Hello, I'm Mark Pearson. With most analysts cautiously optimistic over prospects for the U.S. economy to recover from the depths of recession, President Obama this week set his sights on the administration's next priority -- health care reform.
According to Census Bureau estimates released Thursday, the number of people living in the United States without healthcare coverage between 2007 and 2008 rose to 46.3 million. Experts claim the number of "underinsured" also is on the rise.
The government data includes 36.8 million people identified as "U.S. citizens" and 9.5 million classified as "noncitizens" by the Census Bureau.
Meanwhile, the number of Americans covered by federal health programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veterans Administration also increased, corresponding to a decline in those with private coverage.
While economists and statisticians are at odds as to how many people have lost their health coverage since the economic recession really kicked in last summer, the president told Congress this week, it's time for action on health care reform.
President Barrack Obama: "I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last."
The President has been urging Congress to reform the health care system in America since he took office nearly nine months ago. Members of the U.S. House passed their version of the controversial measure in July, but Senators were unable to come to any agreement before the political body's summer recess.
President Barrack Obama: (page 8)"I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it's better politics to kill this plan than to improve it. (Applause.) I won't stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what's in this plan, we will call you out. (Applause.) And I will not -- and I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now."
After the speech, a few Republicans reacted by stating they were ready to work with Democrats to find a solution while others from the right-side of the aisle urged everyone to slow down and start-over. But hard-line opposition groups continued to bash the plan saying it was "on life-support" and not what the American people wanted.
Democratic Congressional members add that without adequate insurance, private citizens are left to foot-the-bill for medical care while businesses struggle to absorb health care costs and remain competitive.
Some of the controversy centers on how to pay for any kind of reform. House members say their version of the bill would spend no more on medical care in the next ten years than already projected by federal government accountants. Congressional Budget Office officials disagree, saying the medical measure would add $220 billion to the U.S. deficit over the same time period.
One of the major sticking points remains the President's position on a so-called "public option" allowing any citizen to be insured under a government-run plan. The majority of Republican Senators are standing fast against this and several other issues but Mr. Obama has begun offering incentives to get negotiations moving. These include having the public option controlled by a not-for-profit agency, placing limits on medical malpractice lawsuits, and offering a cooperative-based plan similar to one proposed by Senator Kent Conrad, a Democrat from North Dakota, and championed by fellow farm state-legislator Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa.
How rural American's are insured may well depend on the cooperative option. Next week, Market to Market will take an in-depth look at how cooperative health care is already operating and holding costs down in farm country.