Wednesday, September 9, 2009

President Obama needs to be specific tonight on health care reform

Tonight at 7 P.M. CST President Obama will address a joint session of Congress in an attempt to guide them in developing a health care reform bill for him to sign into law. President Obama wanted Congress to pass health care reform before the August recess for good reason; the message on health care reform is no longer being controlled by the White House. The August recess allowed, those really concerned, to review the House bill and get an opportunity to participate in town hall meetings. While not every member of Congress held open forums, they did hold meetings of some sort to hear from constituents on the issue of health care. No one denies, okay maybe one person, that health care costs are growing out of control and reform is needed. The disagreement is how much reform is required to bend the cost curve downward.

The "Gang of Six" is trying to hammer out an idea. The Republicans have a proposal but are unable to get it out of committee or get it scored by the CBO. Republicans do not want to release the plan before it can be scored by the CBO which is politics. I have had the opportunity this summer to witness first hand a number of C-SPAN session of Congress and can attest to Republicans ideas are not given real consideration in committees. The Liberal Left members of the Democrat party have drawn the line in the sand that if reform does not include a public option then they will not vote for reform. The Conservative Right is dead set against the public option and it appears many "Blue" dog Democrats are as well. President Obama campaign on bringing people together; yet he cannot find common ground with members of Congress without creating uproar from the base of the Democrat party.

Thus far the President has touted that "if you like your health care you will be able to keep it." Unfortunately his rhetoric does not match what is being done in Congress which is not a bad thing since there is suppose to be separation of powers. Then again, it his party that is in power and one would think they'd be on the same page. The current HR 3200 bill penalizes companies if they do not offer insurance equal to what the public option will offer. A bit of hypocrisy presents itself here. People in general are happy with the coverage but are unhappy at the rising cost of being covered. Why do we need to penalize companies if people are happy with their insurance cover? Let's not confuse the issue though.

I find it interesting that during the campaign and after taking office President Obama looked to places like Canada and England health care systems as models his administration would emulate. Recently President Obama said, "I've said that the Canadian model works for Canada. It would not work for the United States, in part simply because we've evolved differently. So, we've got to develop a uniquely American approach to this problem" (NYtimes.com). A "uniquely American" approach does not restrict freedom of choice or look to the government for the answer; rather free market ideals are what make our current system a "Uniquely American" approach.

The trouble with the current system is that the free market concept of competition is confined by state borders. By deregulating the health care system to allow one in Minnesota to purchase health care coverage from an insurer in Arizona will increase competition thus reducing costs. If the primary goal is to reduce costs then why not start reforming health care by doing this? America's deficit is spiraling out of control and opening up competition does not cost taxpayers any money; Budget neutral!!!!!

Back in June I was challenged by one of my progressive friends to provide an outline for health care reform which I did in my blog entry, Outline of Health Care and Tax Reform, on June 10, 2009. I recognize that my idea of health care reform does not provide all the answers but it does provide a solid base of ideas that would be budget neutral. One aspect that I neglected in my blog entry back in June was to include tort reform. Without solid tort reform the cost curve will not trend downward.

I am hoping that tonight President Obama will lay out specific plans or changes to current bills of health care reform. The time for lofty rhetoric has past; the time for specific language is required. Without specifics the American public fears will only be heightened. According to Scott Rasmussen, "those opposed to Mr. Obama's reform appear to have momentum on their side. Polling last weekend showed that 48% of voters rate the U.S. health-care system as good or excellent. That's up from 35% in May and up from 29% a year ago. Only 19% now rate the system as poor, down from 37% a year ago. It appears that the prospect of changing health care has made the existing system look better to a lot of people" (Wall Street Journal).

The sliding poll numbers are even more reason why President Obama needs to get specific on health care reform and display how the reform will benefit all Americans. I am one of the 48M uninsured in America right now and it is by choice. Because unemployment is just a portion of my previous income level the cost of health care increases but not due to an increase in cost rather due to the decrease in income. Now there are options for health care coverage that is less expensive and affordable than COBRA or any of those offered in Minnesota but I cannot take advantage of that because the coverage is in another state. I look forward to the speech tonight and hope that President Obama can produce on his campaign promise for health care reform that allows those with coverage to keep their coverage for as long as they are employed at their current employer.