Well, we’ve finally heard the speech and it was as well delivered as any of his speeches, I would say. He made dramatic appeals to our moral sense as individuals, and to the traditions of our nation over the years. He invoked the memory of Teddy Kennedy, and read from a letter delivered after his death.
Obama stated three main goals: 1) Increase security and stability of existing of existing plans, 2) Provide insurance for those who don’t have it, and 3) Slow the growth of health care costs.
Reduced to bare essentials, here are the main points of his proposed plan:
1. Those with existing coverage will not have to change plans. However, insurance companies will have to make specified improvements. It is not clear whether employers will have the option to change to other plans.
2. Exclusions for pre-existing conditions will not be allowed. There will be no reduction in coverage or failure to renew because of health problems.
3. Insurance will be portable.
4. Preventive care will be covered.
5. If you don’t have health care insurance now you will be able to buy a policy from a new “insurance exchange” as if you were in a very large insurance group. A “public option” will be one of the choices available. This will force private insurers to behave better. The insurance exchange will become operational in four years.
6. To spread the cost equitably, everybody, including the young and the healthy, will be required to buy insurance. There will be a hardship waiver for individuals, and 95% of small businesses will not be required to offer insurance.
7. The public option will be paid for by insurance premiums, and not require an infusion of money. There will be no impact on the deficit.
8. There are many details to be worked out, and there is some flexibility in those details.
9. He is directing his Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward to test tort reform proposals in several states.
10. He will appoint an independent commission to identify waste and fraud that can be eliminated.
Other stated points
Providing insurance for all is a moral issue, and now is the time to do it. We are the only advanced democracy on Earth that does not provide it.
The plan will cost $900 billion over ten years, and will be paid for by reducing wasteful spending, and reducing the cost of health care.
Health care, amounting to one-sixth of our economy, is too large to rebuild from scratch. For that and other reasons, a single-payer system is not being proposed, nor is our employer-based system being abandoned.
There is not enough competition among insurance companies, and as a result, they behave badly in order to increase profits. The public option will provide increased competition. He noted that public and private universities compete successfully with each other.
He appealed to the legislators to set aside politically motivated false statements and work together to achieve the overall goal.
[What follows below is a correction to this post, which originally summarized the wrong speech. JF 9/11/2009]
Louisiana Congressman Charles Boustany delivered the Republican response:
1. Republicans are ready to work towards affordable common-sense bipartisan reforms.
2. Government run health care will make health care more expensive.
3. He pointed out what he considered deficiencies in the existing Democratic health care reform bills: New bureaucracies, higher costs, increased national debt, and cuts to Medicare.
His pointed out four areas where he saw agreement:
4. All individuals should have access to health care insurance, regardless of preexisting conditions.
5. Individuals and small business can pool buying power to procure lower cost insurance.
6. We should provide assistance to those who still cannot afford to see a doctor.
7. Insurers to offer incentives for preventive care.
He expressed support for the following other ideas:
8. Tort reform [Although Obama also took steps towards tort reform.]
9. Allowing the sale of insurance across state lines to increase competition and lower costs.