Obama Talks About Medicare, Health Reform in Speech to Congress
During a speech to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday, President Obama called for investments in health care and other areas to "grow our economy, even as we make hard choices to bring our deficit down," USA Today reports (Hall/Jackson, USA Today, 2/25).
Obama said that, although such investments will have significant costs, the "cost of inaction will be far greater, for it could result in an economy that sputters along for not months or years, but perhaps a decade" (Parsons/Nicholas, Los Angeles Times, 2/25).
According to Obama, health care reform "cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year" (Shear/Kornblut, Washington Post, 2/25). He added, "I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process" (Wolf, USA Today, 2/25).
In addition, Obama promised to expand access to health insurance and limit the growth of health care costs (Weisman, Wall Street Journal, 2/25). He said that the outline of his fiscal year 2010 budget, which he plans to release on Thursday, will include a "historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform, a down payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American" (Los Angeles Times, 2/25).
Health care costs cause a "bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds," Obama said, adding, "By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes" (Rogers, The Politico, 2/24).
In addition, Obama promised to address the costs of entitlement programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, in his budget proposal (Wall Street Journal, 2/25). He said, "We will root out the waste, fraud and abuse in our Medicare program that doesn't make our seniors any healthier" (Epstein, CQ Today, 2/24).
Obama also promised to "seek a cure for cancer in our time" (Dinan, Washington Times, 2/25). He also cited the need for investment in electronic health records and health care information technology (Budoff Brown, The Politico, 2/25).
Speech Lacked Details on Health Care
According to the New York Times, Obama "was vague about how he intends to make health care more affordable and accessible, saying only that the budget he will release on Thursday will make a down payment on the goal of 'quality, affordable health care for every American'" (Zeleny, New York Times, 2/25).
In addition, Obama did not provide details on his plans for "reducing the ranks of the more than 47 million Americans without coverage, a potentially contentious process that is sure to stoke an ideological battle over government's role in providing health care" or "how his administration would begin wringing savings from the gargantuan health care system, a process likely to be equally difficult," according to the Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles Times, 2/25).
"Obama's speech contained several caveats and deliberately avoided language that could box in Obama as he turns swiftly toward health reform in coming weeks," The Politico reports (Gerstein, The Politico, 2/25).
After the speech, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) delivered the official Republican response (Bacon, Washington Post, 2/25). In his response, Jindal said, "Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy," adding, "What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line and saddle future generations with debt." He said, "It's irresponsible," adding, "Republicans have a responsibility to ... offer better ideas for a path forward" (Fritze, USA Today, 2/25).
Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said, "The president deserves much credit for his willingness to tackle health care reform, the budget deficit, Social Security and the recession all at once" (Wolf, USA Today, 2/25).
In addition, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said that the enactment of health care reform legislation is possible this year "because I think that the inflation associated with health care is so severe, as the president correctly stated, it's affecting all of our economy." He added, "Certainly a lot of us are eager to work with the president on that issue" (Alexander, Reuters, 2/24).
NPR's "Morning Edition" on Wednesday reported on the Obama speech (Gonyea, "Morning Edition," NPR, 2/25).In addition, NPR's "Morning Edition" on Wednesday examined how small-business owners seek action on health care reform by Obama and Congress (Silberner, "Morning Edition," NPR, 2/25). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.