President Obama grilled on health care at his latest press conference
San Diego – The honeymoon with the press may be coming to an end. The president was grilled by White House reporters on health care, human rights and energy. He was put on the defensive by slipping poll numbers, a worsening economy and tough rhetoric on his overly-ambitious health care and cap and trade plans. The chickens are now coming home to roost at the White House.
According to Bill Burton, White House deputy press secretary, Obama set out today to change the tone to get the health care and cap and trade plans moving forward.
This comes at a time when the president’s health care plan is running into trouble on Capitol Hill. According to a Washington Post/ABC poll 90 percent of Americans are worried about his administrations continued deficit spending.
“Unless we act to fix what’s broken in our current system, everyone’s health care will be in jeopardy. One in every five dollars we earn will be spent on health care,” Obama said.
President Obama went on to explain that health care spending is unsustainable and unacceptable – “reform is not a luxury.”
During the nearly hour-long press conference the president hammered away at the issues.
“This is legislation that must and will be paid for. We will find money through savings and inefficiencies,” the president explained. “Reform will also bring down the skyrocketing costs.”
The sticky issue within the proposed legislation seems to be the “public plan.” This particular point is a deal breaker with the current private insurance companies as well as doctors.
“The government should only be involved in thoughtful regulation of the industry,” says Dr. Gary Gonsalves. “The government should be able to regulate much like the utility companies.”
If the American people need to see a picture of government-run health care they can look no further than the Veteran’s Affairs program, says Gonsalves. “The thought of a public option even scares my liberal doctor friends away.”
However, the president couldn’t disagree more saying that the public plan is an important tool that can be used to discipline insurance companies. “I know that this issue will cause healthy debate,” Obama tersely said and quickly moved on to another reporter.
The questions continued to swirl back to the public plan issue. Reporters continued to point, out it was logical that businesses would switch to the government plan to save money.
The White House press corps did something they usually don’t do – they didn’t let the president off the hook. Jack Tapper of ABC called out the president on his promise to Americans that; “If they like their insurance company they can keep it.”
This forced the president to dance around the question. “Without reform people will have to change insurance companies anyways,” Obama claimed.
This flies in the face of the previous statements that Americans could keep their insurance plans if they want to, Tapper insisted. Experts state this portion of the bill could affect 100 million Americans currently insured with private health plans.
The nation’s health insurance providers and physicians believe that a public plan would level the playing field by making the rules and garnering the ability to run a business without having to maintain a profit margin.
Obama contends that a public plan, if it gains popularity, will force private insurers to stand up a take notice. “Maybe they will have to start using cost-saving technology that the government will use to be more competitive,” he said.
The bottom line is the health care debate is in its earliest stages and Congress has yet to bring a bill forward for the people to read.
While the White House favors a public plan, the president did acknowledge that there were legitimate concerns about the public plan eating off the public trough.
“However, if the public plan is structured to collect premiums and provide good services, then private companies should be able to compete,” Obama contended.
Doctors think regulated health insurance companies could reward healthy behavior, keep down premiums and do away with pre-existing conditions to keep the government out of this issue.
With the unemployment numbers percolating near the 10 percent figure, health care is sure to be front and center most of the summer. Whether or not reform takes place will depend on how much political capitol the president still maintains.