After a meeting with key participants in the health care debate, President Barack Obama spoke from the Roosevelt Room this afternoon.
I am not going to reproduce it in full below. (The full speech is not posted yet, but should be available very soon at the White House site here.) And I shall refrain from offering anyting in the way of comment or analysis because Salon's Mike Madden will soon be publishing a fuller report and commentary from Washington.
In any case, after some summarizing what happened in the meetings, offering some general remarks and a state-of-play update, Obama got right to the issue of disgruntlement with the health care reform bill in its present stage. The key part of his response to their concerns and complaints is here:
Finally, we agree on reforms that will make coverage affordable for 30 million Americans who don't have it. Every day that goes by, another 14,000 Americans lose their health care coverage. A recent study shows that in the next decade, half of all Americans under the age of 65 will be without coverage at some point. On the other hand, if this reform passes -- when it passes -- for the very first time in their lives, these Americans will be able to provide health insurance for their families. And those Americans who are already covered will no longer have to live in fear that their family might fall through the cracks of the system we have now.
These aren't small changes. These are big changes. They represent the most significant reform of our health care system since the passage of Medicare. They will save money. They will save families money; they will save businesses money; and they will save government money. And they're going to save lives. That's why this reform is supported by groups like the AARP who represents most of America's seniors. That's why this reform has to pass on our watch.
Now, let's be clear. The final bill won't include everything that everybody wants. No bill can do that. But what I told my former colleagues today is that we simply cannot allow differences over individual elements of this plan to prevent us from meeting our responsibility to solve a longstanding and urgent problem for the American people. They are waiting for us to act. They are counting on us to show leadership. And I don't intend to let them down, and neither do the people standing next to me. There's too much at stake for families who can't pay their medical bills, or see a doctor when they need to, or get the treatment they need. The stakes are enormous for them.