KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Uses Popularity To Make Case For Health Reform In Wisconsin

President Obama used his popularity Thursday at a town hall meeting in Green Bay, Wisc., in an effort to help make the case to Americans that a health care system overhaul needs to happen this year, Time reports.

"If Barack Obama's town hall Thursday had all the feel of one of his 2008 election rallies - there he was, standing in front of thousands of supporters in a flag-draped high school gym in a swing state - well, that was really the point. The President journeyed to Green Bay, Wisconsin to lend his popularity to the cause of health care reform, hoping to bring to bear all the campaign skills that got him to the White House in the first place." Obama spoke about not delaying the reform while he left the details to Congress to hammer out a plan by year's end.

"Of course, the inconvenient difference between campaigning and governing is that the latter requires actual choices and compromise. In the case of health care reform, Obama at some point will have to deal not only with conservative opposition, but also the expectations of his liberal base. Already, supporters of single-payer health care - a government-financed system similar to that of Canada or Britain - are complaining that they have been shut out of the conversation." What's different this time, Time reports, is Obama's skill at "keeping potential adversaries at the table." As Obama readies to meet with the American Medical Association next week on a public plan, some tenets of which the AMA opposes, Obama may start making his voice a little louder in insisting what he wants, Time reports (Tumulty, 6/12).

The Washington Post says Obama's appearance is part of consensus building and used Green Bay as an example of how to make reform work: "Obama has been adamant that change is needed to rein in health-care costs, which has been far outstripping wage increases in recent years. Obama called Green Bay -- which has better health outcomes and lower costs than many parts of the country -- evidence of the efficiencies that can be achieved through physician collaboration, preventive care and digital records" (Fletcher and Murray, 6/12).

As Obama stumped for support though, his endorsement could make it more difficult for Democrats to cut a deal with Republicans, The Wall Street Journal reports. "Obama said he wouldn't insist on any one approach. Negotiations won't be 'my way or the highway,' he said.

"'Congress doesn't really like you to just tell them exactly what to do,' he said. The president said much the same at the White House on Wednesday when he met with Senate leaders working on health care, according to participants Yet soon after making that point about flexibility, Mr. Obama on Thursday again mentioned the public plan and rebutted Republican opposition to it. 'It's not clear that it's based on any evidence,' Mr. Obama said, 'as much as it is their thinking, their fear that somehow, once you have a public plan, that government will take over the entire health-care system.' Mr. Obama said that isn't true, but that it is important to have an 'option out there for people where … the free market fails'" (Meckler, 6/12).

Roll Call details Republican sentiment on the speech: "'President Obama is in Wisconsin today pushing for rushed passage of a bill that's going to make health care more expensive for America's middle class,' House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, said. 'The Democrats' emerging bill raises taxes,' Boehner said. 'It rations care and puts bureaucrats, instead of doctors and patients, in charge of medical decisions. It amounts to a government takeover of health care, and it would force millions of Americans off their own plans and into a government-sponsored plan'" (Koffler, 6/11).

AFP reports: "About 15 percent of the US public -- about 46 million Americans -- are without coverage, and Obama's overhaul of the system targets this group primarily, although he said he also hopes to fill in critical gaps in that millions of other Americans also have in sometime spotty coverage. At the same time, Obama has vowed to reduce the cost of health spending, which at the current rate would take up one in five US dollars by 2013" (Lozano, 6/11).

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