President Barack Obama in effect issued this challenge during a town
hall meeting on health care reform in Portsmouth, New Hampshire Tuesday
In response to a question asking whether he still supports a
single-payer system (one in which the government is the sole provider of
health care services, as in Canada), Mr. Obama said:
"I have not said that I was a single payer supporter because, frankly,
we historically had a employer-based system in this country with private
insurers, and for us a transition to a system like that I believe would
be too disruptive."
But in a speech to the Illinois AFL-CIO on June 30, 2003, Mr. Obama
said: "I happen to be a proponent of a single payer health care
program." You can watch a video of his remarks here:
"If you're starting from scratch, then a single payer system like
Canada's which disconnects health insurance from employment, would
probably make sense," Mr. Obama told the New Yorker in a May, 2007
Had the president said: "I used to support a single payer system, but I
changed my mind because…," more people might give credence to the
claims he's making for his health care reform plan. Instead, he told an
So when Mr. Obama says his reform plan will save money, but the
Congressional Budget Office says it will cost at least $1 trillion over
the next ten years, people are inclined to believe the CBO.
Senior citizens wonder how $313 billion can be cut from the Medicare
program, as President Obama proposes to do, without affecting the
quality of the health care they'll receive.
And when Mr. Obama says people who like their private insurance will be
able to keep it, but the Lewin Group estimates the "public option" would
force 88 million people with private insurance into the government
program, people worry.
They should. In a speech April 18, Rep. Jan Schakowski, a Chicago
Democrat allied with the president, described the "public option" as a
"Next to me was a guy from the insurance company saying 'a public option
will put the private insurance industry out of business and lead to
single payer,'" Ms. Schakowski said. "He was right! The man was
right!" You can watch the video of her remarks here:
Ms. Schakowski is content to boil the frog slowly. So too, apparently,
is Mr. Obama. "I don't think we're going to be able to eliminate
employer coverage immediately," he said at a healthcare forum sponsored
by the Service Employees International Union in 2007. "There is going
to be potentially some transition process."
People who lie about some provisions in the health care bill will lie
about others. So some worry the provision for end of life counseling in
the House bill is not as innocuous as the president says it is.
"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," former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin said in a post on Facebook.
Hyperbole? You betcha! But wrong? Maybe not. In England, Canada and
Oregon, government panels do make such determinations.
Washington Post columnist Charles Lane, a moderate liberal, read section
1233 of the House bill, and concluded:
"The measure would have an interested party the government recruit
doctors to sell the elderly on living wills, hospice care and their
associated providers, professions and organizations," Mr. Lane wrote.
"You don't have to be a right wing wacko to question that approach."
In a 1998 article in the New England Journal of Medicine, Ezekiel
Emanuel, President Obama's health care adviser, touted the fiscal
benefits of physician-assisted suicide. In January, Dr. Emanuel
outlined his "principles of allocation of scarce medical interventions:"
"When implemented, the complete lives system produces a priority curve
on which individuals aged between roughly 15 and 40 years get the most
substantial chance, whereas the youngest and oldest people get chances
that are attenuated," Dr. Emanuel said.
If the "public option" is a trojan horse for a single payer system,
might not section 1233 be a step toward what would be in fact if not
in name a death panel?