I pray for hope, forgiveness and compassion.

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Raj Dhruvarajan

posted January 26, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Jerry Kolber,
An excellent speech I hope Obama reads and then gives!You describe very well the way American people (especially the poor and the middle class) are being manipulated and taken advantage of by the few rich and greedy corporate interests and the parasitic politicians beholden to these corporate interests. The Republican politicians could not have stooped lower lied more blatantly or betrayed more the hoary American values of justice, compassion and fairness than in their blind opposition to any Health care reform. My question is: Where are all the people who elected Obama? Why are they so silent?

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posted January 27, 2010 at 8:04 am

THanks buddhist43 and Raj – appreciate the kind words, very much. Raj, I’m not sure where the electorate went, but I also know that Obama got very sucked into policy-wonkiness in the last year and completely abandoned the outreach and inspiration he offered to the young and not-so-young who were very excited by his campaign, and became a president who tries to talk to everyone. If he stops trying to talk everyone and gets back into the groove of talking to the people who actually care what he has to say – and are ready to support him – we’ll be there for him.
But his approach of trying to keep those who elected him “satisfied” rather than inspired, while trying to convince those who didn’t vote for him that he’ll do the right thing by them, is absurd. They didn’t vote for him, so why is he still trying to win their support? Disengage from those who don’t engage with you, maybe they’ll come around or maybe not – but they aren’t his base.
George Bush, to his credit, was absolutely clear about who his base was and where he would draw support from. He never tried to include those who did not agree with him, because he knew that it was pointless, and he played to his strengths and his core. This transcends politics – it’s about figuring out how to do what you said you would do, and not expending energy where it is wasted.

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Your Name

posted February 5, 2010 at 12:37 pm

I thought that this country was run by the people. What I mean by that is all these politician were voted in by the people to do a job for us. What the people of this country needs right now is for all the citizens to be provided with health care. The goverment should not tell us what health insurance we should have but provide insurance for everyone. Instead all the politican have they own personal agenda. If a country like France could provide health care for their citizens then we should be able to do the same.

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New York liposuctions

posted February 15, 2010 at 4:00 am

Let hope we all remember the bottom line: as a nation, we have the most expensive health care system in the world, but our health status is only 17th among the industrial countries. Something is terribly wrong with this picture.

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posted May 4, 2010 at 6:34 am

It tells me that the Doc Fix does not reduce the deficit. Does this surprise anyone? What does that have to do with the price of tea in China? There is no reason that the Doc Fix had to be in ObamaCare. ObamaCare is primarily about reform of the individual and small group market as per the latest insurance index. It was done before ObamaCare, it will be done after ObamaCare

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Health Insurance Quote

posted September 28, 2010 at 7:14 am

Its really a well written speech. But i don’t think this would come to reality. Obama has to reform the health care bill or else he will have to lose votes.
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