Now six months in office, President Barack Obama remains almost as popular as ever, but when it comes to his administration’s economic initiatives, from the stimulus package to Wall Street bailouts, not so much.
Wednesday night, following several days of a full court press on the need for healthcare reform, the president held his fourth primetime press conference to make the case to the American public on the urgency of changing the nation’s healthcare system. Specifically he needed to answer the question, “What’s in these reforms for me?”
He began by linking the need for a system overhaul to the nation’s growing deficit. Obama also emphasized that reform will benefit those who are currently insured but at risk of losing their coverage if they lose their jobs.
“Let me be clear: if we do not control these costs, we will not be able to control our deficit. If we do not reform health care, your premiums and out-of-pocket costs will continue to skyrocket,” Obama said. “If we do not act, 14,000 Americans will continue to lose their health insurance every single day. These are the consequences of inaction. These are the stakes of the debate we’re having right now.”
He tried to reassure the public that they will be able to keep their doctors and coverage and said that “that health reform not be paid for on the backs of middle-class families.”
Although the president was very straightforward about what he believes are the adverse economic ramifications of doing nothing, he was less so when asked by reporters such questions as what sorts of sacrifices people will have to make in terms of what gets covered and who will pay for it.
How exactly reform will be paid for is perhaps the biggest question of all and the president answered it by saying, “What I’ve said is that there may be a number of different ways to raise money. I put forward what I thought was the best proposal, which was to limit the deductions, the itemized deductions, for the wealthiest Americans.” The problem with that response, however, is that lawmakers on Capitol Hill are extremely unlikely to support such an idea and have, in fact, already rejected it.
But the president did suggest that he could support a proposal from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that would impose a surtax on the wealthiest Americans.
Obama also addressed the need for a public option by pointing to record profits recently reported by insurance companies at a time when ordinary Americans are being “hammered” by asking some questions of his own.
“What’s the constraint on that? How can you ensure that those costs aren’t being passed onto employers or passed onto employees, the American people, ordinary middle-class families, in a way that over time is going to make them broke?” he asked. His solution is a public option to compete with private insurers.