News of the Nation, 2009
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Health-Care Reform Takes Center Stage in Congress
President Obama Requests a Public Option
President Obama said early in 2009 that he believed a public option was the best route for health-care reform, claiming that the only way to reduce health-care costs across the nation and provide insurance for the millions of uninsured is to build a government insurance provider that would compete with the private, for-profit insurance giants. However, Obama was only a minor presence throughout much of the debate; he allowed Congress to make many of the major decisions in crafting the legislation. While both the House and the Senate drafted bill after bill, Democrats and Republicans fought tooth and nail about what provisions to include.
Senator's Untimely Death Coincides with Health-Care Debate
A lifelong liberal Democrat, Kennedy was known for his willingness to work across the aisle with Republicans and moderates alike. Such bipartisanship was sorely lacking in the health-care discussion in 2009.
A Party Divide, and a Party Divided
Democrats, for their part, were divided about the legislation. The liberal wing of the party, which had initially supported a single-payer health-care plan, demanded that a public option be included in any bill. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi announced early on in the debate that she would not support any bill without the public option. However, conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats disagreed about the public option, creating a divide in the party.
The Disintegration of Reform
While some Democrats and Republicans hailed the bill as a sign of compromise, others saw it as the disintegration of reform, a weak public option that would not benefit the millions of uninsured Americans already struggling to make ends meet during one of the worst recessions in U.S. history. Independent Senator Joe Leiberman, who caucuses with the Democrats, refused to sign any bill with the Medicare buy-in measure.
President Obama, who had planned to finish the health-care debate before Christmas, appealed to Congress to work out their differences and told the American people that a bill without the public option, but including the lifting of current insurance restrictions, would still be an effective beginning to the overhaul of the health-care industry. By the end of the year, many were left wondering if the reform so often discussed in the early part of the year would ever materialize.
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