Obama’s op-ed

OBAMA’S OP-ED…. President Obama has a 1,200-word op-ed in the New York Times today, making his case for health care reform. For those who’ve heard his pitch in weekly addresses and town-hall meetings, the pitch will no doubt seem familiar. There were, however, a couple of angles worth noting.

The lede, for example, notes that there’s been plenty of “media attention” focused on “the loudest voices” in the national debate. “What we haven’t heard,” the president added, “are the voices of the millions upon millions of Americans who quietly struggle every day with a system that often works better for the health-insurance companies than it does for them.”

The specific phrasing here is pretty interesting. By saying we “haven’t heard” those who need to see the system reformed, while they “quietly” struggle, Obama — perhaps intentionally, perhaps not — is suggesting there’s a “silent majority” for a new generation. This time, it wants progressive policy changes.

The president’s op-ed also focuses the argument to four points, or as the op-ed puts it, the “four main ways the reform we’re proposing will provide more stability and security to every American.”

First, if you don’t have health insurance, you will have a choice of high-quality, affordable coverage for yourself and your family — coverage that will stay with you whether you move, change your job or lose your job.

Second, reform will finally bring skyrocketing health care costs under control, which will mean real savings for families, businesses and our government. We’ll cut hundreds of billions of dollars in waste and inefficiency in federal health programs like Medicare and Medicaid and in unwarranted subsidies to insurance companies that do nothing to improve care and everything to improve their profits.

Third, by making Medicare more efficient, we’ll be able to ensure that more tax dollars go directly to caring for seniors instead of enriching insurance companies. This will not only help provide today’s seniors with the benefits they’ve been promised; it will also ensure the long-term health of Medicare for tomorrow’s seniors. And our reforms will also reduce the amount our seniors pay for their prescription drugs.

Lastly, reform will provide every American with some basic consumer protections that will finally hold insurance companies accountable. A 2007 national survey actually shows that insurance companies discriminated against more than 12 million Americans in the previous three years because they had a pre-existing illness or condition. The companies either refused to cover the person, refused to cover a specific illness or condition or charged a higher premium.

We will put an end to these practices. Our reform will prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of your medical history. Nor will they be allowed to drop your coverage if you get sick. They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or in a lifetime. And we will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses. No one in America should go broke because they get sick.

That last line — “No one in America should go broke because they get sick” — is a keeper. We heard it yesterday, and I suspect we’ll be hearing it quite a bit more.

In fact, it also seems that the White House message is getting tighter and more focused as the debate progresses. Ideally, it would have started out this way, and it’s possible that for some Americans, the rhetorical shift is too late. But for those who are on the fence or hoping to make up their minds as the summer ends and congressional action heats up, the president and his team have a stronger pitch now than they did a couple of months ago.