As part of his full-court press in the media on behalf of his flagging health-care system overhaul, Barack Obama penned an op-ed for today’s New York Times. He garnered a key Sunday slot, which is the opinion journalism equivalent of a prime-time press conference, so one might expect that Obama has something new to add to the debate. Instead, he gave the same stump speech that Obama uses in every town hall, or greenhouse, as Jim Treacher calls them in honor of the many plants that appear in these forums.
Picking apart the entire essay would be an exercise in redundancy. Most of the claims he makes, like “If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan,” have been thoroughly rebutted, since his overhaul will provide financial incentives for businesses to dump employee coverage in favor of the government-run public option, as the fines for dropping coverage will be far smaller than the costs of providing health insurance. Obama never even mentions the individual mandates imposed in the House versions of the bill, which will fine people who don’t buy insurance, especially those middle-class taxpayers who don’t make enough for subsidies but can’t afford an expensive policy.
One argument caught my eye, however, and it comes at the end:
In the coming weeks, the cynics and the naysayers will continue to exploit fear and concerns for political gain. But for all the scare tactics out there, what’s truly scary — truly risky — is the prospect of doing nothing. If we maintain the status quo, we will continue to see 14,000 Americans lose their health insurance every day. Premiums will continue to skyrocket. Our deficit will continue to grow. And insurance companies will continue to profit by discriminating against sick people.
That is not a future I want for my children, or for yours. And that is not a future I want for the United States of America.
In the end, this isn’t about politics.
It’s not about politics? Barack Obama wants to impose a sweeping takeover of the health-care industry by the federal government, and he has the audacity to claim that politics has nothing to do with this? It has everything to do with it. Any government program has politics at its basis by definition.
Government will mandate comparative effectiveness models to influence treatment by government-funded providers. Those decisions will get made not by doctors or patients, but by elected officials who primarily are lawyers, not physicians. Does anyone believe that politics has nothing to do with the imposition of this kind of rationing?
Democrats have tried a number of strategies to sell ObamaCare to an increasingly skeptical and angry public. At first, they tried insisting that everyone hated their own status quo, until Gallup polls showed that 83% of people were satisfied with their current coverage. After that, they tried demonizing insurance executives. Does that sound as though politics has nothing to do with this proposal?
Up to 10% of medical costs in the US relate to lawsuits. Providers overuse resources in order to practice defensive medicine to protect themselves from predatory and abusive lawsuits. Yet not one sentence in the ObamaCare proposals in Congress deal with tort reform, which would immediately cut costs in the health-care industry. Trial lawyers, not coincidentally, heavily contribute to the Democratic Party currently writing all these bills. Are we to believe that’s not all about politics?
This is all about politics, which is why Obama had to write the op-ed in today’s Times. If he loses this battle, he’s wounded politically, and the rest of his agenda will be in deep trouble.
And if anyone thinks that a government-run health-care system won’t have political considerations entering into treatment decisions, let’s revisit this video from the Independence Institute. It explains how treatment gets funded in the Oregon public plan.
Update: My friend Bruce McQuain makes a great point about Obama wanting this both ways in the essay:
We are bound to disagree, but let’s disagree over issues that are real, and not wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to anything that anyone has actually proposed. This is a complicated and critical issue, and it deserves a serious debate.
They totally contradict this line within the same editorial:
I hear more and more stories like these every single day, and it is why we are acting so urgently to pass health-insurance reform this year.
This is a familiar Obama tactic. Give lip service through high sounding rhetoric about “serious debate”, but in reality be focused on “urgently pass[ing] health insurance this year” and avoiding debate. It is supposed to fool you into thinking he’s committed to debate while in reality he’s trying to push this legislation through as quickly as possible.
It deserved a serious debate, but Obama wanted it rushed through Congress before the August recess precisely because he didn’t want Americans to be able to debate it before passing it.