Local Politics

Obama pledges consumer protections

Posted July 29, 2009

— Congress reported progress on legislation to overhaul the nation's health care Wednesday as President Barack Obama introduced a retooled message asserting his plan would protect Americans and limit insurers' power.

"We have a system today that works well for the insurance industry, but it doesn't always work well for you," Obama told more than 2,000 people at Broughton High School in Raleigh.

Obama gives health care speech in Raleigh Obama town hall meeting

"What we need, and what we will have when we pass these reforms, are health insurance consumer protections to make sure that those who have insurance are treated fairly and insurance companies are held accountable."

An estimated 1.8 million residents – 21 percent of the population – have no health care in North Carolina, according to a report by the Center for American Progress. For those who have coverage, health insurance premiums have increased 75 percent from 2000 to 2007.

In Wake County, about 110,000 residents are uninsured, Penny Washington, chief executive officer of Wake Health Services, a community health center that serves a vast majority of patients on Medicare and Medicaid.

"As the numbers continue to rise, we're in the situation where more and more people are waiting until they have an emergency situation and then going to the emergency room, which is so much more expensive," Washington said.

The longer lawmakers wait, she said, the higher the number of uninsured in Wake County will be.

Obama pledged that the health care legislation he is seeking will bar insurance companies from denying coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions and include numerous provisions to hold down the cost of care for consumers.

Opponents of the plan, including conservative political advocacy group Americans for Prosperity, support free-market health care delivery in contrast to what they worry would be too much government involvement in the industry.

A government-first mentality that sacrifices, not just our freedoms but our lives – it has no place in the United States of America," Americans for Prosperity state director Dallas Woodhouse said Wednesday at a rally at the North Raleigh Hilton.

The group plans to take its message of free-market health care across the state in the coming days.

"No one is talking about some government takeover of health care," Obama said. "Under the reform I’ve proposed, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan."

"And if you’re one of the 46 million Americans who don’t have coverage today, you will finally be able to get quality, affordable coverage," he said."

Insurance companies would have to obey limits on the out-of-pocket costs they could demand, and would not be permitted to charge co-pays or other fees for preventive care such as checkups or mammograms.

Children would remain eligible for family coverage through age 26, rather than the current 23, a step that would reduce the number of young uninsured adults.

"Whether or not you have health insurance right now, the reforms we seek will bring stability and security that you don’t have today – reforms that become more urgent and more urgent with each passing year," Obama said.

"I applaud the president for prioritizing health care and working with Congress to bring about change," said Gov. Bev Perdue, who was among state officials present Wednesday.

"When I spoke to President Obama this morning, I told him I believe strongly that reform must take place at the federal level. We have innovative solutions to providing care in North Carolina, and we have excellent providers, but our finances are stretched to the limit," she added. "We must ensure that the financial burden of a new system cannot fall to the states."

Back in Washington, House lawmakers indicated they were moving ahead on their version of the health care legislation after leaders and fiscally conservative Democrats worked out a deal.

Senators trying to reach a bipartisan compromise also indicated progress in paring the costs of the plan as they push for an agreement they hope will appeal to the political middle.

Four of the seven so-called Blue Dog Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee said they resolved their differences with Chairman Henry Waxman of California. The lawmakers also had been meeting with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel.

At the same time, Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, the Democrat leading the negotiations among three Democrats and three Republicans, said new estimates from the Congressional Budget Office show the plan that's taking shape would cover 95 percent of Americans by 2015, and cost about $900 billion over 10 years – under the unofficial $1 trillion target the White House has set.

Many, if not all, of the consumer protections Obama highlighted are included in legislation under discussion in both chambers.

But conservative-to-moderate Democrats have concerns about the cost to taxpayers and government's reach, making the legislative process move slower than the White House would like and presenting political challenges to the Democratic president.

Under the plan, an independent commission would be empowered to recommend changes in Medicare annually, to take effect automatically unless Congress enacted an alternative.

In addition to saving money, the proposal is aimed at turning the program for those age 65 and over into one that more clearly rewards quality, officials said.

The commission would be required to recommend $35 billion in savings over a decade from Medicare. There was no immediate estimate on the longer-term effects of the provision, the topic of exhaustive discussion among Baucus' group.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to discuss details of the private talks.


