Obama Locks and Loads
In today's radio address he finally laid down some requirements for his signature on a health reform bill:
[A]ny plan I sign must include an insurance exchange: a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, cost and track records of a variety of plans – including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest – and choose what’s best for your family. And that’s why we’ll put an end to the worst practices of the insurance industry: no more yearly caps or lifetime caps; no more denying people care because of pre-existing conditions; and no more dropping people from a plan when they get too sick. No longer will you be without health insurance, even if you lose your job or change jobs.
Now, how those things are defined are a teensy bit vague, but this is a step in the right direction. Up until now he has only expressed preferences and has not said that certain things must be included in a bill he would sign. It's helpful for keeping Dems on track if nothing else.
But that's just the sausage making part. The larger points made in the speech are really good and it's too bad that only about 12 people will hear it.
You'd think this wouldn't have to be said, but it's actually an argument that can't be made often enough:
This is an issue that affects the health and financial well-being of every single American and the stability of our entire economy.
It’s about every family unable to keep up with soaring out of pocket costs and premiums rising three times faster than wages. Every worker afraid of losing health insurance if they lose their job, or change jobs. Everyone who’s worried that they may not be able to get insurance or change insurance if someone in their family has a pre-existing condition.
It’s about a woman in Colorado who told us that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, her insurance company – the one she’d paid over $700 a month to – refused to pay for her treatment. She had to use up her retirement funds to save her own life.
It’s about a man from Maryland who sent us his story – a middle class college graduate whose health insurance expired when he changed jobs. During that time, he needed emergency surgery, and woke up $10,000 in debt – debt that has left him unable to save, buy a home, or make a career change.
It’s about every business forced to shut their doors, or shed jobs, or ship them overseas. It’s about state governments overwhelmed by Medicaid, federal budgets consumed by Medicare, and deficits piling higher year after year.
This is the status quo. This is the system we have today. This is what the debate in Congress is all about: Whether we’ll keep talking and tinkering and letting this problem fester as more families and businesses go under, and more Americans lose their coverage. Or whether we’ll seize this opportunity – one we might not have again for generations – and finally pass health insurance reform this year, in 2009.
The insurance companies, the politicians who serve them and the wealthy ideologues who want to ensure that the rubes never realize that they have the power to challenge the ruling class, are working overtime to redirect the free floating anxiety people feel over jobs and health care and a whole host of very real problems to a fear of abstractions like future deficits. I think people have to be reminded that the status quo equals the very real and immediate threat of losing everything they have if they get sick.
You'd think they wouldn't need to be reminded, but years of propaganda and slick marketing have trained people to have a Pavlovian response when they hear the words "deficit" and "government takeover" no matter what the context. The president has always addressed that in his speeches, but it's getting crisper and more explicit.
And that's good because the forces for the status quo are working hard to get their story out.