When a president calls a prime-time press conference, it traditionally means that the White House has some new strategy, message, or policy creation that they want to reveal with a big flourish. For at least the second time in a row, Barack Obama demanded valuable prime-time real estate and the nation’s attention in order to repeat the same lines he’s used for the last two months on health care. Obama failed to present a single new idea, proposal, or even argument that had not already been floated from Obama himself and the White House in the full-court press over the last 10 days in Obama’s media appearances.
Well, except for the new notion of predatory tonsillectomies. Let me tell you a story about tonsillectomies. My son could not get one for over four years because the HMO that covered him didn’t want to spend the money. Only when we transferred him to my insurance could we get a pediatrician who would do it (who happened to be his original pediatrician) — and who pronounced the other doctors as idiots for letting them go that long. Fortunately, I could choose insurance plans and doctors. The incentives are set up against tonsillectomies, not favoring them, mainly because a few experts decided a few decades ago that they were generally unnecessary.
In ObamaCare, those experts will be in charge of all doctors.
Howard Kurtz remarked on Twitter immediately after the conclusion that Obama once again failed to have a consistent and understandable message in the presser. It went farther than that, though; Obama not only failed to have a message, he also failed to answer most of the questions. He talked endlessly after being asked them, a strategy obviously designed to cut down on questions through filibustering, but he didn’t answer the questions.
When he talked at length, though, he made some pretty interesting mistakes, such as this:
The one commitment that I’ve been clear about is I don’t want that final one-third of the cost of health care to be completely shouldered on the backs of middle class families who are already struggling in a difficult economy.
And so, if I see a proposal that is primarily funded through taxing middle class families, I’m going to be opposed to that because I think there are better ideas to do it.
Actually, until that statement, Obama had clearly told the middle class that their taxes would go down, not up. Now he’s saying that he won’t support a system primarily funded by the middle class, which seems to imply that he won’t mind one that taxes the middle class to provide some of the funding. And Obama wouldn’t even commit to a veto — just that he would “be opposed to that” approach.
And while we’re chewing over the weird attack on doctors as greedy vultures who prey on the throats of innocent little children, let’s not forget the odd, resurrected references to two organizations opposed to ObamaCare:
Right now, doctors a lot of times are forced to make decisions based on the fee payment schedule that’s out there. So if they’re looking and you come in and you’ve got a bad sore throat or your child has a bad sore throat or has repeated sore throats, the doctor may look at the reimbursement system and say to himself, “You know what? I make a lot more money if I take this kid’s tonsils out.”
Now, that may be the right thing to do, but I’d rather have that doctor making those decisions just based on whether you really need your kid’s tonsils out or whether it might make more sense just to change — maybe they have allergies. Maybe they have something else that would make a difference.
So — so part of what we want do is to free doctors, patients, hospitals to make decisions based on what’s best for patient care. And that’s the whole idea behind Mayo. That’s the whole idea behind the Cleveland Clinic.
Finally, let’s look at the press last night. They only got a few bites at the apple thanks to Obama’s filibusters, but overall did a little better than I’d expected. Most of the questions were challenging in some degree, except for Lynn Sweet’s inexplicable desire to get Obama to talk about the Henry Gates incident, and Obama’s inexplicable desire to opine without the facts as he himself admitted. (Jules Crittenden has a useful post about this today.) However, I also notice that not one reporter asked Obama why he postponed issuing the budget numbers for a month in the middle of this debate, which is directly related to the health-care issue. I’d call that a big-time fail for the White House press corps, which supposedly exists to ensure accountability.