Bravo Jake Tapper: Pushing President Obama On His Absurd Assurances About “Keeping Your Plan”

Hugh Hewitt
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Posted: Jun 24, 2009 12:20 PM

President Obama is selling snake oil. The “government option” at the heart of his proposed radical restructuring of American medicine –now renamed the “public plan” to ease its acceptance by a public rightly wary of government-run anything much less the health care system they depend upon for life itself-- is a giant time-bomb intended to level the health insurance system in America.

The president and his allies in Congress know that the vast majority of Americans like their health insurance and will resist any attempt by the government to interfere with it.

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So the president blandly assures everyone who will listen that the “government option/public plan” will not interfere with their current health insurance if they don’t want it to.

President Obama made that assurance last Monday before the AMA.

And he made it again in his press conference yesterday, assuring a reporter and the White House press corps assembled that “the public plan, I think, is an important tool to discipline insurance companies.”

“What we've said is,” he continued, “under our proposal, let's have a system, the same way that federal employees do, same way that members of Congress do, where we call it an exchange, but you can call it a marketplace, where, essentially, you've got a whole bunch of different plans.”

And then the kicker:

“If you like your plan and you like your doctor, you won't have to do a thing. You keep your plan; you keep your doctor. If your employer's providing you good health insurance, terrific. We're not going to mess with it.”

ABC’s Jake Tapper has been doing his homework, and when his turn came he first asked if the government option/public plan was “non-negotiable, and after the president did a bit of deflection, Tapper came right back to the core issue. The exchange is very important, so it is reproduced here at length:

TAPPER: And, while I appreciate your Spock-like language about the logic of the health care plan and the public plan, it does seem logical to a lot of people that if the government is offering a cheaper health care plan, then lots of employers will want to have their employees covered by that cheaper plan, which will not have to be for-profit, unlike private plans, and may, possibly, benefit from some government subsidies, who knows.

And then their employees would be signed up for this public plan, which would violate what you're promising the American people, that they will not have to change health care plans if they like the plan they have.

So...

MR. OBAMA: OK. You're pitching; I'm catching.

TAPPER: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

MR. OBAMA: I got the question.

First of all, was the reference to Spock, is that a crack on my ears?

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: No.

MR. OBAMA: All right. I just wanted to make sure. No?

TAPPER: Never make fun of you (inaudible).

MR. OBAMA: In answer to David's question, which you co-opted, we are still early in this process. So, you know, we have not drawn lines in the sand, other than that reform has to control costs and that it has to provide relief to people who don't have health insurance or are under-insured. You know, those are the broad parameters that we've discussed.

There are a whole host of other issues where ultimately I may have a strong opinion, and I will express those to members of Congress as this is shaping up. It's too early to say that.

Right now, I will say that our position is that a public plan makes sense.

Now, let me go to the -- the broader question you made about the public plan. As I said before, I think that there is a legitimate concern, if the public plan was simply eating off the taxpayer trough, that it would be hard for private insurers to compete.

If, on the other hand, the public plan is structure in such a way where they've got to collect premiums and they've got to provide good services, then, if what the insurance companies are saying is true, that they're doing their best to serve their customers, that they're in the business of keeping people well and giving them security when they get sick, they should be able to compete.

Now, if it turns out that the public plan, for example, is able to reduce administrative costs significantly, then you know what, I'd like the insurance companies to take note and say, hey, if the public plan can do that, why can't we?

And that's good for everybody in the system. And I don't think there should be any objection to that.

Now, by the way, I should point out that part of the reform that we've suggested is that, if you want to be a private insurer as part of the exchange, as part of this marketplace, this menu of options that people can choose from, we're going to have some different rules for all insurance companies, one of them being that you can't preclude people from getting health insurance because of a pre-existing condition. You can't cherry-pick and just take the healthiest people.

