by Mimi Johnson, NCL’s Health Policy Associate
President Obama addressed Congress last night in a State-of-the-Union-like speech to prepare them – and the American people – for his forthcoming budget. During the speech, the President addressed three major priorities – energy, education, and health care – as we all try to rebound and rebuild during these tough times.
“So let there be no doubt: Health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.” Good news for consumers and not a moment too soon, as a new poll reports that a majority of Americans say their family has cut corners on their health care because of the economy. The Administration, however, is working to diminish the health care hardships on families and Obama reassured Americans that unemployment benefits and continued health care coverage will be available to those who have lost their jobs in this recession.
Still, Obama pointed out that health care costs cause “a bankruptcy in America every 30 seconds,” and it causes millions of Americans to lose their homes. Another alarming fact Obama reported was that” premiums have grown four times faster than wages over the last eight years,” resulting in unaffordable care even for the insured.
During his address, the President also promised a renewed commitment to cancer research, preventive care, and a move towards quality, affordable health care for every American. He also plans to “give our veterans the expanded health care and benefits that they have earned.” We were also reminded of two victories in health reform already signed into law this year, which protect and expand health care coverage for 11 million children (SCHIP), and ensure “health care professionals can continue caring for our sick” through the Economic Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
We commend the President and his Administration for “bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.” The League has long recognized the importance of and strength in convening stakeholders from all sectors to work together on health issues. It is important that Congress and the American people continue to remember that health care costs account for a substantial chunk of the economy, and that we must move forward with reform quickly and deliberately.