Friday, July 24, 2009

Obama Healthcare Press Conference: "Missed Opportunity?"

Wednesday night President Obama held a much anticipated press conference on healthcare reform. I didn’t watch the press conference live because I was in Washington at a dinner sponsored by the Atlantic Monthly Magazine, which brought together about 20 health policy experts to discuss healthcare reform. So instead of viewing the press conference like most Americans, I read the President’s remarks. It would have been better to if he had given the healthcare speech without taking questions. This way the media would have stayed focused on healthcare reform rather than getting their attention diverted to the President’s use of the word “stupid” when responding to a question about the racial profiling of Professor Gates.

The President made a strong case that we need healthcare reform because failing to reform healthcare is to invite financial calamity for the nation. Of course he is correct about the impending financial calamity, but the problem with this argument is that the “financial calamity” threat is too intangible and remote. I think now is the time to expand the argument for healthcare reform beyond the financial argument and incorporate “social justice.”

Healthcare reform needs to happen now because it is morally wrong that the richest country in the history of all countries continues to link access to healthcare to employment. Americans are accustomed to the healthcare employment link, but no other advanced industrialized country does it this way.

The President should share the stories of the millions of Americans who paid health insurance premiums for years only to lose their coverage when the company went out of business. Families USA has been collecting these stories on their website. The President should tell the stories of the Americans who had to file bankruptcy after paying health insurance premiums for years thinking they would be covered if they needed care, only to learn that much of the care they needed was not covered. According to a recent Harvard University study, about 60% of bankruptcy filings in America are due to medical bills.

This exists in no other country! Healthcare reform is not just a financial imperative, it is a moral necessity.