Wanted: Honesty on Health Care

The president's health care lies might be injurious to your health

President Barack Obama walked into the Oval Office with a veritable halo over his head. In the eyes of his backers, he could say or do no wrong because he had evidently descended directly from heaven to return celestial order to our fallen world. Oprah declared his tongue to be "dipped in the unvarnished truth." Newsweek editor Evan Thomas averred that Obama "stands above the country and above the world as a sort of a God."

But when it comes to health care reform, with every passing day, Obama seems less God and more demagogue, uttering not transcendental truths, but bald-faced lies. Here are the top five lies that His Awesomeness has told—the first two for no reason other than to get elected and the next three to sell socialized medicine to a wary nation.

Lie One: No one will be compelled to buy coverage.

During the campaign, Obama insisted that he would not resort to an individual mandate to achieve universal coverage. In fact, he repeatedly ripped Hillary Clinton's plan for proposing one. "To force people to buy coverage," he insisted, "you've got to have a very harsh penalty." What will this penalty be, he demanded? "Are you going to garnish their wages?" he asked Hillary in one debate.

Yet now, Obama is behaving as if he said never a hostile word about the mandate. Earlier this month, in a letter to Sens. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), and Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), he blithely declared that he was all for "making every American responsible for having health insurance coverage, and making employers share in the cost."

But just like Hillary, he is refusing to say precisely what he will do to those who want to forgo insurance. There is a name for such a health care approach: It is called TonySopranoCare.

Lie Two: No new taxes on employer benefits.

Obama took his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), to the mat for suggesting that it might be better to remove the existing health care tax break that individuals get on their employer-sponsored coverage, but return the vast bulk—if not all—of the resulting revenues in the form of health care tax credits. This would theoretically have made coverage both more affordable and portable for everyone. Obama, however, would have none of it, portraying this idea simply as the removal of a tax break. "For the first time in history, he wants to tax your health benefits," he thundered. "Apparently, Sen. McCain doesn't think it's enough that your health premiums have doubled. He thinks you should have to pay taxes on them too."

Yet now Obama is signaling his willingness to go along with a far worse scheme to tax employer-sponsored benefits to fund the $1.6 trillion or so it will cost to provide universal coverage. Contrary to Obama's allegations, McCain's plan did not ultimately entail a net tax increase because he intended to return to individuals whatever money was raised by scrapping the tax deduction. Not so with Obama. He apparently told Sen. Baucus that he would consider the senator's plan for rolling back the tax exclusion that expensive, Cadillac-style employer-sponsored plans enjoy, in order to pay for universal coverage. But, unlike McCain, he has said nothing about putting offsetting deductions or credits in the hands of individuals.

In other words, Obama might well end up doing what McCain never set out to do: Impose a net tax increase on health benefits for the first time in history.

Lie Three: Government can control rising health care costs better than the private sector.

Ignoring the reality that Medicare—the government-funded program for the elderly—has put the country on the path to fiscal ruin, Obama wants to model a government insurance plan—the so-called "public option"—after Medicare in order to control the country's rising health care costs. Why? Because, he repeatedly claims, Medicare has far lower administrative costs and overhead than private plans—to wit, 3% for Medicare compared to 10% to 20% for private plans. Hence, he says, subjecting private plans to competition against an entity delivering such superior efficiency will release health care dollars for universal coverage.

But lower administrative costs do not necessarily mean greater efficiency. Indeed, the Congressional Budget Office analysis last year chastised Medicare's lax attitude on this front. "The traditional fee-for-service Medicare program does relatively little to manage benefits, which tends to reduce its administrative costs but may raise its overall spending relative to a more tightly managed approach," it noted on page 93.

In short, extending the Medicare model will further ruin—not improve—even the functioning aspects of private plans.

Lie Four: A public plan won't be a Trojan horse for a single-payer monopoly.

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  • johnny john john||

    Why is a website called "Reason" so fond of using propagandist statements sprinkled throughout their articles?

  • ed||

    Disney World has revealed their newest Hall of Presidents animatronic puppet.
    Democrat visitors swear they can't tell the real Obama from the fake one.

  • Xeones||

    Cripes, johnny john john, it's too early to drink yet.

  • Art-P.O.G.||

    Xeones,

    Sometimes I think these people know the drinking rules and transgress deliberately.

  • ||

    April Fulton had a marvy little piece on Morning Edition this morning, where she made the debate over a public plan into a cute little airlines metaphor.

