Michelle Obama – The New Secret Weapon on Health Care?

In the battle for health care reform, the White House has unleashed its new secret weapon — Michelle Obama!  She gave an amazingly inspired speech to the White House Council on Women and Girls last week.  The First Lady shared the speaking duties with three women from around the country who shared their stories that proved one of the biggest statements the First Lady made during her remarks — that women are being crushed by the current health system.

Below is the full video that was live-streamed, as well as a link to the text of her remarks:

I know people are concerned or don’t believe the President’s statements that the much-needed changes in our health insurance system can be paid for.  I know there’s this whole debate over whether there should be a “public option” for health care and what that would do to the current for-profit system (yeah, the one that’s doing such a great job with our health care), but something has to change.

When women are charged more than men for the same coverage, when women can be denied coverage because pregnancy and domestic violence are considered pre-existing conditions, when women who work hard to care for themselves and their families still have to choose between life-saving screening tests or keeping a roof over their heads, it’s time for a fight.

Is health care a basic human right?  And what rights are we, as a country, really concerned with?  If we took the money raised by the National Rifle Association in the past year and put it toward health care reform, I dare say we could accomplish a little something — a recent report on Morning Joe on MSNBC suggested it was something in the neighborhood of $300 million.

Is it OK with us that without health care reform, insurance companies will continue to make women pay more for insurance? Is it OK with us that without health care reform, insurance companies can continue to deny women effective preventative and diagnostic care of mammograms and Pap smears?  It is OK with us that the woman with lung cancer and breast cancer who sat next to the First Lady can’t afford the necessary screenings so she knows if her cancers come back?

It’s not OK with me.  And I wonder — if we took away the great health insurance that Senators and Representatives have and they had to live through the experiences of the women on the dais with Michelle Obama, how would their views on competition and the public option change?  I bet they’d find a way pretty quickly to fix our horribly broken system.

We all love our insurance until it comes time for it to cover something big.  Just as car insurance companies are notorious for kicking people out after an accident, health insurance companies are happy to have our money and our business until we get sick and they have to pay out.  As someone with a few ongoing issues that need monitoring, I’m fearful of what will happen if things stay the same.

We are the face of this fight. And it is a fight. It’s a fight not just with the insurance industry, but it’s also an ideological one — do we want to be the country that realizes the long term benefits of creating a healthier nation or are we going to be the one that says providing health care for everyone who needs it is too much of a burden on a company’s profits?

In the end, this is also a fight to determine what we believe it’s the government’s job to do.   I believe there is a role for the government to play, at least in terms of making sure that insurance companies play fairly and don’t let their CEO’s become multi-millionaires at the expense of people’s lives.  As for premiums?  They keep going up and if health reform legislation fails, you can bet those insurance companies will waste no time hiking them again.

If have a few minutes, tell Congress what you think.  Check out the online letters to send your representatives at the  National Women’s Law Center or at MomsRising.

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7 Responses to “Michelle Obama – The New Secret Weapon on Health Care?”

  1. Gina Chen Says:

    I’m with you. None of this is OK with me.

    It is astounding what a mess our health care system is in — and how so many people see no need to change it.

    A reader of my local paper wrote a letter to the editor recently, where he explained that he thinks it is wrong for people who do not have jobs to have any health insurance. Really? So people who lose their jobs often through no fault of their own should just be tossed out on the street.

    (And that’s not even taking into account the many employed Americans who don’t have health insurance as part of their job.)

    I think you can judge a country in part by how it treats its most vulnerable residents. Our health care situation says something terrible about our country.

  2. Chris Wysocki Says:

    Any actuary worth his salt can easily explain to you why women pay more for health insurance than men. It’s not an evil plot, it’s statistics. The opposite is true for life insurance, women live longer than men so their rates are lower. Should I whinge about paying a higher life insurance premium for the same coverage as my wife?

    Here’s what insurance company actuaries do when one group successfully lobbies for “parity” with the lower rates charged to another group. They RAISE the rates for the other group. Presto! Everyone is now paying the same rate. Since the actual loss ratios for the other remain the same, the insurance company gets a windfall courtesy of the complainers.

