Big Think Experts Consider Obama’s Health Speech

Was Obama’s healthcare speech last night a game-changer? Did he give enough specifics about his plan? Was his outreach to the right enough to win moderate votes? The answers to these questions will only become clear as the White House’s health reform bill makes its way through Congress, but for now, we talked to some of our healthcare experts to get their thoughts on the President’s presentation.

David L. Katz, the Director and Co-Founder of the Yale Prevention Research Center, was pleased with Obama’s honesty, aggressiveness, and focus on prevention—a topic Katz himself stressed in his interview with Big Think. He writes:


I thought this was the best speech to date by a President known for his oratory. President Obama made a compelling case for health care reform on both moral and economic grounds. He clearly cited the dollar and human cost of the status quo, and described how his reform plans would improve on it. I was convinced, as I have been all along…

I was pleased with the President's characterization of 'prevention.' He placed an emphasis on clinical preventive services, such as mammography and colonoscopy, which do indeed represent the aspect of preventive care the reform effort can most meaningfully impact. Per a blog I wrote yesterday, I had been concerned that prevention was being defined too broadly to fit within the context of 'health care reform.' True prevention requires societal reform, and that introduces a threat of over-reaching for what is already a very expansive effort. The President appropriately defined the boundaries of what is currently in play.

Finally, I very much appreciated the President's direct confrontation of the willful distortions being used to undermine this effort…I thought his statement that he would work with anyone committed to improving the plan, but would not waste time on those only interested in killing it, conveyed both eloquence and a laudable principle our Congress would do well to heed…

Ron Dixon of Massachusetts General Hospital is also concerned about improving prevention in order to reduce the amount of doctor’s visits and emergency care in the country. In response to Obama’s speech, he wrote us:

The president focused mostly on insurance coverage and the broad concept of 'fairness', although he did touch on slowing growth in costs by becoming more efficient, especially on the Medicare front. He also said that many of the details remain to be ironed out. As I stated in my interview, I do believe that by using available technology- email, sms, videoconferencing, cell phones- we could eliminate a significant percentage of visits to providers, thereby cutting provider overhead costs, patient opportunity costs, and saving time. It would also provide an alternative means of access to care, which is going to be needed if more individuals are to be covered.

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