Jumping into the debate over health care reform today, first lady Michelle Obama said the president’s plan is “a pretty reasonable plan” that would save lives and money.
“It’s not just good medicine, it’s good economics as well,” she said. “So I think this is a pretty reasonable plan.”
One day after President Obama appealed to young people for their activism , the first lady tried to mobilize women's advocates and highlighted the stories of several women who have had personal struggles with health care coverage. She said it is time for change.
“This current situation is unacceptable. It is unacceptable,” Mrs. Obama said to applause. “Health insurance reform and what it means for our families is very much a women’s issue.”
Mrs. Obama, a former hospital executive, said the current health care system is “holding women and families back.”
She said her husband’s plan would put an end to that by providing security to those who have insurance and options and opportunity to those who do not.
With an audience made up of representatives from health care reform advocacy organizations, Mrs. Obama did not weigh in on any of the contentious elements of the health care debate in Washington, like a government insurance option. But she did tout an insurance exchange where consumers would have options to compare prices and benefits.
“If it’s good enough for members of Congress, it should be good enough for the people who vote them in,” she said.
All three women who spoke about their health care experiences had the same message -- we need help and we need it now.
Debi Trauth, a widow from Cincinatti, described the challenges she faced finding an insurance policy for herself and her teenage son. She was deemed to have a pre-existing condition because she had been on anti-depressants for six months after her husband’s battle with cancer. Trauth is worried that when her survivor benefits run out next year, she will not be able to pay her insurance premiums and she will have to drop her coverage.
Easter Spencer of Washington, D.C., has a non-cancerous lump in her breast, but has no insurance and is delaying the surgery to remove it. Roxi Grifin of Kansas City, a lung cancer and double breast cancer survivor, filed for bankruptcy due to high co-pay costs.
Griffin said she is forced to choose now to keep her home or get routine screenings. “At this point I choose to keep a roof over my head,” she said.
“These are the stories that remind us what’s at stake in this debate,” the first lady said. “This is why we are fighting so hard for health insurance reform. This is it. This is the face of the fight.”
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius said the administration is close to achieving health care reform and that is why the battle lines are getting tougher.
The first lady described the health care challenges that women face as caregivers for their children and often their parents. Mrs. Obama said that women are not just disproportionately affected by health care issues as caregivers, but also because of the jobs they do.
“We all know that women are more likely to work part time, go to work in small companies or businesses that don’t provide insurance at all,” she said.
-- Karen Travers and Ann Compton