Presenting what he called a “blueprint for an economy built to last,” President Barack Obama focused heavily on strengthening American business and innovation in a State of the Union address that barely mentioned healthcare.
The lack of attention to the issue comes during a year when the U.S. Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the seminal 2010 healthcare law that many of the president’s supporters view as one of Obama’s greatest achievements as president.
Obama addressed healthcare within the context of the national deficit, which was a hotly debated issue on Capitol Hill throughout 2011. He noted that lawmakers have already agreed to more than $2 trillion in cuts and savings, but that more needs to be done. The president said because of tax-code loopholes, a quarter of all millionaires currently pay lower tax rates than millions of middle-class households.
“Do we want to keep these tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans?” Obama said. “Or do we want to keep investments in everything else—like education and medical research; a strong military and care for our veterans? Because if we’re serious about paying down our debt, we can’t do both.”
The president acknowledged that he is receptive to changes to the nation’s federal healthcare programs—but did not say what he would accept in that regard.
“As I told the speaker this summer, I am 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,” Obama said, although he did not offer further details.
Meanwhile, Obama took a shot at the nation’s insurers, saying he will not “go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage, or charge women differently than men.”