I know it’s been a while since I’ve done a blog post (other than the one I did yesterday), but I figured this was an important issue to talk about, and I’ll probably be writing a column on health care sometime this week, so this will help me get some ideas down a little early.
President Obama is about to give a speech to a joint session of Congress, and I’ll be giving my live analysis of his speech. And this is live, so excuse any typos – I’m not always great at typing quickly.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has just gaveled the session into order, so we’ll begin in about 10 minutes here.
The President’s speech is expected to last about 45 minutes (not including applause), so I’m guessing that it will run close to an hour (maybe a little over) when it’s all done.
Speaker Pelosi has now called the session to order – Vice President Joe Biden by her side.
The Escort Committee is now leaving to follow behind President Obama when he enters the chamber.
Michelle Obama is now arriving. The Cabinet is now coming into the chamber.
President Obama is now coming into the chamber – and he’s getting a lot of applause (as every President does during these joint sessions).
He’s now up to the podium – Speaker Pelosi is trying to bring the chamber to order. She is now introducing President Obama.
He’s talking about the last time he spoke here – that it was during the worst economic situation we’ve faced since the Great Depression. “We are by no means out of the woods … a full recovery is still months away.” He’s saying that he won’t let up until “those who seek jobs can find them.”
Wow – Hillary Clinton looks out-of-place – she’s wearing this red suit and she’s surrounded by men in black suits.
President Obama is thanking Congress for their help and support in trying to fix America’s economy. He’s talking about building a future for America, and that health care is central to that future.
“I am not the first President to take up that cause, but I am determined to be the last.” It’s a nice quote, but there’s always going to have to be reform – things change – nothing will ever be perfect.
He’s talking about Teddy Roosevelt talking about health care reform, and Representative John Dingell (D-MI) introducing a bill every session to reform health care.
Talking about the hardships facing those who are uninsured – not those on welfare, but mostly the middle class. He’s talking about people being denied insurance because of previous conditions. “We are the only democracy … the only wealthy nation who allows such hardship for its people.” But we’re also the democracy who other countries turn to for certain health care needs (such as Canadians needing some quick emergency treatments).
Talking about insurance companies dropping patients in the middle of treatment for bogus reasons such as having acne and not claiming it – and I’ll agree with him here – that’s a problem that SHOULD be addressed.
Talking about insurance premiums going up, and leading to businesses not being able to open/survive because of health care costs.
It’s “placing an unsustainable burden on taxpayers. … We will eventually be spending more on Medicare and Medicaid than every other program combined.” Again – he’s right here – Medicare/Medicaid costs are getting out of control – it’s just the solution where I disagree with him.
Talking about a single payer system like Canada’s or a plan that individuals should buy their own health care, but both of these are radical shifts that would disrupt the health care system. He’s saying we should use what works as a template and fix the problems in our current system, rather than switch to a Canadian-style system or a completely individual style system.
He’s now talking about the 5 committees coming up with health care bills in Congress – an amount of reform that has been unprecedented in history – and again – this is a good thing – if we have multiple ideas, we have more to choose from and more discussion going around.
Now he’s talking about opponents to reform using scare tactics and just trying to score political points. “The time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed.” Games and bickering are part of the American political system – it’s a sad fact, but it’s true. And both parties do it, but getting into a “Well the other party did __________” kind of mentality is bad for America.
“If you already have insurance … nothing in this plan will require you to change what you have. … What this plan will do is make this insurance that you have work better for you.” It’ll make it illegal for insurance companies to deny you based on a preexisting condition. And that got a LOT of applause. It will be illegal for them to drop you when you get sick.
“No one should go broke because they get sick. … Insurance companies will be required … to cover routine check ups … and preventative care. … It saves money and it saves lives.” And that was all for people who already have insurance.
For those who don’t, this plan will give you an opportunity to get quality insurance. “We’ll do this by creating a new business exchange.” Insurance companies will want this because it gives them more customers.
And for those who still can’t afford insurance, tax credits will be provided. The exchange will take effect in 4 years.
He’s talking about immediate relief for those who get sick before then, citing a plan that Senator McCain proposed during the plan during the 2008 campaign – and Senator McCain just got a huge grin on his face.
He’s saying that some people may not want to pay for insurance, but when they get sick, we wind up paying for their health care when they wind up in the hospital. “Under my plan, people will be required to carry basic health insurance” just like states require people to have basic auto insurance.
And this is where I disagree with the President. Personally, I don’t think we should be forcing people to buy insurance; however, I also don’t think that we should then be paying for their hospital visits. If someone decides not to get insurance, and they get sick, then we shouldn’t be footing the bill – they should just have to pay for treatment themselves or not get it.
Now, moving on to “key controversies that are still out there:”
- Saying that there won’t be plans to try to kill off the elderly who are sick.
- No money will go toward illegal immigrants. – and somebody just shouted “Lie!” and Speaker Pelosi gave him a stare of death – whoever it was, that was pretty unprofessional and immature.
- No money will go toward funding abortions.
- This will not be a takeover of the entire health care system.
These are all good points, and I’d encourage EVERYBODY to read the bill that finally gets introduced instead of just listening to either the Democrats’ talking points or the Republicans’ talking points.
“Consumers do better when there’s choice and competition.” And he’s absolutely right about that – but instead of setting up a government program to do this, we should open insurance markets to cross state lines, so that companies can compete nationwide, adding more competition all over the nation.
He’s saying that he doesn’t want to drive insurance companies out of business, just hold them accountable.
He’s saying that he would like a non-profit public option (which that surprised me that he still pushed for that – I figured that he wasn’t going to try to push that tonight). It would be an option for those who don’t have insurance, and people wouldn’t be forced to chose it. He estimates that less than 5% of Americans would sign up. He’s saying that this public option wouldn’t be funded by the government, but would have to be self sufficient.