    Flights to Healthville on a crowded 737 for cheaps vs. comfy seats with meals and drinks on a private airliner that (sob) not everyone can afford...

    It was the stupidest fucking thing I've heard in a long time. Here, go listen so I don't have to suffer alone.

    Is anybody good at firing off letters? This deserves a good verbal spanking.

  • Rich||

    "uttering not transcendental truths, but bald-faced lies"

    How about "transcendental lies"?

  • Xeones||

    It does happen with suspicious regularity, Art. Mainly i'm pissed because i left my flask at home -- trying NOT to get fired this week.

  • Rich||

    @ Bronwyn. "Government Air", indeed. BYO airsickness bag!

  • Rich||

    > Why is a website called "Reason" so fond of using propagandist statements sprinkled throughout their articles?

    Mostly, just being professional about quoting the fodder.

  • ||

    Yeah, BYO airsickness bag, and BYO pillow, but that'll be a $200 extra charge. And since you've shown yourself to be so wealthy as to be able to afford your own airsick bag and pillow fee, we're kicking you off the plane.

    The metaphor failed the instant she said, "destination, Healthyville."

  • Spoonman||

    But right now the airlines are required to give everybody rides to Healthyville, then bill them.

  • ||

    Sometimes I think these people know the drinking rules and transgress deliberately.


    It's a great excuse for an eye opener.

  • Fascitis Necrotizante||

    To keep ticket prices down, we'll be paying your pilot $.60 on the dollar for his time. And who really needs a copilot? Enjoy your flight!

  • Xeones||

    The metaphor failed the instant she said, "destination, Healthyville."

    Right -- i mean, c'mon, everybody knows Healthyville doesn't even have an airport. You have to fly into Cleveland and then it's like an hour on the bus.

  • ||

    It was the stupidest fucking thing I've heard in a long time.



    I heard that, too. I shouted some very uncomplimentary words at the radio.

    Stupid like that is the reason I don't keep any of my guns loaded. I'd've shot all my radios long ago. :)

    Xeones | July 7, 2009, 9:10am - Good one.

  • Lisa Simpson||

    Ew! Oprah and Obama's tongue doing any dipping is the last image I want in my mind. She's like his Barbra Streisand or something. Too bad she's barking up the wrong tree, though.

  • ||

    The CATO Institute ran an ad recently with the headline "With All Due Respect, Mr. President, That Simply Is Not True." I guess being classy doesn't have the same sensationalist bang that "bald-faced lies" has.

  • ||

    People are so worried about losing their job, coverage, denial of treatment, which seems to increase bank deposit latetly. That means stimulus funding mainly goes toward bank deposit for a rainy day increasing jobless rate. It proves again that a healthy society yields better productivity, prosperity.
    It is time to 'Change' the notion of the public health as a fundamental human right and install 'a safety system for all' like all of the other industrialized nations, I think.

  • Warty||

    Xeones, are you saying that Cedar Point is Healthyville?

  • ||

    Even if a government option was so affordable that employers rushed to drop private plans to line up for it, and even if the government plan would not cover some treatments, "rationing" would not necessarily increased, nor would private plans suddenly disappear. Does anyone imagine that supplemental plans would not flourish for those with the ability to pay?

    Private insurance plans ration care all the time. As insurance costs have rocketed upward in recent years and we have struggled to maintain a plan we could afford, the list of exclusions has grown longer and longer. When I retire, how will I ever afford insurance that will cover pre-existing conditions?

    The opportunity to choose a public option IS freedom. Rationing is denying me that opportunity.

  • ||

    The opportunity to choose a public option IS freedom. Rationing is denying me that opportunity.

    I see George Orwell has joined the Reason blog.

    War is Peace. Slavery is Freedom. We were always at war with Ociana.

    Good Lord, how words can decieve!

  • ||

    Rm, with the spending Obama wants the chances of any of us being able to retire is almost nil.

  • ||

    Lamar: It may not be "classy" to call a spade a spade, but when others keep insisting it's a hoe, one is sometimes compelled to correct them.

    It's not Reason's fault that Obama is a damn liar.

  • ||

    "Lamar: It may not be 'classy' to call a spade a spade, but when others keep insisting it's a hoe, one is sometimes compelled to correct them."

    Couldn't they correct them in a way that doesn't evoke the book Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them)? Sorry, calling the President a liar sounds like Code Pink or Al Franken, not dignified journalism.

