Obama Goes on the Air To Stump for Health Care Reform Efforts
President Obama continued his push for Democratic health reform proposals on Sunday during sit-down interviews with a record-setting five television networks in one day, Politico reports.
The interviews were taped on Friday at the White House and aired on ABC's "This Week," CNN's "State of the Union," NBC's "Meet the Press," CBS's "Face the Nation" and Univision's "Al Punto" (Lee, Politico, 9/21).
Individual Mandate vs. Tax Increase
The most contentious questioning came from George Stephanopoulos on "This Week," who asked Obama whether a requirement that U.S. residents obtain health coverage could be considered a tax increase on middle-income residents.
Obama rejected the notion. He said, "[F]or us to say that you've got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase," adding, "What it's saying is, is that we're not going to have other people carrying your burdens for you any more than the fact that right now everybody ... has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase" (Condon, CongressDaily, 9/20).
Obama added that funding for reform proposals would come from savings within the current system and other taxes, but not from taxes on families whose annual incomes are below $250,000 (Silvassy, CQ Today, 9/20).
Support for a Public Plan
The president reaffirmed his support for a public plan within reform legislation, although some believe it is no longer a viable proposal because it was not included in the Senate Finance Committee's reform bill, Politico reports.
However, Obama said, "I absolutely do not believe that it's dead" (Lee, Politico, 9/20). He did not say the public plan is essential to overhaul efforts.
The president told David Gregory of NBC's "Meet the Press," "[W]e shouldn't think that, somehow, that's the silver bullet that solves health care" (Bogardus/O'Brien , The Hill, 9/20).
Obama also urged Democrats to move beyond a debate over whether a public plan is a deal-breaker and focus on broader aspects of reform.
Instead of appearing on "Fox News Sunday" -- a decision based on the channel's refusal to air Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress earlier this month -- Obama spoke with the "Al Puntoâ show on Spanish-language channel Univision, during which time he reiterated his position that undocumented immigrants should not have access to benefits under any reform proposals, the New York Times reports.
However, Obama said that he is aware of the problem of "mixed families," in which the parents are undocumented immigrants but the children are U.S. citizens. He said, "We're going to make sure that those children are covered" (Zeleny/Pear, New York Times, 9/21).
Obama Addresses Potential MA Cuts
Obama also discussed proposed cuts to the Medicare Advantage program, CongressDaily reports. He denied that cuts to the MA program would cause beneficiaries to lose their existing coverage, saying the cuts target "essentially private HMOs who are getting ... 14% more overpayments, basically subsidies from taxpayers, for a program that ordinary Medicare does just as good, if not better, at keeping people healthy" (CongressDaily, 9/20).
No Endorsement for Baucus Bill
The president spoke broadly about the Senate Finance Committee bill. He said it is "a serious, strong effort to move an agenda forward" but stopped short of endorsing the bill (New York Times, 9/21).
However, he did endorse Finance Committee Chair Max Baucus' (D-Mont.) push for a citizen verification system as part of reform efforts to ensure that undocumented immigrants are not covered by any reform proposal.
A 'Civil' Debate
In addition to discussing specific aspects of health reform proposals, Obama also called for a more "civil" tone in the reform debate, the Washington Post reports. He said, "We all have an obligation to try to conduct this conversation in a civil way. And to recognize that each of us are patriots" (Connolly/Shear, Washington Post, 9/21).
Several Republican lawmakers responded to Obama's talk show appearances, The Hill reports.
On Sunday, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) predicted that the reform bills in Congress would not survive. He said, "I don't believe there are sufficient votes to pass in either house."
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warned against Democrats using budget reconciliation to pass reform efforts without Republican support. He said, "If they try to use this legislative loophole ... what they'll be doing, in effect, is jamming through a proposal to rewrite the economy with about 24 hours of debate," which he said would produce a "very, very severe reaction among the American people."
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said, "The problem with the president, he's saying things people want to hear ... but when you look at the details, it just doesn't add up" (O'Brien/Bogardus , The Hill, 9/20). Graham added that, ultimately, Obama "is selling something people aren't buying" (Washington Post, 9/21).Michael Steele, Republican National Committee Chair, said, "I thought the president said a lot without really saying anything," adding, "It didn't really move the needle" (O'Brien/Bogardus , The Hill, 9/20). 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.