Obama highlights problem of uninsured

About half of all Americans under 65 will go without health insurance coverage for some period of time during the next 10 years, President Barack Obama stressed during this Saturday’s radio address.

Roughly one-third of those Americans will live without insurance for more than a year, and Americans under 21 are the most likely to lack coverage, the president added.

ADVERTISEMENT
“It’s an anxiety that’s keeping more and more Americans awake at night. Over the last twelve months, nearly six million more Americans lost their health coverage – that’s 17,000 men and women every single day,” Obama said. “We’re not just talking about Americans in poverty, either – we’re talking about middle-class Americans. In other words, it can happen to anyone.”

Obama’s latest figures are the byproducts of a 10-year Treasury Department study of health insurance coverage in the United States, unveiled on Saturday. The data, gathered from more than 7,000 families between 1997 and 2006, reinforce the oft-cited estimate that 15 percent of all Americans go without health insurance in a given year, according to the department.

Treasury officials have since suggested their numbers understate the size and scope of the uninsured. The department’s data set, compiled in part by University of Michigan researchers, reflects a period of time when the economy was experiencing moderate growth. The more than 20-month economic recession in 2008 and 2009, they said, could mean the ranks of the uninsured are actually much higher.

Obama said on Saturday the sheer magnitude of the Treasury Department’s new findings underscored the need for quick and comprehensive health reform.

"In the United States of America, no one should have to worry that they’ll go without health insurance – not for one year, not for one month, not for one day," Obama said. "And once I sign my health reform plan into law – they won’t."

The president then used his address to reiterate the details he presented to a joint session of Congress and the American people on Wednesday night. Obama emphasized his plan would prevent insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and stressed those happy with their current providers would not have to change them. He also said he would not sign any proposal that “adds one dime to our deficits.”

Missing from Obama’s speech, however, was any mention of the public option, which again dominated debate on Capitol Hill this week. The president on Wednesday spoke at length about the proposal, arguing it offered choice and drove competition. But on Saturday, Obama merely reiterated the importance of affordable, competitive insurance reform, mentioning not one of the plans currently before Congress.

“Affordable, quality care within reach for the tens of millions of Americans who don’t have it today. Stability and security for the hundreds of millions who do. That’s the reform we seek,” Obama said.

Saturday’s address was also devoid of any mention of Republicans, who criticized Obama for ending his speech on Wednesday on a partisan note, or their signature issue of tort reform. Instead, the president concluded his remarks on a more neutral tone, pining lawmakers for their support.

“We have had a long and important debate. But now is the time for action,” Obama said. “Because every day we wait, more Americans will lose their health care, their businesses, and their homes – but also the dreams they’ve worked for and the peace of mind they deserve. They are why we have to succeed.”

More in Health reform implementation

ObamaCare fines loom for uninsured

Read more »