Obama Presses Case for Health Care Reform on Talk Radio Show
On Thursday, President Obama discussed health reform on a talk radio show hosted by Michael Smerconish and guaranteed that reform will happen despite disagreements among lawmakers, the AP/Houston Chronicle reports.
During the program, Obama answered questions from callers and Smerconish, who is widely considered conservative, although he endorsed Obama in the presidential campaign (Elliott, AP/Houston Chronicle, 8/20).
One caller, who identified himself as Joe, told Obama that he is "a little ticked off that it feels like the knees are buckling a little bit" as the president continues to negotiate with Republicans "who aren't willing to compromise with you." Obama told him, "I guarantee ... we are going to get health care reform done" (Parsons/Silva, Los Angeles Times, 8/21).
Obama said, "You know, passing a bill like this is always messy" (AP/Houston Chronicle, 8/20). He added, "My attitude has always been let's see if we can get this done with consensus. I would love to have more Republicans engaged and involved in this process" (Condon, CongressDaily, 8/21).
Obama said that he was "happy to make sensible compromises" but that Democrats would not "give up on the core principle that Americans who don't have health insurance should get it" (Zeleny/Hulse, New York Times, 8/21).
Obama also accused Republicans of conspiring to derail his health care reform plans. He said, "I think early on, a decision was made by the Republican leadership that said, 'Look, let's not give him a victory, maybe we can have a replay of 1993, '94," when President Clinton's failed reform efforts led to a major Republican victory in the midterm elections and gave the GOP the majority.
"I think there are some folks who are taking a page out of that playbook," Obama said (Curl, Washington Times, 8/20).
In response to a caller who asked what key elements needed to be included in health reform legislation in order to gain the president's approval, Obama said that the final bill must be "deficit neutral," institute insurance reforms that protect consumers, slow health care cost inflation, and provide a wide range of affordable health insurance options to individuals and small businesses (Timpane, Philadelphia Inquirer, 8/20).
When asked about recent comments by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that a public plan option is not the "essential element" of health care reform, Obama said that she did not misspeak. He said, "What essentially she said was that all these other insurance reforms are just as important as the public option. The press got a little excited and some folks on the left got excited about this. Our position hasn't changed" (CongressDaily, 8/21).
According to Obama, "What we've said is that there are a number of components to health care" (AP/Houston Chronicle, 8/20).
During the radio show, Obama addressed some of the misinformation being spread about provisions in the health care reform legislation, including claims that taxpayer money would be used to fund abortion services and that health reform would provide coverage for undocumented immigrants (Los Angeles Times, 8/21).
Obama Addresses OFA Crowd
Later on Thursday, Obama sought to rally members of the Democratic National Committee's grassroots arm, Organizing for America, at the party's headquarters in Washington, D.C. The president asked volunteers to continue pushing his health care message and offered talking points for them to follow when discussing the need for reform.
During his address, which was streamed live over the Internet, Obama said, "Nothing's more powerful than millions of voices calling for change," adding, "That's how we won an election" (Koffler, Roll Call, 8/20). "Victory in an election wasn't the change that we sought," he said (Babington, AP/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/20).
"What we're going to have to do is to cut through the noise and the misinformation," he continued, adding that the "best offense against lies is the truth, ... so all we can do is just keep on pushing the truth" (AP/Houston Chronicle, 8/20).
Obama said volunteers working to spread his health reform message should focus on both the insured and uninsured.
"First thing you have to explain to folks is, the status quo is unacceptable," he said, adding, "If you've got a private plan, you've got something to worry about." He continued, "Point number two is that, if you don't have health insurance, we're not forcing you to go into a public plan" (Roll Call, 8/20).
Obama told the group that "I have no control over what the other side decides is their political strategy," adding that his "obligation to the American people says we're going to get this done one way or another" (Weisman/Bendavid, Wall Street Journal, 8/22).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Thursday reported on Obama's appearance on Smerconish's show and his address to OFA (Gonyea, "All Things Considered," NPR, 8/20).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.