Nov. 5, 2008 -- Tuesday's election of Democrat Barack Obama ushers in a new
administration that is all but certain to include some level of health care
reform. Less clear is how extensive that reform will be and when it will
The Illinois senator has proposed sweeping changes in the health care system
designed to provide health coverage to millions of uninsured Americans.
President Obama on Health Care
Obama made health care one of the centerpieces of his campaign, as he talked
about the need to make it more affordable and accessible to everyone. He also
addressed health care on a more personal note, as he talked about his mother's
death from ovarian cancer and her struggle to pay her medical bills. You can
read more about Obama's stance on health care and his personal experiences with
health in the articles below:
But experts tell WebMD that the current financial crisis makes sweeping
change unlikely any time soon.
"I have no inside track, but I would bet that in this economic climate
it is far more likely that changes will be phased in over time," says Karen
Davis, president of the health policy and research group Commonwealth Fund.
University of Michigan health economist Thomas Buckmueller, PhD, agrees that
the economic climate is likely to slow reform. "I am not extremely
optimistic that major reform will happen, but this seems to be the best chance
we have had in a long time."
Obama's Health Plan
Obama spoke often during the campaign about his mother's battle with ovarian
cancer to illustrate his commitment to changing the health care system.
He told of her final days, spent battling insurance company bureaucrats who
did not want to pay for her cancer treatments. "I know
what it's like to see a loved one suffer, not just because they are sick, but
because of a broken health care system," he said at a rally last week and
at countless campaign stops before that.
His plan would extend health coverage by expanding existing private and
public programs with the help of federal subsidies and mandates.
He has repeatedly claimed the reforms will lower the average family's health
insurance premiums by about $2,500 a year.
These reforms include:
Requiring employers, except small businesses, to provide health insurance
to their employees or contribute to the cost.
Requiring that all children have health insurance.
Expanding Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program
Creating a National Health Insurance Exchange to pool risk and give people
the choice of competing private or public health plans.
According to the Tax Policy Center, a nonpartisan tax analysis group, the
president-elect's plan, if fully implemented, would reduce the number of
uninsured Americans from a projected 67 million to 33 million over the next
decade at a cost of $1.6 trillion.
Obama has said he would pay for his plan by rolling back President Bush's
tax cuts on people making more than $250,000 a year and keeping the estate tax
at 2009 levels, but he has not been more specific. He has not provided a
timetable for seeking his proposed reforms and has not said if he would present
a comprehensive health care reform package or try for incremental change.