Obama Presses Case For Health Reform
President Barack Obama pitched his health reform proposal Wednesday at a town hall meeting in Annandale, Va., asking the public and Congress to deliver on health care reform.
The Associated Press reports that Obama put "a human face" on health care reform by hugging a cancer patient, but gave few new details on his health care reform plans. The AP reports: "The health care changes that Obama called for Wednesday would reshape the nation's medical landscape. He says he wants to cover nearly 50 million uninsured Americans, to persuade doctors to stress quality over quantity of care, to squeeze billions of dollars from spending. But details on exactly how to do those things were generally lacking in his hour-long town hall forum before a friendly, hand-picked audience in a Washington suburb. The lingering questions underscore the tough negotiations awaiting Congress, the administration and dozens of special interest groups in the coming months. Lawmakers will return to debating the issue when they return from a one-week recess on Monday...Republicans said the event was a political sham designed to help Obama, not to inform the public."
The AP notes: "The president would bar insurance companies from turning down applicants because of their "pre-existing conditions." He would establish health care exchanges that would spread the costs of treating patients such as Smith over a large number of people. Obama called for shifting huge sums of money from current health care spending to new goals. About two-thirds of the overall new costs "will come from reallocating money that is already being spent in the health care system but isn't being spent wisely," he said. He restated his pledge to cut $177 billion over the next decade from Medicare Advantage insurance plans. And he noted that doctors, hospitals, corporations and others have promised to decrease the annual rate of spending growth by 1.5 percent, or $2 trillion over 10 years. Such savings are not guaranteed, however, and many Republican lawmakers say Obama's plans will prove too costly." The AP reports: "He urged the audience, which included people following on Facebook and YouTube, to reject critics who say his plans are too costly or a step toward socialized medicine...Still, he again called for a government-run 'public option' to compete with private insurers, a plan that many Republicans oppose" (Elliott and Babington, 7/1).
Bloomberg reports that Obama "stepped up his drive to overhaul the health-care system, saying that the U.S. economy has been "weakened by the crushing cost" of care and the economy will "just sputter along" without changes. Obama also urged Americans to "get informed" about the complexities of the health-care debate to inoculate themselves against "scare tactics" of those who oppose his efforts. The president targeted the health insurance industry, which has raised questions about his goal of creating a government-run insurance plan as an alternative to private companies.... In framing health-care overhaul as an economic imperative, Obama has said repeatedly that rising costs are threatening U.S. competitiveness and draining government budgets while leaving 46 million people uninsured" (Anderson and Chen, 7/1).
The Los Angeles Times reports: "The president issued a pointed critique of the institution where he once served, warning that lawmakers often are tempted to shunt aside politically sensitive issues.... Wednesday's forum was Obama's third grassroots event devoted to healthcare in the last three weeks. And debate over healthcare legislation is expected to move to center stage after lawmakers return to Washington from their July 4 recess. But leading Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, have begun to call for slower action." The Times also notes: "At the same time, while some polls show deep public support for overhauling healthcare, there is growing discomfort with government spending -- a development some experts fear could prompt lawmakers to try to delay action....In a recent NBC-Wall Street Journal survey, more Americans said the deficit and government spending, rather than healthcare, should be the federal government's top priority" (Levey, 7/2).
Roll Call reports: "Obama stressed the need for a "health insurance exchange" that would provide a "one-stop shop" for consumers to compare the prices and benefits of various plans - including what's been called a public option - none of which would discriminate based on medical history. He said this would help small businesses keep costs to a minimum, and would also provide a safety net for those who switch jobs or are self-employed. Obama called for a digital database of medical records to reduce medical errors, investing money in preventive measures, and making more efficient a health care system that "automatically equates expensive care" with better treatment" (White, 7/1).
Meanwhile, in a story headlined "Obama Moderates Health Care Stance," the Wall Street Journal reports: "Obama, after picking fights with rivals over health care during the election campaign, is signaling flexibility on many of his previous stances as he tries to put a health-care deal together." It notes: "As a candidate, Mr. Obama criticized Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for proposing that all Americans be required to get health insurance. Now he says he is open to the idea. He ran some 47,000 TV ads criticizing Republican candidate John McCain for wanting to tax employee health benefits and cut Medicare spending. Mr. Obama has now signaled openness to taxing such benefits, and has proposed his own Medicare cuts -- in both cases on a smaller scale. In addition, the White House isn't ruling out the possibility that families earning less than $250,000 a year might see higher taxes if they have generous health benefits that become subject to new taxes. During the campaign, Mr. Obama had vowed not to raise taxes on any families earning less than $250,000" (Meckler, 7/1).