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  • blackdog Jul 30, 2009

    I have read accusations that health care reform is:
    Socialist, taking your freedoms, determining when and how you die, requires you to give up your bank account to the government, reduces care, determines who your doctor is, and so on. I'm surprised, required abortions aren't flaunted as well.

  • maggieknowlya Jul 30, 2009

    JaySee....it's not about people using the ER when it's necessary, and yes broken boness apply. The uninsured and Medicaid recipients tie up ER's with everything from a nosebleed to an ingrown toenail because they know they can't be turned away. Believe me when I say I am totally opposed to this particular "hell..th" care bill, but preventive and primary care for people in those circumstances would actually save a bundle...IF they could get care before they self medicate for something minor until it gets out of hand they would not have to tie up the ER's, but we all know the Dr's offices and Urgent cares ask one question first and may or may not take all types of insurance or medicaid. And cash would be out of the question for some people at some times even if they expected to have the ability to pay later.

  • blueridgerunner Jul 30, 2009

    BO makes another promise. Sorry, I am just not convinced that the Federal Government knows what's best for me. Some one deep in this running chatter pointed to VA Hospitals as a fine example of government run health care. I can tell you, as a Vet the only reason I'd go to the VA is if I had no other choice. There's not one federal entitlement program today that is not riff with bureaucratic red tape, waste, corruption, fraud, and mismanagement. And that isn't screaming for more money. Some one mentioned traveling to South America and their health care. It's true that you can get over the counter prescription medications cheap there. But I don't think anyone would honestly want to be hospitalized there. I've spent time there too. However I believe that under BO we might be headed in the direction of our South and Central American friends. Poor, with no employment hopes, huge gap between the haves and have nots, a socialist view point and factional govrnment

  • kcfoxie Jul 30, 2009

    JaySee: We're in similar situations, but honestly, if someone broke an ankle ... I know how to split it. It was part of my school training in health class. In a worst case, if you had to wait 2 days to get a cast on it, I'd think I'd google How to Set a Split on my iPhone and figure it out. It's called survivor mentality...

  • podtalk Jul 30, 2009

    All I would ask is that everyone that reads this contact your representatives during the recess and let them know how you feel about socialized medicine. it's not too late to stop this nut and this crazy agenda that's being rammed down our throats. The whole list of reps can be found here. http://www.hannity.com/Article.asp?id=1417285&spid=16420

  • Hooked_Again Jul 30, 2009

    I have traveled to many south American countries and I was able to purchase antibiotics from the pharmacy without seeing a doctor or paying for a prescription. In the so called 3 world people see doctors and receive treatment for reasonable charges. When we are forced to pay $100 for the script and $50 for the meds they get with $15 for the same service. If you don't know it we are being robbed!

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Jul 30, 2009

    "Obama pledges consumer protections"

    Personally, I wish he would simply Pledge to quit Pledging.

  • JaySee Jul 30, 2009

    I do not see where reducing emergency room visits will be as much of a benefit in cost reduction that all these people claim it will be. When your kid breaks their ankle during a weekend soccer match, you go to the emergency room. Sometimes it's the only place available. Wellness care only goes so far. It doesn't predict up coming emergencies. I know many people who pay for insurance and they do not get regular check-ups. I am one of them. I will go to the emergency room when an emergency pops up. Besides that, the 45 Million uninsured number is bloated and most of us are smart enough to figure out where that figure comes from. What we see is basically an excuse to get a foot in the door for the government plan. You can bet the debate will rage for years because what government does is never enough. Education is a prime example. It's a blackhole for taxes and we are constantly told it's not enough. Add Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, SCHIP, etc. All are underfunded, we're told.

  • colliedave Jul 30, 2009

    "What we need, and what we will have when we pass these reforms, are health insurance consumer protections to make sure that those who have insurance are treated fairly and insurance companies are held accountable."

    And just what government body would be responsible? Are these the responsibility of state governments? And just how does one measure quality as the human body is vastly more complex than a car or an assembly line? Six sigma will not fit into a health care system, but don't ask a Barry believer to use reason/logic.

  • littleriver69 Jul 30, 2009

    Oh..I believe him...I do....ahhh.....really......yes, yes I believe him. Really.........
    Our country is doomed.