Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report:
At a town hall meeting full of supporters of his health care reform push in Portsmouth, NH, this afternoon, President Obama addressed some of the “wild misrepresentations that bear no resemblance to what’s in the bill.”
Mr. Obama, taking a more aggressive approach after being on the defensive for several weeks – he referred to patients “being held hostage” by insurance companies — said “for all the scare tactics out there what is truly scary” and risky would be the status quo, such as projections that Medicare will be in the red within five years.
In one of many charges about the health care bill he sought to discredit, President Obama brought up “death panels that will pull the plug on Grandma,” a clear reference to a Facebook posting by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on Friday in which the 2008 GOP vice presidential candidate asserted that President Obama’s proposed health care reform would lead to rationing, which would hurt the “sick, the elderly, and the disabled…The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama’s 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil."
President Obama said, “it turns out that this I guess rose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end of life care” as well as living wills, hospice care, and the like. The “intention,” the president said, was to help patients prepare for “end of life on their own terms.”
President Obama said the “irony” is that one of the chief sponsors of this idea was Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., who “sensibly thought this would expand peoples’ options.”
Isakson this week told the Washington Post that “someone said Sarah Palin’s website had talked about the House bill having death panels on it where people would be euthanized. How someone could take an end of life directive or a living will as that is nuts. You’re putting the authority in the individual rather than the government. I don’t know how that got so mixed up. …It empowers you to be able to make decisions at a difficult time rather than having the government making them for you.”
President Obama said that underlying this issue was the “legitimate concern” that people have “that if we are reforming the health system to make it more efficient that somehow that will mean rationing of care.” He painted a picture of “some bureaucrat” saying “’You can’t have this test, you can’t have this procedure’” because “some bean counter” said so.
The president said his health care reform would put these decisions in the hands of medical experts and doctors, rather than insurance company bureaucrats who “right now are rationing care.”
“So why is it that people would prefer having insurance companies making those decisions rather than medical experts and doctors figuring out what are good deals for care?” he asked.
Said the president: “I want to be very clear” about the “underlying fear that people won’t get the care they need. You will have the care you need, but also care that is being denied to you right now – that is what we are fighting for.”
-Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller