Letter to the Prez: Time to Yank Some Chains on Health Care

An open letter to President Barack Obama:

Dear Mr. President,

Your poll numbers are dipping. Your credibility is eroding. As you no doubt know, your health care reform plan is in big trouble and did not make it out of the House or Senate by the August recess. Now you'll be lucky to sign meaningful reform by year's end.

Meanwhile, small businesses nationwide are wondering if anything helpful — in terms of affordability — will ever pass the Congress. It's still possible, but only if YOU yank some chains within your own political party.

For the past couple of months, you have been fully engaged in health care reform. You began in my hometown, Green Bay, by promising that nobody would have to give up their private insurance or change their doctor unless they chose to. You have since repeated that pledge over and over again.

Apparently, members of your own party missed the memo because there are provisions in the reform bills — and I'm not even talking about the controversial public plan that a majority of our online readers view as creeping socialism — that would make it very difficult for private insurance companies to compete. In other words, they have crafted a plan that undermines your pledge.

For example, one provision of the House bill prevents insurance companies from writing new coverage plans after a certain date. Mr. President, this consumer considers that restraint of trade.

This is your first real domestic leadership test. You MUST come through on this one, but let me remind you of something. This is health care, the most important consumer service of them all. People want choices with such a vital service, and any reform plan has to deliver on that.

Since you have delegated much of the responsibility for crafting reform to Congress, you find yourself in the position of an athletic coach that has delegated too much responsibility to his assistant coaches. Well Coach, it's about halftime in the great health care contest and your team, an overwhelming favorite with a filibuster-proof majority in the U.S. Senate, is getting thumped. Your assistants are not paying attention to detail, and that is reflected in a sloppy legislative performance.

I sense that you're a charming, engaging guy and that tearing into people doesn't come naturally to you, but unless you are somehow complicit in this double cross (and I want to give you the benefit of the doubt), it's time to peel the paint off the wall of that Democratic Party locker room, I mean cloak room, and get them to follow your stated health care game plan. To use a football analogy that a Chicago-bred politician can relate to, you need to go "Papa Bear" on these people.


Joseph Vanden Plas, a fan of REAL reform