What Does the President's 'Meaningful Coverage' Mean for Health Care?

Upon taking office, President Obama hit the ground running on comprehensive healthcare reform that he originally referred to as "universal health care" but now calls "meaningful coverage."

What is "meaningful coverage," and what do the few specifics we've been given concerning it portend for our future physical health and the viability of our nation as a whole?

During the Democratic presidential primary debate in Las Vegas, NV, on November 15, 2007, Obama said his plans to implement "universal health care" had grown out of his belief that many uninsured Americans "desperately wanted [insurance]" but couldn't afford it.  He said his plan would make it, "affordable to get health care ...[that was] as good as the health care" enjoyed by members of Congress.

After securing the Democrat nomination in 2008, Obama pressed his plan with urgency by regularly telling the story about his mother dying from cancer while being denied insurance coverage because the insurers said her cancer was a pre-existing condition.  This gave Obama his bad guy -- insurance companies -- which he could pit against the American people in promoting healthcare reform.

Using his mother's story as a segue, Obama's stump speech contained the line:  "As president I'll ... make sure insurance companies can't discriminate against those who are sick and need care the most." This line always caught my ear because it's completely nonsensical. How can any sane person expect to have their health insured if some disease has already destroyed their health before they seek insurance?

Sane or not, the emphasis on "discrimination" always succeeded in exciting those who attended his speeches, as those who came to Obama rallies loved to hear that their health care was going to be guaranteed by the government (just like their mortgages).

Candidate Obama occasionally threw the privatization crowd a bone by promising to create a National Health Insurance Exchange so that people who already had health insurance could keep it yet enjoy lower premiums than they had before.  And since becoming president he's said that if someone has "a doctor that they like, they should be able to keep [that] doctor [under his plan]. They should just pay less for the care that they receive." Doesn't anyone ever wonder how Obama is going to lower insurance premiums or cut the price on doctor visits?

President Obama hasn't missed a chance to push for universal health care, now called "meaningful coverage," even if the numbers he uses to push it seem exaggerated or the logic behind his arguments and promises appears to be flawed.

For example, on February 24, 2009, while speaking to a joint session of Congress, Obama said: "The crushing cost of health care ... now causes a bankruptcy in America every thirty seconds." Upon hearing this I grabbed my calculator and ascertained that that means roughly 1,036,800 American families a year are filing bankruptcy because of healthcare expenses.