    If you have a strong case (and the case against CommieCare is strong), you don't have to call people a liar, liar pants on fire.

  • ||

    I wish Reason and the Republicans and everyone else who opposes Obama's healthcare "solution" would get beyond the sniping (as well-deserved as it is) and start pushing some specific free-market reforms. Rather than just playing defense, get people talking about tort reform, HSAs, the FDA, etc. etc.

  • ||

    Xeones:

    Shouldn't you be saying, "Yo, fuck Barack Obama"?

  • ||

    Articles such as this would be more convincing if we didn't have the rest of the civilized world to compare our healthcare system to. Somehow, only in America does a public option become an oppressive totalitarian nightmare when compared to the fabulous success of the private system we have.

  • ||

    Tony, first of all, we don't really have a "private system." Medicine here is highly regulated/subsidized/partially socialized. And have you noticed how often people around the world come here for medical care?

  • ||

    "And have you noticed how often people around the world come here for medical care?"

    This is why socialized medicine isn't enough. We need a worldwide system of health care. We could pay for it by stripping the drug companies of their patents. We would require young doctors to spend a year or two in impoverished lands in order to earn their licenses. Best of all, health care wouldn't be rationed because there would be no profit motive or corporate greed. Think of it as a combination of Cuba, Canada and Sweden, all wrapped into one sustainable package without any real cost. Do it. I said do it now.

  • ||

    Sorry, calling the President a liar sounds like Code Pink or Al Franken, not dignified journalism.

    They didn't call him a liar, they called what he says lies. Big difference.

    And seeing as how this is America, remember that the President deserves no more respect by virtue of his job than the fry cook at your local McDonald's does. He works for us, not the other way around.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Death is a genius! No cost at all... Only freedom, and who really cares about that?

    Just remember everybody, the eviiiiiiiilllll insurance company wants you to pay for it... Government will make it FREE!

  • ||

    Sorry, calling the President a liar sounds like Code Pink or Al Franken, not dignified journalism.

    Yeah, and look how that worked for Franken. Totally destroyed him as a political player.

  • ||

    The troll rode in on a pale horse, and his name is Death.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Psh... Death is just good satire.

  • ||

    "Yeah, and look how that worked for Franken. Totally destroyed him as a political player."

    I hold journalists to a different standard than political players. We weren't supposed to take Franken seriously, but we are supposed to take Dalmia seriously, despite the similarity in childhood taunts.

  • LarryA||

    And seeing as how this is America, remember that the President deserves no more respect by virtue of his job than the fry cook at your local McDonald's does.

    Hey! The cook at McDonalds gives me what I pay for. On time and with a smile. What do you have against him?

  • guy||

    We need a new Bill of Rights! Everyone has a natural and unalienable right to health care, affordable housing, and a good education! The current PROFIT-driven health care system makes money by DENYING health care! How could you support such an evil system?

  • ||

    @ Isaac

    Yeah, I was hurling obscenities at my radio, too. I almost bapped the Power button to shut her up, but restrained myself.

    I withhold my Power button bapping for current and former Presidents and Presidential candidates.

    (Please note, that was 'bapping', not 'fapping'. I don't think a girl can fab, anyway...)

  • ||

    I have long advocating that the best euphemism for female masturbation is making soup.

  • ||

    ACCORDING TO THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TOO MUCH OF AMERICA'S GDP IS SPENT ON HEALTH CARE.

    BUT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CREATED THE PROBLEM:

    Decades ago the government passed 'pay or play' tax incentives that encouraged employers to provide employees with health insurance.

    And America was hooked on health care the way junkies get hooked on smack. The dealer gave free samples until the client was hooked.

    When I was young America was the world's wealthiest nation. And employer provided health insurance paid 100% of medical costs. Because it was free it was abused. Mom took children to the emergency room for a rash and to the doctor for a small cut. Demand was artificially high.

    Cost shifting provided for the uninsured. Patients with good insurance policies and wealthy patients with no insurance policies received inflated invoices to cover the costs of those who could not pay. Health care providers and hospitals robbed from the rich to provide health care for the poor.

    It is instructive that during the time when America enjoyed great wealth the Federal Government expressed no concern for the plight of the uninsured!

    But over time manufacturing jobs moved overseas and were replaced with lower paying service economy jobs. Consequently, employers offered health insurance with less coverage and higher deductibles and co-pays.

