President Ties Health Care Reform to Economic Recovery

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In a speech at Georgetown University on Tuesday, President Obama said that health care reform and other priorities from his agenda are needed to build a stronger U.S. economy and that an overhaul should be enacted by the end of the year, the New York Times reports (Baker, New York Times, 4/15).

Obama Comments

Obama spoke of five "pillars" on which a lasting recovery must be based, including reining in the cost of health care and seeking long-term deficit reduction by controlling spending through Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security (Weisman, Wall Street Journal, 4/15).

He said, "We can't allow the cost of health care to continue strangling our economy." He added, "So, I'm looking forward in the next few months to working with both parties in Congress to make this reform a reality," adding, "We can get this done. And we have to get it done" (McAuliff/Sisk, New York Daily News, 4/15).

However, Obama said that he would not surrender potentially contentious health care proposals, such as a public insurance option, in exchange for "instant gratification in the form of immediate results or higher poll numbers" (Wall Street Journal, 4/15).

Boehner Response

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Obama has not provided leadership on entitlement reform, adding, "Instead of embracing tough decisions, Democrats have avoided them in favor of saddling our children and grandchildren with mountains of debt that we know they cannot afford" (Wolf, USA Today, 4/15).

In a statement, Boehner's office said that "the question to the administration continues to be: what's the plan, and if we should 'get serious' about it, why did you choose to ignore entitlement reform in your budget?" (New York Times, 4/15).

Chamber of Commerce

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has "found a surprising number of places to agree with President Obama's agenda," including health care, Politico reports.

The chamber has been participating in daily meetings with members of the Obama administration, Congress and the Treasury Department.

In an interview with Politico, Chamber President and CEO Thomas Donohue said that there have been "five or six or seven things that everybody can agree to" on health care -- including "wellness, children's diabetes and obesity, (information technology)" -- but that there "are a lot of things (there are) going to be big debates about, and that's reimbursement rates and who's paying and all that."

He said the Chamber hopes to "figure out a way to stay at the table to advance the discussion and to find ways to drive these people to some common agreement, without going over the line."

However, Donohue added, "Are we going to stop the world and turn off everything else and do health care? I don't think so" (Allen, Politico, 4/14).

Editorial

Obama "loses all candor and courage" when discussing entitlement reform, according to a Washington Post editorial. According to the editorial, "fiscal imbalances" such as entitlement spending "if left unattended, could well cause the next crisis."

On Tuesday, Obama said that "health care reform is entitlement reform," but the editorial notes that the "health care savings he has identified are all directed to new health care spending, and, even then, they cover only a fraction of the likely costs of a health care bill -- of what would become yet another entitlement program."

The editorial concludes, "We understand that spending more on education, energy and health care is an easy sell to a Democratic Congress, while deficit reduction and entitlement reform are hard," but "[w]e thought the president had signed up for both" (Washington Post, 4/15).

Broadcast Coverage

NPR's "Morning Edition" on Wednesday reported on Obama's speech (Williams/Inskeep, "Morning Edition," NPR, 4/15).

A second "Morning Edition" segment on Wednesday also looked at the speech. The segment includes excerpts from Obama's address and comments from Rutgers University political scientist Ross Baker (Horsley, "Morning Edition," NPR, 4/15).

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