O'Malley talks up Obama health care plan, pledges support
Gov. Martin O’Malley pledged to help President Barack Obama as he tries to secure passage of a national health care overhaul. The Maryland governor called the federal push for reform a “once-in-a-generation opportunity.”
O’Malley was one of three governors who joined a White House-organized conference call to discuss Obama’s health care address to Congress and the nation. Also on the call were Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle, whose state has one of the lowest uninsured rates in the country at 8.9 percent, and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, whose state achieved the lowest 5.4 percent uninsured rate after establishing universal health coverage several years ago. (Maryland’s rate is nearly 13 percent, according to just-released statistics from the Census Bureau.)
The trio of Democrats cheered Obama’s speech as Melody Barnes, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, emphasized that the president has been meeting with “centrist” governors and reaching across the aisle in Congress. “The real lesson learned from month of August is that American people don’t want to accept the status quo,” Barnes said.
She and the governors repeated what they characterized as the president’s clearly stated goals: to ensure Americans can keep their current health insurance, to provide affordable choices to those who aren’t covered, and to rein in costs. O’Malley said he and other governors struggling with budget deficits would welcome efforts to keep costs under control.
He noted that Maryland’s $9.2 billion budget on health care would quickly balloon if costs continue to rise at rates seen in recent years. “That’s unsustainable for the business of the state of Maryland and threatens to undermine all of those who do have coverage,” he said.
O’Malley also praised the idea of an insurance exchange where proponents say small businesses and others could find affordable plans and where insurance companies would compete for millions of new customers. The governor said that would be preferable to subsidies his administration has offered as incentive to insure employees, noting that Census figures show many of those joining the ranks of the uninsured work for small businesses.
What wasn’t discussed on the feel-good conference call was how much the health care proposal might cost the states. Obama said in his address that he would not sign a bill that adds to the national deficit, raising the specter that states may have to pony up.