Thursday, September 10, 2009

Editorial: The Speech

Tom122007 Presidential addresses to a joint session of Congress are rare events, usually reserved or such occasions as annual “State of the Union” messages, declarations of war, etc.  That made this speech an important event, and a big risk on Obama’s part.  As I sat waiting for the speech to begin, I wondered whether Obama could recover the impetus, taken over by the GOP’s insane attempt to deprive the American people of authentic health care reform through their irresponsible disinformation and astro-turf protests that dominated the August recess.

Obama was introduced eleven minutes late.  He began with a promise not to let-up on obama-js the economy until every individual who wants a job can find one, and every business can find the financing it needs to operate.  He claimed that we have pulled our economy back from the brink, and we have.  He said that  he was not elected just to solve crises, but to build a future, and healthcare is central to building that future.  He explained that the uninsured are one illness or accident away from bankruptcy.  Every day, 14,000 Americans lose their coverage because they get sick.  He gave an example of a man who died, because his insurance company cancelled him in the middle of chemotherapy and another example of a woman undergoing treatment or breast cancer who was dropped, because she had not reported a case of acne.  He said that we pay 50% more for our health care than other modern wealthy nations, but do not get better care or it.

He said that he had rejected progressives’ desire for a single payer system and the GOPs’ desire for an end of employer-based healthcare for the same reason.  Both would radically interrupt the insurance that most Americans have now.  Instead, he said, we will build on what works and fix what doesn’t.  He outlined three goals or his plan:

  • Security and stability for those that have insurance.
  • Access to affordable insurance or those who don’t.
  • Slow the growth of healthcare costs.

He said that nothing in his plan will require anyone or their employer to change the insurance or doctor they now have and outlined five features of his plan or those who have insurance:

  • Forbid insurance companies to refuse to insure those with preexisting conditions.
  • Forbid insurance companies to drop those who are sick.
  • Forbid insurance companies to place an annual or lifetime cap on benefits.
  • Limit out of pocket charges such as deductable amounts and co-pays.  (Current limits are at 20%.  The GOP proposes to increase that to 35%.)
  •   Require insurance companies to cover preventive care.

I fully support all five, but not the Republican proposal.

He outlined the following six features of his plan or those who do not have insurance.

  • A new insurance exchange in which individuals and small businesses can purchase insurance together at rates only big corporations get today.
  • Tax credits or those who cannot afford insurance, the amount based on need.
  • Immediate low-cost catastrophic coverage for those with preexisting conditions resulting in serious illnesses.
  • Require individuals to carry at least basic insurance.
  • Require large companies too either provide coverage to all their employees or to “chip-in” to pay or the cost of covering the uninsured.
  • Exempt individuals who still cannot afford health insurance from the requirement to carry it.

I fully support most of this, especially  the provision that keep companies like Wal-Mart from dumping the cost of covering their thousands of employees on the rest of us.  Here is my one concern.  Are the tax credits or those who cannot afford insurance limited to the amount an individual or family pays in taxes, or can the tax credits exceed that amount?  If the former, many will fall through the cracks.  Although I’ll be in Medicare before 2013, I’ll use myself as an example.  I make so little that I only paid about $600 in federal taxes last year.  If I got that all back, but no more, I still could not afford health insurance and would remain “one illness or accident away from bankruptcy.”  What good is an exemption from the requirement for the poor  to carry insurance if they remain uninsured?

Next Obama covered some of the controversies surrounding his plan:

  • There are no death panels. “It’s a lie, plain and simple.”
  • It is not true that the plan will cover illegal immigrants.
  • No federal dollars will be used to fund abortion.
  • The public option is a choice,  not a government takeover of health care.  It will hold insurance companies accountable, not put them out of business.  It would be self-sufficient and rely on premiums collected.  It would make no profit.  It will be just one of the options available through the insurance exchange, so it it would be only for those without insurance.  Nobody would be required to use it.  He said it is just a small part of his plan designed to provide coverage, reduce cost and hedge against insurance company abuse, and that he was open to any other idea that would accomplish the same thing.

