"The history is clear: For decades rising health care costs have unleashed havoc on families, businesses and the economy," the president said Saturday in his weekly radio and Internet address. "And for decades, whenever we have tried to reform the system, the insurance companies have done everything in their considerable power to stop us."
"It's smoke and mirrors," the president added. "It's bogus. And it's all too familiar. Every time we get close to passing reform, the insurance companies produce these phony studies as a prescription and say, 'Take one of these, and call us in a decade.' Well, not this time."
The health insurance industry released a study earlier this week concluding that the Finance Committee bill – one of five competing House and Senate health care measures – would raise premiums significantly for millions of people who already have health coverage.
The report drew intense criticism from the White House, congressional Democrats and other advocates of the bill who deemed the study a last-ditch effort to sway public opinion against the White House-backed measure.
Obama said he would not abide "those who would bend the truth or break it to score political points and stop our progress as a country." He accused the industry of "filling the airwaves with deceptive and dishonest ads," sending money and lobbyists to Capitol Hill and paying for studies "designed to mislead the American people."
The bills moving through Congress generally would require most Americans to buy insurance, provide federal subsidies to help lower-income people afford coverage and help small businesses defray the cost of extending coverage to their workers.
The measures would bar insurers from denying coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions and limit their ability to charge higher premiums based on age or family size. Expanded coverage would be paid for by cutting hundreds of billions of dollars from future Medicare payments to health care providers. Higher taxes also are included in the bills.
Republican opponents say the bills will increase costs for patients, further job losses and give the government more of a say in who gets medical care, and what kind.
"Americans inherently know government interference drives costs up, not down," Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas, said in the GOP's weekly message. "The massive health care plans being crafted behind closed doors in Washington will ultimately allow the government to decide what doctors we can see, what treatments the government thinks you deserve and what medicines you can receive."
Obama contended the price of not acting will be a devastated U.S. economy because rising health care costs will mean lower salaries and higher unemployment, lower profits and larger numbers of people going without insurance.
Obama said overhauling the system will provide the change voters sought when they went to the polls last November.
"But it also now represents something more: whether or not we as a nation are capable of tackling our toughest challenges; if we can serve the national interest despite the unrelenting efforts of the special interests; if we can still do big things in America," he said.
On the Net:
Obama address: http://www.whitehouse.gov
GOP address: http://www.youtube.com/RepublicanConference