Obama urged to overhaul healthcare, stat
Groups representing retirees, business and labor call for
comprehensive healthcare reform in the new administration's
first 100 days.
By Noam N. Levey
November 11, 2008
Reporting from Washington -- Four leading advocacy groups
representing business, labor and retirees are starting a
campaign today to press Barack Obama to enact comprehensive
healthcare reform, upping the pressure on the president-elect to
tackle the issue quickly after he takes office.
In a letter to Obama, the Business Roundtable, the National
Federation of Independent Businesses, AARP and the Service
Employees International Union urge that a healthcare overhaul be
a priority in the administration's first 100 days.
The groups plan to spend nearly $1 million to publicize their
cause in newspaper and television advertising in coming weeks.
"What we are doing is reminding not just the president but the
Congress as well that . . . this remains one of the most
important issues facing the country," said Business Roundtable
President John Castellani. "We need to now follow through."
In their letter, the groups link healthcare reform with the
nation's bleak economic conditions.
"Addressing skyrocketing healthcare costs is a critical
component of stabilizing household, national and global
economies," the letter said. "Inaction undermines the economic
security of our families; limits the productivity of our
workforce; stagnates job creation and wage growth; and threatens
to crowd out investments in energy, education and
Obama made healthcare reform a central plank of his presidential
campaign, pledging a sweeping effort to expand coverage and
But since his victory, he has not indicated how he plans to
proceed with an overhaul that could cost hundreds of billions of
dollars and spark an intense political battle.
In a national radio address Saturday, Obama made a general
reference to healthcare reform, listing it with energy,
education and tax relief as "key priorities."
Several senior House Democrats have indicated they are uneasy
about tackling broad healthcare legislation in the first months
of the new Congress.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has talked about an
effort to expand the popular State Children's Health Insurance
Program, a more limited initiative that President Bush vetoed
But there are growing calls elsewhere in the Democratic Party
for swift action.
Sens. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who
chair the committees that would probably put together any
healthcare legislation, have urged Obama to move quickly.
On Wednesday, Baucus plans to unveil a plan for universal health
The Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, one of the
nation's most powerful unions and an Obama supporter, is
mobilizing millions of people nationwide to press
for aggressive action on healthcare.
"We are going to run this like it is a presidential campaign,
but our candidate will be healthcare reform," said Dennis
Rivera, chairman of SEIU Healthcare. "It will be very
disheartening if there is no action."
Castellani of the Business Roundtable said he hoped a
comprehensive overhaul bill could be on the floor of the House
and Senate within 100 days of Obama's inauguration on Jan. 20.
In 2007, the four advocacy groups lobbying Obama formed the
Divided We Fail coalition to raise the profile of the healthcare
issue in the presidential campaign.
The unusual partnership -- linking labor and business groups
with the politically potent AARP -- secured pledges from Obama
and more than two-thirds of the members of the new Congress to
work across the aisles on the issue.
"We can't allow campaign promises of bipartisanship and action
to fall apart simply because the election is over," said Nancy
LeaMond, AARP's executive vice president. "Millions of Americans
are still struggling to find affordable healthcare."
Levey is a Times staff writer.