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My Fellow Americans -- The Speech Obama Should Give on Health Care

A few novel suggestions for how the president might use his speech before the joint session of Congress to break the health-care reform log-jam.

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Oh, and there are other huge, if unquantifiable, savings to consider. If everyone has Medicare, the total cost of health care will go down dramatically, because everyone will be getting timely treatment, instead of having to put of exams and early treatment of illness or injury. And no one will suffer the terrible anxiety of worrying about whether they can pay for health care for themselves and their families.

So yes, your Medicare withholding will be perhaps 25 percent higher if we expand Medicare to cover everyone. That tax is currently set at 2.9 percent for you and 2.9 percent for your employer, so it would go up by about 0.75 percent of your paycheck. For someone earning $600 a week, that would represent an increased deduction of about $4.50 a week. For someone earning $1200 a week, it would be an increased deduction of $9. That's a pretty good deal for not having to pay for insurance coverage anymore; wouldn’t you agree? (applause, plus some boos from largely silent Republican side)

Now for you folks already receiving Medicare, there have been a lot of scare stories out there, some of them being promoted by some irresponsible people right in this chamber (pause for applause and nervous laughter), suggesting that if we expand health care coverage, it will come off of your benefits. Don’t you believe it! (applause)

We live in a democracy, and when a lot of people want something, or benefit from something, they collectively defend that particular thing. In the case of Medicare, if everyone is receiving it, and receiving it in the same manner as everyone else, that creates a huge voting bloc in favor of defending that benefit.

So, by expanding Medicare to all, we would be creating a powerful political force that will defend Medicare from attack, just as the universality of Social Security has made that program bullet-proof (something my predecessor learned when he tried to promote the idea of privatizing it). (wild applause from Democratic side)

So here’s the deal.

I’m admitting it was the wrong move to try to lay it on you poor folks in Congress come up with some completely new, complicated reform our existing health care system -- if you can even call it that. My good friend and former colleague in this building, Chairman John Conyers, had it right all along: We have a great system that we just need to expand to cover everyone.

To get it started, I’m going to send Congress a couple of bills. One would immediately shift everyone eligible for Medicaid over to Medicare. I’m calling this the States' Medical Cost Relief and Medicare Expansion Act. It will not only begin the process of expanding Medicare, but will provide badly needed financial relief to states that are suffering from declining tax revenues and rising health care costs because of the recession. (applause)

I will also send Congress a bill that will expand Medicare coverage to all Americans and to legal residents. (applause, some boos from Republicans)

I am sure that as financially sound as this change is, there will be opposition from the medical industry, so let me add that this is, for me, a moral imperative, too. For too long, this great country has allowed health care to be a matter of whether or not you had a job with health benefits, or enough money to pay for insurance yourself. That is unacceptable. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, and just as we believe that every child needs an education, we believe that everyone deserves to have access to quality medical care. (loud applause)