Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Moment of Truth for Obama’s Health Care Plan

Will it or won’t it? That is the question.

Will the public option, a government health insurance plan to compete with private insurers in the open market, remain a part of ObamaCare or will it have to be jettisoned to salvage the remaining reform pieces?

That the United States needs a better health care plan than what exists today is almost universally accepted. 47 million Americans are uninsured. Current health care is discriminatory and unfair. Administrative inefficiency is excessive. We spend almost 18% of our GDP on health care. That’s about 2.5 trillion dollars!

But Obama has so far failed to convince voters that his reform plan is the way to go.

In downtown San Jose recently I saw noisy protesters condemning the proposed program as inhuman and unacceptable. “We are not shovel-ready yet,” read a banner, held aloft by a couple in their ‘70s. In spite of the exponential growth in technological connectivity, we remain isolated in islands of ignorance and prejudice.

But this also is true: There is a strange lack of passion in the president’s attempt to convince voters of the soundness of his health care reform plan. What calls for rolling up the sleeves has instead brought us a theoretician’s ruminations, something the nation – rocked by recession - is in no mood for.

Forget the rabid right-wingers and manipulators, their outright lies about death panels, “pulling the plug on grandma” and socialism. The average American is beginning to question the president’s commitment to health reform. Has compromise been the goal all along? Is appeasing his most vocal opponents the president’s priority?

There is widespread fear and anxiety about what the future holds for health care in America that the White House hasn’t been able to dispel.

It is not too late for Obama to put his health care reform back on track, with the public option in place as it ought to be. But this will require the president to infuse his advocacy with the same passion that he poured into his presidential campaign. Too many voices from his corner are crowding out his message, leaving many perplexed and confused, while allowing his diehard opponents to spread their lies with impunity. “These are the reasons why you should vote for my health care reform plan,” the president should say, and then list his top 5 points with a clarity that anyone can understand. The only way he can combat the fiction of FOX and followers is with facts expressed in clear language. For a gifted orator and wordsmith, that shouldn’t be difficult.

P.S. With Ted Kennedy's passing today, it becomes that much more urgent for his fellow legislators to make health care available for every American. It was the goal that Kennedy worked for, "the cause of my life," until the very end of his life.

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