Obama Not Making The Same Mistakes On Health Care That He Did On The Stimulus Package

Today, President Obama held a healthcare reform summit and struck a tough but inclusive tone:

"Each of us must accept that none of us will get everything that we want, and that no proposal for reform will be perfect," the president said as he welcomed more than 150 forum participants.

"Everybody has a right to take part in this discussion. Nobody has the right to take it over," Obama said. "The status quo is the only option that is not on the table. And those who seek to block any reform at any cost will not prevail this time around."

Obama here seems to be drawing a line in the sand that he did not draw during the stimulus debate. He's insisting on an open and inclusive process but is also putting his opponents on notice that obstruction for obstruction's sake will not be tolerated and, presumably, that he will not sacrifice substance for process.

Obama also expressed the urgency of action and addressed the view that we can't invest in healthcare reform during an economic downturn, again, as he did during his address to congress, turning that view on its head and framing reform as a "fiscal imperative":

And today, there are those who say we should defer health care reform once again - that at a time of economic crisis, we simply cannot afford to fix our health care system as well.

Well, let's be clear: the same soaring costs that are straining our families' budgets are sinking our businesses and eating up our government's budget too.  Too many small businesses can't insure their employees.  Major American corporations are struggling to compete with their foreign counterparts.  And companies of all sizes are shipping their jobs overseas or shutting their doors for good.

Medicare costs are consuming our federal budget.  Medicaid is overwhelming our state budgets.

And at the Fiscal Summit we held here last week, the one thing on which everyone agreed was that the greatest threat to America's fiscal health is not Social Security, though that is a significant challenge; and it is not the investments we've made to rescue our economy; it is the skyrocketing cost of health care.

That is why we cannot delay this discussion any longer.  And that is why today's forum is so important.  Because health care reform is no longer just a moral imperative, it is a fiscal imperative.  If we want to create jobs and rebuild our economy, then we must address the crushing cost of health care this year, in this Administration.  Making investments in reform now, investments that will dramatically lower costs, won't add to our budget deficits in the long-term - rather, it is one of the best ways to reduce them.

During the Q&A afterward, Obama defended the inclusion of a public plan, which the GOP has already signaled outright opposition to. Ezra Klein has the interesting exchange with Sen Chuck Grassley:

Grassley then moved onto a more relevant sore spot: The public insurance option. "The only thing," he pleaded, "that I would throw out for your consideration -- and please don't respond to this now, because I'm asking you just to think about it -- there's a lot of us that feel that the public option that the government is an unfair competitor and that we're going to get an awful lot of crowd out, and we have to keep what we have now strong, and make it stronger."

The question was no surprise: In recent Finance hearings, Grassley has clearly signaled his anxiety on this issue. What was a surprise was that Obama rejected Grassley's plea to think it over and instead replied on the spot with a strong articulation of the case for a public plan. "The thinking on the public option has been that it gives consumers more choices, and it helps give -- keep the private sector honest, because there's some competition out there. That's been the thinking."

"I recognize, though, the fear that if a public option is run through Washington, and there are incentives to try to tamp down costs and -- or at least what shows up on the books, and you've got the ability in Washington, apparently, to print money -- that private insurance plans might end up feeling overwhelmed. So I recognize that there's that concern. I think it's a serious one and a real one. And we'll make sure that it gets addressed."

Obama is clearly in listening and groundwork laying mode but his toughness on the policy questions that have come up, even as he signals the desire for input from all sides, is heartening. Seems he learned the lessons from the confused and undisciplined stimulus bill process. So, while we don't have much to judge Obama on quite yet, I'd give him an A for dictating the terms of the debate and for doubling down on the urgency and imperative of reform this year.

What grade would you give him?

And by the way, the administration launched HealthReform.gov today and you can signal your support of the president's health reform principles HERE.

Tags: healthcare reform, President Obama (all tags)




Has anyone seen the transcript? I didn't take notes and was curious about the part where the President accused the progressives of tackling the fiscal issues of health care. Frankly, I disagree.

As per Grassley, let's face it, the GOP is afraid of enacting health care reform and that it might be a success.

by Charles Lemos 2009-03-05 05:29PM | 0 recs
Why NOW, when the government is near bankrupt?

Fortuitous timing, some might say...

The check comes back "insufficient funds"

by architek 2009-03-06 10:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Not Making The Same Mistakes On Health C


I know you are featured on the grade, but its done through AOL.

