Obama Healthcare Reform , reasons and critics ,how positive impact is going to be
Americans pay more for health care each year but get less coverage and fewer services for the premiums they pay.
President Barack Obama described just how dysfunctional the current health insurance system is and how reform will fix it. Right now, the American people have a system that works better for the insurance industry than it does for them.
Many Americans are struggling to make ends meet as the cost of care goes up while others face losing insurance as businesses struggle to cover employees.
We know that we need health reform to ensure Americans get the high-quality, affordable care they need and deserve. Under the status quo, too many Americans can’t get the affordable care they need when they fall ill. But health reform must make health care more than just sick care.
Today, Americans spend more on health care than any other country in the world, yet we don’t live longer. Scientists say this generation of American children may not live as long as their parents did. If we do nothing, many of them will grow up to develop a chronic disease that could have been prevented if we created incentives to encourage wellness rather than just focusing on treatment.
When we help Americans quit smoking, prevent obesity and give them the tools and information they need to live healthier lives, we all benefit. Chronic diseases are the leading causes of death and disability in the United States and are an incredible drain on our health care system. 85 percent of the money spent on health care goes toward people with at least one chronic condition. Some of these conditions include diabetes, heart disease and obesity – conditions that we know we can prevent.
The American people remember the old adage and they know that an ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. That is just one of the reasons why helping to prevent disease and illness also has strong public support. A poll released this week by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation found that Americans overwhelmingly rank prevention as a top priority for health reform.
Preventing illness and disease is an essential component of health reform. We know that it isn’t enough to provide coverage and keep doing the same thing. Health reform can help stop diseases before they happen. It can make our homes, our communities and our families healthier, safer and stronger. It’s time to make preventing illness and disease the foundation of our health care system.
Small businesses employ millions of Americans and are the engine of job growth. But as a new study illustrates, health care costs are crippling their ability to offer and sustain health insurance for their workers– limiting their competitiveness and shifting costs to families. A new Urban Institute study entitled, “Health Reform: The Cost of Failure” shows that, over the next ten years, small businesses’ spending on premiums will increase by a projected 47%, despite a precipitous drop in coverage meaning that small businesses will be paying more to insure fewer workers. Families will bear an even greater burden. For those families who keep their health insurance, the cost of premiums and out-of-pocket expenditures will increase by 68% and account for 20% of their income. Even more daunting is that, by 2019, the uninsured population will increase to 65.7 million people, or 23.2% of the population.
The driving force behind the erosion of health coverage among small businesses is cost. In the past two years more than half of small businesses reported switching to plans with higher out-of-pocket costs for employees. From 2000 to 2008, the percentage of small businesses offering coverage dropped from 68% to 59% in businesses with 3 to 199 workers and from 57% to 45% in businesses with 3 to 9 workers. High health care costs are not only adversely affecting employees but also small businesses themselves. Forty percent of small businesses report that health care costs are hurting other aspects of their business such as increasing employee turnover.
This is one reason why the President believes that health reform cannot wait. Reform is necessary to reduce the long-term growth of health care costs for small businesses. Assuring all Americans quality affordable care will improve workers’ health and productivity – a win-win. And, nearly half of small business owners agree that reform is needed it is now time to act.
“In the end, this isn’t about politics. This is about people’s lives and livelihoods. This is about people’s businesses. This is about America’s future, and whether we will be able to look back years from now and say that this was the moment when we made the changes we needed, and gave our children a better life.”
There are four main ways the reform we’re proposing will provide more stability and security to every American.
First, if you don’t have health insurance, you will have a choice of high-quality, affordable coverage for yourself and your family — coverage that will stay with you whether you move, change your job or lose your job.
Second, reform will finally bring skyrocketing health care costs under control, which will mean real savings for families, businesses and our government. We’ll cut hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and inefficiency in federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and in unwarranted subsidies to insurance companies that do nothing to improve care and everything to improve their profits. Third, by making Medicare more efficient, we’ll be able to ensure that more tax dollars go directly to caring for seniors instead of enriching insurance companies. This will not only help provide today’s seniors with the benefits they’ve been promised; it will also ensure the long-term health of Medicare for tomorrow’s seniors. And our reforms will also reduce the amount our seniors pay for their prescription drugs.