But what would happen if it stopped being self sufficient? Would it essentially turn into a Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac?
He’s saying that some are suggesting that the public option only go into effect where insurance companies aren’t competing well, or that we have a private co-op instead. Saying that he won’t back down from giving a choice to people who can’t afford health care.
And the screen just panned over to the Republican section and they really do not look happy about this.
“Now he’s talking about how we’ll pay for the plan – “I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficit – either now, or in the future. … Period.” He’s saying that in his plan, there will be a section that will require spending cuts if the means of saving money aren’t there. He’s now talking about the past administration making a mistake in passing tax cuts that we couldn’t afford as well as the Iraq War.
And while he does have an excellent point with the Iraq War part (which is a whole separate issue), I don’t think that that jab at the Bush Administration is going to help win any Republicans over – and with Senator Kennedy gone, they’re going to need an additional Republican vote in the Senate. That was a bad strategic move on the President’s part.
Talking about ensuring that Medicare will be there for future generations. Saying that seniors pay too much out-of-pocket for prescription drugs. Saying not to pay attention to “scary stories that your benefits will be cut.” GOP members don’t look happy. “I will protect Medicare.”
“Making [Medicare] more efficient will [help make] the entire system more efficient.” Saying that if we reduce waste in Medicare and Medicaid, that will pay for his plan. Well why don’t we just reduce waste in Medicare and Medicaid anyway! Why do you need to add one “good” thing to get rid of one bad thing? Why not just cut waste out of M&M whether or not the other health care reforms pass or not.
Talking about malpractice reform bringing down costs of health care – and all the GOP members stood up and started cheering – even Biden stood up for that one. Saying that we need to put safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. Saying that the Bush Administration wanted to test some of these ideas in individual states, and he likes that plan too. So now he’s playing to the Republican side a bit – which is good because he’s going to need to do that if he wants this to pass the Senate.
Now talking about it’ll cost $900 billion over the next 10 years, but that’s less than the Iraq War…and I think he said something about the Bush tax cuts – I didn’t catch it. Whatever it was, the Dems liked it, but the Repubs looked pretty pissed off – Rep. Thad McCotter (R-MI) really didn’t like whatever was said.
Saying he won’t stand by as the special interest groups fight to keep things the way they are. “I will not accept the status quo as the solution.” And he’s right – we DO need reform – I just disagree with him on the type of reform we need.
Talking about reforms leading to saving lives.
“We cannot fail … there are too many Americans counting on us to succeed.”
Talking about the late Senator Kennedy (D-MA) on his death bed talking about this year being the year that health care reform will be passed.
Health care reform has been a source of “rigorous and intense debate”.
Obama’s talking about Senators Hatch (R-UT) and McCain (R-AZ) and Grassley (R-IA) working with Senator Kennedy. That his p”assion was born out of his own experience … having 2 children stricken with cancer.” He’s saying that “concern for others … is not a partisan” issue. “We are all in this together, and when fortune turns against us, others are there to give us a helping hand. … Sometimes government has to step in.”
Saying that Republicans and Democrats joined together in 1965 when they created Medicare.
“When any efforts to help people in need are attacked as unAmerican … and we can no longer engage in a civil conversation” … I missed that last part. Whatever his point was (I’m sure it was something about engaging in civil debate) – I agree here – we need to discuss it, not try to drown one side out.
“I still believe we can act when it’s hard.” Saying we need to have “civility” and not gridlock the process but make progress.
“I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test. Because that is who we are. That is our calling. That is our character. Thank you, God Bless You, and may God Bless the United States of America.”
Now the Republican response by Representative Charles Boustany (R-LA):
Republicans are ready for reform. We’ve lost jobs since February. “Americans want health care reform … [They're saying] it’s time to start over with a … bipartisan plan.”
He’s saying that Obama’s plan will cost Americans more – that even the Congressional Budget Office agrees – it’ll create 53 new bureaus and raise the deficit. It won’t make the program better for seniors.
“The President [could have] taken government run health care off the table, but he didn’t.”
Americans should be able to get insurance with preexisting conditions. We should give incentives for healthy choices and preventative care.
“We’re grateful that the President mentioned medical liability reform.” “Junk lawsuits drive up the cost of medical care.”
We should establish a plan that would enable people to buy insurance across state lines – and that was one of McCain’s big pushes during the ’08 campaign that I really agreed with.
“This Congress can pass meaningful reform soon … working together in a bipartisan way, we can lower the cost of health care.”
Alright – I wasn’t able to catch that much of the response because there weren’t any pauses in that speech, but it was basically the same thing that McCain said during his Presidential campaign.
Overall, I think the President did a moderately good job. I wish he would’ve gone into detail a little more than he did, and there are some things that I definitely disagree with, but there were some good points:
Malpractice/tort reform is a huge part of the plan that will help lower costs of health care. Eliminating waste in Medicaid and Medicare is another great thing that we need to do. Ensuring a way that people can keep their coverage even when they get sick is another necessity that almost everybody agrees with.
I disagree with the public option, and I disagree with forcing people to have some sort of insurance plan.
I wish that he would consider adopting the plan to allow people to cross state borders to purchase health care plans.
Overall, it was a good speech, but I think he took a couple too many jabs at Republicans and the Bush administration (he’s going to need some Republicans’ votes, and that wasn’t a way to win them over). I also wish he would’ve had more details of his plan, but with only having 45 minutes, that’s hard to do.
I’m not sold on the President’s plan, but I do think there are some good parts of the plan that I’d like to see develop.
We’ll see what’s introduced and what Congress does with the bill(s).