Obama Aims To Debunk Criticism of Democratic Health Reform Efforts
In his weekly Internet and radio address on Saturday, President Obama spoke out against "outrageous myths" spread by critics of Democratic health reform proposals, Roll Call reports (Koffler, Roll Call, 8/22).
Obama said discussion about health reform "should be an honest debate, not one dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions, spread by the very folks who would benefit the most by keeping things exactly as they are." He added that reform critics are making "phony claims meant to divide" lawmakers and U.S. residents and stall the overhaul process (Bellantoni, Washington Times, 8/23).
Obama said the following statements were among the inaccuracies critics have been spreading.
- Undocumented immigrants would get health insurance under an overhaul. Obama said, "That idea has never even been on the table."
- Current reform proposals would lead to a government takeover of health care through the government-run public plan option. Obama said that the government plan "would just be an option; those who prefer their private insurer would be under no obligation to shift to a public plan."
- Coverage for abortion would be mandated under reform. Obama said the idea is false.
- "Death panels" would be formed to decide who among the ailing and elderly would receive care. Obama said the notion is "offensive ... to me and the American people" (Feldmann, Christian Science Monitor, 8/22). He added, "As every credible person who has looked into it has said, there are no so-called 'death panels'" (Mason, Boston Globe, 8/22).
In the address, the president also said Democratic reform proposals would give affordable insurance to those who do not have it, eliminate "unfair practices" by insurers -- such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions -- and put more emphasis on routine and preventive care (Christian Science Monitor, 8/22).
Obama said passing health reform is the opportunity of a generation. He said, "We can push off the day of reckoning and fail to deal with the flaws in the system, just as Washington has done, year after year, decade after decade," adding, "Or we can take steps that will provide every American family and business a measure of security and stability they lack today" (O'Brien , The Hill, 8/22).
Republican Study Committee Chair Tom Price (R-Ga.) responded to Obama's address and accused the president of "playing fast and loose with the facts" about current reform proposals (O'Brien , The Hill, 8/22).
Price said that current proposals are "expression[s] supporting the notion that Washington knows best when it comes to your family's health care. And that's simply not true" (Roll Call, 8/22). He said, "The president regularly tells Americans that 'if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.' But ... that just isn't so," adding, "For starters, within five years, every health care plan will have to meet a new federal definition for coverage -- one that your current plan might not match, even if you like it" (Boston Globe, 8/22).
Price said, "We all know that when the government is setting the rules and is backed by tax dollars, it will destroy -- not compete -- with the private sector" (Roll Call, 8/22).
Obama Committed to Reform, Despite Polls
Obama is determined to complete a health system overhaul, even if it means his approval ratings decline and he loses his re-election bid, according to White House press secretary Robert Gibbs.
Gibbs said, "I have heard the president say that if making tough decisions in getting important things done that Washington has failed to deal with for decades means that he only lives in this house and makes those decisions for four years, he's quite comfortable with that."Gibbs said that Obama wants what's best for "the American people" and not "his personal poll numbers," which have been falling as lawmakers struggle to generate support for current reform proposals (Koffler, Roll Call, 8/21). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.