Obama On The Road Again, Pitching Health Reform To The Middle Class

by VR Sreeraman on Jul 31 2009 2:48 PM

President Barack Obama on Wednesday took his health reform pitch on the road again, with stops in Raleigh, N.C., and Bristol, Va., where he appealed to Americans who already have health insurance.

"Adding a populist punch to the pitch he first took on the road last week in Cleveland – that for the insured, reform means 'more stability and security' – the president detailed a list of consumer protections that he promised would be in any bill that reaches his desk. In so doing, he cast insurance industry as public enemy-in-chief," Politico reports. He detailed "consumer protections" and Politico adds they "are not new to the Obama hard-sell; in fact, the president mentions them pretty regularly, but they have not been presented to the public in the bill of rights form the White House rolled out on Wednesday.

The president said his health reform would guarantee that insurance companies would not deny coverage because of pre-existing conditions; charge above a set amount for out-of-pocket expenses; charge more based on gender; place annual or lifetime caps on coverage; or drop coverage for people who develop serious illnesses." The President "won his heartiest applause from the audience when he took on insurance companies, called out Republicans and bashed Washington" (Lee, 7/29).

In Virginia, Obama spoke at a Kroger supermarket. The New York Times reports that in addressing the store's employees, the president "largely stuck to the day's message, reassuring those who already have health insurance, like the workers assembled before him, that reform would nonetheless mean more security and stability for them. … The visit to rural Virginia, along with the earlier stop in Raleigh, was part of the White House sales pitch on health care, as officials have been fretting that the script for Mr. Obama's reform push has been hijacked by critics saying that the government plan could end up hurting the coverage for Americans who already have health insurance. … Throughout the day, he talked up the benefits of a public option in any health reform proposal" (Cooper, 7/29).

The Washington Post: "(Obama) warned that future pay increases for the U.S. workforce might be tied to the fate of his efforts. 'I don't want to lose sight of the personal element of this,' Obama told a woman here who asserted that health care is a human right. 'We're the wealthiest country on Earth, and for us to be the only developed nation where people cannot count on health care is shameful.' While his reception was largely warm, Obama encountered questions in each city that revealed deep-seated fears about his plans and whether they would reduce costs" (Wilson, 7/30).

Meanwhile, Obama said "he expects a final vote on health care reform to occur by mid-October, suggesting he believes delays that have snagged the measure will not alter his original timetable for signing it," Roll Call reports. But "the bill is way off schedule. … Obama suggested that Members could do some catch-up work during the August recess, when he said they would 'have more than enough time to read' the legislation'" (Koffler, 7/29).

In an interview with Time in the Oval Office, "Obama did not attempt to hide his frustration. 'This has been the most difficult test for me so far in public life, trying to describe in clear, simple terms how important it is that we reform this system. The case is so clear to me,'" he said (Tumulty, 7/30).