Obama Using 'Dire Scenarios' on Healthcare

Thursday, 17 Dec 2009 01:04 PM

By David A. Patten

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After months of accusing conservatives of frightening voters over healthcare reform, President Obama is resorting to tactics that even liberals are calling "fear mongering" in a bid to persuade the Senate to approve his ObamaCare proposals.

Barack ObamaObama declared Wednesday night on ABC News that without healthcare reform the federal government would go bankrupt.

"If we don't pass it, here's the guarantee," President Obama told ABC's Charlie Gibson, "that the people who are watching tonight, your premiums will go up, your employers are going to load up more costs on you.

Potentially they're going to drop your coverage, because they just can't afford an increase of 25 percent, 30 percent in terms of the costs of providing health care to employees each and every year.

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"And the federal government will go bankrupt," Obama continued, "because Medicare and Medicaid are on a trajectory that are unsustainable, and this actually provides us the best chance of starting to bend the cost curve on the government expenditures in Medicare and Medicaid."

ABC News termed the president's prediction a "dire scenario."

Such rhetoric may be an indication that the administration fears its window is narrowing to pass a reform that is increasingly unpopular with the American public. Obama also is facing a revolt from his party's left.

Liberals are ramping up their attacks on the president, complaining he is too weak to stand up to the insurance industry and blaming him for capitulating on public-option healthcare.

"The president never drew a line in the sand," MSNBC talk host Ed Schultz said on Thursday. "He hasn't been tough. This isn't a Democratic Party problem. This is a President Obama problem."

Other administration officials are evoking equally apocalyptic visions of what will happen if the current, watered-down version of healthcare reform does not pass.

Senior White House adviser David Axelrod said Thursday on MSNBC's Morning Joe program that it would be "enormously tragic" if ObamaCare does not make it through Congress. Democrats, he said, should realize that if they miss this opportunity "it will not come back again."

"Seven presidents have tried to do this," Axelrod said. "Seven presidents have failed. We have an opportunity to do it now, and if we don't, here's what going to happen: Premiums are going to continue to multiply on an exponential rate, there's going to be no relief in sight, more people are going to lose their insurance, more people will be deprived of insurance due to pre-existing conditions, and the status quo will reign and ultimately the whole system will implode."

Liberal Democrats, many of whom prefer no bill at all rather than legislation they believe would provide a windfall to an uncompetitive health-insurance industry, don't appear to be buying the administration's gloom-and-doom rhetoric, however.

"I hate the fear-mongering that's going on by the White House now," progressive icon Arianna Huffington commented on Morning Joe, "saying the country's going to go bankrupt if you don't pass this health care bill."

Only a few weeks ago, Team Obama was focusing on attacking Fox News. But after a moderately hawkish speech on Afghanistan and the decision to jettison the public option, the president's advisers are busy just trying to defend Obama from attacks from his party's rabid left.

The administration is focusing most of its firepower on former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who says the current Senate reform is too expensive, offers a windfall to insurance companies, and ought to be scrapped altogether.

Dean favors replacing it with a much simpler that would provide additional benefits, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions, without transforming the entire U.S. healthcare system. Attempts at a major overhaul could wait, he says -- including the individual mandate requiring insurance that he and many liberals find unacceptable without a public-option to limit insurance companies' windfall profits.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs characterized Dean's views Wednesday as "flat-out wrong."

It's clear there's no love lost between Dean and the administration. Dean told MSNBC on Thursday that he would support Obama for re-election in 2012, but "not vigorously."

Huffington dodged a similar question over whether she would support Obama for re-election.



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