Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mandate, Yes; Mandate, No

President Obama aimed his speech last night at many constituencies; one of them, Congressional liberals/progressives. Or, as he put it

To my progressive friends,I would remind you that for decades, the driving idea behind reform has been to end insurance company abuses and make coverage available for those without it.

After applause, he continued:

The public option- the public option is only a means to that end, and we should remain open to other ideas that accomplish our ultimate goal.

If in fact the "ultimate goal" of making "coverage available for those without it" were met by health care legislation, reform will have accomplished something, though limited.

But Barack Obama does not aim to "make coverage available for those without it." To be sure, he said last night

that's why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance- just as most states require you to carry auto insurance.

A moment later, he would explain

There will be a hardship waiver for those individuals who still can't afford coverage,and 95 percent of all small businesses, becuase of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements.

That may be a contradiction, but it didn't start on September 9. An article by Mike Glover of Newsday of May 29, 2007 and posted soon after by Organizing For America (predecessor to Obama For America), makes it perfectly unclear:

"The time has come for universal, affordable health care in America," Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery Tuesday in Iowa City....

"My plan begins by covering every American. If you already have health insurance, the only thing that will change for you under this plan is that the amount of money you will spend on premiums will be less," Obama said. "If you are one of 45 million Americans who don't have health insurance, you will after this plan becomes law."

Whereas, Glover observes,

Obama's plan doesn't have the mandate that his rival John Edwards is proposing to ensure that all Americans get coverage. The 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee would require everyone to have health insurance, much like state requirements for auto insurance for every driver.

Three months ago, President Obama told a Green Bay, Wisconsin audience

We have decided that it's time to give every American quality healthcare at an affordable cost.

Last night, the President argued (emphasis mine)

.... I believe a broad consensus exists for the aspects of the plan I just outlined: consumer protections for those with insurance; an exchange that allows individuals and small businesses to purchase affordable coverage; and a requirement that people who can afford insurance get insurance.

Barack Obama probably knows what his health care is, though confusion serves his strategic purposes. If nothing else, however, he again apparently gave new life to so many individuals. The President was able to inspire persons who surged with excitement as they were swept away at the grandeur of what they were experiencing:

He reminded us Wednesday night with his moral, economic and political call to arms on health care. Veering from poetry to prose and back again, sometimes stern, sometimes earnest, always determined, Obama took ownership of what he called "my plan" and his place in nearly 100 years of presidential striving for reform.

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