Obama slams insurance industry going into health reform's home stretch

As the Senate prepares for a final round of votes on its healthcare reform bill, President Barack Obama chastised the insurance industry for its lobbying against the legislation.

In his weekly address Saturday, Obama extolled the virtues of the bill for the various protections it would provide for Americans in their health insurance coverage. He also called for an up and down vote on the legislation. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has struggled to find the necessary 60 votes to beat back a filibuster, which Obama blamed on the insurance companies’ heavy lobbying.

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“They’re spending millions of dollars to kill health insurance reform, just like they’ve done so many times before. They want to preserve a system that works better for the insurance industry than it does for the American people,” Obama said in his address.

The president recounted a similar legislative battle more than a decade ago over the Patient’s Bill of Rights, a bill that had support from senators from both parties, including Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and the late Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.). Designed to let people choose their own doctor, appeal against an insurance company’s decision and disclose more information about potential conflicts of interests for doctors, the bill was beaten back by the insurance industry before it could be passed.

Obama said both the House and Senate healthcare reform bills would go further in providing consumer protections than that legislation. Liberals, including former Democratic National Committee Chairman and Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), have said the Senate bill is not worth passing without a government-run insurance plan, known as the “public option,” or a Medicare buy-in alternative.


“Simply put, the protections currently included in both the health insurance reform bill passed by the House and the version currently on the Senate floor would represent the toughest measures we’ve ever taken to hold the insurance industry accountable. Anyone who says otherwise simply hasn’t read the bills,” Obama said. “Just open these proposals at random and you’ll find on almost any page patient protections that dwarf any of those passed by Congress in at least a decade.”

The president also prodded senators to not filibuster the bill. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) is the latest holdout, worried over federal funds being used to pay for abortions, who has left Democrats uncertain if they have enough votes to move the bill forward.

“Whatever their position on health insurance reform, senators ought to allow an up or down vote. Let’s bring this long and vigorous debate to an end,” Obama said.