I’ll reserve judgment.  If convinced that some other option can accomplish those things as well as a public option, I’d go along.  Until then, I shall continue to demand the public option.

joe wilson-SC When President Obama said that his plan will not cover illegal immigrants, Rep. Joe Wilson, a Republican from South Carolina angrily pointed his finger and screamed, “YOU LIE!”  At no time in my memory have I heard of a Congressman interrupting a Presidential address in such a despicable  manner.  I remember that when, during a debate on funding for the GOP war or Oil and Conquest in Iraq, a Democrat claimed that GW Bush had lied about WMD, as we all know he did from the Downing Street memos, the GOP went ballistic.  And Bush was not even in the chamber.  I understand that Wilson has called the White House to apologize.  That is not enough.  Wilson should be called before the ethics committee, and at the very least, publically censured.  In addition Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Republican from Texas, held up and waved signs that said “What Bill?” and “What plan?”  I feel disgusted.

Obama said that he will “make sure that no government or insurance company bureaucrat comes between you and your doctor.”

Next, he promised, “I will not sign a bill that adds one penny to the deficit.”  He outlined four ways to pay or his plan:

  • Savings from within the health care system.
  • Savings from Medicare, but not a penny of the Medicare trust fund.  For Medicare he will eliminate waste and fraud, eliminate insurance company subsidies (Advantage plans that cost taxpayers 15% more, but provide no better care), and close the donut hole.  He said, “I will protect Medicare”.
  • Revenue from drug and insurance companies who benefit from this plan through increased sales.
  • Reform medical malpractice laws to protect only those doctors and hospitals, who put their patients’ safety first, from frivolous lawsuits. (This drew the only cheer from Republicans.)

There’s nothing here that I cannot support.

Obama pointed out that some think it’s better politics to kill the plan.  He said, “If you misrepresent this plan, I will call you out.”  He should have called out  Joe Wilson and Louie Gohmert on the spot.

Obama revealed a letter from Teddy Kennedy, whose wife Vickie was seated with Michelle Obama.  He said that social justice demands reform and that passage of this plan is a moral imperative.  He said Democrats and Republicans had joined together to pass both Social Security and Medicare.  Unfortunately I cannot agree.  Republicans were just as recalcitrant, but not as offensive, then.  But at least nobody can claim that President Obama has not made every possible attempt to bring Republicans into the process.

Obama ended, with a brief motivational speech, the kind only Obama can give.

Boustany-La For the Republican response the GOP demonstrated their willingness to compromise by choosing a right-wing extremist, Rep. Charles Boustany from Louisiana.  Boustany is a birther.  He is also so stupid that he once fell for a scam in which he tried to buy for Himself the British title of “Lord”.  So in deference to his self view, I shall call him Lord Boustany.  Lord Boustany made a big point that he is a heart surgeon himself.  He lad little of interest to say.  He called for Congress to start over and negotiate a truly bipartisan bill.  The GOP knows that more delay will kill the plan.  He insisted that Obama’s plan is “government run health care”, so Obama had better call him out, because he misrepresented the plan.  The only actual alternative Lord Boustany suggested is to allow consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines, so they could shop for the best deal.  What Lord Boustany is not telling us is why the GOP wants this provision.  The only real regulation of health insurance now occurs at the state level.  If consumers could shop across state lines, all the insurance companies would learn (as if they do not already know) which red state has virtually no regulation and relocate there, allowing them even more abuse than they practice at present.  However, I will give Boustany one thing.  He must be an incredibly accomplished heart surgeon.  Can you imagine the skill it must have required for him to have removed his own heart?

In summary, I’d like to say that Obama’s speech was a good one, but I cannot.  That would fall way short of the mark.  The speech was truly historic.  If you want to read it in its entirety, Click Here.


moneyneversleeps said...

Once again Obama supporters get mesmerized by his oratory without considering anything he said.

It's amazing that anyone trusts a government that has brought us to the brink of bankruptcy. Obama left IL in a state of fiscal disaster for those who care to check the books of that state. They are insolvent.

Telling people what they want to hear regardless of cost is a classic liberal tactic. Once the program is put in place, all his lies and distortions will quickly surface, and this public option will cost twice what they are projecting.

Witness a similar plan in MA that has seen it's costs double in five years, and the governor has called it unsustainable. None of the promises of savings from politicians have surfaced. said...

