The nation this week hears an address from President Obama that may make or break healthcare reform efforts. The August recess was a rough one for the President and the Democrats in Congress. The anxiety voiced at town hall meetings, whether you agree with the concerns or not, gave many pause about moving forward on the path (and there are multiple and varied paths) that Congress has indicated. The Democrats themselves are not in agreement on a key reform proposal – the public plan option. House liberals tend to support this, and the more conservative House Blue Dogs don’t. Support for the public option among Senate Democrats is even more tenuous.
So it is up to the President to hit the reset button and convince the country that healthcare reform is needed. Some critical items I will be listening for include: Does the President support the public option? (We know he does, but is it a line-in-the-sand item for him?)
- How will healthcare reform be paid for? (Or, who’s ox is going to be gored?)
- What is the President’s expectation on a time frame to pass healthcare reform? (As I have written in the past, every day we inch toward the House elections in 2010 makes the vote more difficult for each member of the House.)
- What is the reaction of the Republicans? If the public plan option is watered down or abandoned, will they support the plan? Is bipartisanship a possibility?
- What role will insurance companies play in reform? So far, hospitals, doctors and the pharmaceutical industries have stepped up to the plate, conceding some givebacks, but we have yet to hear what insurance companies will give up.