So there are going to be some ground rules that are going to apply to all insurance companies. Because I think the American people understand that, too often, insurance companies have been spending more time thinking about how to take premiums and then avoid providing people coverage than they have been thinking about how can we make sure that insurance is there; health care is there when families need it.

But, you know, I'm confident that, if -- you know, I take those advocates of the free market to heart when they say that, you know, the free market is innovative and is going to compete on service and is going to compete on, you know, their ability to deliver good care to families.

And if that's the case, then this just becomes one more option. If it's not the case, then I think that that's something that the American people should know.

TAPPER: I'm sorry, but what about keeping your promise to the American people that they won't have to change plans even if employers...

(CROSSTALK)

MR. OBAMA: Well, all right -- when I say if you have your plan and you like it, and your doctor has a plan -- or you have a doctor and you like your doctor, that you don't have to change plans, what I'm saying is the government is not going to make you change plans under health reform.

Now, are there going to be employers right now, assuming we don't do anything -- let's say that we take the advice of some folks who are out there and say, "Oh, this is not the time to do health care. We can't afford it. It's too complicated. Let's take our time," et cetera.

So let's assume that nothing happened. I can guarantee you that there's the possibility for a whole lot of Americans out there that they're not going to end up having the same health care they have. Because what's going to happen is, as costs keep on going up, employers are going to start making decisions. We've got to raise premiums on our employees. In some cases, we can't provide health insurance at all.

And so there are going to be a whole set of changes out there. That's exactly why health reform is so important.

Margaret from McClatchy? Where's Margaret? There you go.

Note that the president cut Tapper off when Tapper got down to the core issue, then the president dissembled, and then the president called on someone else.

Tapper was trying to raise the most obvious question of all: The president has promised the American people over and over again that they can keep their health insurance if they like it, but it is quite simply enormously and purposely deceptive of him to do so.

The president has to change the subject, has to dissemble and deflect, because the truth, if understood by Americans, will doom the centerpiece of his takeover of American medicine.

Tapper pointed out that employers provide insurance to most Americans, and if the federal government offers employers a cheaper way to provide health insurance, vast numbers of those employers will dump their employees into that government system.

The government won’t force the employers to switch, but employers will switch, and the president’s promise will be as bogus as a three dollar bill. When this massive disruption occurs, President Obama will stand back and say he had nothing to do with it –that employers made the switch.

Even if Americans then see through this giant bait-and-switch and blame the president, it will be too late. Once leveled the health insurance industry will be too crippled to reconstitute itself as a competitor to the government option/public plan. Millions of Americans and their premiums will have been transferred by their employers to the government rolls, including millions of Americans in the public sector whose local governments will not be able to resist the lure of the savings that comes from off-loading the teachers, cops and firefighters onto the federal plan.

This is not what federal employees and Congress have right now, by the way –another practiced bit of deceptive rhetoric regularly rolled out by the president. What they have is the FEHB –the Federal Employees Health Benefits system, which is a very nice fringe benefit but which is definitely not a government insurance plan but rather a collective of hundreds of private sector plans from which federal employees can chose. This crucial distinction is apparently lost on the MSM which never questions this sleight of hand either.

As many times as the president repeats these deceptions, members of the press corps should press him on it.

When he dodges, they ought to double down as Tapper did today.

When he cuts them off, the next reporter should not facilitate the deception but should continue the line of questioning until the president is forced to explain how the he can back a radical plan that will force millions of Americans to lose their current health plan and see it replaced with an inferior plan and yet not admit to what he is pushing.

The American people will not support this plan if they understand it. The MSM’s job is to bring attention to this deception. The fact that the president is doing the best he can to avoid answering the question would have been an irresistible cue to White House press corps of old.

Sadly for Americans in danger of getting head-faked out of their existing health insurance plans which they value, this new president has thus far charmed or intimidated almost all of the media into acquiescing in the enormous whopper which is his description of the government option/public plan. We have to hope that Jake Tapper’s push-back was the first of many and from many sources.