Last week on Reverend Al Sharpton’s nationally syndicated radio program, Keeping it Real with Reverend Al Sharpton, he spoke with the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama. She brought her message of the importance of American’s taking part in the Affordable Care Act to Sharpton’s audience, beginning with a personal story about her daughter Sasha.
Obama passionately expressed why she believes everyone needs to take part in the Affordable Care Act plan stating, “We shouldn’t live in a country this rich where people are choosing between their rent or their medicine.”
Read the full transcript below and listen to Keeping it Real with Reverend Al Sharpton weekdays on local radio stations.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Reverend Al, how are you?
AL SHARPTON: Good, how are you? And happy to have you with us today.
MICHELLE OBAMBA: I’m doing great.
AL SHARPTON: How are you?
MICHELLE OBAMA: I’m happy to be here. I’m doing great. You know the sun is shining, it’s a little chilly, but it’s Christmas time.
AL SHARPTON: Yeah, well I am a witness. It’s a little chilly up down here. I’ll see you later tonight.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Yes, indeed. I’m looking forward to it.
AL SHARPTON: I want to get into this, because this is such an important message that you’re giving. And what really was striking to me is that you got very personal. You talked about twelve years ago with Sasha. Tell us about that.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah. When Sasha was about four months old, you know, we were blessed with healthy babies, I had a healthy pregnancy, you know, Malia was, you know, issue free. But I will never forget, it was a day when, you know, one hour she was fine, she was normal, she was happy, doing everything I was used to her doing, and the next hour she was crying inconsolably. And that just wasn’t like her. And I did everything I tried to do, I tried to feed her, I tried to walk her, I tried to burp her. Finally I just thought I need to call my pediatrician. That’s the first point that I want to make is that we had health insurance, which meant I had a really good relationship with our pediatrician. So he knew me. And he knew I wasn’t the kind of mother to call up just because my baby was crying.
AL SHARPTON: Right.
MICHELLE OBAMA: So when I described the symptoms, you know the fact that she had a slight fever, but she seemed to be in pain in a way that I had never seen in a baby. He said; get her to the emergency room, I don’t like the sounds of it. Just go. Do not pass go, just get to the emergency room; and as it turns out she had meningitis; and they had to do a spinal tap. She turned out, obviously, as the story ends, she is fine, she’s healthy, she’s a beautiful young lady. But if we hadn’t had insurance and access to a pediatrician and access to a hospital where we didn’t have to worry about the cost of care, if we had waited overnight, if we had postponed acting there’s no telling what the outcome would’ve been.
And that’s why for me, as a mother, I am just, you know, I just can’t put into words how important it is for every American, for every mother, for every person in this country, to have healthcare. Because you just never know what kind of curveballs life are going to throw you. You know?
And there will always be a curveball. But it shouldn’t be a curveball that lands you in the hospital and bankrupt. But before Obamacare, that’s how, that’s was the reason for the vast majority of bankruptcy filings in this country because people were losing their homes because of these uncovered medical costs; hundreds of thousands of dollars for people who had gall bladder surgery, or an infant born premature, or you know, an unexpected diagnosis of cancer. And now that we have the Affordable Care Act where people have access to affordable insurance, we need people to sign up for that. And that’s one of the reasons I’m so passionate about it. You know, people deserve that kind of peace of mind that insurance provides, that we have, as the President and the First Lady of the United States, every American should have that kind of peace of mind.
AL SHARPTON: The thing that strikes me is you bring a passion and a perspective to this that is really beyond the partisan bickering we hear in Washington and we hear on talk radio, or cable, and I’m doing both now. Or in civil rights what I do. You talk as a mother and you talk as someone who said I’ve been there and I know what ordinary Americans are facing. And this is why they need to deal with this.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Yeah. And we, Barack and I just met with a group of mothers, because we’re talking to mothers. Mothers are the ones who make the decisions about healthcare in their families. They’re the ones dealing with sickness on a regular basis. They’re the ones who have the ear to their kids, to their teenagers, their young adults who think they’re invincible and don’t need insurance. We’re talking to them because they’re the ones with the stories, just like me, in a roomful of women who, you know, had young people with cancer that they never imagined. You know? Sons and daughter who are working part time jobs don’t have insurance, but you know, running across these curveballs that I talked about.
