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Carl Stokes, the first Black mayor of Cleveland, Ohio was born in 1927.

Obama on Health Care Offensive

POSTED: July 23, 2009, 12:00 am

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In a prime-time press conference, President Barack went on the offensive to try to regain control on the runaway debate in the nation’s capital on health care. In recent days, polls indicate the President is losing some public support on an issue that was central to his campaign and one that all surveys show is of foremost concern to Americans. As Mr. Obama’s approval rating has weakened, Republicans on Capitol Hill have gone on the offensive, working to paint the President’s proposal as an expensive experiment in socialized medicine that will endanger the health care of the currently insured and ruin the private health insurance system. Democrats have been struggling in recent days to counter negative reaction to a proposal to tax benefits.

With the 2010 mid-term elections looming, and control of Congress at stake, even some Democrats are urging the President to go slow, fearful of a public backlash. So-called conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats have been among the constituencies urging a go-slow approach. Initially, President Obama was hoping to have a bill ready by the summer Congressional recess that starts the end of the first week of August. Undeterred by critics, the President sounded determined that his health care proposal would not be derailed by the same current of politics that killed efforts during the Clinton administration.

“This isn’t about me. I have great health insurance, and so does every Member of Congress.”

It was clear Mr. Obama was all business as he turned the corridor and made his way to the lectern to address the press corps and field their answers. The President first addressed the issue in brief remarks, laying out the work his administration has undertaken to confront the recession. He reminded reporters gathered for the press conference that he inherited a deficit from the Bush administration but pointed out that his health care proposal would work to cut the deficit. Several times during the press, briefing President Obama made reference to the stress on ordinary Americans due to the unavailability of health insurance. He spoke of the letters he received from citizens concerned about health care eligibility and how Americans are desperate for health care reform. The President said, "So let me be clear: This isn’t about me. I have great health insurance, and so does every Member of Congress. This debate is about the letters I read when I sit in the Oval Office every day, and the stories I hear at town hall meetings. This debate is not a game for these Americans, and they cannot afford to wait for reform any longer. They are counting on us to get this done. They are looking to us for leadership. And we must not let them down. We will pass reform that lowers cost, promotes choice, and provides coverage that every American can count on. And we will do it this year."

As this debate ensues, Black voices outside of the public health community have been noticeably absent or very quiet. Health care disparities between Blacks and white continue to take their toll on the Black community. With limited options in many communities, wellness is taking a back seat to expensive emergency care, if any care at all. Too many Blacks are affected by preventable diseases; such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes, and cigarette related cancers. With health care coverage currently tied to employment, many Blacks are uninsured given the high rates of unemployment in the community. Though there is an obvious connection to the Black community on this issue, there has been little by way of non-health related organizations in the Black community engaged in this battle.

A bi-partisan Senate workgroup has been created to try to develop a consensus on health care legislation. It has its hands full as all Senators acknowledge the need for health care reform from differ on the best route to make it happen.



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