Obama urges Congress to show "courage" on healthcare reforms

The former US president urged members of Congress "to speak the truth" on healthcare reform in a rare speech since ending his term in office.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Former US President Barack Obama delivered the speech after receiving the 2017 Profile in Courage Award during a ceremony at the John F Kennedy Library in Boston on May 7, 2017.

Former US President Barack Obama on Sunday expressed his "fervent hope" that members of Congress would look beyond party lines when considering the future of the country's healthcare system.

The Democrat's remarks at a ceremony in Boston, where he accepted the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation's "Profile in Courage" Award, came days after the Republican-controlled House of Representatives narrowly passed a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, the 2010 law that enabled 20 million more Americans to get health insurance.

Referring to former President John F Kennedy's book on political courage, he noted that many members of Congress risked and ultimately lost their seats when they voted for Obamacare.

"As everyone here now knows, this great debate is not settled but continues," Obama said. "And it is my fervent hope, and the hope of millions that, regardless of party, such courage is still possible.

"That today's members of Congress, regardless of party, are willing to look at the facts and speak the truth even when it contradicts party positions.

"There was a reason why healthcare reform had not been accomplished before. It was hard, it involved a sixth of the economy and all manner of stakeholders and interests. It was easily subject to misinformation and fearmongering," Obama said.

"Obamacare a disaster"

Obama's successor, Republican Donald Trump, campaigned on a promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, calling the law a "disaster" and ineffective.

The former president has avoided commenting directly on his successor in his three public appearances since leaving office in January and did not mention the businessman-turned-politician in his remarks on Sunday.

Last week's House vote was only a first step toward overturning the landmark healthcare law, as the bill also has to clear the Senate, where Republicans hold a narrower majority.

Previous Kennedy Award recipients include Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush, former US Representative Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt, US Senator and former prisoner of war John McCain, and US Representative and civil rights leader John Lewis.

TRTWorld and agencies