Morning Must Reads: The Closer

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Official White House Photo by Pete Souza/Flickr

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza via Flickr

–President Obama heads to Arcadia University just outside Philly today to continue his closing argument on health reform. There’s not much in the way of new material, but I expect him to focus on one thing: urgency. He’s looking to keep the momentum going for the final push and the White House feels their best evidence is insurer rate hikes. He’ll bring them up early and often.

–New York Rep. Eric Massa is expected to resign today (in case you missed it, Jay broke the news last week), but he’s not going quietly. While giving his explanation of the incident that sparked an ethics probe, Massa accused party leadership of trumping up controversy to clear the way for health reform: “Now they’ve gotten rid of me and it will pass.” I’m pretty sure he wasn’t the only hurdle.

–Arkansas Senator Blanche Lincoln lands on the front page of the New York Times in what reads like a case study of Washington incumbency woes heading into November. Her first TV spot is a pretty good watch if you haven’t seen it already. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This year, everyone wants to be an outsider.

–Speaking of which, John Heilemann has a smart piece on the dramatic gubernatorial contests brewing in California, New York and Texas. I totally agree with him on this:

For all the predictions about an anti-incumbent or anti-Obama wave about to crash down on the country, it appears that the most salient sentiment animating the electorate today is more precisely (and more broadly) anti-Washington.

John Harwood thinks financial reform is a big winner for Democrats.

Greg Sargent sees movement in those Sunday show appearances by health care fence-sitting House Dems.

–Vice President Biden is in Jerusalem today on the first leg of his Mideast tour. The White House is really hoping to get indirect talks moving in the right direction.

–And our colleague Andrew Lee Butters looks at the precarious path forward following Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Iraq.

What did I miss?

UPDATE: Massa has some colorful language for the White House.

UPDATE 2: The White House has released excerpts of Obama’s health reform remarks planned for today and, as I said, it’s all about insurer rate hikes:

Every year, insurance companies deny more people coverage because they have a pre-existing condition. Every year, they drop more people’s coverage when they’re sick and need it most. Every year, they raise premiums higher and higher. Just last month, Anthem Blue Cross in California tried to jack up rates by nearly 40%. In my home state of Illinois rates are going up by as much as 60%. And you just heard from Leslie, who was hit with a 100% rate increase. 100%. One letter from her insurance company and her premiums doubled. Just like that.

You see, these insurance companies have made a calculation. The other day, on a conference call organized by Goldman Sachs, an insurance broker told Wall Street investors that insurance companies know they will lose customers if they keep raising premiums. But since there’s so little competition in the insurance industry, they’re ok with people being priced out of health insurance because they’ll still make more by raising premiums on the customers they have. And they will keep doing this for as long as they can get away with it.

So how much higher do premiums have to rise until we do something about it? How many more Americans have to lose their health insurance? How many more businesses have to drop coverage? How many more years can the federal budget handle the crushing costs of Medicare and Medicaid? When is the right time for health insurance reform?