Lastly, reform will provide every American with some basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable. A 2007 national survey actually shows that insurance companies discriminated against more than 12 million Americans in the previous three years because they had a pre-existing illness or condition. The companies either refused to cover the person, refused to cover a specific illness or condition or charged a higher premium.Health insurance is fundamentally about peace of mind. If you have good insurance, you don't have to worry about an accident or sudden illness. You know that whatever happens, you and your family will be taken care of. "
As the political debate about how to pay for and pass health reform grows louder and more contentious, we shouldn't lose sight of the reason we're even having this conversation: We have a huge, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to improve the lives of all Americans, insured and uninsured alike.
Health insurance is fundamentally about peace of mind. If you have good insurance, you don't have to worry about an accident or sudden illness. You know that whatever happens, you and your family will be taken care of.
We can't eliminate all disease. But through health reform, we can give every American access to quality, affordable health insurance so that if they do get sick, they have the best chance possible of getting better without bankrupting their families.
The current health-care system gives insurance companies all the power. They get to pick and choose who gets a policy. They can deny coverage because of a preexisting condition. They can offer coverage only at exorbitant rates — or offer coverage so thin that it's no coverage at all. Americans are left to worry about whether they'll get laid off and lose their insurance or wake up from surgery with a $10,000 bill because they didn't read the fine print on their policy.
Mr. Obama pointed the finger at unnamed sources for the “distortion(s)” “fabrications” and “ludicrous ideas” in the debate over health care reform and rebutted specific “divisive and deceptive attacks.”
The president said the bill would not provide health insurance for illegal immigrants, or as he called them, “illegal aliens.” “That's not true. There's a specific provision in the bill that does not provide health insurance for those individuals.”
“You've heard that this is a government takeover of health care,” the president said. “That's not true. You've heard that this is all going to…mean government funding of abortion. Not true.”
Mr. Obama said these claims were “fabrications that have been put out there in order to discourage people from meeting what I consider to be a core ethical and moral obligation, and that is that we look out for one another, that I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper, and in the wealthiest nation on Earth right now, we are neglecting to live up to that call.”
Mr. Obama called on the religious leaders to help him share the good word about health care reform and set the record straight.
“I need you to knock on doors, talk to your neighbors. I need you to spread the facts and speak the truth,” he said.
ABC News' Teddy Davis reports:
The Wall Street Journal is reporting that congressional Democrats and the Obama White House are likely to employ a parliamentary procedure - the budget reconciliation process - to win passage this year of comprehensive health-care reform, according to unnamed sources familiar with conversations on this subject.
This would make it possible to get significant components of health care reform through the Senate with a simple majority, which would only require Democratic votes, rather than having to win some Republican support to get to the 60 votes typically needed in the Senate. With the Minnesota Senate race still unresolved, Democrats currently control 58 votes in the Senate.
The same Wall Street Journal story reports that congressional Democrats and the Obama White House are unlikely to use the budget reconciliation process to pass cap-and-trade climate change legislation, an issue which is much more divisive among Senate Democrats than health care. As we reported earlier this week, eight Democratic senators joined 25 Senate Republicans in signing a letter urging the chair and ranking Republican on the Budget Committee not to use budget reconciliation on cap and trade.
When Obama budget director Peter Orszag recently appeared on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," he said that the Obama administration would prefer not to use budget reconciliation to pass major legislation while also saying that it was premature to take the option off the table.
At a Tuesday lunch with reporters, he once again left the Obama administration room to maneuver while also emphasizing that the budget reconciliation process has been used more often than its detractors like to acknowledge.
According to The Wall Street Journal, reconciliation was the main subject of conversation when Orszag met with Democratic leaders on Wednesday night.
One Democrat to watch is venerable West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd (D) who vehemently opposed the use of reconciliation when former President Bill Clinton tried to overhaul health care in the 1990s.
It will also be interesting to watch Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, who has been working closely with Democratic Chairman Max Baucus on health care. Asked about reconciliation on Thursday while participating in a roundtable with reporters at the Kaiser Family Foundation, Grassley made it clear that he was taking Senate Democrats at their word that "regular order" would be followed.
The Washington Post has more details on this topic -- reporting that Republicans will have until September to compromise on health care, or else Democrats will use this tactic to avoid a filibuster threat. That deadline may not be quite as generous as it sounds, though, considering the August congressional recess.
ABC News' Rick Klein and Jonathan Greenberger contributed to this report.
Obama yesterday lashed out at critics of his ailing push to provide coverage for America's 46 million uninsured people by saying that his critics were resorting to "outlandish rumours" and "misleading information" to scupper his plans.
