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Obama’s Plans For Healthcare In 2007

The following is a partial transcript of Senator Barack Obama’s appearance at the Center For American Progress and SEIU’s Healthcare Forum, held in March 2007:

(Part 2, part 3)


Saturday, March 24, 2007

KAREN TUMULTY: Our next candidate that we are going to hear from this morning is Illinois Senator Barack Obama.

BARACK OBAMA: Well, thank you so much, everybody. It is wonderful to be here. Thank you to UNLV for helping to sponsor this event, to CAP for the outstanding work you do, but most of all thanks to SEIU. I’ve got a history with this union. When I was a young organizer, I had just moved to Chicago. I started with working with SEIU Local 880, home health care workers, to make sure that they were registered to vote. I had a say in the politics in Illinois. When I went to the state legislature, I worked with Tom Balanoff in SEIU to make sure that children who didn’t have health care received it. And we made sure that hospitals report on the quality of care, the staffing ratios that they had set up, and now we’re working together at the federal level to make sure that all Americans, not just some Americans, are allowed to prosper.

But the thing that I appreciate most about SEIU and Andy Stern and Anna Burger is you guys recognize this world is not standing still. And we’ve got to take the values that have made America great but we have to adapt them to new times. And we know what those challenges are. Because of globalization, because of automation what we’re seeing is increasingly a situation in which the benefits of this new economy accrued to just some and leave too many behind. Wages, salaries have flat lined and benefits are diminished. And the message that we’ve heard over the last six years is, You’re on your own.

The troubles, the difficulties, the burdens of globalization are going to be placed on the backs of workers. But there’s always been another vision that says we’re in it together and that the burdens and benefits of this new economy have to be spread evenly across the economy, and nowhere do we see that more than in the issue of health care. Everybody here knows the statistics. We as a nation spend $2 trillion every year, more than any nation on earth, and yet we still have 47 million people who are uninsured, 9 million children who are uninsured. We’ve got families who are being bankrupt as a consequence of rising costs and we’ve got businesses that are being rendered uncompetitive because of these rising costs. Now, everybody on this stage is going to have a plan to move this health care debate forward. I will be putting out a plan over the next couple of months that details how I would approach the basic principles that by the end of the next president’s first term, by the end of my first term, that we’re going to have universal health care for every single American in the United States.

And there are going to be some basic principles; that coverage has to be universal, that we’re going to have to save costs and get more bang for our health care dollar, that employers, government and individuals are all going to have to put up something, and that savings that we obtain from making a more efficient system can’t be just obtained by hitting frontline workers. But in addition to those basic principles I think, what I think is most important is we recognize that every four years we hear somebody has got a health care plan. Every four years somebody trots out a white paper, they post it on the web. But the question we have to challenge ourselves is do we have the political will and the sense of urgency to actually get it done.

I want to be held accountable for getting it done. I will judge my first term as president based on the fact on whether we have delivered the kind of health care that every American deserves and that our system can afford. And I’m not going to be able to do it on my own, so I hope that the SEIU will partner in that process. Thanks, everybody.

KAREN TUMULTY: Thank you, Senator. You gave a speech in January where you said that the time for half steps and the time for half measures in health care is over with.


KAREN TUMULTY: But thus far we haven’t seen a plan from you yet, and so I’m going to turn my first question over to Morgan Miller who went on your website looking for specific answers and didn’t find them. So I’m going to give him a chance to ask you those specific questions now. Morgan?

MORGAN MILLER: I, like many young Americans, went on your website to find some information about you, and all I saw when it came to addressing the health care issue was things like HIV, which is very important, and issues like lead poisoning. And so I was wondering what really are your top issues when you want to talk about health care? Are you going to address the pharmaceutical companies? Are you going to address the insurance companies, because it’s not online.

