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« Dem Govs Back Obama Health Care Reform | Blog Home Page | Carlyfornia Dreamin' »

Biden Steps Up Health Care Role

With President Obama focused on foreign policy this week, Vice President Biden is carrying the torch on health care with several events in the Washington area this week. Today, he spoke to a conference of state insurance commissioners, armed with a new White House report outlining how the rise in health insurance premiums beyond wage growth has hurt American families.

The vice president singled out the state with the largest gap between premium increases and wage growth: Alaska. And it's not just families who are suffering, he said.

"The soaring premiums are not only hurting families and killing small businesses, they're also hurting our competitive position all around the world," Biden told the rather quiet audience at a hotel at Maryland's National Harbor. "They're hurting our whole free enterprise system, hurting the business of business - competing internationally. ... To state the obvious, this is simply an unsustainable position. Families, businesses, state budgets, our national economy, all demand a significant change."

Biden said that if he asked the state officials for woeful tales of health care they could compile a "literal saga." The health care "crisis" extends even to those who have insurance. But, he sought to rebut claims that reforms the administration is pursuing would unduly harm the insurance industry.

"I want insurance companies to make money. I want in companies to be able to provide a return on their investment and their stock holders some benefit. I want them to continue to do their just to make a profit," he said. "But I also want them held accountable. I want to restore stability in our health care system. And there are basic ground rules we need right now."

He also described the "competitive disadvantage" that insurance companies who want to "do the right thing" face in the marketplace.

"If every single company has to have the same guarantees, no company is at a political disadvantage," he said.

Biden will also speak Wednesday at a retirement community in Maryland, targeting a demographic that has been skeptical of the plan. Previewing his remarks there, the former Delaware senator said he would note the doomsday claims that opponents of Medicare and Medicaid made when those programs were developed.