FACT-CHECKER IN CHIEF.... President Obama had a few interesting things to say about health care reform in his weekly multi-media address today, his fifth in the last seven weeks to emphasize the importance of reforming the system.
The president noted, for example, the importance of "seizing this opportunity," and ignoring "the same special interests and their agents in Congress" who make "the same old arguments, and use the same scare tactics that have stopped reform before because they profit from this relentless escalation in health care costs." Obama did not, however, reference the pre-recess August deadline, which now appears practically impossible.
But it was more important to see the president play the role of fact-checker. He noted that Americans are bound to hear a lot of talk and see a lot of ads attacking reform, and realized that some "might begin to wonder whether there's a grain of truth to what they're saying." So, Obama highlighted some of the more common talking points, only to knock them down.
"First, the same folks who controlled the White House and Congress for the past eight years as we ran up record deficits will argue -- believe it or not -- that health reform will lead to record deficits," he said. "That's simply not true. Our proposals cut hundreds of billions of dollars in unnecessary spending and unwarranted giveaways to insurance companies in Medicare and Medicaid. They change incentives so providers will give patients the best care, not just the most expensive care, which will mean big savings over time. And we have urged Congress to include a proposal for a standing commission of doctors and medical experts to oversee cost-saving measures. [...]
"Those who oppose reform will also tell you that under our plan, you won't get to choose your doctor -- that some bureaucrat will choose for you. That's also not true. Michelle and I don't want anyone telling us who our family's doctor should be -- and no one should decide that for you either. Under our proposals, if you like your doctor, you keep your doctor. If you like your current insurance, you keep that insurance. Period, end of story.
"Finally, opponents of health reform warn that this is all some big plot for socialized medicine or government-run health care with long lines and rationed care. That's not true either. I don't believe that government can or should run health care. But I also don't think insurance companies should have free reign to do as they please. That's why any plan I sign must include an insurance exchange: a one-stop shopping marketplace where you can compare the benefits, cost and track records of a variety of plans - including a public option to increase competition and keep insurance companies honest - and choose what's best for your family."
Now, that last point is of particular interest, because it might be new. The president said reform has to include an insurance exchange, which shouldn't face too much resistance on the Hill. But he also said the exchange should feature a public option.
Is this a new line in the sand, saying that reform must feature a public option in order to get his signature? I'm honestly not sure. An insurance exchange could, in theory, include nothing but private plans. Maybe the two points -- an exchange and a public plan -- were meant to be connected in a new way, maybe not.
I'm working on getting clarification on the issue. Either way, the weekly address sounded just about all of the right notes.