KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Appeals For Health Reform Despite Recent Setbacks

The New York Times reports that "after spending 2009 emphasizing that a health care overhaul was his top domestic priority, Mr. Obama gave it much less prominence in his [State of the Union] address. He did not mention it until more than half an hour in - a sign of how imperiled the bill has become."

"'If anyone from either party has a better approach that will bring down premiums, bring down the deficit, cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors and stop insurance company abuses, let me know,' Mr. Obama said. ... Hearing that invitation, the House Republican leader, Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, raised his left hand high." Obama's speech did not chart a specific way forward (Pear and Herszenhorn, 1/28).

The Hill notes Obama, however, "issued a clear defense of the comprehensive healthcare reform bills pending in Congress, vowing to keep pushing the legislation and asking lawmakers not to abandon the effort. … 'Here's what I ask of Congress,' Obama said. 'Don't walk away from reform. Not now. Not when we are so close'" (Young, 1/27). 

The Associated Press: "After a week of turmoil ... a few Democrats said the president's strong boost for health care in his State of the Union address Wednesday stiffened their spines. ... 'It was near dead. I think the president brought it back to life,'" Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., said. 'But I don't know that the Congress has the appetite to continue to fight.'"

Some moderate Democrats were nonetheless discouraged. "Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., put the odds of passing a comprehensive bill at 'less than 50-50'" (Werner, 1/28).

Politico: "White House officials had warned ahead of time that Obama was likely to shy away from dictating legislative tactics, but with the debate stalled on Capitol Hill, lawmakers have indicated they need more guidance from the president, and it's unclear whether Obama's reiteration of his desire to overhaul the system will be enough to break the logjam on Capitol Hill. ... Obama acknowledged his own mistakes in handling the issue over the last year. 'This is a complex issue, and the longer it was debated, the more skeptical people became,' he said. 'I take my share of the blame for not explaining it more clearly to the American people'" (Budoff Brown and Shiner, 1/27).  

Forbes: "At the end of his speech, as some experts predicted, President Obama seemed to hint at what may be some targeted reforms that could be part of the next iteration of legislating: 'cover the uninsured, strengthen Medicare for seniors, and stop insurance company abuses.' ... This could portend a smaller bill that focuses narrowly on insurance regulation and, perhaps, expanding Medicaid - without the new subsidized exchanges or 2,000 pages of new laws" (Whelan, 1/27).

Roll Call: "Obama told Members in his national address that he was not giving up on reform and neither should they, and he urged lawmakers in both parties to 'take another look at the plan we've proposed.' Members interpreted that statement very differently. 'I think he said look it's time to stop the gamesmanship and reach across the aisle and work together on this,' Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) said. 'It'll be very difficult to get things on a bipartisan basis but the American people are looking for that and I think they refuse to join together at their own peril'" (Pierce, 1/28). 

Kaiser Health News compares excerpts of Obama's speech Wednesday with one he made to Congress in February 2009. KHN also has a run-down of the immediate coverage of the speech Wednesday night (1/27).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.