Critical Condition

Obama vs. Pelosi on Health Care

As a San Franciscan with a distinct lack of “San Francisco values”, I’m sometimes put on the hot seat by the local media when the Court of the Red Queen returns from its sojourn in the fabled city of the East (i.e. when the House recesses). This clip, from the local CBS affiliate, quotes President Obama, his health-care policy spokesman Linds Douglass, Speaker Pelosi (at the San Francisco General Hospital), and yours truly.

Jay Cost points out that one of the big problems with the government take-over is inconsistent messaging.  And it starts at the top, as the clip shows. Linda Douglass runs a tape where the president insists: “Here’s a guarantee that I’ve made: If you have insurance that you like, then you will be able to keep that insurance.”

This is a delusion which we know to be false, but the president makes one think that it might just be true — if he repeats it enough times in his confident voice.

And then along comes Nancy Pelosi, who plans to get through the August recess by pretending she’s leading an army of hobbits to the gates of Mordor itself. Having stomped out of D.C. calling the health insurers “villains,” she continued attacking them yesterday.

According to Speaker Pelosi, “This is about money, lots of money . . .” Okay, we get it: Currently, we keep about 14% of our health-care dollars to spend directly on medical services, the government takes 46% for its programs, and the Internal Revenue Code gives about 60% to health insurers that our employers choose. Speaker Pelosi wants to add that 60% to government’s 46%.

Well, you just cannot do that without also moving people from employer-based health benefits to government-run bureaucracies: No way, no how.

(By the way, real reform takes the 60%, plus a negotiable chunk of the 46%, and adds it to the 14%.)

— John R. Graham is director of Health Care Studies at the Pacific Research Institute.