Obama in Iowa: 'Three Years Ago, We Made a Promise. That Promise Has Been Kept.'

From Rachel Martin

Two days after signing the health care bill into law, President Obama took a victory lap in Iowa City, where he first articulated his health care plan back in 2007 as a presidential candidate. To chants of "Yes we did," the president told the crowd, "Three years ago, we made a promise. That promise has been kept."

The President talked about what he called a campaign of fear mongering and misinformation surrounding the debate over health care reform and he took on Republican critics directly – with a healthy dose of snark. “Leaders of the Republican Party, they called the passage of this bill 'Armageddon.' Armageddon. 'End of freedom as we know it.' So after I signed the bill, I looked around to see if there any -- asteroids falling or -- some cracks opening up in the Earth. It turned out it was a nice day. Birds were chirping. Folks were strolling down the Mall. People still have their doctors.”

He said from this day forward, critics of health care reform would have to “finally acknowledge this isn’t a government takeover of our health care system.” “Three months from now, six months from now, you’re going to look around. You’re going to be sitting in a doctor’s office reading through the old People magazines. And you’ll say, 'Hey, this is the same doctor, same plan. It wasn’t Armageddon.'”

He went on to detail the immediate benefits of the bill, including stricter rules on the insurance industry. “They’ve got to start playing by a new set of rules that treats everybody honestly and treats everybody fairly. The days of the insurance industry running roughshod over the American people are over.”

The president was careful not to raise expectations for quick changes in the system, however, and he said that it would take four years to implement all the reforms. “So I just want to be clear: That means that health care costs won’t go down overnight; not all the changes are going to be in place; there are still going to be aspects of the health care system that are very frustrating over the next several years.”

He also trumpeted a new tax credit for small business owners to help them cover the cost of insurance for their employees. And he referenced a local business, Prairie Lights Bookstore (which he later visited). “The folks at Prairie Light, they’re going to have the security of knowing that they’ll qualify for a tax credit that covers up to 35 percent of their employees’ health insurance ... And maybe they can even use those savings to not only provide insurance, but also create jobs. This health care tax credit is pro-jobs, it is pro-business, and it starts this year, and it’s starting because of you.”

And the biggest applause of the day by far was the pPresident’s reference to a provision of the reform bill that will allow young people to stay on their parents’ insurance policies until the age of 26. “Because as you start your lives and your careers, the last thing you should worry about is whether you go broke just because you get sick.”

When the president starting talking about the new insurance exchanges that would be set up, one audience member yelled, “What about the public option?” The president responded that it’s not in the bill because, “We couldn’t get it through Congress, that’s why. So they -- let’s -- there’s no need to shout, young man, no need to shout. Thirty-two people -- 32 million people are going to have health insurance because of this legislation. That’s what this work is about.”

He went off script here to defend the bill as a moderate compromise. “This legislation is not perfect, as you just heard ... But what this is, is a historic step to enshrine the principle that everybody gets health care coverage in this country, every single person.” “It doesn’t do everything that everybody wants, but it moves us in the direction of universal health care coverage in this country, and that's why everybody here fought so hard for it.”

As far as Republicans who have said they will run on repealing the health care law in the midterms, the president said, “My attitude is: Go for it.”

“If they want to have that fight, we can have it. Because I don’t believe that the American people are going to put the insurance industry back in the driver’s seat. We’ve already been there. We're not going back. This country is moving forward.”

He closed with some historical allusions, invoking the names of others who’ve fought for reform including Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson and Ted Kennedy. “But what this struggle has taught us -- about ourselves and about this country -- is so much bigger than any one issue, because it’s reminded us what so many of us learned all those months ago on a cold January night here in Iowa, and that’s that change is never easy, but it’s always possible.”

-Rachel Martin

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