President Obama yesterday gave a campaign-style speech on health care reform. And it's the best talk I've seen him give yet. (Like Paul Krugman says, where was this guy last year?) Here's the ending, although you might appreciate it more by watching the video. It starts at the 38:10 mark:
It is hard. That’s because health care is complicated. Health care is a hard issue. It’s easily misrepresented. It’s easily misunderstood. So it’s hard for some members of Congress to make this vote. There’s no doubt about that. But you know what else is hard? What Leslie and her family are going through--that’s hard. The possibility that Natoma Canfield might lose her house because she’s about to lose her health insurance--that’s hard. Laura Klitzka in Green Bay having to worry about her cancer and her debt at the same time, trying to explain that to her kids--that’s hard. What’s hard is what millions of families and small businesses are going through because we allow the insurance industry to run wild in this country.
So let me remind everybody: Those of us in public office were not sent to Washington to do what’s easy. We weren’t sent there because of the big fancy title. We weren’t sent there to--because of a big fancy office. We weren’t sent there just so everybody can say how wonderful we are. We were sent there to do what was hard. We were sent there to take on the tough issues. We were sent there to solve the big challenges. And that’s why we’re there.
And at this moment--at this moment, we are being called upon to fulfill our duty to the citizens of this nation and to future generations.
So I’ll be honest with you. I don’t know how passing health care will play politically, but I do know that it’s the right thing to do. It’s right for our families. It’s right for our businesses. It’s right for the United States of America. And if you share that belief, I want you to stand with me and fight with me. And I ask you to help us get us over the finish line these next few weeks. The need is great. The opportunity is here. Let’s seize reform. It’s within our grasp.
Of course, a few good speeches won't change the minds of Congress. But a few thousand phone calls to Capitol Hill might. The most important part of Obama's speech was when he implored supporters of reform to make their voices heard in Washington, to show kind of passion and persistence they did when he was running for president. That hasn't happened yet. Most liberals still seem pretty ambivalent about reform and a few are downright hostile.
In the coming days, as Congress prepares to vote on reform, perhaps these liberals will pay more attention to the woman who introduced Obama and appears at the very beginning of the video. Her name is Leslie Banks; that's the "Leslie" Obama mentions in the speech. The White House press office supplied the following summary of her situation. I haven't done my own reporting on her situation, obviously, so I can't vouch for it. But the description sounds perfectly plausible given how our health care system works:
On February 11th, Leslie wrote the President an e-mail expressing her frustration with the cost of health insurance. Leslie is a self-employed, single mother with type 2 diabetes, whose daughter is a sophomore in college at Temple University. In January 2010, Leslie received a notice from her health insurance provider that her plan was being dropped. To keep the same benefits, the premiums for her and her daughter would more than double. Leslie was told by the insurance company that there was an across the board premium hike and there was nothing she could do. If she paid the same monthly premium amount as before, the deductible would increase from $500 to $5,000, and they would no longer have preventive care or prescription coverage. Leslie is not eligible for the insurance company’s HMO due to her pre-existing condition. Under health reform, Leslie and her daughter will have to access to affordable health insurance in the new health insurance exchange, including guaranteed benefits such as preventive care and prescription drugs as well as important consumer protections. In addition, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions, and they will be held accountable to prevent insurance industry abuses.