Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Heritage Foundation

September 10, 2009 | By Amanda Reinecker

Obama’s health care speech
Last night, President Obama welcomed legislators back to Washington by addressing a joint session of Congress on his grand plan to remake American health care.

The speech came in the wake of what was undoubtedly the most difficult month for proponents of the Left's health care plan, as the American people made their views on this "reform" clear at heated town hall meetings across the country.

In his speech, the President acknowledged that "there remain some significant details to be ironed out" -- an understatement that drew chuckles from members of both parties. But while the speech was heralded by the Left, Heritage Vice President Mike Gonzalez points out that the President only grazed the surface, skirting substantive answers to the tough questions about his plan. Gonzales writes:

Absent, of course, was how exactly all the savings he confidently predicted would materialize, how exactly the government would prevent employers from dumping all their employees into a government plan and how czars and boards would operate without bureaucrats coming between Americans and their doctors.

Even the President's math was a bit fuzzy. Heritage's J.D. Foster suggests lawmakers take a very close look at the budget projections before deciding that the health care plan is really "deficit neutral."

Most notable, perhaps, was the President's failure to dispose of, once and for all, the "public option" -- the contentious proposal for the government to offer a health insurance plan to "compete" with private insurers. Heritage Vice President Stuart Butler wonders how liberals remain committed to this big-government option even after "town hall protesters by the thousands jeered the concept… poll numbers reflected a small minority of support… [and] study after study showed that millions of Americans would be forced out of their private plans, that it wasn't paid for, and that it would lead to bureaucratic rationing."

» Stuart Butler participated in a live web chat on health care today. Read the transcript.

President Obama did express a willingness to work with both parties to address "any legitimate concerns." For example, last night was the first time the President opened the door to medical malpractice reform. Conservatives, including Heritage experts, have long advocated reforming the legal system to prevent abuses of this system, albeit at the state level. But tort reform is just one of many "legitimate concerns" opponents have.

Heritage's Conn Carroll urges Congress to "step back and start over on health care" reform. This would require tossing out the public option, rejecting individual and employer mandates and ditching the tangled maze of new federal regulations and Medicaid expansion. Lawmakers should pursue ideas that hold to traditional American principles and offer real results. Such ideas include: empowering states to experiment with their own reforms; allowing Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines; and implementing tax reforms that would allow individuals to purchase the coverage that best suits them and their families.

Unfortunately, the President failed to put any of these ideas on the table during his speech, indicating that the toughest battles remain ahead. Now is the time for "more conservatives to talk boldly and plainly about what we're for," Butler writes in a separate article, and "what we're dead set against."

> Other Heritage work of note
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Last week, The Heritage Foundation hosted a round-table discussion on the next steps in Afghanistan with policymakers from across the political spectrum. Heritage continues to lead the debate on the war on terror; you can keep up with the latest on
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Immigrant activists are suggesting that illegal immigrants boycott the 2010 census to protest the lack of amnesty legislation. If that's their stance, Heritage legal scholar Hans von Spakovsky argues, "bring it on." States with large illegal populations are unfairly overrepresented in Congress, he says, and a boycott could reverse that. In addition, he says these over-counted states would lose the federal funding incentives that encourage illegal immigration.

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