Obama Pushes New Message While Opposition Continues
In his Sunday talk show offensive (related story: Obama Blankets Airwaves To Push For Health Reform) President Barack Obama called for civility, advertised his willingness to consider malpractice reform, said a proposed tax on health benefits would not have a large impact on working people and reiterated that illegal immigrants would not receive government coverage under the plans, the Washington Post reports. "We all have an obligation to try to conduct this conversation in a civil way," he said (Connolly and Shear, 9/21).
He insisted that "insurance would be made affordable through a competitive exchange and subsidies," the New York Times reports, and "argued that the proposal was not a bad deal for the middle class." Comparing a mandate to buy health insurance to similar requirements that drivers carry auto liability coverage, Obama said, "Nobody considers that a tax increase" (Zeleny and Pear, 9/20).
"For us to say you have to take responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase," Obama said on ABC's This Week, CNN reports. A proposal in the Senate Finance Committee mandates coverage. He argued that premiums are high because hospitals and doctors transfer costs for caring for the uninsured to paying customers. He said, "What it's saying is ... that we're not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you any more " He added, "My critics say everything is a tax increase" (9/20).
A Roll Call news analysis suggests that the president's communication strategists have learned from mistakes made over the summer, especially at 'meandering' town halls where Obama was on the defensive. "During his latest appearances, Obama mainly alludes to criticism, without giving it much airtime, and then spends his time hammering home his own message. Instead of delving deeply into what irks him, the president disses the dissers" (Koffler, 9/21).
That hasn't silenced criticism of the reform plans, however. After the president's appearance on the shows, congressional Republican leaders Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, followed with Boehner urging Obama to "hit the reset button" on what he characterized as "big government plans," The Hill reports. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said, "the president, he's saying things people want to hear but when you look at the details, it just doesn't add up" (O'Brien and Bogardus, 9/20).
By contrast, Republicans are pushing a more incremental approach, Roll Call reports in a second story. "Instead of a broad-sweeping reform, McConnell advocated instead for an incremental approach - taking on abuses of medical malpractice lawsuits and creating tax incentives - to rein in health care costs" (Brady, 9/20).