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KHN: Biden And Obama Talking Health Care

Kaiser Health News handily excerpts the health care-related comments from last night’s speeches by Biden and Obama. Notably, according to transcripts, Biden said:

What they didn’t tell you is that the plan they have already put down on paper would immediately cut benefits to more than 30 million seniors already on Medicare. What they didn’t tell you is that the plan they are proposing would cause Medicare to go bankrupt by 2016. And what they really didn’t tell you is, they — if you want to know — they’re not for preserving Medicare — at all. They’re for a whole new plan. It’s called “vouchercare.” Look, folks, that’s not courage. That’s not even truthful.

And Obama:

And I will never turn Medicare into a voucher. No American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies. They should retire with the care and dignity that they have earned. Yes, we will reform and strengthen Medicare for the long haul, but we’ll do it by reducing the cost of health care, not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more. And we will keep the promise of Social Security by taking the responsible steps to strengthen it, not by turning it over to Wall Street.

Klein On Clinton: Medicaid Bit Was Most Important Part Of The Speech

If you missed Bill Clinton’s excellent, entertaining, arithmetic-laden and “muscular” sales pitch for Obama last night, here’s the full transcript from The Washington Post.

Also, read Ezra Klein’s smart analysis in which he concludes that the most important part of Clinton’s speech was the bit about Medicaid:

“…it’s arguably the most important and concrete policy difference between the two campaigns. The Medicare changes get more attention on both sides, but Romney and Ryan don’t intend to touch Medicare for 10 years, they swear they’ll honor the Medicare guarantee, and at least in Ryan’s most recent budget, he envisions the exact same long-term spending path as Obama does. By contrast, Romney and Ryan intend to begin cutting Medicaid immediately, and independent analyses suggest that their cuts could throw as many as 30 million people off the program. If you want to see the difference between Obama and Romney’s vision for American policy, it’s probably the single starkest example.

Which is, no doubt, why Clinton chose to highlight it. Tonight, his role was wonk-in-chief, and he was trying to persuade the public of an old idea: That the best way to understand this election is to simply do the arithmetic. And so, for 48 minutes, that’s pretty much what he did. The question now is whether the Romney campaign can persuade voters that there’s a mistake in Clinton’s math.”

iVillage: How The Obama Girls Got Their Dad To Quit Smoking

At lunch today my kids were pretending to smoke with baby carrots and it freaked me out. Of course they’ve internalized all of the anti-smoking messages surrounding them — they equate smoking with early death, black lungs and general stupidity. Still, as they glamorously puffed on those little carrots I realized that the decades-old, cigarette-maker driven allure of smoking hasn’t totally been snuffed out.

So when I saw this piece featuring Michelle Obama on how her daughters got the president to finally quit smoking, it moved me (despite its women’s magazine-y sappiness). Here’s iVillage:

We knew President Obama had ultimately quit smoking but we never really knew what motivated him to finally kick the habit. First Lady Michelle Obama, during our exclusive interview surrounding her week as iVillage’s first-ever Guest Editor, said it wasn’t pressure from her. It wasn’t pressure from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue either or concerns about his own health. The motivation came from two young women: daughters Malia, 14, and Sasha, 11.

“I know that his ability to ultimately kick the habit was because of the girls, because they’re at the age now where you can’t hide,” Mrs. Obama told me, as we chatted on her couch in her East Wing office, after she pushed off her shoes and got comfy. “I think that he didn’t want to look his girls in the eye and tell them that they shouldn’t do something that he was still doing.”

Video: Obama On Medicare

President Obama spoke live to reporters yesterday on a range of issues: Libya, gay marriage, debt. Here, courtesy Kaiser Health News, are his comments on Medicare. His key point? It’s only fair that corporations give up some of their generous tax breaks before the government asks seniors to pay more for their Medicare benefits.

“I don’t think that’s real radical,” Obama said.

Still, the president left some room for modifications and, perhaps, reductions to Medicare.

Navigating Health Care In The State Of The Union

How will health law politics figure into Obama's speech tonight?

