The Missing Healthcare Debate

History is a car that doesn’t go in reverse. While my liberal-minded friends celebrated Obama as the end of expanding executive privilege, I knew we could never go back. Likewise, Obama’s address tonight isn’t going to take us back to an intelligent healthcare debate (that we never had) because the bar has already, in this case, been lowered.

The Project for Excellence in Journalism reports that 55 percent of news covering the current healthcare debate emphasized the surrounding political battle, 16 percent went to protests and a lonely 8 percent covered policy issues.

Appearing in the September/October issue of the Columbia Journalism Review is an analysis of healthcare policy issues facing the nation. The report comes from The Commonwealth Fund, a PAC whose mission is to reform the American healthcare system. According to the report, the most necessary reform is to insure as many people as possible. Unfortunately, this point, which is self-evident to other industrialized countries, has been buried by the false values of “choice and competition”.

Can Obama dig up the real values with his words tonight? Some, like the Columbia Journalism Review, are skeptical. Few presidential speeches of the past have caused a sea change in public opinion, they report. However, members of both Red and Blue parties have been critical of Obama’s hands-off sponsorship of healthcare reform and tonight’s speech is widely seen as his response.

Senator Max Baucus, determined to cut the president off at the pass, has finally offered his alternate “vision” for reform, which forbids insurance companies to deny coverage based on preexisting conditions, but does allow them to charge higher premiums depending on age, i.e. old people will pay more because God is likely to draw their number first.

To be fair, Max Baucus a.k.a. Trash Ruckus, has issued an apology.

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