Thursday, July 30, 2009

Open for Questions: Three Conversations on Health Insurance Reform Today


President Obama will be holding two town hall meetings on health insurance reform today, and the Council of Economic Advisors Chair Christina Romer will be answering questions on small business and health care as well.

The President's first stop is Broughton High School, in Raleigh, North Carolina. The event is scheduled to begin at 11:55 AM Eastern.

At 3:00 PM Eastern, Christina Romer will take part in a live video chat to answer questions from small business owners.

Finally, at 4:15 PM Eastern President Obama will host a town hall in Bristol, Virginia.

All three events today will be carried live here on

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The President Highlights Health Insurance Consumer Protections


Speaking to North Carolinians at a town hall in Raleigh, the President made clear why health reform will benefit all American: "if you’ve got health insurance, then the reform we’re proposing will also help you because it will provide you more stability and more security. Because the truth is we have a system today that works well for the insurance industry, but it doesn’t work well for you." We all know the horror stories, which is why the health insurance consumer protections that are part of reform are so important.

At the town hall, the President outlined these core principles:
Let me be specific. We will stop insurance companies from denying you coverage because of your medical history. (Applause.) I've told this story before -- I will never forget watching my own mother, as she fought cancer in her final days, worrying about whether her insurer would claim her illness was a preexisting condition so they could wiggle out of paying for her coverage. How many of you have worried about the same thing? (Applause.) A lot of people have gone through this. Many of you have been denied insurance or heard of someone who was denied insurance because they got -- had a preexisting condition. That will no longer be allowed with reform. (Applause.) We won't allow that. (Applause.) We won't allow that.
With reform, insurance companies will have to abide by a yearly cap on how much you can be charged for your out-of-pocket expenses. No one in America should go broke because of an illness. (Applause.)
We will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies -- (applause) -- eye and foot exams for diabetics, so we can avoid chronic illnesses that cost not only lives, but money. (Applause.)
No longer will insurance companies be allowed to drop or water down coverage for someone who's become seriously ill. That's not right, it's not fair. (Applause.) We will stop insurance companies from placing arbitrary caps on the coverage you can receive in a given year or in a lifetime. (Applause.)
So my point is, whether or not you have health insurance right now, the reforms we seek will bring stability and security that you don't have today -- reforms that will become more urgent and more urgent with each passing year.
So, in the end, the debate about reform boils down to a choice between two approaches. The first is projected to double your health care costs over the next decade, make millions more Americans uninsured, bankrupt state and federal governments, and allow insurance companies to run roughshod over consumers. That's one option. That's called the status quo. That's what we have right now.
I want everybody to understand this. If we do nothing, I can almost guarantee you your premiums will double over the next 10 years because that's what they did over the last 10 years. It will go up three times faster than your wages, so a bigger and bigger chunk of your paycheck will be going into health insurance. It will eat into the possibility of you getting a raise on your job because your employer is going to be looking and saying, I can't afford to give you a raise because my health care costs just went up 10, 20, 30 percent. And Medicare, which seniors rely on, is going to become more and more vulnerable. On current projections, Medicare will be in the red in less than 10 years.
So that's the status quo. When everybody goes around saying, why is Obama taking on health care -- that's the answer. That's one option. I don't like that option. You shouldn't either. (Applause.) That plan doesn't sound too good. That's the health care system we have right now.
You can read more about the President’s eight health insurance consumer protections here, and figure out how reform will directly affect you and your family.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Obama forges ahead with health care push


(CNN) -- President Obama took his push to overhaul health care to a national audience Wednesday night, but he gave little assurance that Congress would agree to a plan before its August recess.

With a voice of urgency, Obama said that if nothing is done, health care costs will double in the next decade and more Americans will lose their coverage. He again tried to lay out how the overhaul of health care fits into his broader economic strategy.

But what the president didn't do is convince the public that reform is on the way, analysts said.

Obama had given Congress a deadline of August for sending him a health care bill. He backed off such a firm due date this week, saying, "We will do it this year."

Asked Wednesday if he's worried that the effort will collapse if there's a delay until the fall, Obama said, "If you don't set deadlines in this town, things don't happen."