Most people that will see that are AOL users.  The people who continue to use AOL tend to be stupid people with no real computer savvy... so stupid they can't figure out a real browser or email system.   AOL SKEWS HEAVILY conservative, most of whom are old and incredibly ignorant of computers... the rating of All D's by the computer stupid douche bags pretty much proves that point.  Lets not support a RW noise machine tool... even if you are on it as an expert and token progressive.

by 30000Fine 2009-03-05 05:52PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama Not Making The Same Mistakes

Glad to see someone finally going right at conservatives on the idea of a gov't plan competing with the private sector.  If the conservatives are right that the private sector trumps all, then the private sector has nothing to worry about because they will inevitably produce a better product.  We'll finally get proof.

What I want to see more of is an outline of how this actually helps American businesses by freeing the cost of health from their balance sheets.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the yearly output for health care by the Big 3 automakers more than the money they came begging for in the auto-bailout?  Nevermind the fact that American workers are competing in wages against workers in countries that provide socialized medicine, which is an unfair advantage to those companies.  Not only does this need to be shouted from the mountain tops by Dem politicians, but they need to recruit non-partisan business leaders to speak on its behalf to further undercut the notion that it's bad for the economy.

by lowdog 2009-03-05 06:32PM | 0 recs
Care for somebody with cancer costs $50,000 a year


How low do you think Obama will be able to make it go?

How much efficiency will he squeeze out of this?

What will be their fair price when they shop for nongroup insurance, not having a job. (People lsoe jobs when they get serious illnesses, and then they lose their insurance)

by architek 2009-03-06 11:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama - Health Care

Obama doing well but, as outlined below, I have my doubts on cutting the cost of health care.


Relying on anecdotal evidence and no expertise, I have these thoughts on the plans to adopt much needed reforms of our health care system. Long ago, I noted the inherent foolishness of having health care access depend on where you work. And I tend to favor a complete single payer system, but it seems that we should not at this stage have it all governmental, such as VA system.

So Medicare for all could be the answer. It is efficient and could put pressure on providers and pharmaceutical companies to reduce costs. President Obama keeps emphasizing the need to reduce the cost of health care, but other than computerizing medical records no measures are proposed.

I doubt that computerization will do a whole lot. I know of no one who has had a problem having medical records available. Over time, it will help in selection of the best treatment, but I doubt if it will much else to reduce costs.

Recently, I had 2 hospital stays of one night each for some routine 2 hour surgery. In addition to the surgeon and his assistants, I must have seen at least 20 people, mostly nurses and nurse assistants, but also aides, various testing people, and miscellaneous workers. And of course there
were many unseen - cooks, lab people, cleaners, etc. My bills were over $35,000 for each visit. And a couple of nights ago, Jay Leno reounted the experience of a friend of his who had an overnight trip to the hospial for a broken arm and was charged $26,000.

The point is that health care is so labor intensive that IT improvements may make only a small dent in overall costs. Perhaps some rationing and means testing will help a bit. Better preventative care could help a lot.

So, no answers. From physicians to janitors, labor is a huge factor. Maybe we have to start way back to colleges, nursing schools, and medical schools to try to wring some costs out of the system.

homer   www.altara.blogspot.com

by altara 2009-03-06 05:19AM | 0 recs
Obama wants to make heathcare more efficient

For example, insurers have been clamoring for electronic medical records for years because right now, they spend a huge amount of money trying to figure out who is well enough to insure. EMRs will save them a lot of money because they will be able to tell in seconds whether somebody or their parents, grandparents, etc, has ever been sick or if somebody has lied on an application to lower their rates.

They will be able to save average familes $1000 annually within ten years by not insuring those who are not average (or charging them a fair price based on what they think their care will cost.)

Then Obama will feel as if he has accomplished his goal of making healthcare more efficient within ten years.

Fair prices.. fair works both ways.

Right now, the insurance companies get 33 cents out of every healthcare dollar.

by architek 2009-03-06 11:04AM | 0 recs
Many doctors NOW don't take insurance..

Many of the best doctors don't take HMO-style insurance anymore. Or they force their patients to fight it out with their HMOs themselves.

They are sick of the gag clauses, sick of the HMOs capitation, sick of the insurers telling them what tests they can't use, or what therapies they can't mention to patients.

Rationing is happening already.. So Medicare for all might be an improvement. At least people will be able to go to the doctor without being terrified that they will be sick and then never get insurance again.

by architek 2009-03-06 11:10AM | 0 recs


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