Barack Obama’s plans to overhaul America’s healthcare system face the acid test when the US President addresses Congress. Republicans have opposed the proposals, arguing that they amount to a very expensive government takeover.
For Obama, there is a great deal riding on his 30 minutes in front of the TV cameras. Even his own Democrats have found it tricky to agree on a package. But healthcare reform was a mainstay of the campaign that put him in the White House in the first place. “I think the idea that this is absolutely make or break may be a little exaggerated but certainly an important point because he stakes so much of his own prestige and political standing on this issue,” said Carroll Doherty of the thinktank, the Pew Research Centre. It is such a central issue to the lives of so many Americans that Obama’s speech is expected to draw a big TV audience. It is a subject that prompted angry exchanges throughout the summer, a fact not lost on Obama when he spoke earlier in the week. Speaking on Monday in Ohio, Obama said: “The Congress and the country have now been vigorously debating the issue for many months. The debate’s been good. And that’s important because we’ve got to get this right. But every debate at some point comes to an end. At some point, it’s time to decide. At some point, it’s time to act.” There is a lot at stake too for insurance companies, pharmaceutical giants, and hospital managers themselves. Obama is expected to outline exactly how he plans to expand cover to the 46-million Americans without any health insurance, and give more safeguards to the 25-million who do not have enough. Currently only the most vulnerable and the poorest are cared-for by the Medicare and Medicaid schemes. But the plans are estimated to cost at least a trillion dollars – that is 705-billion euros. Among the changes Obama wants is a new government-run insurance scheme – but that is fiercely opposed by Republicans and not suprisingly the private insurance companies.