Raising Women’s Voices

Election 2008 | Newspapers Examine Obama’s Economic To-Do List, Including Health Care

Posted in Uncategorized by raisingwomensvoices on November 6, 2008

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Election 2008 | Newspapers Examine Obama’s Economic To-Do List, Including Health Care
[Nov 06, 2008]

President-elect Barack Obama “promises to tackle health care reform” but has “reeled in expectations,” and many analysts “expect any comprehensive health care initiative will take a back seat to improving the economy and tweaking the $700 billion bailout” for Wall Street firms, the Arizona Republic reports (Alltucker, Arizona Republic, 11/6). “Overshadowing any effort to provide health insurance to millions of uninsured families is the yawning deficit in the big government-run health care programs, Medicare for the elderly and Medicaid for the poor,” according to the Wall Street Journal (Zhang, Wall Street Journal, 11/6).

According to USA Today, although “larger reform efforts may come later, many expect only scaled-down versions of the proposals to be taken up by Congress during the first half of 2009.” Obama and Congress might seek an expansion of SCHIP, which will expire on March 31, according to analysts. Dan Mendelson of Avalere Health said that they might look to provide additional federal Medicaid funds for states. In addition, they might try to provide subsidies to help small businesses offer health insurance to employees, Robert Laszewski, president of Health Policy and Strategy Associates, said. They also might consider new regulations on health insurers and allow the Medicare program to negotiate drug prices, according to Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman (Appleby, USA Today, 11/6).

Analysts also “say the newly empowered Democrats are likely to abandon some of the health care positions staked out by the Bush administration, particularly when it comes to Medicare,” the New York Times reports. Laszewski said that revisions to the role of private health insurers in Medicare are “target No. 1 for Democrats,” adding that Obama and Congress might seek to reduce or end subsidies to health insurers that offer Medicare Advantage plans (Abelson, New York Times, 11/6).

Massachusetts Law as Model?
In related news, the Boston Globe on Thursday examined how “Massachusetts’ pioneering experiment with near-universal health care suddenly takes on new meaning as a potential model” for health care reform, as Obama “has touted an affordable, universal coverage plan that draws heavily” from the state health insurance law. According to the Globe, some “health care analysts and leaders in the business and insurance industries say Massachusetts’ experience offers tangible proof that overhauling a massive system is possible,” but they warn that “political and financial challenges state leaders have faced may pale in comparison to what lies ahead for Obama as he approaches the issue on a national scale during an economic meltdown” (Lazar, Boston Globe, 11/6).

Editorials, Opinion Piece
Summaries of two recent editorials and a recent opinion piece that addressed health care issues in the presidential election appear below.

  • Boston Globe: “When the new Congress convenes, Obama and its leaders will have to decide whether to push for his comprehensive health care plan or first wait out the recession,” a Globe editorial states. According to the Globe, the “argument for sweeping reform is that the economic downturn will cause even more families to lose jobs and coverage, increasing the need for the Obama plan.” In addition, “without reforms Obama has favored, such as computerized record-keeping, the health sector will continue to be a drag on the economy,” the editorial states, adding, “There would be no better way for Obama to use the mandate he won Tuesday than by wrenching the dysfunctional U.S. health care system into the 21st century” (Boston Globe, 11/6).
  • David Leonhardt, New York Times: Obama and his advisers “have spent much of the last three years devising policies to deal with the economy’s big, long-term problems, like inequality, health care, the budget deficit,” but “none of it will be their first priority,” as “the initial thrust of their economic policy will be on keeping the economy from falling into a recession that’s nastier than most of us have ever experienced,” Times columnist Leonhardt writes. He writes, “Obama and his advisers acknowledge that their focus has to shift, but the change is still likely to be challenging and a bit disappointing” (Leonhardt, New York Times, 11/6).
  • Wall Street Journal: “Now that Barack Obama has vanquished John McCain, he faces a much greater foe: Democrats on Capitol Hill” who could “sabotage” his proposals on health care and other issues, a Journal editorial states. For example, House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health Chair Pete Stark (D-Calif.) “doesn’t think Mr. Obama’s proposal to significantly federalize the insurance market goes far enough” and has advocated a “single-payer system like Canada’s,” the editorial states. According to the editorial, although “Obama may want to strike a deal with Senate Republicans on health care,” Stark “will be pulling him left at every turn” (Wall Street Journal, 11/6).

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