US & World

Obama: Health Care Overhaul = Your Pocketbook

President Barack Obama tried to link the unpopular health-care overhaul to the economy to fend off charges that Democrats failed to focus enough on job creation and the economy.

One of the biggest, most frustrating problems congressional Democrats have is that their crowning achievement, the passage of the landmark health-care overhaul legislation, has fallen flat with voters.

Actually, if it had just fallen flat, Democrats would be in much better shape heading into the mid-terms. But most voters according to recent polls are in reality hostile to it.

What to do, if you're President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats? Their answer appears to be the "can you hear me now?" strategy. They plan to keep talking.

Not just talk. They'll do a little show-and-tell as well. The president was in a Virginia suburb of Washington, D.C. Wednesday with real people who have benefited from the legislation.

But talking is mostly what they can do on the six-month anniversary of the legislation's passage as they try to use their powers of persuasion to get more voters to see the overhaul the way they see it.

One way to do that was to remind voters that a number of popular provisions of the legislation take effect Thursday. As of this week, insurance companies will no longer be able to impose life time limits on coverage, which can affect a whole family if one member has a chronic condition that's costly to treat.

Also, insurers also won't be able to deny coverage to families with children who have pre-existing conditions.

Because one of the main criticisms leveled at Democrats is they spent too much time on health-care and not enough on economy, Obama continued Wednesday to make the argument he's made for months without much success, that tackling health care was a key pocketbook issue for Americans.

For years, rising healthcare costs reduced employees' take home pay and company profits and push up federal deficits. So something had to be done, he argued.

Obama said, in part:

But when I ran for office, I ran not just in anticipation of a crisis.  I ran because middle-class families all across the country were seeing their security eroded, partly because between the years 2001 and 2009, wages actually went down for the average family by 5 percent.  We had the slowest job growth of any time since World War II.  The Wall Street Journal called it “the lost decade.”

And part of the challenge for families was, is that even as their wages and incomes were flatlining, their costs of everything from college tuition to health care were skyrocketing.

And so what we realized was we had to take some steps to start dealing with these underlying chronic problems that have confronted our economy for a very long time.  And health care was one of those issues that we could no longer ignore.

We couldn’t ignore it because the cost of health care has been escalating faster than just about anything else, and I don’t need to tell you all that.  Even if you have health insurance, you’ve seen your copayments and your premiums skyrocket.  Even if you get health care from your employer, that employer’s costs have skyrocketed and they’re starting to pass more and more of those costs onto their employees.  More people don’t get health care from their employers.

And in addition, what you were seeing was that at the state level and at the federal level, the costs of health care, because people weren’t getting it on the job and were trying to get it through the CHIP program or Medicaid or disability or what have you -- all those costs were driving our government bankrupt.  Anybody who’s out there who’s concerned about the deficit, the single biggest driver of our deficit is the ever escalating cost of health care.

So it was bankrupting families, companies, and our government.  So we said we had to take this on.

In other words, it's still about the economy, stupid. Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit