First Lady Says US Health Care Is Unacceptable

Michelle Obama, speaking as a wife, mother and daughter — but not as a policymaker like a previous first lady — urged women on Friday to join her husband's fight to overhaul health care.

Her 23-minute speech, embraced by a receptive female audience at the White House, contributed to the administration's all-out public relations push on health care. President Barack Obama will resume it Sunday with appearances on five morning news shows, followed by a visit Monday to CBS's David Letterman show.

Mrs. Obama focused on the White House's efforts to expand coverage and block insurers' ability to drop customers who get seriously ill. But she stopped well short of the deeply involved, hands-on role played by another first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, nearly two decades ago.

In urging passage of "my husband's plan," Mrs. Obama stuck mainly to the themes and backdrops of more traditional first ladies, including Laura Bush. She hugged three female cancer survivors before taking the stage, and spoke repeatedly from the perspective of a mother and wife who sympathized with less-wealthy women's plights.

"For two years on the campaign trail, this was what I heard from women, that they were being crushed, crushed by the current structure of our health care," the first lady said.

Her Friday speech was part of the White House's strategy of keeping Michelle Obama on a middle path. She walks a line between purely ceremonial events typical of, say, a Pat Nixon, and the hefty policymaking role assumed 16 years ago by Clinton, a fellow Ivy League law school graduate.

Clinton, now the secretary of state, was hailed by feminists for taking the lead in crafting a comprehensive plan to overhaul health care when her husband took office in 1993. Bill Clinton famously said voters were getting "two for the price of one."

Politically, however, the effort failed. "Hillarycare," as detractors called it, was drafted in secret and thrust upon Congress and the public as an all-or-nothing proposition.

Its collapse contributed to Republicans' takeover of Congress in 1994, and Hillary Clinton never again played such a high-profile policyshaping role in her husband's presidency.

Michelle Obama, a former hospital executive, has the brains, experience and charm to play a plausible part in helping her husband craft and sell his health care agenda. But the Obamas absorbed many lessons from the Clintons' earlier travails, and the restrained, selective use of the first lady's appeal is among them.

Some political strategists think they are hitting the mark just fine.

Targeting Mrs. Obama's involvement mainly to women "is effective, because she depoliticizes it for people," said Jennifer Palmieri, a former Clinton administration aide who closely tracks health care issues. The first lady is fully credible as a mother and wife, Palmieri said, and she speaks directly to women who make difficult health care decisions for their families but are sometimes turned off by the fiery politics surrounding the debate.

"She can lift the conversation out of the Congress," Palmieri said.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton testified before Congress about her husband's health care agenda, tying herself intimately to the rough politics that eventually sank it.

Mrs. Obama was preceded Friday by three women with emotional stories about losing health coverage while battling cancer and other challenges.

"The status quo is unacceptable," the first lady said in her remarks. "It is holding women and families back."

Women are "disproportionately affected by this issue because of the roles that we play in families," she said. And women "are more likely to work part-time, or to work in small companies or businesses that don't provide any insurance at all."

Mrs. Obama urged women to call members of Congress and to rebut false claims about her husband's health care proposals. "No longer can we sit by and watch the debate take on a life of its own," she said.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the first lady is popular, "and if she can help out, we're happy to have her." But he said he knew of no plans to have her speak again on health care in the near future.

Questioned Friday on health care at the Brookings Institution, Hillary Clinton predicted that the Obamas will succeed because conditions have grown worse for many Americans in recent years.

"Now, will it be everything any one person would want? No, of course not, that's not the nature of the compromise required in a legislative setting," she said.

Vice President Joe Biden will step into the health care debate next week, with scheduled speeches to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners on Tuesday, and at a Washington-area retirement community on Wednesday.

Meanwhile Friday, the Democratic National Committee announced and e-mail campaign, "Call 'Em Out," that asks party activists to push back when critics make accusations the party considers false or misleading.


