For those who hoped that President Obama would bring more clarity to how Congress can pass health care reform, the State of the Union address fell far short of expectations. Instead of laying a path to final passage, Obama briefly described the health care bills, urged Republicans to contribute to the process, and simply “asked” (rather than demanded) Congress to “not walk away from reform.”
Gone was his sense of urgency or commitment to passing health care reform before the end of the year. Obama spent just 6% or 5 minutes of his speech on health care (452 out of 7,077 words) and failed to connect health care reform to the economic recovery or job creation. Below is an excerpt:
But I also know this problem is not going away. By the time I’m finished speaking tonight, more Americans will have lost their health insurance. Millions will lose it this year. Our deficit will grow. Premiums will go up. Patients will be denied the care they need. Small business owners will continue to drop coverage altogether. I will not walk away from these Americans, and neither should the people in this chamber.
As temperatures cool, I want everyone to take another look at the plan we’ve proposed. There’s a reason why many doctors, nurses, and health care experts who know our system best consider this approach a vast improvement over the status quo. But if anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses, let me know. Here’s what I ask of Congress, though: Do not walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close. Let us find a way to come together and finish the job for the American people.
The tone was a marked departure from how Obama described reform just five months ago. Standing in that same spot in September, Obama declared that “the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed. Now is the season for action….Now is the time to deliver on health care. Now is the time to deliver on health care.” In December, Obama even connected health care reform to the economy. “Those who’ve been accusing me of ignoring the unemployment problem haven’t been paying attention.” “Health care reform will create thousands of jobs.”