Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The President Nails It: How We Deal With Health Care Reflects the "Character of Our Country"

President Obama hit the right notes tonight in his speech on health care. He reminded us why we need reform:
  • Ever since Congressman John Dingell, Sr. in 1943 (his son now a senior congressman from Detroit) introduced health care legislation, we have been postponing universal coverage.
  • 30 million people have no coverage, that is, one in three citizens have no health care plan; this includes those with pre-existing conditions.
  • Our costs are one and a half times the cost of other countries.
  • In our premiums, each of us already pays $1000/year for those who are uninsured.
  • Health care, because of the waste and inefficiency, IS our deficit problem.
The two political poles on the issue range from those calling for a single payer system to those who would continue to depend only on an employer-based voluntary insurance program.

Because one-sixth of our economy is based on health care, the President says we should build on the system. Given that there are 5 house bills (4 of which came out of committee) and a Senate Finance bill coming out next week, he opined that we have "80% agreement" on particulars.

He established three goals: 1) more security and stability for those with insurance; 2) coverage for those who don't have care; and 3) slowing the costs of health care.

His program would

1) ensure that current private health care plans, VA, medicare, medicaid coverage remain the same;
2) prohibit denial of coverage because of preexisting conditions;
3) prohibit dropping of coverage when a person is sick and prohibit yearly or lifetime caps on coverage;
4) limit out of pocket payments (thereby stemming bankruptcy due to health issues);
5) cover preventative services;
6) establish an insurance exchange to allow those without coverage to shop for quality affordable choices,
7) create tax credits based on need to allow people to purchase low cost coverage -- a plan proposed by Senator John McCain during the '08 campaign;
8) require individuals to purchase health insurance just as now they must purchase auto insurance (with a waiver for hardships).

Misconceptions the President explained:
1) there are no death panels; 2) illegal immigrants would not be covered;
3) there would be no funding through these plans for abortions; and
4) there would be no rationing of care.

However, the president said there should be a public option to provide accountability. It could be a not-for profit option either through co-ops or government for those who could not afford the other choices. He anticipates that about 5% Americans will sign up for this.

The Plan must pay for itself. He committed to adding nothing to the deficit and to embrace more spending cuts if savings do not materialize. But he emphasized that savings can be found within the health care system.

He also pointed out that there is some waste from Medicare.

Recognizing the valid concerns of those calling for medical malpractice reform, he committed to embracing this issue as well.

The cost of health care reform, asserted the President, would be $900 billion over 10 years, which he noted was less than the amount of the Bush tax cut.

In perhaps the most moving part of the speech, the President spoke of a letter written last spring by the late Senator Ted Kennedy when he learned of the terminal nature of his disease. In it, Senator Kennedy said how we respond to health care reflects the "character of our country," and the President urged us to respond to that character. As he spoke, Michele Obama held the widow Vicki Kennedy's hand, and after the speech, you could see Mrs. Kennedy saying about the speech to Mrs. Obama, "Magnificent, magnificent."

It was indeed.

Now let the lawmaking begin. Sphere: Related Content