The Sad State of Health Reform

posted January 25, 2012

Though it’s defined his presidency, Barack Obama made little mention of his massive health reform law in his hour-plus State of the Union Address. Instead—and not surprisingly—he diverted attention to the good he’s done, and blamed the bad on everyone else. To him, Wall Street, oil companies and one-percenters are all part of the country’s problem.

Still, it’s a little head scratching to think Obama boosted America’s overall state as strong and only getting better, though those sound bites are sure to be good ammo for GOP nominees. A $15 trillion debt, staggering unemployment numbers—obviously none of this is placating Americans. But the president can’t admit how broken it all is, since his address was practically a re-election campaign speech.

One solution to the country’s economic woes? The ever-popular liberal (and Robin Hood’s) mantra of stealing from (er, taxing) the rich. Mitt Romney—who offered a snapshot of his personal fortune when he revealed his tax returns—said earlier this week that he will not apologize for being successful. But in Obama’s eyes, he does. Millionaires, he urged, should have a tax rate of 30 percent.

But in solving these problems, Obama didn’t mention a problem he’s already claimed to solve. His comments about health care were minimal: “I’m a Democrat,” he said. “But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: That government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more … That’s why we’re getting rid of regulations that don’t work. That’s why our health care law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.”

He also said he would not go back to the days when insurance companies could deny people coverage because of a pre-existing condition.

It’s by far the smallest amount of attention reform has gotten in his three State of the Union addresses. But with these stats coming out, it’s not surprising he shied away from it: New Gallup numbers reveal more Americans lack health coverage today than they did four years ago.

And analysis by the Associated Press shows three out of four uninsured Americans live in states that have yet to figure out how to deliver on its promise of affordable medical care. This patchwork progress of complying with the new law will not help health reform succeed.

With the Supreme Court set to decide the constitutionality of the overhaul, and with most Americans unsure about if and how health reform can help them, it’s not a topic Obama can brag about anymore.

As Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday, “We know that he increased the debt 35 percent, passed an almost $1 trillion stimulus, passed Obamacare, Dodd-Frank. He obviously this year would rather not discuss that, but rather would try to divert our attention in a different direction.”

BY KATHRYN MAYER

 

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