You might think that with the nation mired in its worst recession in decades, now wouldn’t be the time for health care reform, but tonight President Obama called for comprehensive health care reform, and now more than ever this reform is needed.
Speaking about health care reform the president said, “This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it’s one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget.”
After talking about his administration’s early accomplishments on health care reform, Obama talked about the challenges ahead, “Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform, and that is why I’m bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week. I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.”
No matter how bad the economy gets, I still think that health care reform is the biggest political challenge facing Obama. As he noted, presidents have been trying for 100 years to reform health care with no success. However, I think that this recession provides Obama with an opportunity for success that his predecessors didn’t have. Employers can’t afford the premiums, doctors are fed up with managed care, and 40-50 million people have no care at all. The biggest obstacles to reform are the insurance companies, and Senate Republicans.
Obama has a better chance at changing the system, not only because people are ready for change, but because he is not trying to implement single payer universal care. Instead of a government run system, Obama wants to fix the current one. This idea is much less threatening to the currently insured. As far as the speech itself is concerned, Obama mixed optimism with vision. It was the typically strong Obama performance, and I suspect that there will be more reassuring performances around the country.