Barack Obama’s Newspeak on Health Care
Tonight’s speech on health care was a doubling down on the part of the administration. All the bad policy, all the economic voodoo, and all the flat out repression remain in the President’s platform. So does all the newspeak:
Since health care represents one-sixth of our economy, I believe it makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn’t, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch.And that is precisely what those of you in Congress have tried to do over the past several months.
Employer provided health care does not work. It is the primary reason people are uninsured in this nation. Every sob story about someone losing their insurance when they lose their jobs, or about someone being unable to get insurance when they get a new job, traces back to this core fault of our health care system and our tax code.
First, if you are among the hundreds of millions of Americans who already have health insurance through your job, Medicare, Medicaid, or the VA, nothing in this plan will require you or your employer to change the coverage or the doctor you have. Let me repeat this: nothing in our plan requires you to change what you have.
Nothing, except the public option. The above statement cannot be true given the current state of health care in the US. Remember, most people have no control over their health insurance. Their employers do, and employers can certainly force employees onto the public option if its more economical for them.
What this plan will do is to make the insurance you have work better for you. Under this plan, it will be against the law for insurance companies to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. As soon as I sign this bill, it will be against the law for insurance companies to drop your coverage when you get sick or water it down when you need it most. They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We will place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because in the United States of America, no one should go broke because they get sick. And insurance companies will be required to cover, with no extra charge, routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies – because there’s no reason we shouldn’t be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer before they get worse. That makes sense, it saves money, and it saves lives.
In other words, there will be no actual health insurance in the US. There will be subsidy plans called insurance with no mechanisms to control how much they pay out. American “insurance companies” will become no-limit ATMs for doctors and patients. This is supposed to lower costs?
Also, with regards to the previous point, Jim the office manager will certainly be forced off his insurance when it goes under because of these rules.
Now, even if we provide these affordable options, there may be those – particularly the young and healthy – who still want to take the risk and go without coverage. There may still be companies that refuse to do right by their workers. The problem is, such irresponsible behavior costs all the rest of us money.
There are quite a few states where people would like to carry true insurance, but cannot do so because of coverage mandates from state governments. Obama’s statements earlier ensure these people will not be able to do so anywhere in the US. Maybe he knows he’s changing the value proposition for “insurance” by outlawing insurance…
That doesn’t explain, though, why Obama seems so insistent in attacking those who choose not to carry insurance. His claim that they cost us all money? Bunk. People who don’t pay their medical bills, insured and uninsured, cost us money. The real reason is that Obama’s plan depends on inflicting expensive “insurance” upon people who don’t need it to subsidize those who do:
And unless everybody does their part, many of the insurance reforms we seek – especially requiring insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions – just can’t be achieved.
So, those who plan on being self-sufficient now cost us all money even if they pay their bills. Newspeak at its finest. Forging on:
That’s why under my plan, individuals will be required to carry basic health insurance – just as most states require you to carry auto insurance.
Barack Obama just proposed outlawing basic health insurance, now he’s saying people will be required to carry it. Brilliant!
And I have no doubt that these reforms would greatly benefit Americans from all walks of life, as well as the economy as a whole. Still, given all the misinformation that’s been spread over the past few months, I realize that many Americans have grown nervous about reform.
They have been growing nervous because they have been hearing about the plan and projecting it on to their own lives. Comparing a government plan to the reality on planet Earth is not misinformation.
My health care proposal has also been attacked by some who oppose reform as a “government takeover” of the entire health care system. As proof, critics point to a provision in our plan that allows the uninsured and small businesses to choose a publicly-sponsored insurance option, administered by the government just like Medicaid or Medicare.
Just like the government-spawned and -backstopped entities Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac had no influence on the housing market, right?
So let me set the record straight. My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75% of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90% is controlled by just one company. Without competition, the price of insurance goes up and the quality goes down. And it makes it easier for insurance companies to treat their customers badly – by cherry-picking the healthiest individuals and trying to drop the sickest; by overcharging small businesses who have no leverage; and by jacking up rates.
The conditions that caused insurance markets to become moribund in those states are nothing compared to the draconian regulation on insurers in this proposal. Remember, actual insurance would be illegal under the Obama proposal.
Insurance executives don’t do this because they are bad people. They do it because it’s profitable. As one former insurance executive testified before Congress, insurance companies are not only encouraged to find reasons to drop the seriously ill; they are rewarded for it. All of this is in service of meeting what this former executive called “Wall Street’s relentless profit expectations.”
A side effect of this dastardly profit motive is that it keeps overall costs down. If costs rise faster than revenues, insurance companies make no money. On the planet earth, removing the profit motive will remove a restraint on costs. In the world Obama is living in, removing the profit motive will drive down costs. More great newspeak!
Now, I have no interest in putting insurance companies out of business.
The outlawing of insurance says otherwise.
They provide a legitimate service, and employ a lot of our friends and neighbors. I just want to hold them accountable. The insurance reforms that I’ve already mentioned would do just that. But an additional step we can take to keep insurance companies honest is by making a not-for-profit public option available in the insurance exchange. Let me be clear – it would only be an option for those who don’t have insurance. No one would be forced to choose it, and it would not impact those of you who already have insurance.