BARACK OBAMA: Right. Well, keep in mind that our campaign now is I think a little over eight weeks old. And so we will be putting a very detailed plan on our website. One thing I want to make sure of is that you’re going — I’m not sure whether you’re going to the campaign website or my Senate website. So we haven’t transitioned all that information from our Senate website over to the campaign website. But, as I indicated before, my commitment is to make sure that we’ve got universal health care for all Americans by the end of my first term as president.

There are some basic principles that this plan will have. Number one, we’re going to have to make sure that everybody is in. Number two, we’ve got to make sure that we apply some principles, because I think every expert agrees to in terms of how we save money and get more out of the dollars that we’re already spending. For example, we’ve got to put more money in prevention. It makes no sense for the children to be going to the emergency room for treatable ailments like asthma. And if we are giving them regular checkups with their primary care physician, then we’re going to save money in the system. Twenty percent of our patients who have chronic illnesses account for eighty percent of the costs. And so it’s absolutely critical that we invest in managing those with chronic illnesses, like diabetes. If we, for example, hire a case manager to work with them to ensure that they’re taking the proper treatments, then potentially we’re not going to spend $30,000 on a leg amputation if they’re diabetic. Application of medical technology can not only reduce administrative costs but it can also improve quality and reduce medical errors. We’re going to have to take those savings and apply them to those persons who can’t afford health insurance so that they can buy into the system that we’re subsidizing them in some fashion.

Another principle is that it’s going to have to be some form of pooling of costs of risk. And there are going to be a number of proposals, and they’re out. I heard in some of the previous questions that one pool would be the federal pool that already exists for myself and other federal workers. Some states, like California and Massachusetts, already started to set up their pools. Whatever the mechanism, we going to have to have a pooling system so that individuals have the benefits of being part of a larger group. And the final thing that I’ll just mention is that we’re going to have to do something serious about quality and how we spend our money. Not only do we have to put more money in prevention, but we’ve also got to make sure that, for example, if a generic works just as well as a brand name drug, that we’re not fighting drug companies to dictate what is on the formulary, what drugs are available under a plan but we make sure that the money is spent on the most efficient drug for that particular disease.

If we do all those things, I believe there’s no reason why we can’t end up with the kind of health care system that would ensure that every American has high quality, basic health care. Now, I promise you that this will all be on the website. If we have another forum in a couple of months and it’s still not there, I’ll be in trouble.

KAREN TUMULTY: Senator, on the question that is really the lynchpin of all these other questions, which is coverage, there are only a few ways of getting there. Could you at least give us a sense of where your thinking is on this? Have you accepted or rejected any of the concepts like an employer mandate or require that employers provide coverage? An individual mandate where people would have to buy into the system the way they do with auto insurance?

Are you wedded, for instance, to this idea, as the first two candidates were, that we basically should stick with this system in which most people get their coverage from their employers or have you found any positives to the idea that’s being offered by your colleague, Ron Wyden, to essentially break that system and come up with a new one? Could you at least give us a sense of, you know, which possibilities here intrigue you and which ones that maybe you’re dismissing at this point?

BARACK OBAMA: Well, we have a plan that we are in the process of unveiling. What we want to do is try to set up a series of round table discussions before we actually announce it. Not just with experts, which we’ve already done, but rather with frontline workers, with nurses, with doctors, with consumers, which we’re going to be scheduling over the next couple of months in terms of rolling it out. But let me just address a couple of points.

As I indicated before, I think that we’re going to have to have some system where people can buy into a larger pool. Right now their pool typically is the employer, but there are other ways of doing it. I would like to — I would hope that we could set up a system that allows those who can go through their employer to access a federal system or a state pool of some sort. But I don’t think we’re going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately. There’s going to be potentially some transition process. I can envision a decade out or 15 years out or 20 years out where we’ve got a much more portable system. Employers still have the option of providing coverage, but many people may find that they get better coverage, or at least coverage that gives them more for health care dollars than they spend outside of their employer. And I think we’ve got to facilitate that and let individuals make that choice to transition out of employer coverage.

