In a speech with a strong focus on unity among Americans and with a heavy emphasis on social progress, President Barack Obama briefly mentioned healthcare in his second inaugural address on Jan. 21 outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., as he addressed a crowd estimated at approximately 600,000 people on the side of the Capitol and spreading across the National Mall, as well as millions on live television.
“We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of healthcare and the size of our deficit,” the President said. “But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty, and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.” Instead, the President said a moment later, “The commitments we make to each other—through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security—these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.”
The new Congress goes back into session on Jan. 22, with spending for Medicare in contention and about 1/3 of states yet to announce their decisions regarding the Medicaid expansion proposed in the Affordable Care Act. A series of legislative showdowns are expected soon, including discussions over whether and how to raise the federal debt ceiling; whether and how to fund the federal budget for another year or risk a shutdown; and how to handle issues surrounding budget "sequestration" decisions--including across-the-board cuts--that were delayed by Congress' Jan. 1 vote to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff,” but that remain unresolved.