Obama Doing His Best to Ignore Health Care, Republicans Doing Their Best to Fix It

At its core the State of the Union preceding a contested presidential election is as much a campaign speech as a statement of policy. It was of little surprise then that President Obama kicked it off with one of the few achievements that just about every voter, regardless of political philosophy, can agree was a success – the death of Osama bin Laden.

It’s also little surprise that Obama did his best to hide his weaknesses, namely Obamacare.

Yes, what was once supposed to be the bill that carried him to new heights of political power now threatens to drag his chances of reelection down. For that reason President Obama did his best to pretend that neither Obamacare, nor Medicare, nor really anything to do with health care at all was mentioned in his speech.

As Aaron E. Carroll writes,

If you weren’t paying close attention to the State of the Union speech, you might have missed the parts about health care. In almost 7000 words of text, a total of 44 words were spent on the topic, a mere 0.6% for a subject accounting for more than one-sixth of the US economy. Medicare and Medicaid received 1 mention each, in the same sentence.

Then again, what was he going to say? As we’ve written about before, since Obamacare was passed, health insurance premiums have risen substantially faster than in the years before it was passed. Indeed, premiums rose a 7.5 percent for individual coverage and 9.5 percent for family coverage in 2011 – compared to increases of 4.7 percent and 3.0 percent in 2010.  That translates into a $2,393 increase for the typical family.

President Obama has recently tried to pull a switcheroo and claim that decreasing the number of uninsured, not premium costs, was the ultimate goal of Obamacare. But brand new data from Gallup reveals that Obamacare has failed by that measure as well.

“More American adults lacked health insurance coverage last year than in any year since Gallup and Healthways started tracking it in 2008,” writes Elizabeth Mendes. “The uninsured rate has been increasing since 2008, climbing to 17.1 percent in 2011.”

Still wondering why Obama didn’t mention his “signature piece of legislation” in the State of the Union? Yea, us neither.

But that doesn’t mean everyone is running away from the issue. The Hill reports:

“House Republicans will be ready with a plan to replace President Obama’s healthcare law once the Supreme Court determines the law’s fate this summer, Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) told reporters Wednesday.

. . . Pitss said the GOP will instead propose state-based pools in which the government would take over the cost of the sickest, most expensive patients, rather than requiring private insurers to cover them.

The rest of the plan Pitts outlined draws from long-standing GOP priorities. It will include limits on medical malpractice suits and allow the sale of insurance across state lines, Pitts said, while also expanding the use of health savings accounts.”

The goal according to Rep. Pitts is actually to have several plans that would be custom-tailored to the Supreme Courts’ ruling – whether it strikes down the individual mandate, strikes the whole law, or keeps the bill largely in place.

President Obama and Congressional Democrats can’t avoid the issue forever. Eventually they’ll have to account for the fact that the numbers of uninsured have risen and premiums have soared after the passage of their bill. No doubt they’ll do their best to defend the status quo by completely eschewing numbers and instead focusing on heart-warming individual stories. But what they won’t do, can’t do, is offer up a replacement that will truly solve the serious health care issues facing this country.

And that’s where Republicans step in.