Last night’s State of the Union address was many things, but one thing it wasn’t was a clarion call by the President for the public to support his health care reform law. Instead, he confined his comments to a pledge “not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage, or charge women differently than men.”
You would think that the President would have spoken out more passionately on what he clearly considers to be his signature domestic accomplishment. Just as surprising, the Republican response by Governor Mitch Daniels (R-IN) didn’t even mention the party’s promise to repeal “ObamaCare.” His only implicit reference was in the context of distinguishing the GOP’s approach from his characterization of the President’s:
“In word and deed, the president and his allies tell us that we just cannot handle ourselves in this complex, perilous world without their benevolent protection. Left to ourselves, we might pick the wrong health insurance, the wrong mortgage, the wrong school for our kids; why, unless they stop us, we might pick the wrong light bulb.”
And that’s too bad. I would have liked to see President Obama make a clear case as to why the country is better off under the Affordable Care Act—and especially, I would have liked him to make the moral argument that it is simply wrong to deny millions of people access to health insurance simply because they can’t afford it, or work for an employer that doesn’t offer coverage, or live in an area where coverage is not accessible, or have a pre-existing health condition. I would have liked to have heard Governor Daniels explain what the GOP would offer instead of the ACA—and for that matter, whether the party even believes, as it has for almost its entire history, that a goal of public policy should be for everyone to have access to affordable health insurance coverage. After all, universal health insurance coverage was first proposed by a Republican president, Teddy Roosevelt, almost 100 years ago!
Just because the President and Governor Daniels didn’t have much to say about health care reform, though, doesn’t mean that there isn’t much to say. Tomorrow, ACP will be releasing its annual State of the Nation’s Health Care report. The report will provide an assessment of progress and challenges in U.S. health care, discuss the danger to health created by unwise budget cuts, offer an alternative framework to achieve hundreds of billions in savings by addressing the real cost drivers in health care, discuss the obstacles to achieving bipartisan common ground consensus created by the country's broken politics, and conclude with a challenge to the candidates, Republicans and Democrats alike, to provide clear answers about their plans for health care. (I will have more to say about ACP’s report in my next blog.) Last night, neither President Obama nor Governor Daniels were willing to reveal much, which is too bad, because voters have a right to know.
Today’s question: What did you think of health care reform getting only a passing reference in the President’s remarks and the GOP response?