Thursday, September 10, 2009

Suburban Mom's Political Fix: Obama Health Care Speech to Congress

On the speech last night that President Obama gave to a joint session of Congress, I'm going to quote the Washington Post's Tom Shales:

"Obama came across like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington: a bright-eyed young idealist up against entrenched power, old ideas and obstructionism.

It was also a chance for Obama to go on national television and look presidential again, asserting himself in ways that helped make up for the past few months of perceived defensiveness, of appearing to kowtow to other powers, and of seeming to do more following than leading."

I think the comparison to Stewart is apt. As an event of pure political theater, Obama was blunt, eager, tough and idealistic and seemed to grab the debate by the lapels and provide overarching themes with which most reasonable people -- Republican or Democrat -- would agree. Who thinks you should be banned from obtaining health coverage because you have a pre-existing condition? Who thinks American families should be bankrupted by their health care bills? Who thinks it's morally right for folks to be unceremoniously dropped by their health insurance company -- even though they diligently paid their premiums and deductibles -- when someone covered by their health insurance policy gets sick, or whose medical bills exceed a cap the insurance company has placed upon the family? I doubt you're going to find folks willing to say that all of those things are okay with them. (And if you do, it'll likely be someone named Mr. Potter, who had a run-in with Jimmy Stewart in another film, It's a Wonderful Life.)

When the president spoke of not adding "a dime to the deficit" with this new health care reform proposal, that he'd ask for a provision to be included in a bill to implement cuts if the promised millions in savings didn't materialize as he believed they would, those are sentiments around which most folks can rally.

The problem is, that's what they are, notions. We have no idea if they're going to eventually be true, no matter how much the president may want them to be because, lest we forget, he's not the one who makes laws. That's Congress' messy, messy, horse-trading job. What if the not "a dime to the deficit" has to be sacrificed in some deal to secure a bill's passage? Then Obama will have made a promise that Democratic senators and congressmen and women couldn't keep.

I went to the US Senate and House web sites and found links to two seemingly prominent versions of health care reform bills -- HR 3200 at 1,017 pages, the Senate bill passed by the Senate Committee on Health at 839 pages -- and haven't yet plowed through them.

Simply put, I'm left wondering what health care reform would really look like beyond the sweeping statements; the outcome of such reform would be very personal because it involves my family's health care. While some people may have liked the sound of the things the president is saying in general about the overhaul of one-sixth of the U.S. economy, when it comes down to the nitty-gritty implementation people, those for and against reform, get wary.

When President Obama last night said "significant details need to be worked out," laughter could be heard, only the president wasn't laughing. What's that old adage, the devil is in the details?

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