Time for action is now

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 19, 2009

President Obama’s speech, Sept. 9, to Congress and the nation was long overdue, but it made a compelling case for national health care reform.

By the standards of presidential addresses, Mr. Obama’s remarks were commendably detailed. He rightly made clear that the road to financial disaster would be one that led not to change, but to continuation of the present inadequate and dysfunctional system. …

A more legitimate, and far thornier, issue is the cost of a new approach. The President insisted his plan, which includes subsidies and tax credits to help fund universal coverage, would cost $900 billion over the next decade and promised measures that would cut expenses if that estimate proved too optimistic.

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The numbers need to be looked at closer. Republicans are in no position to lecture anyone about deficits — they are, after all, the authors of the disastrous Bush tax cuts, two wars without a war tax and the unfunded Medicare prescription benefit — but deficits do trouble reasonable independents and moderate Democrats. Full and independent budget analysis, and a clearer explanation of the mechanisms that would reduce expenses or generate new revenue if there are cost overruns or inadequate savings under a new system, are essential.

However, things need to move quickly. …

The present system causes hardship and tragedy, and the time for action is now.

–The Courier-Journal