The legitimate service they provide was outlawed a few paragraphs ago. The newspeak for outlawing something is “reforming” it, I guess. On top of it, the newspeak about being able to keep one’s insurance when one doesn’t control it raises its ugly head again. This speech is one steaming pile of… newspeak!
Despite all this, the insurance companies and their allies don’t like this idea. They argue that these private companies can’t fairly compete with the government. And they’d be right if taxpayers were subsidizing this public insurance option. But they won’t be. I have insisted that like any private insurance company, the public insurance option would have to be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects.
But, unless Obama’s insurance reforms were just lies, it wouldn’t be possible for a “public option” to be self-sufficient. Pure newspeak!
It would also keep pressure on private insurers to keep their policies affordable and treat their customers better, the same way public colleges and universities provide additional choice and competition to students without in any way inhibiting a vibrant system of private colleges and universities.
To make the analogy complete, the public universities would be competing with private universities that had just been banned from educating students. That certainly would be “vibrant” competition!
But its impact shouldn’t be exaggerated – by the left, the right, or the media. It is only one part of my plan, and should not be used as a handy excuse for the usual Washington ideological battles.
The effect of the public option combined with the outlawing of private insurance on the actual US health insurance market should not be understated.
And to my Republican friends, I say that rather than making wild claims about a government takeover of health care, we should work together to address any legitimate concerns you may have.
Government outlaws real insurance, government offers affordable (read: subsidized) public option. If that isn’t a stealth takeover, I don’t know what is!
Here’s what you need to know. First, I will not sign a plan that adds one dime to our deficits – either now or in the future.
Considering the wildly inaccurate predictions about other social service programs, Obama cannot claim to know what this plan would cost, let alone that it would not inflate the deficit.
Second, we’ve estimated that most of this plan can be paid for by finding savings within the existing health care system – a system that is currently full of waste and abuse. Right now, too much of the hard-earned savings and tax dollars we spend on health care doesn’t make us healthier. That’s not my judgment – it’s the judgment of medical professionals across this country. And this is also true when it comes to Medicare and Medicaid.
Remember, the ability of the insurance companies to limit costs was just outlawed at the beginning of the speech.
Finally, many in this chamber – particularly on the Republican side of the aisle – have long insisted that reforming our medical malpractice laws can help bring down the cost of health care. I don’t believe malpractice reform is a silver bullet, but I have talked to enough doctors to know that defensive medicine may be contributing to unnecessary costs. So I am proposing that we move forward on a range of ideas about how to put patient safety first and let doctors focus on practicing medicine. I know that the Bush Administration considered authorizing demonstration projects in individual states to test these issues. It’s a good idea, and I am directing my Secretary of Health and Human Services to move forward on this initiative today.
Many Americans use malpractice suits as their only defense against a system in which they otherwise have no control. The plan outlined here places control even farther out of their hands. Expect the lawsuits to get worse, not better.
Add it all up, and the plan I’m proposing will cost around $900 billion over ten years – less than we have spent on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and less than the tax cuts for the wealthiest few Americans that Congress passed at the beginning of the previous administration. Most of these costs will be paid for with money already being spent – but spent badly – in the existing health care system. The plan will not add to our deficit. The middle-class will realize greater security, not higher taxes. And if we are able to slow the growth of health care costs by just one-tenth of one percent each year, it will actually reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the long term.
The government has never, never, been able to accurately estimate the costs of social programs. Yet Obama is presenting us financial gospel to assuage our fears that this will become an out-of-control juggernaut. Uh-huh.
But know this: I will not waste time with those who have made the calculation that it’s better politics to kill this plan than improve it. I will not stand by while the special interests use the same old tactics to keep things exactly the way they are. If you misrepresent what’s in the plan, we will call you out. And I will not accept the status quo as a solution. Not this time. Not now.
Fine, call me out, Mr. President. Because I’m calling you out, right now, on the complete and total distortion of reality you just pulled to try and convince us your plan worked.
You see, our predecessors understood that government could not, and should not, solve every problem. They understood that there are instances when the gains in security from government action are not worth the added constraints on our freedom. But they also understood that the danger of too much government is matched by the perils of too little; that without the leavening hand of wise policy, markets can crash, monopolies can stifle competition, and the vulnerable can be exploited.
There we go with the reality distortion again. Markets have nothing to do with where we are today. The insurance racket that reams millions of Americans in this nation is the result of government policy run amok.
Moreover, your predecessors understood the need to have a government that is answerable to its own set of laws, the Constitution. A great deal of what you’ve just proposed has no basis in that document. To claim these reforms are within the purview of the Federal Government is just more disinformation. More newspeak.
I understand that the politically safe move would be to kick the can further down the road – to defer reform one more year, or one more election, or one more term.
But that’s not what the moment calls for. That’s not what we came here to do. We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it. I still believe we can act even when it’s hard. I still believe we can replace acrimony with civility, and gridlock with progress. I still believe we can do great things, and that here and now we will meet history’s test.
Mr. President, your oath of office mentioned nothing about “doing great things” or “replacing gridlock with progress”. It called on you to uphold and defend the Constitution. Not only is this proposal bad and repressive policy that will have precisely the opposite effects than what is claimed, it is a complete, brutal assault on the concept of limited government enshrined in the document you swore to uphold.
No more lies, no more disinformation, no more newspeak, Mr. President. You’ve been called out. Can you meet the challenge?