Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Issue Spotting In Tonight's Presidential Health Care Speech To Congress

Keith Hennessey lays out the issues and questions that President Barack Obama may address in his speech before a joint session of Congress. Key among them are the following:
# “Universal” what? – The President has carefully linked the word “universal” to “health care” rather than to “health insurance” or “coverage.” “Universal health care” is an easier goal to accomplish than “universal coverage,” because those without pre-paid health insurance can use clinics and emergency care. If he uses words like “universal” or “every American” and links them to health care, it’s no change. If he links these words to “coverage” then he’s tacking further left. If he instead says “millions” or “more” and leaves out “universal” and “every,” then he is laying the groundwork to accept a radically scaled-back bill.

# Tax increases – Does he explicitly signal support for any particular tax increases? Obvious candidates include the Kerry proposal to tax health insurers for high-cost health plans, the House Democrat proposal to tax high-income people, and the new Baucus proposals to tax other medical provider sectors. If the President reiterates his proposal to raise tax rates on high-income people who itemize deductions, then pack it in. Congressional Democrats (& Republicans) killed that idea six months ago.
Both come down to issues of cost, and how the President addresses them in his speech will go a long way to showing his priorities within the bill, and where there is wiggle room for him to cut a deal acceptable in Congress (whether that's a deal to keep the Democrats all on board, or to put together a bipartisan agreement remains to be seen; the President hasn't met with the GOP on health care reform since April).

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