"The default position is inertia, because doing something always creates some people who are unhappy. There's always going to be some interest out there that decides, 'You know what? The status quo is working for me a little bit better,' " he said.

David Gergen, a senior political analyst for CNN, said there's a "real fear" in the White House that if nothing is done before the August recess, "support will start to crumble."
"In some ways, I think tonight was a holding action to hold the public in place," he said.

"It is pivotal to his presidency. It's his single most important domestic initiative. He didn't run to fix the economy -- he inherited that. But he ran to fix health care."

Republican critics such as former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani agreed that health care reform is a major priority, but he said it's not something that should be done in haste.

Giuliani said reform is "one of the most important things we can do, which is why we have to do it right and why it shouldn't be rushed. If the plan is such a good plan ... it can stand the test of time. I don't understand this big rush to try to get it done. This is a very complicated thing," he said.

As Obama pushes back against critics of his health care plan, a national poll out Tuesday indicates that half the country disapproves of how he's handling the issue.

Forty-four percent of those questioned in the survey approve of how Obama's dealing with health care, while 50 percent do not, according to the USA Today/Gallup Poll.

James Carville, a Democratic strategist and CNN contributor, said Obama's prime-time appeal probably wasn't much of a game-changer.

"Honestly, I doubt if you're going to see the numbers move. You'll see the numbers really move a lot, if he succeeds, and he'll do a lot better. If he fails, it will be a lot worse than 50 [percent] disapprove," he said.

"I don't know if one press conference is going to change anything. I've said all along I thought this was like an NBA game midway in the third quarter. Tune in when there's three minutes left to go, and it will be fast and furious."

Republican strategist and CNN contributor Bay Buchanan argued that Obama hurt himself with what she considered a "rambling" news conference.

"I really looked at this objectively because he is a very fine communicator, and this is a strong suit of his, to get out there and sell a policy. I thought it was somewhat rambling, anecdotal defense of a really major policy," Buchanan said.

"It was hard to keep your mind focused as he went on and on in a lot of details. I don't think it was compelling or convincing, and so I think he hurt himself tonight because I think they really needed a real push, at least to stop the erosion of public support."

Obama on Thursday will forge ahead with his health care push. Following up on his news conference, the president takes his case to the road, touring the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio and then hosting a town hall meeting on health care at a local high school.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, said Wednesday she intends to move forward with a health care vote this summer and indicated Democrats may keep the House in session past its scheduled summer break if needed.

Pelosi said that leaders were making progress responding to demands from conservative "Blue Dog" Democrats who have vowed to block legislation from passing a key committee unless major changes are made.

But Rep. Mike Ross of Arkansas, a leading Blue Dog negotiator on the committee, issued a statement Wednesday that seemed to lower expectations a bit: "We are making progress; however, we have a long way to go," Ross said.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Obama shows he doesn't do the casual look


President Obama may look sharp in a suit, but when it comes to jeans, he has committed a cardinal fashion crime

Simon Chilver

  • The Guardian, Thursday 23 July 2009

  • Article history

    Barack Obama dresses down - but does he do it correctly? Photograph: Mark Cunningham/Getty Images North America

    Barack Obama has committed a cardinal fashion crime: he has worn bad jeans. Teamed with a sporty, zippy jacket and trainers, the offending items appeared in an outfit he wore this month at the All-Star baseball game in St Louis. Ever since, said jeans have been under attack: too short, too wide, too high-waisted. In the US, they've even been dubbed "mom jeans" – not, presumably, an appropriate category for a handsome president to be seen in. Speaking of this denim debacle on NBC's Today show, Obama said, "Michelle – she looks fabulous. I'm a little frumpy."

    Mrs O has talked before about how her husband doesn't really "get" fashion, which, let's be honest, is fine. After all, he might have better things to worry about than the depth of his jeans crotch.