I never realized it was Obama who single-handedly " . . . left IL in a state of fiscal disaster . . . ". Thanks for the news!

the walking man said...

All I could think when the camera panned over the section of trough feeders was "Well at least now we know who is bought and sold by lobbyist dollars."

But then I also didn't see any balls on the podium to go along with all of the assholes on display.

If we are going to maintain the profiteers in human misery because "it is 1/6 of the economy," then someone better start writing massive federal regulations on how they acquire that profit.

Again the question is: how is t that the rest of the industrialized world functions so well with national health care and we are so stupid that we will not?

Are we a nation of morons that we can not take the models we helped establish after WWII and make them even more efficient or is it a cave in to the industry that reaps most of it cost recovery and profit from the American taxpayer and policy holder?

"It's amazing that anyone trusts a government that has brought us to the brink of bankruptcy."

Yeah man, the bush/cheney administration certainly taught this liberal to not trust his government when it comes to true leadership in fiscal policy.

the walking man said...

moneyneversleeps must not want back talk on their blog...hit the link.

Annette said...

Well done as always Tom, great job.. the only thing I could add is that the Lord has also been sued for malpractice I believe it is 3 or 4 times.. lol, that's why he wants malpractice He is hoping to escape next time.

WalkingMan...we have to start trusting again.. I know it is hard.. but we have to. The first step is trusting our President. You have to start there and hope it works from there down.

TomCat said...

Money, I do have to commend you about your honesty. We are truly hearing the voice and seeing the perspective of money. Can you tell me how one State Senator managed to bankrupt his state all by himself? Also, comparing a federal public option with the MA plan is not valid, because a public plan that only includes a small percentage of one state does not have the purchasing power of a federal plan likely to include 4% of Americans.

Welcome, Art. I agree! Too bad you don't have a blog in your profile. I'd visit.

Mark, I agree with what you say, but I see a plan with a public option as a first step in that direction. Although single-payer is far superior to anything currently under discussion, it has no chance to pass at this time. On money, I saw what you mean and felt curious so I did a little backtracking. He found this on Google from his law office in Greensboro, NC. So what we have here is a professional spin doctor. I wonder which company his law firm represents.

Thanks Annette. Good point on Lord Boustany. Now nobody gos saying "Praise the Lord" now. ;-)

Jo said...

I don't care for Obama personally (no, no, no... if I were American, I would not be a Republican...!) but last night I had to grudgingly give him credit where credit is due. Of course, he does like to "speechify", so we shall see... But, if he can pull this health care reform off, I will have respect for him. I don't think he is going to back down, but if he does, he will be lost forever.

Hill said...

From your excellent post...

"What good is an exemption from the requirement for the poor to carry insurance if they remain uninsured?"


I want REAL health care reform.

What I don't want is to make the heartless insurance companies richer.

And that's that.


Brother Tim said...

This is about the only liberal/progressive site that did not give Obama a standing ovation on his speech. All I've read and heard is how great Obama did.

My opinion: It was weak, and rife with pandering and campaign rhetoric.

I'd like to send my wife to D.C., to help him clean out his closet, and find the backbone and balls he has inadvertently misplaced. ;)

TomCat said...

Josie, I agree. If he signs a bill so watered down that it's nothing more that insurance company welfare, that will come back to haunt him. However, I do not think he will do that.

Thanks, Hill. On the other hand, the tax credits to which he is referring could be the type in which, for example, if a poor person gets a $3,000 tax credit and pays $500 in taxes, he still gets a $3,000 voucher with which to purchase insurance. If Obama gets everything he said he wants, in including either the public option or some other means that is just as efective to keep insurance companies from overcharging us, I don't see it as more profits for heartless insurance companies, because the extra premiums they receive from the mandate will be balanced by the expense from the requirements that they accept preexisting conditions without charging more, they may not drop patients, because they are sick, they may not impose benefit caps, and they must pay patient's claims.

Brother, I'd say I praised him pretty highly when I called his speech historic. I just pointeed out what I saw as weaknesses too, because I don't goose step in anyone's parade. I call them, as I see them.

Brother Tim said...

Yeah, Tom, but the Hindenburg and Titanic were also historic. ;)

TomCat said...

LOL, Brother! For once the difference wasn't semantic. ;-)