Policy-ish

Showtime For Health Care

It's time for President Obama to reveal his health cards, say some longtime supporters and even a few Republicans.

obama waves upon his return from vacation. i i

hide captionObama returns from vacation to find health-care overhaul stalled.

Mandel Ngan/Getty Images
obama waves upon his return from vacation.

Obama returns from vacation to find health-care overhaul stalled.

Mandel Ngan/Getty Images

A key Senate committee's failure to produce a health bill before the August recess, an onslaught of criticism at town hall meetings and slipping poll numbers have put in peril the president's goal of remaking the nation's health-care system.

What's a president to do? Propose his own legislation instead of standing back and cheering on Democratic proxies. "Obama's approval numbers would jump 10 points if Americans knew he was fully in charge," writes Bob Dole, retired Republican senator, in the Washington Post. If Obama introduces an explicit proposal of his own, Dole expects a few Republicans might even support planks of the plan.

Back in Obama's hometown, the Chicago Sun-Times reaches back into Illinois political history for insight into what the president might do. When he was running for the Senate in 2004, Obama, then a state senator, pushed for a task force to look at ways to expand health care in the Illinois, drawing fire from Republicans who branded it a step toward socialized medicine.

He rejected the charge but dropped some elements of the plan, eventually getting a bill passed in a party-line vote. The task force, convened in 2005, eventually recommended Illinois move toward a universal health system. But the proposal went nowhere, mired in an unpopular tax bill put forward by Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Still, political observers in Illinois say Obama overcame stiff resistance with a bill that got a lot, if not everything, he originally wanted on health care.

Despite the naysaying, Obama's health ambitions may be in better shape than some people think. The New York Times's John Harwood writes Obama "remains ahead of presidential predecessors who pursued the same objective."

There's already plenty of support for an individual insurance mandate, with government and employer subsidies; rules to prohibit exclusion of people from coverage because of pre-existing conditions; and improvements that would help people comparison shop for insurance.

Harwood figures the parts of an overhaul that remain disputed aren't likely to derail the president's plans so much as tweak particulars and affect how fast change comes about.

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