The Obama Watch

Questions I Never Asked Obama

Fifteen questions reporters were afraid to ask.

By 7.24.09

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Here is a list of questions that reporters wanted to ask President Obama about health care reform at Wednesday night's press conference but were afraid to ask:

1. Why are American taxpayers subsidizing premiums of millions of union members and healthy Americans who already have health insurance at a cost of about $6,000 per person?

2. Why should American taxpayers pay for the health insurance of millions of young single Americans making over $80,000 year who are offered health insurance at work or can afford it but don't get it?

3. Why should American taxpayers pay for the health insurances of millions of illegal immigrants? Shouldn't there be a better way to provide people who are here illegally basic care?

4. Why are American taxpayers paying $10 billion for the health care costs of retirees of big corporations?

5. You talk about using health care reform to control the deficit. But if we targeted help to people who need it most, wouldn't that help?

6. You talk about two-thirds of the money to pay for people who already have health insurance or don't have it even though they can afford it or are eligible or aren't entitled to it (see questions 1-4) or subsidizing a new program (question 5) coming from eliminating "waste in the system" by having a government panel of experts decide what services and treatments are best. Won't that increase waiting times for services and access to new treatments?

7. You also say doctors will decide how they should practice medicine. So who will decide, the panel of experts or my doctor?

8. A follow up, Mr. President. You talk about the red pill being half as expensive as the blue pill (or is it the other way around?) but being just as effective. Sometimes only the blue pill works but in systems where government experts decide, people only get the red pill? Will that happen here?

9. Some of the "experts" have suggested that two-thirds of hospital admissions for people on Medicare in the last two years of life are wasteful because those people are going to die anyway. That includes a lot of cancer patients like Ted Kennedy. Do you think Ted Kennedy should die instead of being readmitted to the hospital? Should anyone else be denied care in order to subsidize paying for the health insurance of people who are not eligible or who can afford care they refuse to pay for?

10. A related question: the care people get in the "last two years of life" continues to extend and improve their lives (that's why we are also living longer as Americans). So wouldn't cutting this care also shorten and reduce quality of life? That's what's happened to cancer and heart patients in other countries.

11. In fact, the health care bills you support would cut payments for hospital readmissions. That could likely increase the number of deaths and shorten the lives of people with cancer, heart disease, and Parkinson's. Isn't that denying coverage for pre-existing conditions?

12. The House health bill, which you support, pays a bonus to doctors who provide less care to healthy, white middle class people in rural area and cuts reimbursement to doctors who provide care to sick, poor black people in inner cities. Doesn't that discriminate against minorities, the chronically sick, and the poor?

13. Another follow up. All the health care bills cut subsidies for low-income people to buy insurance and provide more for wealthy people, including the new retiree health bailout fund. Doesn't that discriminate against minorities and the poor as well?

14. You say if you have health insurance you like you can keep it. But both the CBO and independent studies say that up to 120 million Americans will lose their group coverage at work and join either Medicaid or a government-run plan because government will pay much lower prices to doctors and hospitals. And these doctors will also be paid 30 percent less and denying care based on pre-existing conditions determined by your expert panel. Yet you said the goal is to improve health. I am just a reporter and not used to asking hard questions, so maybe you can explain.

15. Final question Mr. President: If the public option is so good, will you try it out before we do? Like your first ball throw at the All-Star game, your initial response to the question kind sort of fell short and the media didn't cover it very well then either. 

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About the Author
Robert M. Goldberg is vice president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest and founder of Hands Off My H ealth, a grass roots health care empowerment network. His is new book, Tabloid Medicine: How the Internet is Being Used To Hijack Medical Science For Fear and Profit, was published last month by Kaplan.