I do believe that employers are going to have to pay or play. I think that employers either have to provide health care coverage for their employees or they’ve got to make a decision that they’re going to help pay for those who don’t have coverage outside the employer system. So I think that’s one important principle. And as I said, the second important principle is that we’re going to have to put more money into prevention, more money into chronic care management, more money into medical technology, because that is how we’re going to accrue the savings that help us provide subsidies to those who don’t already have it.

KAREN TUMULTY: Now I think I’d like to turn to a question from one of our UNLV students who’s here, and I’m not going to make the mistake as I did with Morgan and assuming this is a male. Michael Lyle is a journalism student, and I probably ought to talk to you afterwards about the wisdom of that. Are you here, Michael?

MICHAEL LYLE: Yes. Currently there are major disparities in both access to insurance and health care for racial and minorities. How will your plan address this issue?

BARACK OBAMA: Well, one of the biggest reasons that there are disparities is that African-Americans, Latino Americas are much more likely not to have health insurance. And so if we set up a system in which everybody’s got health insurance, some of those disparities are immediately going to be reduced. And I’m sure one of the statistics that’s already been mentioned is that close to 80 percent of those without health insurance works. They are in some cases actually folks who are working in the health care system but don’t have health care benefits. And they’re cleaning bedpans and, you know, cleaning floors in hospitals and, you know, unfortunately don’t have access to the same system which they’re a critical part of. So those groups are disproportionately minority.

That would be the first step. There are some particular issues within the minority community that I think we can address in a targeted way. Morgan earlier mentioned the issue of lead paint. Now, that may seem like an ancillary issue except for the fact that in cities like Chicago, the incidence of lead poisoning among African-American, Latino youths is sky high. It has huge ramifications in terms of their long-term health. Obesity and diabetes in minority communities is more severe.

And so I think targeted programs, particularly to children in those communities, to make sure that they’ve got sound nutrition, that they have access to fruits and vegetables and not just Popeye’s, that they have decent spaces to play and outdoor activities instead of just being couped up in the house all day. Those are specific areas where I think we can target the minority communities. And we’ve already mentioned HIV/AIDS. The incidents is growing, is much higher in poorer populations, and those tend to be minority populations. And so making sure that we’re putting money into HIV and AIDS in those communities I think would make an enormous difference. So there are going to be areas where we target specific problems that plague minority communities in particular.

But the most important thing that we can do is make sure that every single person has coverage, every single person has access to basic primary care and preventative care. If we’re doing that, we’re going to see those disparities close significantly.

KAREN TUMULTY: Now we have another question by email from Wendy in Oakview, California. And she wants to know as a single mother who meets the bills but not much more, I fall through the cracks making too much for state assistance but not enough to afford health insurance. So what will you do for people like me?

BARACK OBAMA: Well, I think that is the group that I just referred to. Working people aren’t getting benefits on the job, don’t qualify for Medicaid. And we’re going to have to provide them a subsidy so that they can access health insurance. It’s pretty straightforward. If you’re working full time in the economy, there’s no reason why you should not be able to access health care.

And one thing that I think is important is to recognize that there are a lot of small employers who would like to get health care for their workers but they themselves can’t afford it because they don’t have access to large enough pools to allow them to save money. That’s why I think it’s going to be important for us in whatever system that we set up to make sure that in addition to the employer based system that we’ve got an alternative system that individuals who aren’t getting it through the job can access. Now, I just have to repeat something I said earlier. And I’m absolutely convinced of this. The most important challenge for us is to build a political consensus around the need to solve this problem.

There are only a handful of options. You mentioned some of them that are out there. John Edwards has put out a plan which I think is very credible. Hillary Clinton has been working on this for a long time. I was listening to Governor Richardson. He’s got some good ideas. Everybody is going to have some good ideas. The question is are we able to bring a majority of people together around the need to solve the problem now. And one thing that makes me feel more optimistic about this than I might have been ten or twelve years ago is the fact that business is feeling the pinch.