But Sarah Palin, the Republican's former vice-presidential candidate, raised the temperature in the debate by declaring Obama's plans "downright evil" and accusing him of introducing a care rationing system that could threaten her own mentally handicapped child.
"The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down's syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide… whether they are worthy of healthcare," she wrote on her Facebook page.
Palin's astonishing comments were an incendiary contribution to a national debate that is threatening to spill over into civil disorder. Scores of "town hall" public meetings held by Democratic politicians in recent days have been disrupted by Republican supporters or protesters linked to groups funded by the healthcare industry. Some meetings have been cancelled out of a fear of violence. In Missouri six people were arrested at one event. A group of supporters even hung an effigy of a Democratic congressman outside his office; another Democrat has received death threats.
The efforts have prompted Obama's own campaigning body, Organising for America, which grew out of his presidential campaign, to promise to turn up to public meetings to provide a voice in favour of reform. Several union groups have also vowed to follow suit. In a memo sent to union activists by John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO union group, he called on members to go to the meetings to oppose the Republicans.
The tactics of Republicans, conservative protest groups and healthcare lobbyist-linked organisations have been decried by many commentators. Though Republican leaders and other conservatives have claimed the protests are a genuine outburst of anti-healthcare reform feeling, there have been instances of activists being caught red-handed.
One woman who protested at a public meeting held by Wisconsin congressman Steve Kagen, a Democrat, had said she was "just a mom" but turned out to be a former senior Republican party official. "They've become political terrorists, willing to say or do anything to prevent the country from reaching a consensus on one of its most serious domestic problems," said Washington Post columnist Steven Pearlstein.
But the tactics have been a political success. Obama's hitherto matchless sense of political timing appears to have run into a wall when it comes to healthcare. He vowed to get new legislation passed by August. That failed, despite Congress being controlled by Democrats.
Obama also vowed to make a "public option" (a government-run public health insurance programme) part of any reform package. But that also looks increasingly unlikely. It has raised the prospect that Obama may eventually be defeated on healthcare in the same way Bill Clinton was in the early 1990s.
"If they defeat him, it's going to be bad. He is being outfoxed by a Republican party that should be outnumbered," said Shaun Bowler, professor of political science at the University of California.
Obama is suffering from the political impact. His popularity ratings have been on a steady downwards track ever since he began his massive push on healthcare. A recent Quinnipiac University poll showed his approval rating had fallen to just 50%, shaving seven points from his figures in June. A CNN poll also showed a steady decline, pegging his approval at 56%, which was seven points off his standing in April.
It is a far cry from his first 100 days in office when he soaked up press plaudits for broad-ranging reform of government and foreign policy. His second 100 days have seen harsh political realities intrude as he has become tied to the economic crisis and the fierce Republican-led backlash over healthcare.
"It is the first time he has seemed to be weak," said Bowler. "He has started to seem like any other president. The shine has come off."
Ironically, Obama's main problems lie with his own party and with his desire to reach consensus on the healthcare issue rather than to dictate a reform programme. He has insisted on Republican involvement in the drafting of new legislation. He has also paid heed to the "Blue Dog" group of Democratic politicians who represent conservative-leaning electorates and who have pushed aggressively for him to water down his healthcare proposals by, among other things, taking out the public option.
At the same time, as anti-lobbying watchdog groups have pointed out, money has been flowing to the group's members from the healthcare industry in the form of campaign contributions. Blue Dog Democrats have collected more money than any other congressional grouping this year, with more than half the cash coming from healthcare businesses or the insurance and financial services sector.
But perhaps the most surprising thing about the whole debate is that the appetite for health reform remains extremely popular with most Americans, even as Obama's poll numbers sink and the fight with Republicans and the healthcare industry grows uglier and uglier. One recent poll showed that 62% of Americans favoured a public option and 61% supported higher taxes on the wealthy in order to pay for it.
The path to reform
■ Democrats have vowed to keep holding town hall meetings despite the many and vocal public disruptions. They have decided to mobilise Obama's own supporters and union activists to attend the meetings, which will go on through August.
■ Republicans and groups linked to lobbyists for the healthcare industry will keep up the pressure on the airwaves and by turning up to Democrat meetings.
■ Congress reconvenes on 8 September; healthcare legislation will be the top priority. Both Houses of Congress will try to draw up legislation, though it is almost certain to be watered downheavily watered down by Republicans and conservative Democrats.
■ Obama will finally have to make a brutal decision: accept a diluted version of his plans, or abandon compromise and force through what he wants.