If Americans are to trust their government to re-engineer 15% of the total US economy, we have to trust that the leaders pushing that plan can count to three on the fly. Yesterday, Barack Obama tried to make his health-care pitch at an AARP town-hall event, and managed to fail that test. TPM has the transcript of Obama’s answer when the moderator asked the very first question — and Obama broke his answer into two three four parts (emphases mine):
MR. CUTHBERT: Much as it would be every broadcaster’s dream to share the podium with the President of the United States, he has to get wired up for sound. So I’ll start with a question that was e-mailed in before the program, which combines a couple of factors you spoke about, Mr. President.
He says: My brother is 56 and uninsurable. He could afford to buy insurance, but he can’t get it because he has a preexisting condition and in his state there is not a high-risk pool. When the President’s program starts, will insurance companies be required to cover people with preexisting conditions? Will he be able to get insurance in the first phase of the plan, even if he’s willing to pay the full amount?
THE PRESIDENT: The answer is yes. And so let me talk just a little bit about the kind of insurance reform that we’re proposing as part of the broader reform package.
Number one, if you’ve got a preexisting condition, insurance companies will still have to insure you. This is something very personal for me. My mother, when she contracted cancer, the insurance companies started suggesting that, well, maybe this was a preexisting condition; maybe you could have diagnosed it before you actually purchased your insurance. Ultimately, they gave in, but she had to spend weeks fighting with insurance companies while she’s in the hospital bed, writing letters back and forth just to get coverage for insurance that she had already paid premiums on. And that happens all across the country. We are going to put a stop to that. That’s point number one.
Point number two: We’re going to reform the insurance system so that they can’t just drop you if you get too sick. They won’t be able to drop you if you change jobs or lose your job, as long as you’re willing to pay your premiums. They are — we’re going to make sure that we eliminate sort of the lifetime cap that creates a situation — a lot of times people get sick, then they find out the fine print says that at a certain point they just stop paying, or they’ll pay for your hospitalization but they don’t pay for your doctor, or they pay for your doctor but not your hospitalization.
We want clear, easy-to-understand, straightforward insurance that people can purchase. So that’s point number one.
Point number two is, in addition to those reforms, we want to make sure that we set up what’s called a health insurance exchange so that anybody who wants insurance but can’t get it on their job right now, they can go to this exchange; they can select a plan that works for them or their families — these are private-option plans, but we also want to have a public option that’s in there — but whatever you select, you will get high-quality care for a reasonable cost, the same way Congress, members of Congress, are able to select from a menu of plans that they have available. And if you’re very — if the plan that you select is still too expensive for your income, then we would provide you a little bit of help so that you could actually afford the coverage.
So the idea behind reform is: Number one, we reform the insurance companies so they can’t take advantage of you. Number two, that we provide you a place to go to purchase insurance that is secure, that isn’t full of fine print, that is actually going to deliver on what you pay for. Number three, we want to make sure that you’re getting a good bargain for your health care by reducing some of the unnecessary tests and costs that have raised rates.
Even if you have health insurance, your premiums have gone up faster than wages over the last 10 years. Your out-of-pocket costs have gone up about 62 percent, which means that for people who aren’t on Medicare right now, people let’s say 54 to — or 50-64, a lot of those folks are paying much higher premiums than they should be — hundreds or thousands of additional dollars that could be saved if we had a system that was more sensible than it is right now.
Actually, Obama couldn’t count to four, either. His points were actually these:
- Force insurers to cover pre-existing conditions.
- Force insurers to keep people once they get sick.
- Simplify policies so people can understand them.
- Force insurers into government-run exchanges and provide subsidies to lower-income Americans.
Most people would support the first three goals as part of any broad overhaul of health-insurance regulation, even if they differ on how to achieve them. What’s apparent is that we need people who can count to lead that effort. (h/t: HA reader Michael from Vista, CA)
Addendum: Normally I’d put a link to Chris Muir’s Day by Day site here, but today I want to do more than that. Chris has a fundraising drive to keep his excellent cartoon alive. Be sure to drop a few dollars in his collection to keep one of the Rightosphere’s most talented warriors in the fight!