Barack Obama: The debate about US health reform is not a political game

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I recently heard from a small- business owner from New Jersey who wrote that he employs eight people and provides health insurance for all of them. But his policy goes up at least 20 per cent each year, and today, it costs almost $1,400 per family, per month – his highest business expense besides his employees' salaries. He wrote, simply: "I am not looking for free health care, I would just like to get my premiums reduced enough to be able to afford it."

Over the past few months, I've been pushing hard to make sure we finally address the need for health insurance reform, which has been deferred year after year, decade after decade. And today, after a lot of work in Congress, we are closer than ever before to finally passing reform that will reduce costs, expand coverage, and provide more choices for our families and businesses.

It has taken months to reach this point and, once this legislation passes, we'll need to move thoughtfully and deliberately to implement these reforms over a period of several years. That is why I feel such a sense of urgency about moving this process forward.

Now I know there are those who are urging us to delay reform. And some of them have actually admitted that this is a tactic designed to stop any reform at all. Some have even suggested that, regardless of its merits, health care reform should be stopped as a way to inflict political damage on my Administration. I'll leave it to them to explain that to the American people.

What I'm concerned about is the damage that's being done right now to the health of our families, the success of our businesses, and the long-term fiscal stability of our government. I'm concerned about hard-working folks, who want nothing more than the security that comes with knowing they can get the care they need, when they need it. I'm concerned about the small-business owners, who are asking for nothing more than a chance to seize their piece of the American Dream. I'm concerned about our children and grandchildren, who will be saddled with deficits that will continue piling up year after year unless we pass reform.

This debate is not a political game for these Americans, and they cannot afford to keep waiting for reform. We owe it to them to finally get it done – and to get it done this year. Thank you.

Taken from the US President's weekly address to the nation at the weekend

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