Tens of millions of individuals and small business in the United States are being denied affordable and adequate health insurance cover and they cannot wait any longer, President Obama said in his weekly address on Saturday.
In a clear indication of his administration’s intention to step up the pressure on Republicans in the aftermath of last Thursday’s bipartisan healthcare summit, Mr. Obama said, “No final bill will include everything that everyone wants. That’s what compromise is”.
A bipartisan meeting on healthcare reform last week failed to improve the prospects of Congress passing a comprehensive bill. Since then there has been a growing probability that the Democrats may get their proposals passed through reconciliation, a legislative procedure that bypasses the requirement of a 60-seat supermajority.
Alluding to victories in the Winter Olympics by U.S. athletes such as Lindsey Voh, Apolo Ohno and the men’s hockey team, Mr. Obama argued that to compete on the world stage as well as the U.S. did in Vancouver, Congress would have to find common ground on healthcare reform.
“We need to move past the bickering and the game-playing that holds us back and blocks progress for the American people,” he said.
Mr. Obama reiterated that Thursday’s caucus yielded both areas of agreement as well as differences across party lines. The common ground found so far included the rising cost of healthcare, the need for access to an insurance marketplace and pooling of purchasing power.
Reflecting on some of the more bipartisan suggestions coming from the Republican side, he said, “I heard some ideas from our Republican friends that I believe are very worthy of consideration”.
Yet there is a serious divergence of opinions on some critical issues, including whether insurance companies should be held accountable when they deny people care or arbitrarily raise premiums, and on giving tax credits to small businesses and individuals.
Emphasising the impact of such credits on the ordinary American he said, “This would be the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history, and I believe we should do it.”
Co-operate or else
While Mr. Obama said he was willing to move forward with members of both parties on health care if the Republicans were serious about coming together to resolve differences, he also warned that he would be unwilling to wait much longer to get a bill passed.
“The tens of millions of men and women who cannot afford their health insurance cannot wait another generation for us to act. Small businesses [and] Americans with pre-existing conditions cannot wait,” he urged.