You know, large corporations recognize that they can’t be competitive on the international stage if their health care costs are rising at a constant clip and their competitors don’t have to pay any health insurance because it’s all covered through a government system. Small businesses know that their employees are not going to be as productive if they don’t have health insurance. So what I think is an enormous opportunity for the next president is to bring business, labor, consumers, providers together and stay focused on it for a year, two years, however long it takes to make sure it happens.

KAREN TUMULTY: Well, and one more question. We have time for one more question. And so I realize that your plan is still a work in progress. We heard some disagreements on this stage already today about whether it is possible to do this without raising more taxes. Have you come into this with a particular perspective on this or are you going to put taxes on the table or take them off now?

BARACK OBAMA: I think that we’re going to have to put some money on the front end into creating a new system. Let me just take a simple example. If we’re going to be serious about using medical technology to cut down on the administrative costs, bureaucracy, make sure that we don’t have everything signed in triplicate every time you go into a hospital, if doctors and nurses and pharmacists are communicating effectively through PDAs instead of writing scribbled notes that nobody can read, if we do all those things, there are a lot of community hospitals out there that may not afford, may not be able to afford the computerization and the software system to set that up, and we may need to subsidize them.

So we’re going to have to put some money in on the front. I think that we can by making the system more efficient, get a lot of money out of the system and use that to help subsidize workers who have it and to improve the efficiency of the system. I haven’t yet made a decision in terms of how much additional money is going to be needed to meet my goal of ensuring that universal health care exists in this country within six years. I can tell you that I will do whatever it takes, because I think over the long-term it’s good for families, it’s good for business, it’s good for the country. So I have not foreclosed the possibility that we might need additional revenue in order to achieve my goal, but I think we shouldn’t underestimate the amount of money that can be saved in the existing system.

And I think also it’s important to recognize that we may be putting in some front end investments. We may have to spend several extra billion dollars on the front end as we transition to a more intelligent system. We will get those savings on the back end. Although, one last point that I would make, I want to make sure that those savings go into the pockets of families and not just insurance companies or drug companies. That I think is very important. So one of my priorities is to create a more efficient system.

Whatever the mechanism is, I want to make sure that families are seeing lower premiums, lower co-payments, and also that health care providers are not getting squeezed in this process of making more efficient. I get most disturbed when I start hearing the best way to save the system is basically to cut reimbursements to hospitals or cut reimbursements to doctors or, you know, stop giving raises to nurses or have nurses work 10, 12, 15 patients or 20 patients. That’s not really saving the system, all that’s doing is just compounding some errors we’ve already made in the system, okay.

KAREN TUMULTY: Thank you very much, Senator.

BARACK OBAMA: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thank you, guys.

As you can see, that just like in the Audacity For Hope, Mr. Obama’s bogeyman here is ‘globalization.’ That has now been conveniently replaced by the ‘financial crisis.’

But note that back in March 2007, right after he started his campaign, Obama told his Center For American Progress /SEIU pals that he wants healthcare to be employer mandated.

That he wants to eventually eliminate private health insurance. And that he is willing to raise taxes to get it. Or as he put it, do "whatever it takes." (Which is what Geitner said yesterday.)

Note too how Mr. Obama stressed how his Presidency depended up getting all of this accomplished in his first term. (But it isn’t about him.)

And yes, this is the same Center For American Progress that is run by John Podesta, and which is calling the shots on healthcare for the Obama administration.

(Thanks to Canary for the heads up.)

This article was posted by Steve on Monday, August 3rd, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

11 Responses to “Obama’s Plans For Healthcare In 2007”

  1. canary says:

    Video: Obama’s statements on single payer health care. Starts with recent claims by Obama he is not doing away with private insurance health care on 6/15/09 speech to the Medical Association,
    3/24/07 statements found in the transcripts below. That he wants Universal health care, and to fade out private health care, force employers to pool into federal money.
    2003 at Senator campaign, claims repeatedly he is an opponent for Universal “single payer” health care. Then Barney Franks recent claim we will see single payer health care.