Politico suggests that President Obama has two goals tonight, in his first State of the Union address following passage of the health reform law:

1. Win over a wary public
2. Be brief

David Nather writes:

…the public is still deeply divided over [Obama’s] biggest legislative accomplishment. Anything he says will be picked apart by groups on the left and the right – not to mention the entire health care industry – for clues about how strongly he’ll stand behind the law.

So, the best strategy, he says, will be to concisely reiterate the health law benefits that have already kicked in — no insurance bans on pre-existing conditions, more coverage for preventative care, tax credits for small businesses — and then move on, leaving Republicans, who voted in the House last week to repeal the law, to bicker and fret over the details — at their own peril.

This time, Obama will talk about the benefits of the law and may make a case that it will help the economy in the long run, “but it will be brief,” said Neera Tanden, chief operating officer at the liberal Center for American Progress and a former top official at the Department of Health and Human Services during the health care debate.

Keeping the health care discussion short would set up a “nice contrast” with Republican efforts to repeal or withhold funding from the law, which could consume so much time on Capitol Hill that the Republicans themselves could face demands to spend more time on the economy, Tanden said.

And here’s Kaiser Health News with advice for the President from nine health policy experts on what to say about about health reform in the speech.

Warning: Since none of these unofficial advisees seem to have a sense of humor on this topic, here’s an older post from The Onion on some alternative health reform proposals. My favorites include:

Melancon-Cooper Bill: Would create a low-cost government-administered health insurance plan, but would prohibit anyone from buying into it

Griffith-Cantor Bill: Low-income families would be allowed to huddle outside hospital windows in the cold and look at wealthier families receiving care

Hutchinson-Snowe Bill: Children insured on a cuteness scale

Grayson Bill: Rep. Alan Grayson will personally punch in the face any insurance executive who turns down a valid claim

Blookross-Feiser Bill: Although no one is exactly sure who these two shadowy congressmen are, their bill would mandate a twofold increase in insurance premiums and force patients to buy name-brand drugs

Obama To Insurers: Spend It On Medical Care, Or Else

HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wantes insurers to spend more on medical care and less on administration

It almost sounds like a headline from The Onion, but AP reports that the Obama administration will require health insurers to use premium dollars to pay for actual health care.

The regulation unveiled by the Health and Human Services Department calls for insurance companies to spend at least 80 cents of the premium dollar on medical care and quality. For employer plans covering more than 50 people, the requirement is 85 cents. Insurers that fall short of the mark will have to issue their customers a rebate.

Part of the new health care law, the rule is meant to give consumers a better deal. Administration officials said it will prevent insurers from wasting valuable premiums on administration, marketing, and executive bonuses. “While some level of administrative cost is certainly necessary, we believe that they have gotten out of hand,’’ said Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and Human Services.

Take A Deep Breath — And Don’t Blame Health Reform

Voters are angry, but health reform is not to blame.

There’s a book my 4-year-old loves that’s called, When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry about a little girl who explodes in a full-blown rage following a dispute with her sister.

Given some of the angry, CAPITAL-LETTERED comments on our post yesterday about health reform and the midterm elections, I’d like to urge readers to follow Sophie’s lead: calm down, take a deep breath, maybe a walk, and remember (this part isn’t in the book): the goal of health reform is to make people feel better, not raise their blood pressure.

The U.S. health reform law is not to blame for our current global economic travails, nor, more locally, for the spikes in insurance premiums, as Julie Rovner points out in her NPR piece yesterday.

For a little rationality and context, I suggest everyone read Hendrik Hertzberg in The New Yorker before Tuesday. His “Recession Election” piece makes the point that Barack Obama didn’t create the current economic mess with any particular policy, including health reform, but he is the target of voter anger nonetheless:

(Obama’s) supporters are worried, sometimes dispirited; his enemies are full of passionate intensity. The Republicans offer plenty of rage and resentment, but nothing of substance beyond fulminations about a deficit that their proposals — more and bigger tax cuts for the comfortable, the gutting of health care reform– would exacerbate. President Obama and the Democrats kept the Great Recession from becoming a second Great Depression. But the presense of pain is more keenly felt than the absense of agony.