ABC News’ Karen Travers reports:
President Obama hit the road today to once again stress the urgent need for Congress to pass health care reform, ratcheting up his criticism of insurance companies that he said are more concerned with their own profits than serving Americans consumers.
“We need to give families and businesses more control over their own health insurance,” Obama said to an enthusiastic crowd of 1800 at Arcadia University outside Philadelphia. “And that's why we need to pass health care reform; not next year, not five years from now, not 10 years from now, but now.”
Obama cited a conference call organized by Goldman Sachs which he said illustrated why reforms of the insurance industry are long overdue and critical to the overall reform effort. On this conference call, the president said, an insurance broker said that insurance companies are well aware that they will lose customers if they continue to raise premiums.
Yet Obama said that because there is so little competition in the insurance industry, these companies have no incentive to put the needs and concerns of the consumer first or respond to rising pressure to bring down costs.
“They’re OK with people being priced out of the insurance market because, first of all, a lot of folks are going to be stuck,” Obama said. “And even if some people drop out, they'll still make more money by raising premiums on customers that they keep,”
“They will keep on doing this for as long as they can get away with it. This is no secret,” the president said. “They're telling their investors this – ‘We are in the money. We are going to keep on making big profits even though a lot of folks are going to be put under hardship.’”
With several Members of Congress in attendance, including Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) who is in a tough re-election battle this year, Obama dismissed the notion that health care needs to be put on the back burner because it’s a politically explosive issue.
“Now, since we took this issue on a year ago, there have been plenty of folks in Washington who've said that, "The politics is just too hard." They've warned us, "We may not win,” the president said. “They've argued, ‘Now is not the time for reform. It's going to hurt your poll numbers. How's it going to affect Democrats in November? Don't do it now.’”
“My question to them is, when's the right time? If not now, when? If not us, who?,” he said to cheers from the crowd. “Is it a year from now or two years from now or five years from now or 10 years from now? I think it's right now, and that's why you're here today.”
At times it sounded like the president was back on the 2008 campaign trail as he addressed the raucous crowd of about 1800 here in the perennially politically critical suburbs of Philadelphia.
“I'm kind of fired up,” he said at the beginning of his remarks.
Just like during the campaign season, Obama urged the crowd to get out the door and get working on the grassroots level.
“So I need you to knock on doors, talk to your neighbors, pick up the phone,” he said. “When you hear an argument by the water cooler and somebody's saying this or that about it, say, ‘No, no, no, no. Hold on a second.’”
The president told the crowd they needed to “make your voices heard all the way in Washington D.C.”
“They need to hear your voices because right now the Washington echo chamber is in full throttle,” he said. “It is as deafening as it's ever been.”