Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Europe's Plan for Putin - Will Russian Leader Bend After New Sanctions? (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Europe's Plan for Putin - Will Russian Leader Bend After New Sanctions?

Read more

FOCUS

Pakistan's Ahmadis living in fear of extremist attacks

Read more

WEB NEWS

Web users show solidarity with Iraqi Christians

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Gilles Kepel, Islamic and Arab world specialist

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

Argentina braced for another debt default

Read more

DEBATE

Too Late for Sanctions? Pressure Mounts on Russia over Ukraine (part 2)

Read more

DEBATE

Too Late for Sanctions? Pressure Mounts on Russia over Ukraine

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

'What would you do?'

Read more

  • US and EU slap Russia with fresh sanctions over Ukraine

    Read more

  • Scores killed as Israel ramps up Gaza bombardment

    Read more

  • Graphic: Ebola spreads across West Africa

    Read more

  • 24 killed in stampede at Guinea rap concert

    Read more

  • Prosecutor says captives were killed for organ harvesting in Kosovo

    Read more

  • Islamists seize key Benghazi army base as fuel fire rages on

    Read more

  • In pictures: ن - a sign of support for Iraq’s persecuted Christians

    Read more

  • Calls mount to ban France’s ‘violent’ Jewish Defence League

    Read more

  • Venezuela: Hugo Chavez’s ‘little bird’ strikes again

    Read more

  • France extradites suspected Jewish Museum shooter to Belgium

    Read more

  • Video: How tourism is helping Rwanda’s gorillas, ex-poachers

    Read more

  • Rare Sri Lankan leopard cubs born in French zoo

    Read more

  • US says Russia violated arms treaty by testing cruise missile

    Read more

  • Argentina in last-ditch effort to avert default

    Read more

Americas

Obama moves to regain control of embattled healthcare overhaul

Video by Gulliver CRAGG

Text by Jon FROSCH

Latest update : 2009-07-23

US President Barack Obama mounted a defence of his campaign to reform American healthcare Wednesday, using a press conference to appeal directly to an increasingly anxious public as Congress continued to argue over various proposals.

US President Barack Obama mounted a defence of his campaign to reform American healthcare Wednesday, using a press conference to appeal directly to an increasingly anxious public as Congress continued to argue over various proposals.

 

With his presidency nearing the six-month point, the healthcare stalemate is seen as a test of Obama’s ability to move forward on a pressing domestic priority and to fulfill the promises of change that carried him to a decisive victory in last November’s election.

 

In his news conference, Obama laid out what Washingtonpost.com correspondent for France 24 Ed O’Keefe called a “nuanced, almost academic argument” for immediate action to provide health insurance to the 47 million (out of an estimated 300 million) Americans currently without coverage and to stop rising costs to both government and individuals.

 

The current system

  

Healthcare reform has been a thorn in the side of many US presidents, including Bill Clinton who tried, and very publicly failed, to change the system.

 

This latest attempt has been hampered by the price tag of the reform (a projected $1 trillion in the next ten years), Republican resistance to Obama’s proposals, and a complex web of competing interests, including those of private insurers, hospitals, and drug companies.

 

US healthcare currently costs $2.2 trillion a year. An estimated 163 million Americans get insurance through their job, the cost of which is shared with the employer.

 

Another 18 million Americans purchase private plans on the individual market, which can be very expensive.

 

Disabled Americans and those over age 65 are covered under a government-run programme called Medicare, and 61 million low-income Americans are insured through a joint federal-state system called Medicaid.

 

Obama’s strategy

  

President Obama has argued for an overhaul that he says would lower costs, improve quality and preserve the individual’s right to the health insurance plan of his or her choice.

 

His budget has allocated $634 billion over 10 years for healthcare reform, and among many sweeping changes Obama proposed, he has been particularly firm on his commitment to a publicly run insurance plan to compete with private companies who have been blamed for driving up costs.

 

But the president has not introduced a specific "Obama plan," instead asking both bodies of Congress – House and Senate -- to draft legislation that meets the criteria he has put forth. This would let Congressional committees work on bills until each body of Congress arrives at an end product. Obama would then participate in negotiations between House and Senate to reach a final bill.

 

Obama had given Congress a timetable to pass legislation before the August recess, in what now looks to be an unlikely deadline. Still, he appeared determined at the news conference, declaring: "We will pass reform….And we will do it this year."

 

He also said for the first time that he would be willing to help fund the new plan by raising taxes on families earning more than $1 million annually, as well as by taxing employer-provided health benefits, as long as the tax did not fall on the middle class.

 

Trouble in Congress

  

Republicans have been vocal in their warnings that Obama's healthcare vision would translate into a swelling deficit, singling out his idea of a government-run healthcare option as "socialism."

 

Even conservative Democrats have expressed concern that the type of plan Obama favours would not provide savings, but instead raise debt.

 

One sticking point being currently debated in Congress is the income surtax on high earners that Obama mentioned as a way of financing the overhaul.

 

Tying healthcare to the economy

 

With approval polls showing Obama slipping slightly on his handling of key issues, the news conference was an opportunity to reach past embattled lawmakers to an American public in the grips of economic anxiety.

 

Obama was explicit in tying the looming healthcare problem to economic recovery, noting that “health insurance reform is central to that effort.”

 

He promoted plans to revamp the government's Medicaid and Medicare programmes as examples of policies that would lower the historically inflated budget deficit and reduce out-of-pocket costs.

 

The president's comments also attempted to put a human face on a notoriously thorny issue, linking confusing specifics of US healthcare policy to everyday American concerns described in what Obama referred to as, “letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day, and the stories I hear at town hall meetings.”


Throughout his remarks, Obama warned that a prolonged stalemate would only lead to soaring insurance fees and more uninsured Americans. He will continue pleading his case for swift action on healthcare reform at an appearance in Ohio today.

Date created : 2009-07-23

COMMENT(S)