President Barack Obama spoke powerfully during the address to both houses of Congress on Sept. 8 regarding his goals to finally make health care available for all Americans.
It was a soaring, albeit unabashedly partisan, speech addressing what he wants the bill to do (“make it against the law to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions”) his leaning toward having a bill minus the public option (“The public option is one element of reform; I want to introduce more competition into the system”) and his repudiation of the attacks against his plan (“There are also those who claim that our reform effort will insure illegal immigrants. This, too, is false.”).
The speech was so eloquent and emotional that, lost in the rhetorical flourishes and South Carolina Rep. Joe Wilson’s mad-dog antics, is the fact that there are still many unanswered questions regarding how the bill will be paid for.
Obama made a much-discussed promise that the health care legislation will not “add to the deficit,” a moment that reminded me of George H.W. Bush’s infamous “Read My Lips, No New Taxes” promise.
That is a bold proclamation when we are discussing a bill with a price tag of $900 billion-plus. Are we supposed to believe it will be paid for by simply “eliminating redundancies in Medicare?”
The president also failed to offer any real specifics on how exactly he plans to make “health care mandatory for all Americans.” Does this mean he supports making it unlawful to be without health care, as it is to drive without car insurance?
In the plan drawn up by Montana Senator and Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, it will be mandatory for all Americans to have health care insurance but there will be no public option.
In that “nightmarish scenario,” to use Huffington Post columnist Bob Cesca’s words, Americans would be required by law to fund the same dishonest insurance companies we already have. It will be a great day for Aetna and a bad day for families with sick heads-of-household.
What will be the burden on small businesses who cannot afford health care for their employees? If businesses will be fined for not offering employees insurance, what’s to stop them from paying the fines rather than affording the current health care rates? None of these questions were adequately addressed by the commander-in-chief.
One point that I agree with the Republicans on is: Wouldn’t legalizing interstate purchasing of health insurance allow more competition into the system if the president’s bill has no public option?
This idea does not address individuals being denied for pre-existing conditions, but it would prevent a monopoly on the market within certain states.
According to a study conducted by the American Medical Association shows that “in 166 of 294 metropolitan areas, or 56 percent, a single insurer controls more than half the business in health maintenance organization (HMO) and preferred provider networks (PPO) underwriting.”
Nevertheless, after Cong. Wilson’s much-publicized outburst, Obama’s health care reform seems to be back on track. Wilson’s “You lie!” bellowing during the president’s address really did come off looking like a petulant child whining to a parent who took his video games away for receiving bad grades in school.
Wilson insists that Obama’s plan will provide “government funded health care for illegals,” citing that although HR 3200 prohibits “undocumented persons from receiving benefits,” the bill is vague in terms of how to verify that all recipients are documented.
I supposed Wilson thinks we’re idiots like he is. Persons obtain insurance through work, through the insurance exchange or through tax credits. This means they will either pay out of pocket or need to pay taxes (i.e. have a valid Social Security number) to obtain subsidies. So how will illegals circumvent the Internal Revenue Service? Wilson apparently has no idea.
Obama and the Democrats have staked so much political capital on health care reform that doing nothing would almost assuredly lead to heavy losses in the 2010 election.
However, with no bill decided on and Obama’s continued speechifying about what he wants in a bill, Obama risks the possibility of the American people just tuning him out.
They will respond like I do: Enough of the guarantees and rhetoric. All I want to know is which bill are we going with, how will it help me and how will it be paid for?
The time for talk is over.