President Barack Obama got right to the point on health care reform and answered every GOP charge at the July 22 White House press conference.
Obama tied the need of doing health care reform now, not only to help the almost 50 million Americans who don’t have health insurance, but to significantly rev up the economy.
The president, before taking questions, reminded the public of the more than trillion dollar deficit he inherited from the Bush administration and the costly and inefficient Bush Medicare plan. He also spoke about the economic crisis and what his administration inherited. All this geared, many said, to answer the cacophany of Big Business, insurance-medical complex and GOP misinformation that has echoed throughout the media these last days.
He said investment in clean energy and health care reform are key to reviving the economy and creating more jobs. He also asserted confidence in the stimulus package that would be doing its job – by saving or creating some three million jobs – over the next two years.
Obama said the bill he is looking forward to signing must lower costs, guarantee choice and expand coverage. He said he would not shift the cost of the health plan to the ‘middle class.’ And would not sign a bill that added to the deficit.
He said right now two-thirds of the reform plan could be paid for with current tax revenue already going to health coverage. The other one-third, he said, could be paid for by decreasing tax deductions on the wealthy. ‘That was my idea. But there are other ideas out there,’ he said. The House bill projects a surcharge on incomes of $1 million and more.
The president stressed that he would not allow the ‘middle class’ to pay anymore. ‘People are already hurting,’ he said and referred to the growing wealth gap.
Every question but two were geared towards health reform. The president attempted to neutralize the personal and other attacks unleashed by the GOP and the insurance lobby over the last few days. ‘Health care reform is not about me. I have great health care,’ he said. It’s about the American people, he said, and told many personal stories of struggling Americans with inadequate health insurance.
When asked if any of the plans would cover all the uninsured, Obama said that only the single-payer system, where everyone is enrolled would do that. But the current Congress plans he has seen and favors would cover 97-98 percent of the uninsured, he said.
When asked if the public option would deny benefits, the president said it would ‘largely match up’ with the kind of care that Congress gets.
He also talked about a committee of doctors and health experts that could oversee what works and what doesn’t in efficient and quality coverage.
It doesn’t make sense to get the same test done two or three times because there wasn’t coordination, he said.
The only limitations to the health plan would be things that don’t make Americans healthier. He stressed decisions have to be medically and evidence based.
Right now, he said, doctors are forced to make decisions based on a fee-reimbursement system, not medical evidence or what the patient really needs.
Obama stayed firm on the need to do the reform in the next months. Without a deadline, he said, nothing gets done in this town.
The last question to the president was on the arrest – and the dropping of charges – of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr in Cambridge, Mass., and what this means on racism.
The president said that ‘Skip’ Gates is a friend and he didn’t know all the details. But from what he understood that the Cambridge police acted stupidly, there is a long history in this country of racial profiling by law enforcement, and while the country has come long way there still is more to do for equality.