Critical Condition

Price Is Right

Congressman Tom Price (R., Ga.), an orthopedic surgeon who currently serves as chairman of the Republican Study Committee, gave NRO a call to discuss President Obama’s health-care speech. Early on in our conversation, Price raised an important question — one that in our age of anecdote-overload, most of us just let slip through the ears and past the mind. Not Price. As a doctor, he says his ears perked up on Wednesday night when the president cited two examples of the current health-care system failing patients. Here’s what President Obama said:

One man from Illinois lost his coverage in the middle of chemotherapy because his insurer found that he hadn’t reported gallstones that he didn’t even know about. They delayed his treatment, and he died because of it. Another woman from Texas was about to get a double mastectomy when her insurance company canceled her policy because she forgot to declare a case of acne. By the time she had her insurance reinstated, her breast cancer more than doubled in size. That is heart-breaking, it is wrong, and no one should be treated that way in the United States of America.

“I guess it’s possible that these occurred, but the likelihood that they did is slim to none,” says Price. “I challenge the president to show us the specifics of those cases, without the patients’ names of course. I just don’t know a single physician who, in those situations, wouldn’t stand up to campaign and fight for their patients.”

Price is right, of course, but such questions don’t exactly garner White House Christmas cards. So, it came as no surprise on Thursday afternoon to hear that Newsweek named Price as one of “five people who made Nancy Pelosi’s s*** list last night.” What else did the good doctor do to irk Madame Speaker? Newsweek explains:

You may have seen House Republicans waving what looked to be reports in the air. Well, that was the doing of Price, chairman of the Republican Study Committee. Those papers were actually copies of health care bills that the GOP lawmakers have introduced in Congress this year. The idea is that the House Repubs would quietly wave the documents in the air if Obama suggested Republicans had no plans or when he talked about being open to GOP suggestions. Pelosi shot the stink eye in the direction of her GOP colleagues more than once, and it looked like it was at the bill wavers.

Overall, Price says Obama’s speech was “remarkably disappointing.” The president, he says, has “given 28 speeches on health care this year. His address to a joint session of Congress was no different than the previous 27, simply more of the same about government programs and individual mandates that the American people abhor. Instead of stating the facts, he just dressed up his old ideas.”

“The president has lost the trust of the American people and he’s lost the trust of the majority of Republicans in the House,” says Price. “He says so many things that just aren’t so, that are overtly partisan. I guess it’s just Chicago politics.”

Even the president’s comments on tort reform caused Price to sigh. “The last thing we need is another study on lawsuit abuse,” he says. Instead, without a tangible tort reform measure spelled out, Obamacare legislation, says Price, is “simply not a program that the American people can embrace.”

“We’re all trying to cut through the clutter and the bully pulpit that the president has,” says Price. “The American people are smarter. August was a huge month across this land. The American people said: we don’t want government to take over health care. Period. To go against that public will shows remarkable arrogance. From the very beginning, [President Obama] has shown a contempt for those individuals who may not agree with his philosophy. There is a lack of leadership emanating from this White House. He has demonstrated a clear disrespect to those who won’t toe his line, a woeful lack of leadership.”

Tough words, to be sure. And what did Price think about the president’s word choice about his critics? Here’s what President Obama said:

In fact, I want to speak directly to America’s seniors for a moment, because Medicare is another issue that’s been subjected to demagoguery and distortion during the course of this debate.

The real demagogue, says Price, is actually President Obama. “He just needs to look in the mirror. The demagoguery out of this White House has been astounding. Any proposals we make that don’t embrace the kind of policies that would expand government are just denigrated. The president didn’t gain any support on our side of the aisle [with his speech]. It was just the same old song with a different verse,” says Price.

As the debate heats up in the House this month, “moderate Democrats,” says Price, “have a real challenge: will they represent their constituents or represent the president? If they choose the latter, August will look like a church picnic.”