Obama Running Scared

Published on
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the Albany Times Union (New York)

Obama Running Scared

A universal health care system based on the single-payer model appears to be a bridge too far for President Barack Obama.

A single-payer system, such as Medicare for everyone, would provide health care for all.

President Lyndon Johnson had the courage to weigh in with all his clout to win passage of Medicare and Medicaid.

President Roosevelt put all his chips on the table to win passage of the Social Security Act that makes the elderly more secure.

All around the world, governments have long made medical care available for their citizens. Why not us?

Obama clearly has no stomach for the political battle that any single-payer plan would ignite. So he's endorsed a step that would allow the government to provide health insurance coverage -- not health care -- to eligible people. Such government-sponsored health insurance is being considered in Congress as it writes health care reform legislation.

While the public plan option gets full consideration in Congress, the single-payer model has been unwelcome at the White House or on Capitol Hill.

Obama said part of the fierce opposition to health care reform has been fueled "by some interest groups and lobbyists -- opposition that has used fear tactics to paint any effort to achieve reform as an attempt to, yes, socialize medicine."

He made it clear that his idea of health care reform would allow patients to choose their own doctors and keep their own health plans.

Somehow government bailouts have been more palatable for Wall Street plutocrats who happen to be needy.

Obama stressed in a speech to the AMA in Chicago last week that he does not favor socialized medicine.

Some 47 million Americans are uninsured -- many because some employers have dropped coverage in the economic downturn. Others lack insurance because pre-existing illnesses deny them access to private insurance. There also are millions with no way to pay for soaring health insurance payments because they have lost their jobs.

Nearly all Republicans and some moderate Democrats oppose any public plan option. These are the same lawmakers who receive many government-provided perks including health insurance.

In his remarks to the AMA, Obama warned against "scare tactics" and "fear mongering" by opponents of the public plan option, which the President said should be available to those who have no health insurance.

Obama rejected the "illegitimate concern that's being put forward by those who are claiming that a public option is somehow a Trojan horse for a single-payer system."

Obama should tear a page out of LBJ's vote-getting manual and shame the heartless opponents.

The health of all Americans is our business.

Helen Thomas

Helen Thomas was an American author and former news service reporter, member of the White House Press Corps and columnist. She worked for the United Press International (UPI) for 57 years, first as a correspondent, and later as White House bureau chief. She was an opinion columnist for Hearst Newspapers from 2000 to 2010, writing on national affairs and the White House. Among other books she was the author of Front Row at The White House: My Life and Times. Helen passed away on July 20, 2013.

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