, and spoke on health reform and other issues. He once again spotlighted the premium increases by Anthem Blue Cross of California. Here are some selected comments (with emphasis added) from the President:
During our meeting [with legislative leaders] we also touched briefly on how we can move forward on health reform. I've already announced that in two weeks I'll be holding a meeting with people from both parties, and as I told the congressional leadership, I'm looking forward to a constructive debate with plans that need to be measured against this test:
Does it bring down costs for all Americans as well as for the federal government, which spends a huge amount on health care?
Does it provide adequate protection against abuses by the insurance industry?
Does it make coverage affordable and available to the tens of millions of working Americans who don't have it right now?
And does it help us get on a path of fiscal sustainability?
We also talked about why this is so urgent. Just this week, there was a report that Anthem Blue Cross, which is the largest insurer in the largest state, California, is planning on raising premiums for many individual policyholders by as much as 39 percent. If we don't act, this is just a preview of coming attractions. Premiums will continue to rise for folks with insurance; millions more will lose their coverage altogether; our deficits will continue to grow larger. And we have an obligation -- both parties -- to tackle this issue in a serious way...
We've got to control costs, both for families and businesses, but also for our government. Everybody out there who talks about deficits has to acknowledge that the single biggest driver of our deficits is health care spending. We cannot deal with our deficits and debt long term unless we get a handle on that. So that has to be part of a package.
Number two, we've got to deal with insurance abuses that affect millions of Americans who've got health insurance.
And number three, we've got to make health insurance more available to folks in the individual market, as I just mentioned, in California, who are suddenly seeing their premiums go up 39 percent. That applies to the majority of small businesses, as well as sole proprietors. They are struggling.
So I've got these goals. Now, we have a package, as we work through the differences between the House and the Senate, and we'll put it up on a Web site for all to see over a long period of time, that meets those criteria, meets those goals. But when I was in Baltimore talking to the House Republicans, they indicated, we can accomplish some of these goals at no cost. And I said, great, let me see it. And I have no interest in doing something that's more expensive and harder to accomplish if somebody else has an easier way to do it.
So I'm going to be starting from scratch in the sense that I will be open to any ideas that help promote these goals. What I will not do, what I don't think makes sense and I don't think the American people want to see, would be another year of partisan wrangling around these issues; another six months or eight months or nine months worth of hearings in every single committee in the House and the Senate in which there's a lot of posturing. Let's get the relevant parties together; let's put the best ideas on the table. My hope is that we can find enough overlap that we can say this is
the right way to move forward, even if I don't get every single thing that I want.
But here's the point that I made to John Boehner and Mitch McConnell: Bipartisanship can't be that I agree to all the things that they believe in or want, and they agree to none of the things I believe in and want, and that's the price of bipartisanship, right? But that's sometimes the way it gets presented...