In the Arena

Right Questions…But How about some answers?

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Barack Obama raises some of the right questions in his call for universal health insurance today:

Another, more controversial area we need to look at is how much of our health care spending is going toward the record-breaking profits earned by the drug and health care industry. It’s perfectly understandable for a corporation to try and make a profit, but when those profits are soaring higher and higher each year while millions lose their coverage and premiums skyrocket, we have a responsibility to ask why.
At a time when businesses are facing increased competition and workers rarely stay with one company throughout their lives, we also have to ask if the employer-based system of health care itself is still the best for providing insurance to all Americans. We have to ask what we can do to provide more Americans with preventative care, which would mean fewer doctor’s visits and less cost down the road. We should make sure that every single child who’s eligible is signed up for the children’s health insurance program, and the federal government should make sure that our states have the money to make that happen. And we have to start looking at some of the interesting ideas on comprehensive reform that are coming out of states like Maine and Illinois and California, to see what we can replicate on a national scale and what will move us toward that goal of universal coverage for all.

And then he proposes…nothing. In fact, he whiffs:

But regardless of what combination of policies and proposals get us to this goal, we must reach it. We must act. And we must act boldly.

I understand why politicians refuse to put out detailed plans: other politicians inevitably find ways to rip them apart (and every last substantive policy proposal has flaws–the real question is always: which flaws do you want to live with?)
But Obama–and every other candidate–is going to have to do better this time. The country is a mess; 70% of the public thinks we’re moving in the wrong direction. One of my themes as a columnist in this, my ninth presidential campaign, will be to demand specifics–and courage–on a series of issues, including health insurance.

So Senator, you and I agree. We need universal health insurance. But I’m waiting to hear what, precisely, you want to do about it.

Correction: A reader points out that Obama said also said this earlier in this speech:

“I am working with experts to develop my own plan as we speak”.

My bad. Guess I missed it in my rush to find out what he was actually going to propose. In any case, bottom line’s the same: any candidate who wants to be considered credible in 2008 will have to produce a detailed universal health plan.