    Yet in more formal settings, Obama's style has been appealing in its simplicity: suits cut in a classic shape to emphasise his athletic frame, no fashion trickery required. His killer move was the rolling up of sleeves, which immediately made him seem modern and believable. But the off-duty wardrobe has been an uphill struggle. He favours dark polo shirts, which can be perfectly acceptable but, on him, always seem a tad too big and billowy of sleeve. Tucking them into chinos is fine in theory, but they then bag unflatteringly about his middle. Like the iffy jeans, his trouser choices can veer toward ill-fitting, particularly when they flap around the ankles. His accessorising is hit and miss: classic belts – nice; baseball caps – oh dear.

    But it's the shoes – a catalogue of errors – where things need serious attention. Wearing jogger-style trainers with jeans is messy. Worse still, on a trip to Egypt, he wore a shoe-trainer hybrid, the naffest shoe style ever created, with cotton slacks. His adoption of a pair of man-sandals recently at least showed adventurousness, but even this didn't quite work.

    Obama explained that the much-derided baseball-match jeans were chosen because they were "comfortable", adding that "for those of you who want your president to look great in his tight jeans, I'm sorry, but I'm not the guy". Well, thank God. The idea of Obama Shoreditching it up is frankly worse than the jeans he wore to the baseball game in the first place

  • Monday, July 20, 2009

    Obama challenges GOP critics on health care


    WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama pushed back hard against Republican critics of his health care overhaul plan Monday, dismissing the "politics of the moment" marked by GOP comparisons of his efforts to socialism.

    Struggling to revamp the nation's $2.4 trillion health care system, the president gave ground on his tight timetable for passage of sweeping legislation.

    Obama's strong words came just hours after Republicans ratcheted up their criticism of the president and congressional Democrats. Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican Party, likened Obama's plans to socialism and argued that the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and key congressional committee chairmen are part of a "cabal" that wants to implement government-run health care.

    The White House also faced troubling news in the latest polling, with approval of Obama's handling of health care slipping.

    "We can't afford the politics of delay and defeat when it comes to health care," Obama said after meeting with doctors, nurses and other health care workers at Children's National Medical Center. "Not this time. Not now. There are too many lives and livelihoods at stake."

    Without mentioning his critic by name, the president recounted South Carolina Republican Sen. Jim DeMint's comment that stopping Obama's bid for health care overhaul could be the president's "Waterloo," a reference to the site of Napoleon's bitter defeat in 1815.

    "This isn't about me," Obama responded. "This isn't about politics. This is about a health care system that is breaking America's families, breaking America's businesses and breaking America's economy."

    Striking a more populist tone than in past remarks, the president complained that "health insurance companies and their executives have reaped windfall profits from a broken system."

    "Let's fight our way through the politics of the moment," Obama said. "Let's pass reform by the end of this year."

    That reflects a shift in a timetable he has stressed repeatedly. Obama had said previously that he wanted the House and Senate to vote on legislation before lawmakers leave town for their August recess, with a comprehensive bill for him to sign in October.

    "I want this done now. Now, if there are no deadlines, nothing gets done in this town," Obama told PBS's "The NewsHour." "If somebody comes to me and says 'It's basically done, it's going to spill over by a few days or a week,' you know, that's different."

    He said too much of the focus has been on what has not been accomplished instead of on a coalition of health companies, professionals and constituents. Later in the day, aides organized a conference call for Obama to speak with liberal bloggers and rally them behind the White House's broad outline for overhaul.

    "One of the things that I know the blogs are best at is debunking myths that can slip through a lot of the traditional media outlets and a lot of the conventional wisdom," he said, according to audio of the call posted on Web sites. "And that is why you are going to play such an important role in our success in the weeks to come."

    Steele accused Obama of conducting a risky experiment that will hurt the economy and force millions to drop their current coverage.

    "Obama-Pelosi want to start building a colossal, closed health care system where Washington decides. Republicans want and support an open health care system where patients and doctors make the decisions," Steele said in a speech at the National Press Club.

    Asked whether Obama's health care plan represented socialism, Steele responded: "Yes. Next question."

    Obama has said he does not favor a government-run health care system. Legislation taking shape in the House envisions private insurance companies selling coverage in competition with the government.

    The president is struggling to advance his trademark health care proposal after a period of evident progress. Two of three House committees have approved their portions of the bill, while one of two Senate panels have acted. A Washington Post-ABC News survey released Monday shows approval of Obama's handling of health care overhaul slipping below 50 percent for the first time.

