Health Care Reform Goes On Rocky Vacation

In an article published August 1st, the Associated Press reported that town hall meetings across the country have already begun discussing President Obama’s proposed health care reform bill.  Although House members and Senators are technically on a break, they have little time for fun as their constituents demand their concentration be focused on reading and understanding the 1,000-plus page bill. 

The reform legislation cannot be voted on until mid-October.  Communities across the country should expect plenty of ads both advocating and trashing the bill.  While the Democrats have the number necessary to pass the bill, some remain unconvinced that the current plan is right for the country.  Some parts of the bill are expected to be changed and tweaked over the next couple of months.  The major dispute arises from Democrats wanting a nationalized health care option for every American who cannot afford health care.  This option does not sit well with Republicans as well as fiscally conservative Democrats. 

There is urgency and anxiety on both sides of the aisle.  House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio said his party intends to creatively reach out to the public.  He plans to utilize social media websites like Twitter to warn the public about the devastation this bill could bring to the country.  Boehner said in the article: “A flurry of surveys over the last couple of days demonstrate that the American people now oppose the Democrats’ government takeover of health care, and any time the president talks about it, they like it even less.” Indeed, recent polling has shown the public is worrisome that the bill will actually raise their costs and restrict their benefits.  According to a new TIME Magazine poll, 62% said they believe the final health reform bill is likely to raise health care costs in the long run, 65% said it would make everything about health care more complicated, and 56% said it would offer less freedom to choose doctors and coverage.

Robert Blendon, a professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health, said Obama and the Democrats have not been able to explain the program at a level that the average American can understand.  Professor Blendon suggested the president focus on, “…five or six things that would lower people’s future premiums, and describe them over and over again”.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took Professor Blendon’s advice and distributed a talking points memo to lawmakers that succinctly describes some of the benefits the health care bill will bring to people who are already covered.  Pelosi understands the importance of the next two months, proclaiming she will be focusing on the bill full time over her August break. 

The question remains: How will we afford such a massive overhaul of the health care system? The House bill would pay for the $1.5 trillion 10-year cost by cutting spending on government health programs and raising taxes on the nation’s top 1%.  Yet some politicians say this won’t be enough, and the middle class will also have to pay for some of it. 

Come mid-October, we will see if Obama’s promise to the nation for a health care overhaul reigns true, or if it will fade away like President Clinton’s did in the early 1990s. 

Click here to read the entire Associated Press article: Health Care Debate Shifts to Main Street