Obama on Health Reform: The Dog That Didn’t Bark

The only troubling thing about the President’s statements today concerning health care reform was what he did not say: that he wanted a any health plan that emerges from Congress to include a public insurance option for Americans who do not want to buy private insurance. But without this option, there will be no pressure on private insurers to adopt all the other reforms to control costs or give all Americans access to affordable care.

Every other reform proposal announced to date — electronic medical records, comparative effectiveness research, prevention of chronic disease, payments for services rather than for outcomes, and so on — has been talked about for years. The reason none have been adopted is health providers and insurers can make more money without them. Only with a government plan that competes with private insurers, and offers Americans lower costs if the providers and insurers fail to reform themselves, will the system be genuinely reformed.

Hopefully, the President’s failure to mention a public insurance option today was not intended to signal to Congress that the White House is no longer especially interested in it. The Administration should quickly inform policymakers how important this option is as a spur to real change.

About Robert Reich 545 Articles

Robert Reich is the nation's 22nd Secretary of Labor and a professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

He has served as labor secretary in the Clinton administration, as an assistant to the solicitor general in the Ford administration and as head of the Federal Trade Commission's policy planning staff during the Carter administration.

He has written eleven books, including The Work of Nations, which has been translated into 22 languages; the best-sellers The Future of Success and Locked in the Cabinet, and his most recent book, Supercapitalism. His articles have appeared in the New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal. Mr. Reich is co-founding editor of The American Prospect magazine. His weekly commentaries on public radio’s "Marketplace" are heard by nearly five million people.

In 2003, Mr. Reich was awarded the prestigious Vaclev Havel Foundation Prize, by the former Czech president, for his pioneering work in economic and social thought. In 2005, his play, Public Exposure, broke box office records at its world premiere on Cape Cod.

Mr. Reich has been a member of the faculties of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government and of Brandeis University. He received his B.A. from Dartmouth College, his M.A. from Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar, and his J.D. from Yale Law School.

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1 Comment on Obama on Health Reform: The Dog That Didn’t Bark

  1. Well here we are in December 2009 and now we know the nature of the Beast.

    Nothing in this bill is about reform. It is nothing but corporate welfare on the backs of the taxpayers. In short, a bailout to the private insurers.

    Have you checked out the CBO figures for premiums as posted in the December 1st entry to Speaker Pelosi’s blog, “The Gavel”?

    For someone making $29K a year the premium expected AFTER GETTING A SUBSIDY is around $2800-3000 a year.

    I’m already rent poor but am living in a comfortable apartment with good neighbors in a very safe area. I get by on the rest of my salary. I don’t have $200-300 extra a month for the health insurance plan the government proposes.

    Am I supposed to trade down to a cheapter apartment? Even in a slum apartments are going for $1000 a month.

    I’ve contacted Senator Schumer and Senator Gillibrand (D-NY) and get formulated responses via email.

    No one wants to hear about people with high rents, student loans, car loans or mortgages that may not have enough money even aafter a subsidy is given.

    I plan to never vote along party lines again. From now on it’ll be whichever candidate best addresses my concerns.

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