    So go ahead, convince Congress that women and men should be charged the same rates for health insurance. You’ll put more money into the pockets of the insurance companies because they’ll just raise the mens’ rates to match what they’re charging women.

  3. Melissa Multitasking Mama Says:

    I hate that this is an issue that is so divisive in this country. I wrote a post about my story with the health care system, knowing that it would anger some of my readers (who are primarily conservative). But, I don’t care. People need to realize this is not a partisan issue but a human rights issue. Thank you for sharing this footage, I appreciated hearing what the First Lady had to say.

  4. sheena Says:

    I’m with Chris, here…I spend more time at the doctor, someone at the insurance company spends more time doing paperwork crap on my behalf, they should get paid more for spending more time. It’s kind of a no-brainer. Oh, and I like paying less for my life insurance and car insurance.

    Don’t forget, too, that countries with “universal” health care have much lower 5-and-10-year survival rates for most cancers, but most strikingly breast cancer. I don’t know what these two ladies with cancer did to look for charities offering free or low cost screenings, or to make payment plans with doctors or labs, but I do know that when my uninsured, low-income mother was finally guilted into getting a mamogram, I was able to secure one for less than a few hundred bucks within a week out here nowhere, west texas, and the facility was happy to take a hundred bucks a month (less than a freaking cable bill) until it was paid off. Untill the insurance market is reformed, we must get off the notion that “I don’t have insurance” means “I can’t afford care”

    I’m with you…the government should make insurance companies play fair—but first the government has to LET insurance companies play fair by opening up the market, allowing them to offer different levels of coverage and to sell to consumers across state lines and to make their plans travel from job to job.

  5. PunditMom Says:

    But how is it possible to get insurance companies to play fair when there are so few of them, reducing competition. During the Bush years, mergers were allowed and allowed again and allowed some more, thereby allowing less and less competition.

    I guess all this boils down to whether one thinks a certain level of health care is a human right. If it’s a human right, is it OK to allow people to profit and to continue to deny patients coverage for as long as possible? I talked with a woman this weekend who needed a surgery that all her doctors deemed was medically necessary. Yet, it took two years to get the insurance companies to pay for it because some bureaucrat without a medical degree decided it wasn’t medically necessary?

    I guess if you don’t think that it’s a human right, than you can be OK with thinking that people should try to find “charities” to provide some meager level of care.

    It’s easy to get a low cost mammogram. Is it just as easy to find low cost cancer treatment? I think not.

  6. sheena Says:

    You are exactly right that there too few insurance companies currently on the market. I feel terribly for the people in countries where the government determines the healthcare with no competition whatsoever. I understand that mergers were a serious problem, but a bigger problem is the totally understandable lack of new companies, new ways of doing business. Would you want to enter a market that is so horribly overregulated? Would you want to sell someone fire insurance if their home was already on fire?

    When you speak of healthcare, as we typically define it–treatment from a professional, hospitalization, medicines–you are speaking of the efforts of another person or group of people, and others’ resources as well. There isn’t a human right for that. Our human rights entail what other people may not do to us, not what they must do for us.

  7. australis Says:

    It’s ironic that countries with mixed private and gov. provided health care can feel terribly for the people in countries like the US with their Health Insurance system or lack of it! Such countries don’t wish to lose their gov. provided health services.

    In Australia all Public Hospital services are tax funded and free to patients– Private Health Insurance is available for Private Hospitals but without the restrictions we read about. Our Universal Medicare, funded by 1.5% tax on most people’s taxable income, enables everyone access to private Medical practitioners and services. The patient pays the gap between the set Medicare rebate for each particular service and the fee for service charged. As these are private practitioners, this fee can vary, but not the gov.rebate. Most services are covered including expensive diagnostics. If the doctor orders the service, that’s sufficient.There’s no gov. interference; it’s a doctor-patient situation.

    I’ve not met anyone who doesnt think access to medical attention is not a human right; not least an ‘humane’ consideration. We follow the various international Health Reform situations with interest, as increasing costs and population place strains on every Health Care system, thus requiring constant assessments and considerations to maintain them. There are a lot of different options and systems operating worldwide for us to peruse and perhaps learn from.

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