Significant details to be ironed out, period.


In the days and weeks ahead, the country will be debating what Barack Obama said tonight and how it impacts Health Care Reform. Obama’s key points in the beginning were sound. If you have health insurance: You can’t lose your insurance when you get sick. You can’t be denied for pre-existing conditions. No cap on coverage in a given year or a lifetime. Limits on out of pocket. Covering Preventive care. If you don’t have health insurance: individuals as one big group can get the same rates big companies can, and if you can’t afford that you will get a tax credit to buy it, based on your need. These are all excellent. But its in getting there that the President failed badly. He not only failed to provide specifics on the costs, he didn’t show how one dollar could be found to pay for the reform.

The Presidents speech tonight made it easier for moderate congressional Democrats and those who depend on independents for re-election who were wavering, to turn away completely from House Bill 3200. The bill Pelosi is trying to shove through doesn’t do any of the things Obama said he wants in reform. It also encourages liberals and progressives to turn away from the bill. 

Here is a key passage from the Presidents speech:

While there remain some significant details to be ironed out, I believe a broad consensus exists for the aspects of the plan I just outlined: consumer protections for those with insurance, an exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable coverage, and a requirement that people who can afford insurance get insurance.

If the Democrats in the House presented a bill that did all those things, and just those things, he could sign it tomorrow with a huge majority. But Democrats can’t pass that kind of Health Care Reform. They could also include comprehensive Tort Reform and save up to $100 billion a year, and probably increase their majority in the next election. That along with the extra revenue from requiring those who can buy insurance do so, would probably get the President near his goal. But the Democrats can’t pass that either. Why not? Trial lawyers have nowhere else to go. No one else will have them.

The $900 billion in savings is supposed to come from waste, fraud and abuse. In my twenty years in politics, government has been pursuing waste, fraud and abuse and has yet to catch up. We deserved a more serious solution.

Secondly, Obama has killed the public option.

for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage affordable for those without it. The public option is only a means to that end – and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal.

The argument for the public option over alternatives such as networks and the insurance exchange is dead. He can’t promise that employers aren’t going to dump their health coverage and pay the 8% fee (which is cheaper than their health insurance now) and move millions of currently privately insured to the public system.

“Nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: Nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.”

THE FACTS: That’s correct, as far as it goes. But neither can the plan guarantee that people can keep their current coverage. Employers sponsor coverage for most families, and they’d be free to change their health plans in ways that workers may not like, or drop insurance altogether. The Congressional Budget Office analyzed the health care bill written by House Democrats and said that by 2016 some 3 million people who now have employer-based care would lose it because their employers would decide to stop offering it.

In the past Obama repeatedly said, “If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period.” Now he’s stopping short of that unconditional guarantee by saying nothing in the plan “requires” any change.

He’s dropped the “period.”

Want to make sure companies have more competition? Easy. Democrats could enable anyone to buy insurance from any other state. Alabamans who currently have only 1 or 2 choices could choose from any state.

So independents can look at the details and know that serious cost-cutting efforts are being ignored, simple rules and regulations that don’t need to be written in more than 1,000 pages simply aren’t being done, and they will be even more hesitant to support reform. Liberals and progressives will begin to lose sleep knowing that the President has said the public option is not the only answer.

Its going to be an interesting fall.

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