Obama's Health Budget Raises Hopes, Worries
Monday, 02 March 2009

Many Americans are crossing their fingers that President Barack Obama's ambitious $634 billion plan to reform the US healthcare system -- funded by a mix of tax increases and Medicare spending cuts -- will succeed, but they are worried, too.

"I think it's a major first step. Other than when Hillary Clinton tried and failed, I haven't seen any other politician take the initiative to seriously get healthcare under control," said George Oparanozic, a 46-year-old history teacher at a community college, while grading papers a coffee shop in Oak Park, Illinois.

"It looks like it might happen this time," Oparanozic said, referring to the failed attempt by Hillary Clinton, when she was first lady in the 1990s, to expand health coverage during her husband Bill Clinton's administration.

Health reform has become a front-burner issue for many Americans as the ranks of the uninsured continue to swell. Some 46 million people -- 15 percent of Americans -- now lack health insurance, and a sinking economy and rising unemployment put many more at risk of losing employer-provided health coverage.

Carole Brazsky, 65, a retired social worker in Scottsdale, Arizona, found she had to work in a coffee shop after her investment savings shrank and she couldn't afford her health insurance premiums.

She welcomed Obama's move to broaden available care.

"I think healthcare (coverage) should be mandatory. I don't think there's a child in this country who should be without healthcare, and all people should have the availability of low cost healthcare," Brazsky said.


A Kaiser Family Foundation tracking poll released this week showed that 38 percent of Americans think health reform will improve their lives or those of their families, while 11 percent believe they would be worse off.

The biggest share -- 43 percent -- think healthcare reform would have no impact on them.

Kaiser's chief executive, Drew Altman, in a column said the percentage of Americans who believe they will benefit "needs to go up and cannot go down" if the Obama administration hopes to succeed in reforming the U.S. health system, which is the world's most costly even as it lags other nations in many quality measures.

Obama's budget outline for 2010, announced on Thursday, would finance expanded coverage for many uninsured Americans by building up a 10-year reserve fund, paid for with new taxes and greater efficiencies in the Medicare health program for the elderly.

Wealthier Americans -- those earning more than $250,000 a year -- may chafe at the higher taxes built into the budget to bring about health reform.

"Most people who work are going to pay for people who don't or cannot afford such luxuries (as health care)," said Tim Blitch, who does marketing for an investment firm in Atlanta and opposes nationalized health care.

But Gershon Mayer, 68, who operates a car service in Chicago, said health reform is long overdue.

"I don't like all this whining about how it's going to cost us later. In a way it's irrelevant, because if we don't do something it's going to cost us later, anyhow," Mayer said by telephone.

"But if we do this, we'll have something to show for it. Namely, hopefully better healthcare.

Source: bdnews24.com

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