From “Moral Imperative” to Fiscal Responsibility: Understanding President Obama’s Evolving Rhetoric Regarding Health Care Reform

Health is the foundation of well-being. Our good health, which so many of us take for granted, enables us to prosper. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. underscored this point in a 1966 speech to the medical committee for human rights when he said, “of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”

The United States spends an incredible amount of our vast resources on health. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated that in 2010, the US spent approximately 17.9% of our gross domestic product (GDP) on health related costs. That figure is projected to increase to 19.6% by 2021. Yet despite this vast expenditure, many Americans lack access to health care, and the US consistently ranks far below other high-income countries on health indicators such as child mortality and healthy life expectancy rates. I find this scenario deeply troubling, and I am not the only one. Beginning with Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, a wide range of Presidents and other prominent politicians have tried to tackle America’s health care crisis. Yet despite the long line of unsuccessful attempts that preceded him, President Barack Obama confronted our health care challenge and remarkably signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) on March 23, 2010.

The success of the PPACA is an anomaly in recent political and policy history. Thus, it is important to understand what contributed to the success of this historic legislation. My research will focus on the following question: how did President Obama’s rhetoric change and evolve throughout the health care reform efforts that led to the passage of the PPACA? The President’s rhetoric and the framing strategies associated with his arguments are crucial to the future of health policy.  They are also telling in terms of how Americans and our political system view health care.

Victoria (Tori) Wilmarth

Duke University ’13

This entry was posted in Public Policy, The Presidency and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to From “Moral Imperative” to Fiscal Responsibility: Understanding President Obama’s Evolving Rhetoric Regarding Health Care Reform

  1. scotthiers says:

    Hey Tori,

    Your topic is both interesting and of great importance. I look forward to reading your final paper, even if you go to that dreadful school down the road from me!

    Have you met Prof. Ubel at Duke? He is an MD but also teaches health policy and would be a great resource for your research. Best of luck to you!

    Scott Hiers
    UNC ’13

  2. vawilmarth says:

    Hi Scott,
    I have not met Professor Ubel yet. Thank you very much for the suggestion!


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