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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Obama's Numerous Gaffes at Healthcare Townhall
  • "I have not said that I was a single-payer supporter," the president said. Yet the Heritage Foundation Web site points out that his own campaign Web site quotes him stating at a 2008 Ames, Iowa campaign rally: “If I were designing a system from scratch I would probably set up a single-payer system. … So what I believe is we should set up a series of choices….Over time it may be that we end up transitioning to such a system.”
  • The president implied his proposed health exchange would be similar to that available to members of Congress: “That’s what the health exchange is all about, is that you — just like a member of Congress — can go and choose the plan that’s right for you.” But the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program does not have a "public option" government provider, a costly and controversial element of Obama's proposal. The president continues to insist that no one will have to change insurances providers if they like their current plan. He has previously acknowledged, however, that he can't control business owners' efforts to reduce their costs, and the public option plan could lead to more than 88 million Americans losing their current coverage, according to a Lewin Group study commissioned by the Heritage Foundation. It is hard to argue against the facts," Nina Owcharenko, deputy director of the Center for Health Policy Studies for the Heritage Foundation, tells Newsmax. "The Lewin Group estimates more than 88 million could lose their current employer-based coverage under the House bill. Other estimates, by the Congressional Budget Office and Urban Institute, although lower than Lewin, still find millions of Americans could lose their current coverage." Obama again tried to paint insurance companies as the bad guys: "But let'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." The problem with this characterization is that pharmaceutical companies and health insurance firms have tried hard to work with the administration to shape the proposals coming out of Congress. "In stark contrast to the healthcare reform debate in the 1990s," reports The Hill, "the health insurance industry has refrained from launching attacks on Obama or the plans working their way through Congress. Insurance lobbyists have been very active on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue trying to shape the legislations, but so far the industry has not used its considerable resources to stop the process, despite numerous Democratic proposals it opposes." Robert Zirkelbach, communications director for the America's Health Insurance Plans trade organization, tells Newsmax: "The inconvenient fact is that our industry strongly supports healthcare reform and we actually proposed last year the insurance market reforms and consumer protections that people are talking about today."
  • Obama touts his ability to obtain voluntary drug-cost cuts from pharmaceutical companies, but doesn't tell the whole story. "Now, in terms of savings for you as a Medicare recipient, the biggest one is on prescription drugs, because the prescription drug companies have already said that they would be willing to put up $80 billion in rebates for prescription drugs as part of a healthcare reform package. Now, we may be able to get even more than that." The White House admitted last week that a New York Times report that the administration had cut a backroom deal with the pharmaceutical companies was accurate. This after the administration promised a new style of politics that would keep lobbying interests at arm's-length.
  • Obama stated that more preventive care saves money, but the director of the Congressional Budget Office has already weighed in that it does not. "And finally," Obama said, "and this is important – we will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – (applause) – because there's no reason we shouldn't be catching diseases like breast cancer and prostate cancer on the front end. That makes sense, it saves lives; it also saves money – and we need to save money in this healthcare system." Unfortunately for Obama, Douglas W. Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office, recently addressed this point in a seven-page letter posted on "Although different types of preventive care have different effects on spending, the evidence suggests that for most preventive services, expanded utilization leads to higher, not lower, medical spending overall." That's because finding one disease in its early stages requires expensive screening procedures for countless others, which actually increases the costs of medicine. That's not to suggest preventative care isn't a good idea -- but to say it will reduce healthcare costs is at variance with the facts.
  • Obama promised reform would not increase the deficit, stating: "First of all, I said I won't sign a bill that adds to the deficit or the national debt. OK? So this will have to be paid for." Actually, the CBO estimates reform will increase the deficit by $239 billion over the next decade. Even if Obama and congressional Democrats find a way to bridge that gap, the real cost of the current proposals comes after year 10. Based on CBO estimates, those costs of the program will increase by 8 percent per year, adding over $188 billion to the deficit each year beyond 2020.

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