Healthcare gets short shrift in State of the Union, GOP response

By Tom Sullivan
10:40 AM

Neither President Obama, in his State of the Union Address, nor Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, in his Republican response, said very much about healthcare.

In a speech filled with interweaving themes about an America that’s broken – and creating an America built to last – President Obama, as expected, did not address the issue of health reform in any great detail.

[See also: Obama gives HIT the nod in State of the Union speech.]

“I will not back down from protecting our kids from mercury poisoning or making sure that our food is safe and our water is clean," said Obama. "I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny your coverage, or charge women differently from men."

Circling back around, the president later touched on healthcare again, briefly.

“I'm prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long-term costs of Medicare and Medicaid and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors,” he said.

A final mention – and perhaps his most inspirational line of the evening – wrapped health, education and other regulation reform together.

“I'm a Democrat," said Obama. "But I believe what Republican Abraham Lincoln believed: that government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more. That's why my education reform offers more competition and more control for schools and states. That's why we're getting rid of regulations that don't work. That's why our healthcare law relies on a reformed private market, not a government program.”

That last sentence was surely crafted with Americans who oppose the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) in mind.

But while Mitch Daniels began the GOP response on a tone of "loyal opposition" he did not attack the president over healthcare, neither with regard to PPACA in general, nor the State of the Union speech specifically.

[See also: Bush presses healthcare IT in State of the Union speech.]

In a biting speech that David Brooks of The New York Times described later on PBS as Daniels at his most charismatic, Daniels said that, after fixing the financial situation, “there is a second item on our national must-do list: We must unite to save the safety net. Medicare and Social Security have served us well, and that must continue. But after half and three quarters of a century, respectively, it's not surprising that they need some repairs. We can preserve them unchanged and untouched for those now in or near retirement, but we must fashion a new, affordable safety net so future Americans are protected, too.”

Daniels was clear that doing so would require substantive change.

“The mortal enemies of Social Security and Medicare are those who, in contempt of the plain arithmetic, continue to mislead Americans that we should change nothing,” he said. “Listening to them much longer will mean that these proud programs implode, and take the American economy with them. It will mean that coming generations are denied the jobs they need in their youth and the protection they deserve in their later years.”

Naturally, both Obama and Daniels spoke a lot about jobs, though not specifically about new healthcare jobs. And while the healthcare field is widely-seen to be on the verge of creating tens if not hundreds of thousands of new jobs – including doctors, nurses and health IT specialists – late last week the American Hospital Association warned that the proposed $20 billion Medicare cuts could result in as many as 278,000 healthcare jobs being lost.

For more of our primaries coverage, visit the Elections 2012 page.

Election 2012