This afternoon the President was joined by members of the American Nurses Association in the Rose Garden, where he spoke strongly on the urgent need for health care reform. He explained that the status quo is not an option, and that deferring reform is akin to defending that status quo.
The President praised nurses as an essential component to our health care system, saying without them, many in underserved areas would not receive health care at all. Because they work so closely with patients, nurses know as well as anybody why reform is desperately needed:
And that's why it's safe to say that few understand why we have to pass reform as intimately as our nation's nurses. They see firsthand the heartbreaking costs of our health care crisis. They hear the same stories that I've heard across this country -- of treatment deferred or coverage denied by insurance companies; of insurance premiums and prescriptions that are so expensive they consume a family's entire budget; of Americans forced to use the emergency room for something as simple as a sore throat just because they can't afford to see a doctor.
And they understand that this is a problem that we can no longer defer. We can't kick the can down the road any longer. Deferring reform is nothing more than defending the status quo -- and those who would oppose our efforts should take a hard look at just what it is that they're defending. Over the last decade, health insurance premiums have risen three times faster than wages. Deductibles and out-of-pocket costs are skyrocketing. And every single day we wait to act, thousands of Americans lose their insurance, some turning to nurses in emergency rooms as their only recourse.
Rising costs are unsustainable, which is why reform benefits all Americans, whether they are insured or not. The President assured that those who like their health care can keep it, and reform will save you money by bringing down costs, providing more choices, and keeping insurance companies honest. Inaction is not an option, but real progress is being made. The President commended the hard work being done in Congress as key committees in the House and Senate have put forth their plans:
Yesterday, the House introduced its health reform proposal. Today, thanks to the unyielding passion and inspiration of our friend Ted Kennedy, and to the bold leadership of Senator Chris Dodd, the Senate HELP Committee reached a major milestone by passing a similarly strong proposal for health reform. It's a plan that was debated for more than 50 hours and that, by the way, includes 160 Republican amendments -- a hopeful sign of bipartisan support for the final product, if people are serious about bipartisanship.
Both proposals will take what's best about our system today and make it the basis for our system tomorrow -- reducing costs, raising quality, and ensuring fair treatment of consumers by the insurance industry. Both include a health insurance exchange, a marketplace that will allow families and small businesses to compare prices, services, and the quality, so they can choose the plan that best suits their needs. And among the choices available would be a public health insurance option that would make health care more affordable by increasing competition, providing more choices, and keeping insurance companies honest. Both proposals will offer stability and security to Americans who have coverage today, and affordable options to those who don't.
The President emphasized that we will get health care reform done, because Americans need reform to succeed: for the patients, families, businesses, hospitals, doctors and nurses:
America's nurses need us to succeed, not just on behalf of the patients that they sometimes speak for. If we invest in prevention, nurses won't have to treat diseases or complications that could have been avoided. If we modernize health records, we'll streamline the paperwork that can take up more than one-third of the average nurse's day, freeing them to spend more time with their patients. If we make their jobs a little bit easier, we can attract and train the young nurses we need to make up a nursing shortage that's only getting worse. Nurses do their part every time they check another healthy patient out of the hospital. It's now time for us to do our part.
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