    The president, who spent most of last week making his plea for health care overhaul, was pressing his case hard again this week, first at the children's hospital, and later this week in a prime-time news conference Wednesday and a town hall in Ohio on Thursday. On Tuesday he planned to meet with Democrats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the one House committee that hasn't yet acted on the bill.

    Energy and Commerce members worked into the night Monday, but besides numerous objections raised by Republicans the committee has a bloc of conservative Democrats who've raised objections to some elements of the legislation. However, there were signs Monday that some of their concerns were being addressed. Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., who with other anti-abortion Democrats had threatened to oppose the bill over concerns it would fund abortions, said a compromise was being worked out.

    Meanwhile Pelosi is floating an idea that could make proposed tax increases more palatable to fiscally conservative Democrats. She would like to limit income tax increases to couples making more than $1 million a year and individuals making more than $500,000, Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said Monday. The bill passed by the House Ways and Means Committee last week would increase taxes on couples making as little as $350,000 a year and individuals annually making as little as $280,000.

    In the Senate, negotiators seeking a bipartisan compromise reported progress Monday. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said there's tentative agreement on four big policy issues out of a list of about one dozen. He would not elaborate.

    Separately, senators are discussing a variation on the idea of taxing high-cost health insurance benefits. The proposal would not raise taxes on individuals and families. Instead, insurers and employers who offer the benefits would pay the tax. Advocates say such a tax would encourage people to be thriftier consumers of health care. Prospects are uncertain.

    Obama and Democratic leaders face a new batch of ads.

    Republican officials said they were supplementing Steele's speech with a round of television advertising designed to oppose government-run health care. The 30-second commercial, titled "Grand Experiment," criticizes recent government aid to the auto industry and banks as "the biggest spending spree in our history" and warns similarly of "a risky experiment with our health care."

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the nation's largest business group, planned to announce ads of its own Tuesday criticizing the government-run insurance proposal, saying it would threaten employer-provided coverage.

    R. Bruce Josten, the group's top lobbyist, said the campaign would begin with a $2 million budget and include newspaper and Internet ads, as well as efforts to drum up public support across the country. The ads will appear in Capitol Hill newspapers beginning Tuesday, then in coming days in newspapers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Colorado, Nebraska and other states where lawmakers are wavering.

    Citing liberal and labor groups that have run ads criticizing Democrats who have not endorsed the health care effort, Josten said, "It's time to push back a little bit."

    Separately, the insurance industry, which challenged then-President Bill Clinton's health care effort in the early 1990s, launched a $1.4 million ad campaign, its first TV ads of this year's health care fight. The multimillion-dollar campaign, being aired nationally on cable stations, restates the industry's support for an overhaul that provides universal coverage and its offer to cover people who are already sick. The ad campaign does not mention the insurers' strong opposition to creating a government-run insurance option.

    An official disclosed the cost of the campaign on condition of anonymity, as the numbers have not been made public.


    Associated Press writers David Espo, Stephen Ohlemacher, Alan Fram, Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Erica Werner contributed to this report.

    Thursday, July 16, 2009

    Getting Frankly Freaky At The Hong Kong Fashion Week


    As Fashion Weeks of the world over power along their chosen trajectories, this image from the Los Angeles Times coverage of the Hong Kong Fashion Week really caught our attention!

    I mean, how it could not! That there is a person under all the head swaddling and what appears to be intestines or other entrails emerging from the belly ending in harlequin masks is not immediately evident.

    The face is wholly obscured and it is only the torso and the limbs that indicate that there is indeed a human being under the very unconventional (to say the least) outfit.

    Well obviously this was meant to make a statement, possibly an arty one; because this is not exactly the sort of outfit most will crave to grace their wardrobe. It’s not really wearable, unless you consider the possible exception of some extremely avant-garde Halloween party and perhaps not even then!

    The creator of this definitely eye popping entry for the Hong Kong Fashion week is Hong Kong’s Michael Lau and reportedly the outfit reflects at least two of the trends projected by current Fashion shows: pale colors and a lot of surface effects. Well Michael Lau certainly got that right; as for everything else; what can we say except frankly freaky!


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