Obama: ‘Time For Bickering Is Over’ On Health Care Reform
The Associated Press: "Obama said the changes he has in mind would cost about $900 billion over [a] decade, 'less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans' passed during the Bush administration." In his televised speech to a joint session of Congress, "Obama spoke in favor of an option for the federal government to sell insurance in competition with private industry. But he said he was open to alternatives that create choices for consumers - a declaration sure to displease its liberal supporters" (Espo, 9/9).
The Los Angeles Times: "Tensions between the parties were on display as Obama spoke: Republicans booed when the president challenged the idea that the legislation would set up panels of bureaucrats to ration healthcare and 'kill off senior citizens,' calling that claim 'a lie, plain and simple.' In laying out his preferences for the healthcare legislation, much of what the president said was familiar: The bill should require almost all individuals to carry basic insurance, and the government should provide subsidies to many people who cannot afford to buy coverage. The government also should start an 'exchange,' or marketplace, to help bring insurers and people who lack coverage together. Large businesses should be required to provide coverage" (Parsons, Oliphant and Nicolas, 9/10).
NPR: "Obama called the tumultuous summer, during which a growing number of people questioned his ability to handle the health care issue, 'a partisan spectacle' fueled by 'bogus claims spread by those whose only agenda is to kill reform at any cost.'"
"Obama also scolded Republicans who have tried to scare senior citizens into thinking coverage would be taken away. Such claims, the president said, distorted his proposal to wring savings out of the nation's Medicare and Medicaid systems by identifying fraud and waste. 'Don't pay attention to those scary stores about how your benefits will be cut,' he said. 'Especially since some of the same folks who are spreading these tall tales have fought against Medicare in the past'" (Rovner and Inskeep, 9/10).
The New York Times: "The 47-minute speech was an effort by Mr. Obama to regain his political footing on health care. ... He insisted throughout that he had not closed the door on reaching a bipartisan compromise. He ... embraced [Sen. John McCain's, R-Ariz] proposal to create a high-risk pool to help cover people with pre-existing conditions against catastrophic expenses. And, with the widow of Senator Edward M. Kennedy sitting in the House gallery, the president appealed to the nation's conscience, reading a letter Mr. Kennedy had written. ... In it, Mr. Kennedy wrote that health care was 'above all a moral issue; at stake are not just the details of policy, but fundamental principles of social justice and the character of our country'" (Stolberg and Zeleny, 9/9).
Roll Call: "He (also) spoke of proposals to prevent insurers from dropping and limiting coverage. He said individuals would be required to carry basic insurance and businesses would be required to offer it" (Koffler and Stanton, 9/9).
The Hill: "In addressing the public option, one of the more controversial aspects of his proposal, Obama sought to assuage both his allies, who have accused him of going soft, and his opponents, saying the idea is 'only one part of my plan, and should not be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles'" (Youngman, 9/9).
The New York Times in a second piece: "The administration has sent mixed signals on the proposal for a public option in the past, and the president said again Wednesday that he was open to alternatives, including nonprofit insurance cooperatives and a backup plan that could be offered by the government in certain circumstances" (Pear and Calmes, 9/9).
CongressDaily: "While Obama stopped short of a veto threat, he also did not back down from his oft-stated views. He reiterated his call for mandatory coverage, except for a few poorer Americans who receive a hardship waiver and his insistence on cracking down on insurance companies by preventing them from canceling coverage for someone who becomes ill or denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition" (Condon, 9/10).
The Washington Post: "Despite efforts over the past several months to keep insurers at the bargaining table, the president castigated the industry for high executive salaries and practices such as 'cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest,' 'overcharging small businesses who have no leverage' and 'jacking up rates.' America's Health Insurance Plans, a trade group, issued a statement afterward, saying the market reforms proposed by Obama and endorsed by the companies 'will solve the problem'" (Connolly and Shear, 9/10).
In the meantime, Vice President Joe Biden says a bill will be ready by Thanksgiving, The Associated Press reports in a second story: "'I believe we will have a bill," Biden said. "I've been in the Congress for a very long time, eight presidents. I believe we will have a bill before Thanksgiving.' McCain, also interviewed Thursday morning, said he agreed that something needs to be done about health care. But he also said that if the administration wants to see legislation realized, it must reach out more aggressively to minority Republicans" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 9/10).