Obama Reaches for the Reset Button on Health Care

President Barack Obama tonight reiterated his vow to fix the costly and inefficient U.S. health care system. He even joked that he did not decide to tackle the issue because it was "good politics." But during his first State of the Union address, Obama painted a grim picture of life for Americans under the present regime for insuring their health.In his speech, Obama lamented that "physicians and patients are drowning in unnecessarily complicated paperwork and procedures that increase overhead and drive up costs." His view is echoed by countless experts.

Obama wants to regroup around his core principals of health care reform, which include universal coverage, making it insurance affordable and guaranteeing choice. The present reform bills do not come close to meeting these goals, according to Dr. David Nash, dean of the Jefferson School of Public Health at Philadelphia's Thomas Jefferson University.

"Frankly, I think a time out is in order," Nash says, adding that he was "disheartened" by the lack of progress on health care. "There is going to be a recalibration."

Echoing the President's Complaints

The president who was elected by promising to bring change to Washington clearly has grown frustrated that he has not accomplished more in his first year in office, especially the plight of the uninsured. Interest groups including the American Medical Association want change, too. Recently, the AMA complained that "escalating health insurance premiums are straining the budgets of consumers, employers and governments.... Physicians and patients are drowning in unnecessarily complicated paperwork and procedures that increase overhead and drive up costs."

Critics, though, accuse Obama of trying to launch a government takeover of health care. Some see that in nefarious terms. As CBS noted, "
Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican Party, likened Mr. Obama's plans to socialism and argued that the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and key congressional committee chairmen are part of a 'cabal' that wants to implement government-run health care."

That message clearly is resonating with voters, such as those in Massachusetts who just chose Republican Scott Brown to fill the U.S. Senate seat left vacant by the death of Sen. Ted Ke
nnedy -- the Democrat who said health care reform was the most important cause of his life. Obama faces a difficult challenge in making Kennedy's dream come true as his approval ratings continue to slide.

So, he urged Congress to stay the course.
"As temperatures cool, I want people to take another look at the plan we have proposed," he said, adding that if anyone from either party has a better idea "I am eager to see it.... Don't walk away from reform, not now, not when we are so close."

"Time for Something New"

Still, with Brown's election, the heath care debate in Congress has ground to a halt. Democrats, who bills passed by both houses of Congress, now are placing a lower priority on this signature issue for Obama, according to the The New York Times. The president is eager to get reform back on track even though he called jobs "the number one focus" for his administration.

"A lot of people thought that health reform was dead," says Karen Davis, president of the Commonwealth Fund. "He still needs to do a lot of explaining."

Clearly not ready to give up this fight, Obama said: "Rather than fight the same tired battles that have dominated Washington for decades, it's time for something new. Let's try common sense. Let's invest in our people without leaving them a mountain of debt. Let's meet our responsibility to the people who sent us here."

Unfortunately, that's easier said than done.
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