    Were factory jobs lost because America could not compete with manufacturers in countries where government paid for health care? Regardless, American leaders would not raise tariffs to level the playing field and signed GATT and NAFTA into law!

    And America's leaders permitted millions of 'illegal' aliens to cross the border to do work American's would not do. Our schools educated their children, our State governments gave them drivers licenses, our banks granted them mortgages and our hospitals provided them health care.

    BOGUS SOLUTION

    Now that America is the worlds biggest debtor nation the Federal Government has decided the plight of the uninsured is unconscionable and universal coverage is a moral imperative.

    But this is not about the 46 million uninsured. It is about assuring health insurance companies' market share and health care professionals expected incomes and lifestyles.

    The health system in America has been based on a larger and more affluent generation of young policy holders offsetting the health cost of middle aged and seniors. This formula is being upset by the WWII baby boomers generation approaching retirement and the global recession.

    President Obama wants every American citizen to be required to buy a health insurance policy. He compares it to the requirement that motorists purchase auto insurance. But while driving is a privilege, life and the pursuit of happiness is a right!

    Where in the Constitution or Bill of Rights is the Federal Governments authority to require the purchase of a health insurance policy as a condition of having been born?
    Where is freedom when government has the power to tell you how to spend after tax dollars? What distinguishes disposable income from taxes?

    As for the proposal that the IRS be charged with fining citizens who do not purchase a health insurance policy, since the federal government just prints more paper money to pay debt why is taxation or the IRS even necessary. Just shutdown the IRS and transfer its budget to indigent care!

    FREE MARKET IS THE SOLUTION

    Is providing health care an enumerated power or responsibility of the Federal Government?

    The Federal Government lacks any authority to preach fiscal responsibility. It has exhibited none in my lifetime and has reduced the wealthiest nation on the planet to world's biggest debtor nation.

    But Ma and Pa citizen have had to balance a checkbook their entire lives. The solution is to return control of health care spending to them.

    Pass a law making it illegal for an employer to offer health insurance as an employee benefit. End wage stagnation and give employees raises instead.

    Doing away with group health insurance and forcing insurance providers to compete for individual business will permit cost conscious Ma and Pa to shop for the best deal, like they do auto insurance. Then the free market will bring costs under control!

  • ||

    Just baffling. I am just stunned how such an intelligent man (Obama is pretty intelligent, dumb as he is, he is intelligent) could do and say such things. What makes my brain short-circuit even more is that the average American isn't hugely pissed off. Most Americans do not want this kind of system. The liberals do not think, "oh, the public doesn't want this, we should rework the plan to please them." They think, "oh, the average American is a dumbass who doesn't know what is best for himself, we better shove this down his throat because we do know what is best for every man, women, and child."

  • Colonel_Angus||

    "Pass a law making it illegal for an employer to offer health insurance as an employee benefit."

    How is this a free market solution? In a free market, it would be completely optional for employers to offer health insurance. Instead, remove the tax subsidies and coverage mandates and other regulations from the situation, because they skew the market to insurance companies' favor.

    Regulation and subsidies are the opposite of free market.

  • ||

    HeadTater: There's also the cynical explanation, which is that the plan is a gift to unions, and a means of getting all Americans on the government teat, so that Democrats can be in control forever. Once the government pays for all health care, the "solution" to every waiting list, every unneeded death, every instance of rationing will be higher taxes and more powerful bureaucracies. Once grandma is dying on the waiting list for government health care, all proponents of smaller government and less spending will be accused of heartless cruelty (even more than they are now).

  • Patients\' Choice Act||

    Why hasn't anyone mentioned me yet?

  • ||

    hey Guy:

    "The current PROFIT-driven health care system makes money by DENYING health care! How could you support such an evil system?"

    What the hell do you think happens in a gov't system??? How do you think they lower costs??? THEY DENY SERVICE, you moron. But don't worry about it--it's only OLD people, so just stay young bro, and you'll be coooool.

  • ||

    Shikha Dalmia...

    Bigmanrestless...

    "In fact all of you who don't pucker up to me The Chosen One"

  • 912DC.org||

    Could you all please shut up? I can't hear Obama. I came in six months ago to get this lump looked at and I'm still waiting for my number to be called...Any week now!

  • abercrombie milano||

    My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I'm sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won't get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there's more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I'm not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It's just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight...the Bible's books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on...the Bible's books were written by people with very different mindsets...

  • nike shox||

    is good

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