The president has vowed to make health insurance reform his number one priority and, with delays in getting consensus before the August congressional recess, is now urging Congress to have new legislation on his desk before the end of the year. That's practically lightning speed in Washington where, as Obama said in his nationally televised press conference last night, "inertia is the default."
Some have asked why Obama wants to move so quickly on this issue. Here's what he said today:
Whenever I hear people say that it's happening too soon, I think that's a little odd. We've been talking about health care reform since the days of Harry Truman. How could it be too soon?
I don't think it's too soon for the families who've seen their premiums rise faster than wages year after year. It's not too soon for the businesses forced to drop coverage or shed workers because of mounting health care expenses. It's not too soon for taxpayers asked to close widening deficits that stem from rising health care costs -- costs that threaten to leave our children with a mountain of debt.
Reform may be coming too soon for some in Washington, but it's not soon enough for the American people. We can get this done. We don't shirk from a challenge.
Some consider health insurance reform an intractable issue, but under the Obama Administration, I believe that progress is finally being made. I don't know if the legislation that will emerge from the House and Senate will be the best possible plan (in fact, I doubt it, since they are loath to embrace a single payer system), but I do know that action is urgent. Finally, perhaps the broadest coalition of doctors, patient advocates, insurance companies, pharmaceuticals and government agencies in history is working to make it happen.
It isn't accomplished by a long shot, but it is a good beginning. In fact, I'm beginning to believe that health insurance reform is actually going to happen --- and I'm not crazy... I'm just a little unwell. ;)
Now let's see if we can all avoid slipping too far downhill before this thing gets put in place.
...we've forged a consensus that has never before been reached in the history of this country. Senators and representatives in five committees are working on legislation; three have already produced a bill. Health care providers have agreed to do their part to reduce the rate of growth in health care spending. Hospitals have agreed to bring down costs. The drug companies have agreed to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors. The American Nurses Association, the American Medical Association, representing millions of nurses and doctors who know our health care system best, they've announced their support for reform. (Applause.)
Read more about health insurance reform, along with action on other issues on Obama's agenda, at Whitehouse.gov.