Obama on Healthcare: “Now is the Season for Action”

obama_congress_480President Barack Obama’s prime-time speech to a joint session of Congress made a strong case for including a public option,  along with a combination of choices designed to keep the insurance industry in check.  Recalling Theodore Roosevelt’s efforts to reform healthcare during the 1912 election, Obama said “I am not the first president to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last. Well, the time for bickering is over.  The time for games has passed,” Obama said. “Now is the season for action.”

That action includes a provision that protects uninsurable individuals from catastrophic healthcare expenses.  Another proposal is a series of pilot programs that will study how to reform the medical tort process.

Following is a brief summary of the Obama healthcare plan, which has a projected price tag of just under $1 trillion over 10 years (as a point of comparison, the U.S. spends half this in a single year on military spending):

  • Healthcare reform will provide more security and stability to Americans who currently have insurance, and it will provide coverage to those who don’t. It will slow the growth of healthcare costs.
  • Americans who already have health insurance through their employers, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, will see their coverage improve. The plan will make it illegal to deny coverage for pre-existing conditions. Insurers will no longer be able to place a cap on the amount of coverage a patient receives. Additionally, insurance companies will be required to cover routine checkups and preventive care like mammograms and colonoscopies.
  • Coverage will be portable (if a person changes jobs or starts a small business) through the creation of an insurance exchange – a marketplace that will provide access to health insurance at competitive prices. The benefit to insurance companies is that the exchange lets them compete for millions of new customers.
  • For Americans who currently lack health insurance, Obama proposed a public option where government-subsidies would be available to make premiums affordable. Individuals would be required to obtain coverage, and their employers would have to contribute. Most Senate Republicans and some Blue Dog Democrats oppose this proposal, while Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has said that the House’s version of the healthcare bill will include a public option.

Obama’s flexibility may not please the more liberal members of Congress, but reflects the political reality that exists on Capitol Hill.

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