Getting The Healthcare Debate Back On Track

“I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.” — President Barack Obama

It was finally time to take the hammer to the know-nothings who had dominated the healthcare debate this past August. President Barack Obama addressed a joint session of congress for the second time since he began his presidency with authority and decisiveness. And while few new ideas were presented in the speech (he addressed the “kill grandma” death panels mythology and reiterated the broader points on healthcare), it was his ability to drive home the point that he would not be deterred on the road to healthare reform that came through with bell clarity.

More after the jump.

“I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last,” said the president as he outlined how the fight for universal healthcare has dated back to Theodore Roosevelt. Obama made an excellent point of showing that we have been there and done this before. Describing the fight for social security, Medicare and Medicaid, all things once branded as harbingers of socialism, but became simply part of the larger fabric of American life.

The president exuded confidence in a way that had been missing thus far in the debate. In August, the whole discussion was derailed by people bring guns to healthcare rallies and townhall meetings, people crying about losing their America or being unable to recognize it. People bemoaning the president and just about everything but actually discussing with civility the merits and demerits of universal healthcare.

Will this speech get the discussion back on track? I think it will for the short term. It was both informative and a scolding speech meant to silence those who the president believes are standing in the way of progress.

Of course some were more than happy to stand in the way.

Much of the Republican side of Congress sat through the speech grumpily looking like sad rabbits, sitting on their hands. House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Blackberry in hand, texted throughout the speech. Some Republicans waved papers at the president. One Joe Wilson of South Carolina took it a disrespectful step further by actually shouting out “You lie!” at the president after Obama said the healthcare plan would not cover illegal immigrants. That was shocking in the sense that it is rare for a politician to directly call another politician a liar to their face, but it was a dangerous precedent in that Wilson did this during a joint session of congress to the President of the United States while he was speaking.

I can’t think of any time in all the years that I’ve followed politics of an infraction this big and even Wilson seemed to realize the power of his words after the speech when he called Rahm Emmanuel, White House Chief of Staff, to apologize for his outburst. Nancy Pelosi was giving him the blinky stare of death from her chair, that’s how serious and shocking it was, as it was an pretty big sign of disrespect to the office of the president.

But it was also a sign of opportunity. Once again, the right faces being painted as uncouth, naysayers by an energized Democratic coalition.

From Politico:

The night’s defining moment — which Democrats hope to transform into a turning point – came when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted “You lie!” as Obama claimed his plan wouldn’t offer free care to illegal immigrants.

Wilson’s boorishness — for which he quickly apologized — enraged audience members on both sides of the aisle.

It also overshadowed a speech that included some of Obama’s harshest attacks on his GOP critics to date, including a denunciation of “death panel” alarmists as liars — a veiled swipe at Sarah Palin — and a warning to Republicans who want to “kill” reform.

“What we have also seen in these last months is the same partisan spectacle that only hardens the disdain many Americans have toward their own government,” Obama said. “Too many have used this as an opportunity to score short-term political points, even if it robs the country of our opportunity to solve a long-term challenge. And out of this blizzard of charges and counter-charges, confusion has reigned.

“Well, the time for bickering is over. The time for games has passed,” he added, to Democratic cheers.

The president’s combativeness, coupled with Wilson’s behavior, clearly energized Democrats — to the point where few were in a mood to criticize Obama’s lack of specifics or the fact that he offered no ironclad commitment to inserting a robust public option in the final legislation.

8 thoughts on “Getting The Healthcare Debate Back On Track

  1. I don’t have the complete answer, nobody does. What I want is to avoid government run healthcare andl simply reduce the exploding costs. The real answer is limits on the prices for healthcare procedures. The problem is the mountains of money going to the insurance companies and doctors. Limiting those mind-boggling profits will help all Americans afford their healthcare. I believe in a free market, but healthcare is a necessity, so I am fine with some government control (ie electric companies – they are private, but they have to ask the government how much they can charge). It is different from a luxury, like going to movies. The CEO of Warner Brothers could make $10 trillion a year and I would not care – because every dollar we throw to that company is disposable income. It is not good for our country that we have to throw so many dollars at insurance companies, because healthcare is a necessity.

  2. @ tarheelioNot so much the doctors actually. And don’t forget big pharma and the medical industrial complex.@ ALLPerhaps Obama is more clever than most strategy critics give him credit for. It may be that he is counting on building his long-term credibility while temporarily losing ground by giving his opposition enough rope to hang themselves behavior-wise. It always seems to me he is thinking two steps further than everyone else. These will be very interesting mid-term elections.Wishing you all progress.

  3. AabaakawadThere are a lot of pockets getting stuffed. I cannot believe I forgot to drill the pharmaceuticals, I used to work in Corp Finance for GlaxoSmithKline, I know how much money they make. Yes, it also hurts that the hospitals have so much overhead expense related to high-paid execs that are not really of any benefit. There is no doubt that the doctors are getting rich too. Sure there are some altruistic physicians working at inner-city clinics and in rural America. But part of the problem is doctors over-charging and ordering procedures that are not needed. The doctors I know are stacking up huge piles of cash.

  4. Yeah. I’m biased about Drs because the ones in my friends and family are general practitioners and pediatricians.I forget about the high-flying specialists.

  5. 2/3 or 3/4 of the population is overweight. and it’s not due to a thyroid problem. why should i pay for health problems that were preventable in the first place?

  6. I work for a pathology group in one of the nation’s top hospitals. My doctors don’t order tests, they interpret the tests that have been ordered. I don’t know our revenue stream but I do know that our practice is one of the top earners in our hospital. When you run a good lab, you get accurate results. You pay premium price for premium service. Oftentimes, providers contract out to cheaper labs in order to save money for themselves and for their patients. This is fine if your running a pregnancy screen. But imagine if your oncologist employes a cheapie lab service and you get good results but are still sick. Of course you’ll be tested again and again – and rack up an impressive insurance bill. I guess my point is that it’s not always the doctors who order unnecessary tests it’s the quality of lab service they employ that maybe causing this. We all deserve the same quality of service when it comes to our health. Hopefully Obama’s plan with equalize this. Yes, many of the doctors I know make a healthy salary and are vehemently opposed to reforming the system. Surprise, surprise. I don’t know how the passage of this bill will affect their salaries or mine for that matter but it doesn’t change my feelings on the subject.

  7. My OB LOVES Obama! I know her biggest headache is the insurance companies and the labs associated with each one. That’s a lot of extra stuff she has to pay attention to instead of just the patients. She’s a great doc who cares about her patients, but she wants to get paid just like everyone else.@swiv – yes, we have a heavy population, but not everyone who is sick and needs healthcare is overweight or obese.

  8. everyone might not be. people who are afflicted with things that aren’t preventable are severely outnumbered by those who are. why should we revamp an entire system for such a small population of the sick? fact of the matter is that most people can prevent most conditions that afflict them. so why should other people pay for their lack of action? where’s the personal responsibility?

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