Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In Obama's 2.24 speech: "health-care reform this year"

In Obama's speech last night, he did a terrifically intelligent job of framing some key policy positions in ways that can be embraced by all Americans, and not just by progressives.

Because I have taken up the single-payer cause, I took the liberty of outlining the points he made around health-care reform, adding some of my thoughts about how we progressives might speak to health-care reform skeptics in the wake of his speech.

I hope this outline proves helpful to many of us in the upcoming months, and I also hope that others in P4C will do for energy and education what I have done here for health-care. If you do, send it along to me and I'll post it under your byline.

-- Linda Carpenter Sexauer
community organizer, P4C

The problem with current health-care system:

  • "crushing cost of health care"
  • results in a bankruptcy in America every one-minute or so (Obama's claim of a medical bankruptcy every 30 seconds is incorrect)
  • will potentially "cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes" ... "by the end of" 2009
  • health insurance "premiums have grown four times faster than wages" ... over "the last eight years"
  • "one million ... Americans have lost their health insurance" every year over "the last eight years"
  • a main causality of problem of small businesses going under
  • a main causality of problem of corporations outsourcing US jobs
  • "one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget"

Therefore, current health-care system is bad for household budgets, is bad for federal budget, is bad for US business, is bad for US workers, and is unsustainable.

Immediate reaction to problem:

Delaying health-care reform is not an option, due to the seriousness of the problems (see above points) created by our current health-care system. Talking about this problem for another year while 1.5 million more Americans lose their homes due to medical debts is unacceptable.

Obama administration health-care accomplishments in last 30 days:

Health insurance for 11 million American kids with parents who work full-time.

Three main points included in Obama's economic recovery package that address current health-care problem:

  • investment in electronic health records & other new technology
Why is this a good investment?
  • reduction in medical errors
  • reduction in medical costs
  • assurance of personal privacy around medical histories/diagnoses
  • reduction in loss of human life
  • larger investment in biomedical research and cancer research/treatment
Why is this a good investment?
  • reduction in loss of life
  • largest historic investment in preventive care
Why is this a good investment?
  • reduction in illness
  • reduction in loss of life
  • reduction in medical costs

Framing of Obama administration's solution:

  • historic commitment to comprehensive health-care reform
  • "quality affordable health care for every American"

Note: These ideas have nothing to do with the predictable "It's socialism!" argument that'll be coming out of the right-wing media shills in the days ahead. When they run around like a bunch of Chicken Littles screaming, "It's socialism!", we say, "It's in the best interests of our nation for all of us to make a firm commitment to comprehensive health-care reform, so that all Americans have access to "quality affordable care." Don't be lured into their shark-infested "It's socialism!" waters.

Funding of solution:

  • Funded in part by addressing/eliminating inefficiencies in current health care delivery system. (Not in 2.24 speech, but subsequently revealed in Obama's 10-year budget outline): Proposed cost savings in Medicare, Medicaid and other health programs, savings that are predicted in part to be a result of investment in electronic health records & other new technology.
  • (Not in 2.24 speech, but subsequently revealed in Obama's 10-year budget outline): Proposed reductions in Bush tax cuts on households with incomes over $250,000/year; would reimpose previous tax liabilities on corporations and America's richest taxpayers. Specifically, would more strictly limit itemized deductions of taxpayers in the 35 percent bracket, who now get a bigger tax break than middle-income people. This proposed Bush-era tax cut reduction for the wealthy would result in high-income people getting the same tax break as middle-income people for claiming the same deductions or making the same charitable contributions.
  • (Not in 2.24 speech, but subsequently revealed in Obama's 10-year budget outline): Proposed requirement for drug companies to give bigger discounts to Medicaid. Currently, drugmakers provide a discount to Medicaid of a minimum 15.1 percent of the average manufacturer price for a brand-name product. Obama's proposal would increase Medicaid's minimum discount by drugmakers to 22.1 percent.
  • (Not in 2.24 speech, but subsequently revealed in Obama's 10-year budget outline): Proposed cut in Medicare payments to health insurance companies that receive private premium payments from Medicare beneficiaries for private coverage outside of Medicare. In other words, Obama wants to disallow health insurance companies from being able to receive full Medicare payments for their private premium-paying Medicare beneficiaries.

Note: The costly inefficiencies in our current health-care system have become increasingly worse despite their being increasingly controlled by free market forces over the past 40 years. The increasing control over our health-care costs by private industry is the result of deregulation of the health-care industry beginning with Nixon in the 1970s. While it would not be fair to blame all health-care cost increases on private industry, it is absolutely fair to hold them accountable for the increasing control over these costs.

Other desirable consequence of comprehensive health care-reform:

  • reduction in federal deficit

What fiscal conservative wouldn't like this consequence of Obama's plan for health-care reform?!

Who will participate in the decision-making process for health-care reform?

  • businesses
  • workers
  • doctors
  • health care providers
  • Democrats
  • Republicans

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