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President’s State of the Union Address Skimps on Health Care Issues

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Obama spent little time discussing health care and the federal health reform law, Politico reports (Haberkorn, Politico, 1/24).

On Health Reform

Obama's speech included just 44 words on health reform, far fewer than in his previous addresses (@DDiamond tweet, 1/24). He said that the makeup of the overhaul -- which he noted relies on a "reformed private market, not a government program" -- is a sign that he is willing to work with Republicans.

Obama also said he "will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage or charge women differently from men."

According to Politico, Obama did not acknowledge Adam Rapp, an Illinois resident who White House officials said would have lost health coverage without the health reform law upon recently receiving a cancer diagnosis. Rapp sat with first lady Michelle Obama during the speech (Politico, 1/24).

Other Health Care Mentions

Obama's speech largely focused on the economy, though he discussed health care within the context of the national deficit, Modern Healthcare reports (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 1/24).

He called for continued investments in medical research, which he said "could lead to new treatments that kill cancer cells but leave healthy ones untouched" (Politico, 1/24).

Obama also questioned whether tax cuts for high-income U.S. residents should be maintained, adding, "Or do we want to keep investments in everything else -- like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans?" He also said he would be willing to make changes to Medicare and Medicaid, but did not indicate what changes he would support (Modern Healthcare, 1/24).

GOP Responds

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said that he thought that Obama "would rather not discuss" health reform during his re-election campaign. McConnell added that Obama "rather would try to divert our attention in a different direction" (Politico, 1/24).

In the official GOP response to Obama's address, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) called for keeping Medicare and Social Security "unchanged and untouched for those now in or near retirement," but also to "fashion a new, affordable safety net so future Americans are protected, too."

Daniels said Obama and his supporters "tell us that we just cannot handle ourselves in this complex, perilous world without their benevolent protection," adding that Obama believes that without government help "we might pick the wrong health insurance" (Daniels speech transcript, 1/24).

Meanwhile, Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a video criticizing the president for not addressing tort reform within the last year, which he said he would do in last year's address. Obama made no mention of the subject in his address on Tuesday (Baker, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 1/24).

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