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  • by Goodgracious Location: USA on Nov 3, 2009 at 03:42 PM
    Well the pendulum of hypocrisy has swung from one side to the other.I can only believe what I read.Unless some of you are using other posting names,I see a big diversion of original reasons for not having health reform.It seems odd that some would not want it because of giving others handouts and NOW,we see they have feelings for their underprivilegded citzens.Explantion;they cannot afford it.There can only be two reasons.1-being somebody don't want to have to pay for insurance because some insurers have been picking up the tab for their non paying posters and for no2-if # 1 is not the reason,I honestly haven't thought it ,but it MUST BE RACISM.It's pretty obvious from reading the posts,that many that oppose this plan just can't take it.And yes
  • by John Location: New Bern on Nov 3, 2009 at 03:23 PM
    Hilda Location: Chocowinity,NC on Sep 22, 2009 at 07:53 AM I lost my job 5 years ago .My premiums were 495.00 dollars a month at time of termination.After 18 months for my wife and myself my insurance went to 998.00 a month.500 deductable for each of us.My salary was 31,000.I found another job shortly making less money,needless to say I lost my insurance. Because of a pre-existing condition I could not find anyone to insure my wife and myself.Today I am 55 and have no insurance.The medical bills have not stopped.Hilda,first everyone is screaming;that health care is free and a burden on the taxpayers;now you are saying it is to much.Looks like to me his plan is going to be better than what I have.Thanks for selling me on a plan that I was opposed against.Are you one of those have ever had to borrow money against everything you worked for to pay medical bills?
  • by Anonymous on Sep 22, 2009 at 09:00 AM
    Democratic fundraiser with links to Obama is charged in pyramid scheme. Hassan Nemazee in an alleged $292 million pyramid scheme that spanned more than a decade, saying he used some of the proceeds to support election campaigns. Nemazee served as national finance chairman for Clinton's 2008 presidential campaign and later raised money for President Barack Obama after her primary defeat. WOW, more fraud for Obama. ACORN getting votes for him, now this. I see a trend.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Sep 22, 2009 at 05:19 AM
    Lavon, hows that hopey changey thing going for ya? Well your president vindicated Americans last night on David Letterman. So, if you accuse us of racisim I will remind you he was "black before the election". Meaning, he knows whites put him there. The first part of your paragraph is about typical of your posts.
  • by Hilda Location: Chocowinity,NC on Sep 22, 2009 at 04:53 AM
    You will pay for Obamas Socialist Health plan it is not free Americans. Nothing is free. The poor will still have Medicaid. But for those earning more, the required premiums will be worse than any tax increase. For example, CBO estimates that when the program is fully implemented -- by 2016 -- an individual earning $32,400 a year would have to pay $4,100 in premiums before getting any subsidy. With deductibles and co-payments, he'd have to shell out $5,600 a year, or 17.3 percent of his income. A family of four, making $80,000 a year, would have to pay about $10,500 in premiums alone -- with deductibles and co-payments, up to $15,000 or just under 20 percent of income. And if they don't buy insurance, they'll face federal fines that begin to approach these same premium levels. They won't be able to buy what they truly need -- catastrophic-only coverage at a lower premium -- that won't satisfy ObamaCare's "minimum insurance" mandate. Pay $$$$$ you will Obama voters
  • by Alice Location: NC on Sep 22, 2009 at 04:48 AM
    Lavon - Thats about right thats the change Obama gave us "Yah Yah Yah, blah blah blah" That says a lot Lavon?
  • by Lavon Location: Goldsboro on Sep 22, 2009 at 03:54 AM
    Yah Yah Yah, blah blah blah, that's all we get from you Wolfgang and Snake Oil but your saying nothing. You two would be better off like Tom Delay and go dancing with the stars or something
  • by Wolfgang Location: Chocowinty,NC on Sep 21, 2009 at 06:09 PM
    What has President Obama done? That changed Obama promised all Americans. How has your day to day life changed?. I still have not got my redistrubtion check from the Rich People in an election promise Obama said we would get, did you? Fox News told us Americans that,that promise is a joke. It sounded good to help him get elected. The Change you got he Bankrupt the USA, and your property taxes are still going up. Now thats change.
  • by Obama Snake Oil Co Location: Washington on Sep 21, 2009 at 03:37 PM
    Anonymous on Sep 21, 2009 at 12:05 PM, it will about how long it takes to get treatment. A lot of people have looked at the bill and found holes so big and changes so bad, that people went to protest it like I have never seen in my lifetime, I mean, when was the last time moderates and conservatives marched on Washington. Yet, Michelle has a denial thing going on where she doesn't see why would everybody be against it? Let me make this clear, I am for reform, reform doesn't mean a complete change of healthcare, it means fix what we have, legislate what we need. Open your doors and talk with insurance companies, providers and government. Let them come up with a solution that works, don't dictate a government program that neither houses want for themselves. If it ain't good enough for them, you better explain what you are trying to force down our throats as quick as you can. When you get Obama trying to push this, it gas to stink as he doesn't tell the truth.
  • by Anonymous on Sep 21, 2009 at 09:05 AM
    What does Michelle Obama know about the "working poor" neither her or her husband has had an honest hard working job in their lives. Her kids get head of the line privelages over any other kid. They go a nice private school that the tax payers pay for. I pay my insurance for MY FAMILY, not someone else's. How long do you think it will take the government to pay the doctors for their service under the healthcare reform? Has any of the dealerships received their money from "cash for clunkers" yet?
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