Tags: david | gregory | sebelius

David Gregory's Home Run on the Obama Health Plan

Sunday, 19 Jul 2009 09:08 PM

By Christopher Ruddy

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“Meet the Press” host David Gregory hit a home run Sunday with his interview of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius.

I couldn’t help but feel that Tim Russert was smiling from heaven after watching this one.

Gregory offered some tough questions – ones like journalists used to revel in.

But during the Barack Obama era, we have seen a meltdown of such standards from the Fourth Estate.

Gregory’s performance was an exception. Still, it’s a hopeful sign that some in the media have turned the corner on their love affair with Obama. His once-seductive speeches are falling by the wayside to the harsh reality of truth.

Gregory began his line of questioning by quoting Obama that his goal was not only to contain health costs but also to lower them.

A video clip of Obama quoted the president: “Even as we rescue this economy from this crisis, I believe we have to rebuild an even better economy than we had before. That means finally controlling the healthcare costs that are driving this nation into debt.”

But, as Gregory quickly pointed out, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) says the Obama healthcare plan will balloon federal spending.

Douglas Elmendorf, director of the CBO, told the Senate Budget Committee last week that the Obama plan will do quite the opposite of the president's intended goals.

“On the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs," he said.

Gregory quickly followed up, asking Sebelius: “So, if lowering costs is the rationale, the president can't support what's going through Congress right now, can he?”

Sebelius' response came across as incoherent, even comical.

What could she say? Could she admit that Obama’s plan adds 45 million uninsured to the government healthcare rolls — a fact that will help drive costs to more than $1 trillion over the next 10 years?

Could she admit that healthcare costs are not rising dramatically, as Obama and company would have us believe?

In 1993, when the Clinton administration proposed a national healthcare system, health costs represented more than 13 percent of GDP. Almost 17 years later, the costs are up to just over 15 percent of GDP – a relatively small increase. The private system is doing a good job containing costs despite the fact that this same 17-year period witnessed the baby boomers age dramatically.

Sebelius offered little in the way of explanation for the dramatic $1 trillion price tag the Obama plan bears.

“Well, as you know, David, first of all, this is a work in progress,” was the best Sebelius could muster. “Work in progress?” this was supposed to be the Obama plan to save our healthcare system, not a first step to fix things.

She wasn’t fooling Gregory. He hit back hard:

“But you want to spend a trillion dollars to bring costs down, and the CBO is saying you won't bring costs down. And all you're saying in response to that is, ‘Well, no, they actually will’? I don't understand the disconnect here.”

During the “Meet the Press” show, it became clear that the Obama plan has major, deal-breaking flaws.

First, it was pointed out that the Massachusetts program, which mandated healthcare coverage for all citizens and which Obama team members have cited as a model for their plan, has been a disaster.

Gregory cited The Wall Street Journal: "In 2006, Massachusetts adopted a healthcare law that was to attain near-universal health insurance coverage . . . [b]ut the plan has done little to control costs, which are now 33 percent higher than the U.S. average and projected to grow faster than the rest of the country."

Second, the public plan is a back-door way of driving private insurers out of business by making the “public option” cheaper than private insurers.

“Why wouldn't everybody go to a public plan, then?” a curious Gregory asked. “If it's less expensive, why wouldn't everybody choose that?”

Sebelius brushed it off, saying a less expensive plan simply will make insurance more competitive. But how do private companies compete against government-subsidized insurance?

Third, Obama has claimed repeatedly that he wants consumers to continue have the right to keep their doctor and their current insurer.

He quoted Obama: “Under our proposal, if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor. If you like your current insurance, you keep that insurance. Period, end of story.”

But an Associated Press story this past weekend exploded that myth. Under the Obama plan, business owners can opt in to the government option, forcing their employees to accept public health care.

With a public plan subsidized by taxpayers and cheaper than private care, what business, especially a small business, would not choose the cheaper option?

It is amazing that we may be just days away from a vote that will begin the process of turning more than 15 percent of the nation’s GDP over to federal control, and most people have little idea of what the plan says or how it will impact their lives.

But the “Meet the Press” program was first mainstream media presentation laying out the major problems. Perhaps it will be a turning point.

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