PRESIDENT MYTHBUSTER…. Towards the end of this afternoon’s discussion on health care reform in New Hampshire, President Obama told his audience, “[L]et’s face it, now is the hard part — because the history is clear — every time we come close to passing health insurance reform, the special interests fight back with everything they’ve got. They use their influence. They use their political allies to scare and mislead the American people. They start running ads. This is what they always do.”
And with reform closer now than ever, it’s what they’re already doing. To that end, the president, while making the affirmative case for passing reform throughout the event, also took some time to address concerns he knows are out there.
Government-run health care:
“This is not about putting the government in charge of your health insurance. I don’t believe anyone should be in charge of your health insurance decisions but you and your doctor. (Applause.) I don’t think government bureaucrats should be meddling, but I also don’t think insurance company bureaucrats should be meddling. That’s the health care system I believe in.”
“[R]ight now insurance companies are rationing care. They are basically telling you what’s covered and what’s not. They’re telling you: ‘We’ll cover this drug, but we won’t cover that drug; you can have this procedure, or, you can’t have that procedure’. So why is it that people would prefer having insurance companies make those decisions, rather than medical experts and doctors figuring out what are good deals for care and providing that information to you as a consumer and your doctor so you can make the decisions?
“So I just want to be very clear about this. I recognize there is an underlying fear here that people somehow won’t get the care they need. You will have not only the care you need, but also the care that right now is being denied to you — only if we get health care reform. That’s what we’re fighting for.”
Putting insurers out of business with a private option:
“People say, ‘Well, how can a private company compete against the government?’ And my answer is that if the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining — meaning taxpayers aren’t subsidizing it, but it has to run on charging premiums and providing good services and a good network of doctors, just like any other private insurer would do — then I think private insurers should be able to compete. They do it all the time. I mean, if you think about — if you think about it, UPS and FedEx are doing just fine, right? No, they are. It’s the Post Office that’s always having problems.
“So right now you’ve got private insurers who are out there competing effectively, even though a lot of people get their care through Medicare or Medicaid or VA. So there’s nothing inevitable about this somehow destroying the private marketplace, as long as — and this is a legitimate point that you’re raising — that it’s not set up where the government is basically being subsidized by the taxpayers, so that even if they’re not providing a good deal, we keep on having to pony out more and more money. And I’ve already said that can’t be the way the public option is set up. It has to be self-sustaining.”
“The rumor that’s been circulating a lot lately is this idea that somehow the House of Representatives voted for ‘death panels’ that will basically pull the plug on grandma because we’ve decided that we don’t — it’s too expensive to let her live anymore. And there are various — there are some variations on this theme. It turns out that I guess this arose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, setting up living wills, the availability of hospice, et cetera. So the intention of the members of Congress was to give people more information so that they could handle issues of end-of-life care when they’re ready, on their own terms. It wasn’t forcing anybody to do anything. This is I guess where the rumor came from.
“The irony is that actually one of the chief sponsors of this bill originally was a Republican — then House member, now senator, named Johnny Isakson from Georgia — who very sensibly thought this is something that would expand people’s options. And somehow it’s gotten spun into this idea of ‘death panels.’ I am not in favor of that. So just I want to clear the air here.”
“Before you ask this question, just because you referred to it, can I just say this is another example of how the media ends up just completing distorting what’s taken place. What we’ve said is that if somebody has — if you get an e-mail from somebody that says, for example, ‘Obamacare is creating a death panel,’ forward us the e-mail and we will answer the question that’s raised in the e-mail. Suddenly, on some of these news outlets, this is being portrayed as ‘Obama collecting an enemies list.’ Now, come on, guys. You know, here I am trying to be responsive to questions that are being raised out there and I just want to be clear that all we’re trying to do is answer questions.”
For the Tin Foil Hat crowd, I don’t imagine this will matter. “Sure,” they’ll say, “the president says he doesn’t want to kill my grandparents. That’s what he wants us to think.”
But for a more sensible skeptic, here’s hoping the president’s comments helped alleviate some of the irrational fears.