The Obama White House hesitated not at all in labeling the AHIP study "an insurance industry hatchet job." The study in question was one conducted by a policy group that is funded by the industry.
The study said that premiums on the average family would go up $4,000 if the Baucus bill -- which cleared the Senate Finance Committee recently on an almost straight-line party vote -- is enacted into law. The White House's quick and dismissive response said that of course the industry will howl -- their ox is being gored.
The lightning-fast reaction of the White House to the sound of oxen being gored is interesting in a number of ways. Who else would know better what the likely costs of an insurance scheme would be than the insurance industry?
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) helped the Obama administration's case greatly by saying that the Baucus bill would actually save taxpayers $81 billion. But CBO was scoring not a bill, but a "concept."
I'd like to try that gambit next time I buy a new car. I want to know the likely cost of a concept of comfortable, affordable, safe and portable transportation -- as opposed to all those pesky line items charges for things like brakes, automatic steering, and catalytic converters. Those nasty details always seem to jack up the bottom line. The devil, as they say, is in the details.
Another reason the White House "hatchet job" comments were interesting is that they come just days after President Obama hit all five major networks' Sunday talk shows with a sermon about "civility." But here, when the first opportunity arises to choose civility, all the President's men -- and most of his women, too -- come out with hammer and tongs.
So, Americans should all understand, if you want to keep your current insurance policies -- the ones that 85% of you say you're satisfied with -- you are assured by this White House that those policies written by those hatchet-wielding policy writers are completely secure.
About your doctors: President Obama has said that pediatricians too often take their scalpels to your kids' tonsils. They do this unnecessary surgery, he claimed, because "there's gold in them thar tonsils." The pediatricians protested most vigorously against this misconstruction of their practice. They do not routinely propose to take out junior's tonsils, they said, and besides, if they do recommend tonsillectomy, pediatricians are not the ones who would do it.
Do you get the impression that every time President Obama talks specifics he gets in rhetorical trouble? Better to keep the focus of his rhetoric on the clouds of hope and change. Somewhere over the rainbow -- that's the kind of talk at which he excels.
Then there are those sawbones surgeons. The President complains that they will charge thousands for amputating the feet of suffering diabetics. Once again, he thinks they're in it for the money. In this, he must have read the wisecrack of Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw. Shaw said he would never trust a doctor who stands to make a "quid" with the decision of whether his leg needed to come off. Shaw, of course, was also a famous socialist.
Once again, the doctors in question, the doctors who had been accused of cutting for profit, issued an anguished protest. It is not true, they said, that they are eager to amputate, and besides, the fee for such an amputation is generally a fraction of the figure the President cited.
We need to pay close attention to everything this President says about American medical practice. You can keep your chiseling, hatchet-wielding insurers if you insist. You can still go to those scalpel-slashing, sawbones physicians if you must. And we all need to be more civil.
If this is the way he speaks about those with whom he disagrees now, how will he treat them when they all work for him?
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