Today's Q for O's WH -- 12/16/2009

TAPPER: I was just wondering what your response is, kind of a back-and-forth going on between the former head of the Democratic Party, Dr. Howard Dean, and the White House on health care reform. This morning he said that, while there are many good things in the bill, there comes a point when there are enough bad things that he would -- that would lead him to oppose it. And he said, the lack of the public option, a mandate covering -- requiring people to get coverage, a fine in which 27 percent of the fine goes to insurance companies means that this is, quote, "an insurance company's dream." And I was just wondering what your response was? GIBBS: If this is an insurance company's dream, I think the insurance companies have yet to get the memo. Insurance companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars lobbying against this legislation. They've spent hundreds of millions of dollars on television ads, on networks and cable stations throughout our television to try to kill reform. I mean, if this is such a -- if this is such a good deal for them, I'm not entirely sure why they're fighting it. Look, let me go through some of the things that I think Dr. Dean said on "Good Morning, America" this morning that quite simply weren't true. One, nobody's going to -- nobody will be -- nobody will be required to purchase something they can't afford. There are hardship exemptions and subsidies based on income levels that help people afford insurance. I don't have the slightest idea where the fact of 27 percent came from. He went on later in the interview to discuss the notion that legislation contains -- or no longer contains anything that addresses pre-existing conditions. That's simply flat-out wrong. Later in the interview, he said that he didn't see any cost control in the bill, when every health economist that's evaluated the bill says that any idea that's out there to contain costs is actually contained in the bill. So, you know, I don't know what piece of legislation he's reading. Let me tell you what is good in the bill, that is true, that Dr. Dean forgot to tell people about this morning. We will cut costs. This legislation will bend the cost curve. This legislation is not only deficit-neutral; it actually helps the deficit over the next 10 years. It will provide accessible and affordable insurance to the 30 million -- to 30 million Americans that currently lack it. And then let's go through some of the insurance reforms. The insurance market reforms will prohibit abuses such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, charging exorbitant premiums based on gender, age or health status, dropping coverage when people are sick and imposing lifetime bans - lifetime limits on benefits. Consumer rights are enhanced by requiring insurers to provide effective appeals procedures, including outside independent review of health appeals. And the new insurance exchange will reduce premium increases by lowering administrative costs. You know, I -- I think if you talk to members of the Senate that represent a similar viewpoint in the political spectrum that Howard Dean does, they seem to disagree as much with Howard Dean as I think we would. I think they've been pretty clear on that.


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