    (also I noticed in the vidio or transcript, Obama in used “basic” care, as Geithner now uses to describe the health care. Don’t forget the Obama’s debates with Hilary, and with John McCain, Obama was clear on universal health care. Denied arguements by McCain and Hillary (she wanted national)

    Video of Obama’s comments.

    Center of American Progress:
    In 2007 Obama said he wanted to eliminate private health insurance.
    Wants Universal, force employers to pay for it.

    Transcript: Sen. Barack Obama
    The following is a transcript of Senator Barack Obama’s speech at the Presidential Forum

    link to download actual transcribed transcript

    Saturday, March 24, 2007, 9:15 a.m.
    Transcribed by Deborah Ann Hines, CCR #473, RPR


  2. 64dodger says:

    From Drudge Report:

    Uncovered Video: Obama Explains How His Health Care Plan Will ‘Eliminate’ Private Insurance…

    • canary says:

      64 dodger, I’ve had great difficulty with the video and original site that posted the info. I relinked the video as it didn’t work. Lot’s of disappearing acts going on.

  3. canary says:

    Here is a Video of Obama’s 2007 earlier statements to do away with private insurance, and to include 2003 when he claimed repeatedly he was for single payer. Plus Barney Frank’s recent statement.


    Transcript: Sen. Barack Obama
    The following is a transcript of Senator Barack Obama’s speech at the Presidential Forum

    link to download actual transcribed transcript

  4. canary says:

    Isn’t there some muslim custom, where a liar get’s his tongue cut out. He could still do his “uh ba,um, hm, duh” and have Barney spit out any necessary words the teleprompter calls for. A class act.

    • jobeth says:

      “He could still do his “uh ba,um, hm, duh”

      Great point! I’d vote for it! LOL

      However, I do believe you may be wrong about the “duh”…It would more likely to come out as “gah”…LOL!

  5. MinnesotaRush says:

    “.. by the end of my first term as president.”

    IF .. you make it to the end of your first term as president .. we need to make sure there’s no second term for the dillusional fool and his cronies!

  6. proreason says:

    If everything you say contradicts something you said earlier, were you a liar then or are you a liar now.

    Or are you a liar all the time.

  7. Liberals Demise says:

    We now see when the snake sheds its’ skin….it is still a “Snake”.

  8. crosspatch says:

    I wonder what the psychological toll will be on older folks. You have people in “assisted care” who in many cases are abandoned by their kids and grandkids. Now the government starts pestering them every so often about “end of life” care and maybe they begin to wonder if they are serving any real purpose here and maybe they should just get the inevitable overwith. I believe Obamacare could result in many perfectly healthy seniors taking their own lives out of a loss of hope and purpose.

    When you have your own government suggesting that you aren’t worth devoting any resources to … it is going to be a heartbreaking experience for a lot of people.

  9. Rusty Shackleford says:

    IN the “good news” column, it is slowly becoming apparent that even the moderate fence-sitters who voted for hope and change are now turning on Blammo. More words are coming out to the effect that they’re sick of his yammering and saying over and over that “this is gonna” and “this will”. They are becoming more aware that it’s all theories and speculation and that to implement something that mirrors the DMV and Medicare combined, that it’s not a really great idea…and not even a good one.

    Blammo was intentionally vague on his platform about healthcare reform…and unfortunately, like sales tactics the world over, that vagueness allowed the listeners to believe what they wanted…that the plan would include their own concept of what “hope and change” meant.

    So now that he is forced to leak more and more of the dastardly plan, the hope and change look-a-likes are taking the cold cream to it and uncovering the makeup.

    Sad that it may actually happen, as Rush indicated today that there could be a public outcry of millions of people in the streets and the spiteful hippies in the government would still cram it down our throats. For, as Rush put it, “They don’t CARE about the people”.

    I agree.

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