Watch the complete video or read the transcript of President Obama's speech before the American Medical Association. Excerpt below:
From the moment I took office as President, the central challenge we've confronted as a nation has been the need to lift ourselves out of the worst recession since World War II. In recent months, we've taken a series of extraordinary steps, not just to repair the immediate damage to our economy, but to build a new foundation for lasting and sustained growth. We're here to create new jobs, to unfreeze our credit markets. We're stemming the loss of homes and the decline of home values.
All this is important. But even as we've made progress, we know that the road to prosperity remains long and it remains difficult. And we also know that one essential step on our journey is to control the spiraling cost of health care in America. And in order to do that, we're going to need the help of the AMA. (Applause.)
Today, we are spending over $2 trillion a year on health care -- almost 50 percent more per person than the next most costly nation. And yet, as I think many of you are aware, for all of this spending, more of our citizens are uninsured, the quality of our care is often lower, and we aren't any healthier. In fact, citizens in some countries that spend substantially less than we do are actually living longer than we do.
Make no mistake: The cost of our health care is a threat to our economy. It's an escalating burden on our families and businesses. It's a ticking time bomb for the federal budget. And it is unsustainable for the United States of America.
It's unsustainable for Americans like Laura Klitzka, a young mother that I met in Wisconsin just last week, who's learned that the breast cancer she thought she'd beaten had spread to her bones, but who's now being forced to spend time worrying about how to cover the $50,000 in medical debts she's already accumulated, worried about future debts that she's going to accumulate, when all she wants to do is spend time with her two children and focus on getting well. These are not the worries that a woman like Laura should have to face in a nation as wealthy as ours. (Applause.)
Stories like Laura's are being told by women and men all across this country -- by families who've seen out-of-pocket costs soar, and premiums double over the last decade at a rate three times faster than wages. This is forcing Americans of all ages to go without the checkups or the prescriptions they need -- that you know they need. It's creating a situation where a single illness can wipe out a lifetime of savings.
Our costly health care system is unsustainable for doctors like Michael Kahn in New Hampshire, who, as he puts it, spends 20 percent of each day supervising a staff explaining insurance problems to patients, completing authorization forms, writing appeal letters -- a routine that he calls disruptive and distracting, giving him less time to do what he became a doctor to do and actually care for his patients. (Applause.)