And they tell their stories with tears in their eyes, you know, that until this Act was passed – there was one mother who said she cried herself to sleep every night because her son was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in his early twenties. And she didn’t know how she was going to pay for it. So she was praying every night that the Act wouldn’t be repealed. You know, so that’s the kind of personal, you know, story that’s often missed in that back and forth that turns this issue, which is a pretty plain and simple issue, Reverend Al. This is about getting people healthcare who didn’t have it, and can’t afford it; and now we have Obamacare, and it’s affordable.
Most people can get a plan for as little as $100 a month they can be insured. They can go to a doctor on a regular basis. When they get sick they won’t go bankrupt. It’s as simple as that, but healthcare is so confusing to most people that it’s easy to confuse the situation, which is why now what we’re encouraging people to do is just educate themselves, go to healthcare.gov. Find out what these plans offer. It’s easy to access. The website is vastly improved. They are signing up as many as 50,000 people a day now. But if people aren’t comfortable with a website they can also go to a 1-800 number; 1-800-318-2596 and they can get personal assistance, somebody who will walk them through the process. But it’s important for people to sign up by December 23rd if they want to be enrolled by January 1st.
So now it’s about education. It’s about outreach. It’s about making sure that people, particularly in the African-American community, are not confused by this political back and forth that’s going on. Healthcare, Obamacare, is a good thing; and it’s something that I want every American to have access to. We shouldn’t live in a country this rich, right, where people are choosing between their rent or their medicine. You know, where kids aren’t getting the immunizations they need. They’re not getting the, you know, the nutrition information that they need to stay healthy and to thrive. Not in America. But before it wasn’t available. It was unaffordable. Now we don’t have an excuse. And that’s where my passion comes from, because I want for the rest of America what my family has. You know? I want people to have the peace of mind that I have, because it’s hard enough being a mother trying to raise kids and then worrying about whether if they get sick whether you can help them. There is nothing more powerless than being a mother who can’t help their child when they’re sick. That’s just to me untenable.
But we now have the resources. But we have to be educated about it. We have to do the, we have to reach out, we have to get signed up, and then we have to sign up others. We need young people signed up too for this, because it’s not just about moms and babies, it’s about young people who feel invincible, right?
AL SHARPTON: That’s right.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Who feel like I’m never going to get sick, I’m healthy now. Well, young people are the ones who are driving around late at night, you know, that can get into a car accident, or slip at a club, you know?
AL SHARPTON: Right.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Who play pick-up games and to get a black eye, you know? Cooking for the first time and cut a finger, and you know, bust an artery, you know? Healthcare is something that every American of all ages, particularly young people, because one of the things we learned from one of the women in the group that we talked to who had a nephew that she cares for, she worries just as much because he wouldn’t get healthcare because she knows that if he didn’t get healthcare, if something happened to him, she’d have to pay for it, right?
AL SHARPTON: Yep, yep. Yep.
MICHELLE OBAMA: You know, young people aren’t just living out there on their own, if they get sick and can’t afford it, who’s going to have to come in and clean up that financial mess but the parents and grandparents who care about them. You know? So young people owe it to their mothers, to give their mothers the peace of mind to know that they are insured and that they can take care of themselves if something goes wrong.
AL SHARPTON: Well, that’s a strong message from the First Lady of the United States. And we thank you for coming on and sharing that with us. And we thank you for all that you do. I tell the President all the time I lost all this weight to be your model on the program.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Oh, you’re doing it.
AL SHARPTON: He says I’m a little too old, they’re looking for somebody under 35. I didn’t read the fine print.
MICHELLE OBAMA: (Laugh)
AL SHARPTON: I didn’t know about the age requirement. (Chuckle)
MICHELLE OBAMA: I think you are an excellent example, and I thank you for giving me this time, this forum, I just want to thank you for all the work that you’re doing out there in the community and the churches to keep this issue front of mind and make sure that people understand what the law is all about. It’s your kind of work that’s going to make the difference in our communities and in this country. So I love you so much.
AL SHARPTON: Love you, thank you.
MICHELLE OBAMA: All right, take care.
AL SHARPTON: Mrs. Michelle Obama, our First Lady. Thank you.
MICHELLE OBAMA: Bye-bye.