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Obama Earmarks $634 billion down payment on fixing health care

Updated on March 1, 2009
President Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

Obama Sets Own Course On Health Care

When President Bill Clinton took office 16 years ago, one of his top priorities was to enact legislation for Universal Health Care. He assigned his First Lady Hillary Clinton to lead the charge to pass this important agenda item.

Not only did Mrs. Clinton fail in her effort to reform the health care system in the United States, but it is often said that her failure ultimately led to the Republican takeover of the House and Senate in 1994, which killed any chance of seeing positive health insurance reform for the forseeable future.

When the Democrats took back control of Congress in 2006, progressives everywhere began to see opportunity looming on the horizon. Having won majorities in both houses of Congress, and with the poltical map favoring Democrats in 2008, it was with anxious anticipation that we waited to see who would be elected President in 2008.

Progressive's long-standing dreams came true when Sen. Barack Obama defeated Sen. John McCain, because with the White House, the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate under Democratic control, there was finally another aligning of the planets that would enable Democrats to enact many key pieces of legislation, including health care reform.

Rather than appointing Michelle Obama to devise a plan to overhaul the American medical and insurance systems, President Obama put his money where his mouth is, by including funds that will take a big step toward realizing the goal of enacting Universal Health Care.


What Does The President Say On This Subject?

During the President's recent State of the Union-style speech before both Houses of Congress, President Obama pointed out that health care costs cause people to file bankruptcy every 30 seconds in America. The President didn't say so, but if you calculate it out, that averages out to more than 1 million bankruptcies each year. When an individual is forced to declare bankruptcy, the hospitals suffer because they cannnot collect on debts. The doctors suffer for the same reason. The individuals and families suffer because for years to come, they will have a major black mark on their credit report, which will affect their ability to secure a loan for any kind of purchase.

And so it makes perfect sense to make this a budgetary priority.

The President makes his position completely clear, when he told Congress, "Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold."

Obama goes on to say he will include, "a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. It’s a commitment that’s paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue. And it’s a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come."

Even in Washington, D.C., with Democrats controlling both houses of Congress, Obama knows such changes will be met with strong opposition, even from members of his own party, so-called "Blue Dog" Democrats. In light of that reality, Obama acknowledges, "I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process.  It will be hard.  But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough.  So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year."

You've got to know that Teddy Kennedy, a long-time advocate for Universal Health Care, who is presently recovering from Brain Cancer surgery, had to smile at those words. Just as Kennedy came back to Washington to cast an important vote in the President's economic stimulus plan, you can bet that the Senior Senator from Massachusetts will be there to vote when this matter comes before the Congress.

What is the Press Saying About This Issue?

On February 26, 2009, New York Times Reporter Robert Pear filed a report with the headline, "Obama Offers Broad Plan to Revamp Health Care". In this article, Pear endeavors to highlight the important aspects of the Health Care Plan advanced by Obama. Thse highlights include:

Obama would pay for the reforms in part by reducing the payments the Federal Government makes to hospitals, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies.

He requested $6 billion for cancer research, an increase from $5.6 billion in the current budget.

Pear also reported that , "Mr. Obama said he would speed the approval of low-cost generic versions of expensive biotechnology drugs by establishing 'a new regulatory pathway' at the Food and Drug Administration."

These are relatively small potatoes compared with the main point of the Obama plan, which asks Congress to set aside the sum of $634 billion in a reserve fund for health care reform, while the details of that reform package is being hammered out by a bipartisan committee Obama has created to make this goal a reality.

The Huffington Post

The day before Obama released his budget, Kenneth Thorpe wrote in the Huffington Post on the subject of health care reform, and what has led us to the point where we are now. He attributes much of the problem to obesity among Americans, giving rise to chronic conditions like "diabetes, heart disease and cancer," the driving forces behind the high cost of health care.

"The truth is, we can never expect to improve the affordability of health care until we face the dual crises of obesity and chronic disease. And, until we deal with cost, the chance of extending health care coverage to more Americans is grim," Thorpe wrote on February 25, 2009.

The good news, according to Thorpe, is that Obama made two innovative maneuvers in the stimulus bill that show he is looking at health care from a different angle. The first item Thorpe mentions is that the stimulus package included, "$19 billion for health information technology" and the second item, "$1.1 billion for comparative effectiveness research."

What do you have to say about this issue?

We here at Bull Moose Magazine value your opinion, whether it matches ours or not. Democracy is not a spectator sport, and what good is it to have freedom of speech if you do not use it? So write a comment below, and let me know what you think.

And if you liked this article, and found it informative, I would greatly appreciate a thumbs up, and if you would share this with your friends.



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    • crashcromwell profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from Florida

      Mike - I have become convinced that the only way we will have any meaningful change in Washington, D.C. is if we have full public financing of political campaigns. Sadly, the Supreme Court has already nixed any possibility of that happening, when it allowed corporations to spend any sum of money they see fit to advertise for candidates they support and against any candidate they oppose. It is a sad state of affairs, I must say. Thanks for the comment.


    • MikeNV profile image


      8 years ago from Henderson, NV

      The problem is that congress can not pass anything without making it so full of special exemptions for special interest groups that nothing gets done. The focus on the core issues become continually buried under a mass of amendments that distract from the core issues.

      I realize that this is an older post, but when you look at what has happened you can see failure as a result of lack of focus.

    • crashcromwell profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Florida

      Actually Ronnie, there was a very lively debate between Obama and Clinton during the pre-convention season about the best way to achieve Universal Health Care. And you are correct, in his speech before Congress, Obama did not specifically mention Universal Health Care, but the more far-reaching idea of Health Care Reform. However, my understanding is that Obama believes that by reforming the health care industry, there can be such sufficient savings that we can help extend health care to more and more people without busting the budget. One of the ways mentioned is negotiating better prescription drug costs with pharmaceutical companies, using Medicare's leverage to effect that change. That would benefit the government, by paying less, but it would also benefit consumers who would be paying less out of pocket, in the form of lower co-pays.

      Just so you know, this is the first in a series of articles I am writing about budget priorities Obama outlined in his budget, so there will be much more on these types of subjects in the coming weeks.

      Thanks for the comment!


    • Constant Walker profile image

      Constant Walker 

      9 years ago from Springfield, Oregon

      A few days ago while searching current news to update my news-bites page, I came across the words "universal health care" in an Obama news-bite. I couldn't believe it! I watched the state of the union-style speech and heard nothing about universal health care.

      I was elated!

      It was the one issue I'd had with Obama - that I'd never heard him say he wanted universal health care for this country. Maybe he couldn, for fear of costing him votes, until now.


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