Obama attacks insurance companies

Oct. 17, 2009 at 6:00 AM

WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 (UPI) -- U.S. President Barack Obama attacked insurance companies Saturday, saying they have resorted to "smoke and mirrors" to try to sink healthcare reform.

The nation has never been closer to reform that would prevent continuing increases in costs, which would "devastate" the nation's economy, Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address.

"But this is not the time to pat ourselves on the back; this is not the time to grow complacent," the president said.

Just days after the Senate Finance Committee approved its healthcare-reform bill -- one of five in Congress -- Obama acknowledged "significant details and disagreements" need to be worked out.

But he singled out for criticism insurance companies that he said have grown desperate in a "last-ditch" attempt to block reform.

"For decades, whenever we have tried to reform the system, the insurance companies have done everything in their considerable power to stop us," he said. "It's smoke and mirrors. It's bogus. And it's all too familiar."

He accused the insurance industry of releasing deceptive studies -- including, he said, one this week that claimed the Finance Committee bill would increase premiums for millions of people with insurance.

Obama said the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office had concluded reform with an insurance exchange would lower premiums, limit out-of-pocket costs and stop discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.

Without reform, costs will continue rising, he said.

In the past decade, Obama said, premiums have doubled, while out-of-pocket costs have risen by a third over the past few years. He cited a report from the nonpartisan Business Roundtable, which represents chief executive officers of major companies, that found healthcare costs for employers and employees would more than double again in the next decade without broad reform. That, in turn, would mean lower salaries, higher unemployment, reduced profits and more uninsured people, he said.

"This is the unsustainable path we're on, and it's the path the insurers want to keep us on," Obama said. "In fact, the insurance industry is rolling out the big guns and breaking open their massive war chest -- to marshal their forces for one last fight to save the status quo.

"But what I will not abide are those who would bend the truth -- or break it -- to score political points and stop our progress as a country."

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