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Shocking weekly remarks! Do Obama, GOP agree on health reform?

May 16, 2009 |  3:00 am

The White House at Dawn

Of course, saying agreement and doing it are two different things in Washington.

But if the weekly remarks of the Republicans' representative, Dr. Charles Boustany of Louisiana, and President Obama are any indication, there seems to be some ground at least for agreement on reforming the nation's overburdened healthcare system. We also have video of both men's remarks below.

Weekly Remarks by President Obama, May 15, 2009

Good morning. Over the past few months, as we have put in place a plan to speed our economic recovery, I have spoken repeatedly of the need to lay a new foundation for lasting prosperity; a foundation that will support good jobs and rising incomes; a foundation for economic growth where we no longer rely on excessive debt and reckless risk -- but instead on skilled workers and sound investments to lead the world in the industries of the 21st century.

Two pillars of this new foundation are clean energy and healthcare. And while there remains a great deal of difficult work ahead, I am heartened by what we have seen these past few days: a willingness of those with different points of view and disparate interests to come together around common goals -- to embrace a shared sense of responsibility and make historic progress.

Chairman Henry Waxman and members of the Energy and Commerce Committee brought together stakeholders from all corners of the country -- and every sector of our economy -- to reach.... historic agreement on comprehensive energy legislation. It’s another promising sign of progress, as longtime opponents are sitting together, at the same table, to help solve one of America’s most serious challenges.

For the first time, utility companies and corporate leaders are joining, not opposing, environmental advocates and labor leaders to create a new system of clean energy initiatives that will help unleash a new era of growth and prosperity.

It’s a plan that will finally reduce our dangerous dependence on foreign oil and cap the carbon pollution that threatens our health and our climate. Most important, it’s a plan that will trigger the creation of millions of new jobs for Americans, who will produce the wind turbines and solar panels and develop the alternative fuels to power the future. 

Because this we know: The nation that leads in 21st century clean energy is the nation that will lead the 21st century global economy. America can and must be that nation -- and this agreement is a major step toward this goal.

But we know that our families, our economy, and our nation itself will not succeed in the 21st century if we continue to be held down by the weight of rapidly rising healthcare costs and a broken healthcare system. That’s why I met with representatives of insurance and drug companies, doctors and hospitals, and labor unions who are pledging to do their part to reduce healthcare costs.

These are some of the groups who have been among the fiercest critics of past comprehensive healthcare reform plans. But today they too are recognizing that we must act. Our businesses will not be able to compete; our families will not be able to save or spend; our budgets will remain unsustainable unless we get healthcare costs under control.

These groups have pledged to do their part to reduce the annual healthcare spending growth rate by 1.5 percentage points. Coupled with comprehensive reform, their efforts could help to save our nation more than $2 trillion in the next 10 years -- and save hardworking families $2,500 each in the coming years.

This week, I also invited Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and other congressional leaders to the White House to discuss comprehensive health reform legislation. The House is working to pass a bill by the end of July -- before they head out for their August recess.

That’s the kind of urgency and determination we need to achieve comprehensive reform by the end of this year. And the reductions in spending the healthcare community has pledged will help make this reform possible.

I have always believed that it is better to talk than not to talk; that it is far more productive to reach over a divide than to shake your fist across it. This has been an alien notion in Washington for far too long, but we are seeing that the ways of Washington are beginning to change.

For the calling of this moment is too loud and too urgent to ignore. Our success as a nation -- the future of our children and grandchildren -- depends upon our willingness to cast aside old arguments, overcome stubborn divisions, and march forward as one people and one nation.

This is how progress has always been made. This is how a new foundation will be built. We cannot assume that interests will always align, or that fragile partnerships will not fray. There will be setbacks. There will be difficult days.

But we are off to a good start. And I am confident that we will -- in the weeks, months, and years ahead -- build on what we have already achieved and lay this foundation which will not only bring about prosperity for this generation, but for generations to come. Thanks so much.   ###

Weekly Remarks by Republican Rep. Dr. Charles Boustany of Louisiana

Hello, I’m Charles Boustany, a doctor and member of the House Republican Health Care Solutions Group. (For video of these remarks scroll down.)

We all know that in this troubled economy, American families are increasingly worried about their healthcare. In my home of Louisiana, I hear constantly from families and small businesses about rising costs and fears of losing coverage, and as a physician I saw this first-hand. 

Let me be clear, Republicans want to work with President Obama and other Democrats to ensure that every American has access to affordable, high-quality health coverage.  

Despite our differences on some important healthcare-related issues, we are convinced there are areas offering potential for common ground on healthcare reform among the two parties.
Louisiana Republican Representative Dr Charles Boustany
We believe we must make quality healthcare coverage affordable and accessible for every American, regardless of preexisting health conditions. 

President Obama has called for a plan that "puts us on a clear path to cover all Americans," and said "no American should be denied coverage because of preexisting conditions."

Republicans agree.

We believe healthcare reform must let Americans who like their healthcare coverage keep it, and give all Americans the freedom to choose the healthcare plan that best meets their families’ needs. 

The president has said Americans "should have the option of keeping their employer-based health plan," and said reform "should provide Americans a choice of health plans and physicians." 

Republicans agree.

We believe healthcare reform must improve Americans’ lives through effective prevention, wellness and disease management programs, while developing new treatments and cures for life-threatening diseases, and respecting the value of human life. The president has said healthcare reform must address "cost drivers" in our system such as "obesity, sedentary lifestyles, and smoking." 

Republicans agree.

We believe it is possible -- and necessary -- to achieve these objectives through common-sense reforms without raising taxes, rationing care, eliminating employer-sponsored health benefits for working families, empowering government bureaucrats at the expense of patients and doctors, or adding even more to our ever-growing national debt.

 At the same time, Republicans are concerned about news reports indicating that some Democrats favor a policy called a "government" or "public" option. We need to be clear about what this means.

From my former practice, I know allowing the government to replace the health coverage that more than 100 million Americans currently have through their jobs could have devastating consequences. 

A government takeover of healthcare will put bureaucrats in charge of healthcare decisions that should be made by families and doctors. It will limit treatment options and lead to rationed care.

And to pay for government healthcare, your taxes will be raised. That is something we cannot support, and frankly, it would clearly violate some of the principles the president himself has endorsed.

That having been said, I want to reiterate Republicans’ sincere desire to work with President Obama and Democrats to find common ground on the issue of healthcare reform. Despite our differences, we are convinced there are areas of common-sense agreement on healthcare reform among Republicans and Democrats. 

This issue is just too important to let partisanship or blind ideology get in the way. Let’s all work together to do the right thing for the American people. Thank you for listening.   ### 

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Photo credits: Ron Edmonds / Associated Press; Office of Rep. Charles Boustany.