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SOTU Light on Healthcare, Industry Reacts

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, January 25, 2012

In either a calculated dodge or a missed opportunity, President Obama's 2012 State of the Union address was light on references to healthcare reform.

If you watched the annual State of the Union address Tuesday night to hear President Obama talk about his healthcare accomplishments and what he plans to do next then you came away disappointed. Ditto if you thought he might make the case for the individual mandate while he had five of the Supreme Court justices sitting in the room.

The president was almost three-quarters of the way through his speech before he made this quick statement: "I will not go back to the days when health insurance companies had unchecked power to cancel your policy, deny you coverage, or charge women differently from men." You'd have to be a good listener and something of a healthcare/political junkie to recognize that reference to the Affordable Care Act.

About 1,300 words later the president linked in a single paragraph Abraham Lincoln, small government and a quick mention of the healthcare reform's reliance on "a reformed private market, not a Government program."

Oh, and there was this pro forma comment about controlling entitlement program costs: "I'm prepared to make more reforms that rein in the long-term costs of Medicare and Medicaid, and strengthen Social Security, so long as those programs remain a guarantee of security for seniors."

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