Good morning. This week the good will and hopefulness that surrounded the announcement of our health security plan continued to grow. A consensus is developing that our central goal, comprehensive health benefits for you and your family that can never be taken away, is now within reach and must be achieved. For the first time in our lifetimes, the question before Congress is no longer whether to provide health security but how.
Something unique is happening here in Washington: A coalition is taking shape across political boundaries, a coalition concerned more with passing health care than with scoring political points. And when the Congress passes health care reform, it won't have a label that says Democrat or Republican, it will be delivered to you with a label that says made in America.
This week as Congress began its deliberations, health care reform and the American people have had an extraordinary advocate on their side, the First Lady. Before, in our history, only Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosalynn Carter have testified before Congress. I'm proud of the intellect and compassion and the leadership Hillary is bringing to this issue and to our country. Her commitment to health care is a human issue. She says to find a solution, it must pass the "mom test," something that she could explain to her mother and her mother would support. That certainly has cut through the heart of a very complex health care debate.
During her testimony before the Senate Finance Committee this week, something extraordinary happened: Republican Senator James Jeffords of Vermont, a leading expert on health care, stepped forward and endorsed our plan. I'm sure that after the acrimony of the budget debate, this cooperative spirit comes as welcome news to all of you as it does to me. Solving health care must remain above politics. Indeed, I hope every one of our legislative efforts in the months ahead is done in the same bipartisan spirit.
I've said since the beginning of this debate, I welcome—I need—good ideas and options from everyone. No party, no person, no segment of the health care community owns all the good ideas. After all, it was a Republican President, Richard Nixon, who first recommended over 20 years ago extending health coverage by asking every employer to take responsibility for paying some of his employees' health care costs. A current Republican Senator, Bob Packwood of Oregon, sponsored that bill 20 years ago.
Already the fruits of bipartisan cooperation are visible. In just a few months, we've moved from deep alarm over health care to designing a proposal, to crafting a solution. As I said, we don't have all the answers, and we know that. But we have to find them, and we do have a plan.
I believe this plan will work. It will guarantee comprehensive health benefits to every one of you. It's based on the notion of preserving and protecting what is best about American health care and fixing what has gone wrong.
My goal is to make the world's finest private health care system work better and work for everyone. We've rejected a big Government solution. We've rejected broad-based taxes. We've insisted that small business be protected. And I embrace the compassionate American view that no one should go without health care.
This plan will drastically cut the paperwork that now clogs the American health care system. It will maintain the highest quality health care, and it will retain your right to choose your doctors. In fact, for most of you, your choices in health care will increase, not decrease, if this plan passes.
The plan will keep health care costs down by controlling spending, by providing free preventive care that keeps us healthy and saves money in the long run. It also asks all of us to take more responsibility for paying for a health care system that all of us use but only some of us pay for.
We also ask everyone, every American, to take more responsibility for personal behavior. Just as insurance companies and doctors and lawyers and the Government must take more responsibility upon themselves to make the system work better, so must each individual. It is the common sense and shared values of our health security plan that are bringing people of all political persuasions to the cause.
I watched some of Hillary's testimony. I wish I could have seen more. We spent a lot of time talking together about what she learned from the Congress and how we can make health care a reality for each of you. I think we've done the responsible thing by accepting this challenge, a challenge too long delayed, and by beginning a truly constructive bipartisan debate on what many have characterized as the most important piece of domestic legislation in a generation.
And I believe that once we succeed in providing health security to each of you, every family will have a chance to prosper and dream again, freed from today's fears: freed from the fear that if you lose your job, you'll lose your health care; if your business goes down, you'll never have health care coverage; if you get sick and you really need it, you won't have health care. Those fears have to be done away with.
As we move forward we'll continue to carry with us the indelible memory of the thousands of people we've talked to who have tangled with the health care system and lost, of the thousands who live in fear of losing their health care, and to the plight of so many of you who have played by the rules and lost to a system that often doesn't follow them. Once heard, no one forgets those voices.
Thank you for making this a great beginning, and thanks for listening.