Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Will the State of the Union include Healthcare Proposals?

For those preparing to watch the State of the Union Tuesday evening, there will be many topics to listen for. Jobs, defense, bipartisanship, gun control, and the economy are all expected to get a mention as the President addresses Congress and the American people. The topic of healthcare, however, that has dominated news cycles in the past, is expected to be largely absent from the speech.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney did not shed any light on the contents of the speech during Monday’s White House press briefing, but Carney has said that the President sees the State of the Union as a follow up to his inaugural address last month. President Obama’s inauguration speech focused mostly on domestic and international issues, and only hinted at the President’s commitment to health coverage in general and the Medicare and Medicaid programs in particular. Carney also told reporters that the President’s address would focus on a jobs plan to include proposals necessary to help the middle class and the economy grow. Both of these statements worked to bolster the idea that specifics about healthcare policies would not be discussed.

A healthcare expert with the American College of Physicians told Medpage Today that while the President may allude to some healthcare objectives in the State of the Union, any direct mentions or specific goals on the topic would be surprising.

There are many reasons that healthcare could be glossed over in the State of the Union. One reason is that reform has already been passed. Some experts believe that the President should use his political capital to influence reform in other areas. Another reason could be budgetary. Any statement that the President makes could limit his attempts to work out a budget deal with congressional leaders in the upcoming months. Finally, some conservative organizations are saying that President Obama wants to downplay his healthcare overhaul, the Affordable Care Act, in case there are negative effects from policies slated to go into effect this year.

Still, there are those who would like to see the President acknowledge the topic. There are still hot button issues to be resolved, such as looming changes to the Medicare or Medicaid programs or state health insurance marketplaces opening for enrollment later this year. Some are just hoping for a general statement by the President, continuing the dialogue about the importance of healthcare.

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