Yet, a look back at the administration's earlier language finds a much more sweeping agenda for "comprehensive reform." Here's the president, in his first speech to a joint session of Congress on February 24th, announcing the need to move this country forward:
None of this will come without cost, nor will it be easy. But this is America. We don’t do what’s easy. We do what is necessary to move this country forward.The president speaks of "health care reform" and "comprehensive health care reform." The message isn't just reforming insurance markets; it's to "conquer disease" and find "a cure for cancer," to make the "largest investment in preventive care" and to bring "costs under control."
For that same reason, we must also address the crushing cost of health care.
This is a cost that now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds. By the end of the year, it could cause 1.5 million Americans to lose their homes. In the last eight years, premiums have grown four times faster than wages. And in each of these years, one million more Americans have lost their health insurance. It is one of the major reasons why small businesses close their doors and corporations ship jobs overseas. And it’s one of the largest and fastest-growing parts of our budget.
Given these facts, we can no longer afford to put health care reform on hold.
Already, we have done more to advance the cause of health care reform in the last thirty days than we have in the last decade. When it was days old, this Congress passed a law to provide and protect health insurance for eleven million American children whose parents work full-time. Our recovery plan will invest in electronic health records and new technology that will reduce errors, bring down costs, ensure privacy, and save lives. It will launch a new effort to conquer a disease that has touched the life of nearly every American by seeking a cure for cancer in our time. And it makes the largest investment ever in preventive care, because that is one of the best ways to keep our people healthy and our costs under control.
This budget builds on these reforms. It includes an historic commitment to comprehensive health care reform – a down-payment on the principle that we must have quality, affordable health care for every American. It’s a commitment that’s paid for in part by efficiencies in our system that are long overdue. And it’s a step we must take if we hope to bring down our deficit in the years to come.
Now, there will be many different opinions and ideas about how to achieve reform, and that is why I’m bringing together businesses and workers, doctors and health care providers, Democrats and Republicans to begin work on this issue next week.
I suffer no illusions that this will be an easy process. It will be hard. But I also know that nearly a century after Teddy Roosevelt first called for reform, the cost of our health care has weighed down our economy and the conscience of our nation long enough. So let there be no doubt: health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.
In June, in an address to the American Medical Association, the president announced his broad ambition that "health care reform is the single most important thing we can do for America's long-term fiscal health." The AMA speech marked the administration launch of the major legislative push for comprehensive reform.
By July, though, during his weekly radio address on health care, the president had begun to shift toward the "insurance reform" angle (after months of grass roots tea party activism). But he still implies grand designs in denouncing those attacking his program as socialist:
Those who oppose reform will also tell you that under our plan, you won’t get to choose your doctor – that some bureaucrat will choose for you. That’s also not true. Michelle and I don’t want anyone telling us who our family’s doctor should be – and no one should decide that for you either. Under our proposals, if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor. If you like your current insurance, you keep that insurance. Period, end of story.Yet, by yesterday, in Grand Junction, Obama was shifting gears, attacking insurance firms and markets. The president argued that Americans were being "held hostage by health insurance companies that deny them coverage, or drop their coverage, or charge fees that they can't afford for care that they desperately need."
Finally, opponents of health reform warn that this is all some big plot for socialized medicine or government-run health care with long lines and rationed care. That’s not true either. I don’t believe that government can or should run health care. But I also don’t think insurance companies should have free reign to do as they please."
Obama also backed away from the "robust public option" that's been a centerpiece of the plan:
The public option, whether we have it or we don't have it, is not the entirety of healthcare reform. This is just one sliver of it, one aspect of it ... And by the way, it's both the right and the left that have become so fixated on this that they forget everything else.As we've seen all this weekend, now the administration's all about "health insurance reforms" that will provide "consumer choices" and "competition."
It's quite a dramatic change, rhetorically, and it shows the huge public scale of resistance to Obama's policy hubris. But I'm still not convinced the administration is defeated. Rick Moran argues that ObamaCare is on the "precipice of failure." But now with the new Democratic meme converging on "insurance co-ops," which will include "nonprofit insurance cooperatives," I'm again confident the left is practicing the classic Leninist strategy of one step backwards and two steps forward.
See also, Fox News, "Public Option Losing Steam? White House Open to Health Care Reform Without Government Plan." Also, check Memeorandum.