Business, Labor, Retiree Groups Call On President-Elect Obama To Address Health Care In First 100 Days Of New Administration

by Lesley Politi on November 12, 2008

Business, Labor, Retiree Groups Call On President-Elect Obama To Address Health Care In First 100 Days Of New Administration

12 Nov 2008   

Four advocacy groups on Tuesday launched a $1 million advertising campaign that will ask President-elect Barack Obama to make health care reform a priority during his first 100 days in office, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the Times, although “Obama made health care reform a central plank of his presidential campaign … 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 letter to Obama, the Business Roundtable, the National Federation of Independent Businesses, AARP and the Service Employees International Union link health care reform with the current economic downturn. They wrote, “Addressing skyrocketing health care costs is a critical component of stabilizing household, national and global economies,” adding, “Inaction undermines the economic security of our families; limits the productivity of our work force; stagnates job creation and wage growth; and threatens to crowd out investments in energy, education and infrastructure.”

Business Roundtable President John Castellani said, “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,” adding, “We need to now follow through.” Castellani said that he hopes a comprehensive health care reform bill will reach the floors of the House and Senate in the first 100 days after Obama takes office.

AARP Executive Vice President Nancy LeaMond said, “We can’t allow campaign promises of bipartisanship and action to fall apart simply because the election is over,” adding, “Millions of Americans are still struggling to find affordable health care.”

Dennis Rivera — chair of SEIU Healthcare, which has begun a national campaign that will ask lawmakers to address health care reform — said, “We are going to run this like it is a presidential campaign, but our candidate will be health care reform,” adding, “It will be very disheartening if there is no action” (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 11/11).

Also, during a meeting with President Bush on Monday, Obama asked the president to provide the auto industry with immediate emergency assistance, the New York Times reports (Calmes, New York Times, 11/11).

Executives from United Auto Workers, General Motors, Chrysler and Ford last week in a meeting with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other congressional leaders asked for $25 billion in additional federal loans for health care payments for retirees. The loans would help cover the contributions from the companies to a voluntary employees’ beneficiary association for UAW retirees. Under contracts negotiated last year, the automakers agreed to contribute about $56.5 billion to the VEBA, which UAW will manage. The VEBA, which will take effect in 2010 and remain operational for 80 years, will reduce retiree health benefit liabilities for the automakers by about $100 billion (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 11/7).

According to the Times, “Bush indicated at the meeting that he might support some aid and a broader economic stimulus package if Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats dropped their opposition to a free-trade agreement with Colombia,” but Democrats “indicate that neither Mr. Obama nor congressional leaders are inclined to concede the Colombia pact to Mr. Bush, and may decide to wait until Mr. Obama assumes power on Jan. 20.” Obama has “signaled to the automakers and the unions that his support for short-term aid now, and long-term assistance once he takes office, is contingent on their willingness to agree to transform their industry to make cleaner, more energy-efficient vehicles,” the Times reports.

Obama on Friday said that, after he selects his economic advisers, he will instruct them to develop a long-term proposal to help the auto industry. “Obama has said that he wants to meet with the Big Three auto executives, but advisers say no meeting is scheduled,” according to the New York Times (New York Times, 11/11).

Health care is “an issue that has been driven to the background by the credit markets, job losses and threats overseas,” but “the doctor in me is shouting out [to President-elect Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden] not to forget” its importance, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) writes in a commentary. Frist continues, “Ever-rising health costs drive people to the ranks of uninsured,” and the “15 million hard-core uninsured need … immediate attention.” He writes, “There is nothing more intimate or more personal to any of us than the health of our loved ones,” adding, Obama cannot “let it slip to the back burner.”

According to Frist, the “unique Senate legislative experience” of Obama and Biden — “with the understanding it brings both to lead on principle but govern with compromise and to respect uniquely the minority’s participation — stations them ideally for a time when the American people expect their government to work together to aggressively attack the problems that face us” (Frist,, 11/10).

Broadcast Coverage
CBS’ “Evening News” on Monday examined the issues that Obama might address first as president. According to Rahm Emanuel, chief of staff to Obama, health care is a top priority (Andrews, “Evening News,” CBS, 11/10).

CNN’s “Lou Dobbs Tonight” on Monday examined plans by Obama to change a number of policies implemented by Bush (Henry, “Lou Dobbs Tonight,” CNN, 11/10). A transcript of the program is available online.

CNN’s “Newsroom” on Monday examined the request from the auto industry for assistance from the federal government (Romans, “Newsroom,” CNN, 11/10). A transcript of the program is available online.

NPR’s “All Things Considered” on Monday examined the health care issues Obama will face as president, such as entitlement program reform, the uninsured, health care information technology and health care costs (Rovner, “All Things Considered,” NPR, 11/10).

WBUR’s “Here and Now” on Monday examined the priorities for Obama as president (“Here and Now,” WBUR, 11/10).

Reprinted with kind permission from You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

© 2008 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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