A shift in focus

A SHIFT IN FOCUS…. Not surprisingly, President Obama devoted his weekly multi-media address to health care reform today — the sixth address to emphasize reform in the last eight weeks.

But what I found noteworthy about today’s was the target audience of the pitch. In his five-and-a-half minute message, the president didn’t mention the word “uninsured.” In fact, the address wasn’t geared towards the tens of millions of Americans without coverage at all. Instead, Obama talked almost exclusively about the importance of reform on businesses and employers. The president, apparently hoping to drive his point home, referenced the words “small business” 11 times in his message this morning.*

“I recently heard from a small business owner from New Jersey who wrote that he employs eight people and provides health insurance for all of them,” Obama said, perhaps aware of the media complaints that his arguments aren’t anecdotal enough. “But his policy goes up at least 20 percent each year, and today, it costs almost $1,400 per family per month — his highest business expense besides his employees’ salaries. He’s already had to let two of them go, and he may be forced to eliminate health insurance altogether.

“He wrote, simply: ‘I am not looking for free health care, I would just like to get my premiums reduced enough to be able to afford it.’ Day after day, I hear from people just like him.”

The president’s pitch was straightforward, and a direct refutation of Republican complaints that reform will somehow hurt small businesses. Obama made it clear the opposite is true.

In fact, the message this morning was released the same time as a new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers on the impact of reform on small business and the ways in which the costs of status quo are crushing employers.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the White House felt the need to push in this direction because of polling data suggesting the public is concerned about the implications of reform on employers, especially small businesses. It’s worth it, then, for the president to explain that opponents of reform have it backwards.

* edited for clarity