Cantor V. Obama: “Will people lose their health insurance?”

On February 25, 2010, Republican Whip Eric Cantor (Republican, Virginia) discussed the fact that millions would be losing their health care insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), (Obamacare) with President Barack Obama.

The video that you see here, that captures this conversation, is lengthy.  The total run time is 14:47, but if you fast forward it to the three-minute mark, you can watch Congressman Eric Cantor specifically address the issue of people losing their health care insurance with the President, as a result of the clauses written into the ACA.  This particular conversation ends at about the 6:06 mark:

When we were here about a year ago, you started the health care summit by saying that one of the promises you want to make is that people outa be able keep the health insurance that they have.  The CBO sent a letter to Reid (Harry Reid, Democrat, Nevada), about the Senate bill, and in that letter, (The CBO) suggested that between eight million and nine million people may very well lose the coverage that they have, because of this,” Cantor said touching the copy of the bill he had before him, “because of the construct of this bill.

“And I don’t think that you can answer the question, in the positive, to say that people will be able to maintain their coverage, people will be able to see the doctors they want in the kind of bill that you’re proposing.”

Obama then responds:

The eight to nine million people, that you refer to, that might have to change their coverage, keep in mind of the 300 million Americans that we’re talking about, would be folks that the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office estimates, would find the deal in the exchange better.  Would be a better deal.  So they, yes, they would find coverage, because they have more choice and competition, so let’s just be clear about that.  Point number one. 

“Point number two.  You know when you do props like this,” Obama says with disdain gesturing towards Cantor, “Stack it up, and you repeat 2,400 pages, etcetera.  The truth is that health care is very complicated, and we can try to pretend that it’s not, but it is.”  Obama then talked about how Republican ideas, discussed during the first half of the daylong summit, would generate a bunch of paper, too, before continuing, “I point that out because, these are the kind of political things we do (bringing props) that prevent us from having a conversation.”{1}

After watching the video on Special Report with Bret Baier, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, claimed that:

The fact that (Obama) had promised that you could keep your plan wasn’t just unwise, it was untrue, and as we saw in the clip, he knew it was going to happen.  (That clip) should resolve the issue of whether (Obama) was ignorant of the law, or did he know. 

“(Obama) knew there were going to be losers at the time.  Even at the point where he implied that there would be only winners.”   

In searching for this video, using the words “Cantor, Obama, and February, 25, 2010” in the search engine, I found one Youtube presentation, followed by two very specific hits created in the last week.  Beyond that, I found that most of media chronicles of this exchange focused on Obama’s scolding of Cantor for bringing props.  One could say that this is the kind of “meat” that the media usually feeds on, and that the legislative wonk speech that occurs for most of the exchange only seems pertinent now, in hindsight, but as we now know this was a vital exchange that should’ve demanded more attention.  In retrospect, it could be said that media giants, like CNN, didn’t want attention brought to the fact that Obamacare could bring some pain to potential voters.

As Krauthammer mentioned, this video gives proof to those left, left-of-center, and right-of-center commentators that get a little squeamish when it comes to saying that an American president knowingly spread a falsehood when it came to telling the American people, “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.  Period.”  These people say that it’s inflammatory to say such a thing, and that it provides a distraction from the central core of the issue, but as the old saying goes, “If it flaps like a duck, and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.”

As Mark Theisen reports in the Washington Post, quoting a Wall Street Journal piece, “Obama’s policy advisors were overruled by his political advisors”{2} when it came to promoting the ACA with the unqualified remark that “… You can keep (your insurance).  Period.”  These political advisors overrode the policy guys with the knowledge that many red state Democrats were close to voting against it, and they presumably decided that the bill wouldn’t pass if it was littered with qualifiers that addressed the clauses in the ACA.  These political advisors also knew how much pressure red state Democrats like the 59th vote, Mary Landrieu (Democrat, Louisiana), and the 60th vote Ben Nelson (Democrat, Nebraska) were under to vote “nay” on the ACA.  The political advisors probably informed Obama that even a slight qualifier might tip these vulnerable, red state Democrats against it.  Now some could say that the votes of these two Senators, in particular, were compromised in what contrarians have called the “Louisiana purchase” and the “Cornhusker Kickback”, but even those bribes may not have assured their votes if these Senators had read the bill, or their constituents were properly informed of any pain that may be incurred by the tinkering done to the “grandfather” clause that would cause an estimated eight to nine million to lose their insurance.

As for the marketing and promotions package that Democrats put together, one of the key selling points to Obamacare’s passage was that we had to get insurance for thirty the million people that can’t afford it.  When held against thirty million people, eight to nine million people can apparently be easily dismissed, and they can easily be dismissed when compared to a population that ticks over 300 million, but most of those discussions do not account for the employer mandate that will kick in in a little under a year.  When that kicks in, will the number of those being kicked off their current insurance plans number as high as ninety-three million, as suggests, or will it still remain under thirty million, and if it does how close will it be?

If it’s true that the number of people kicked off their current insurance plans eventually mirrors the thirty million that were uninsured—or exceeds it, or dwarfs that number—the question has to be asked what was the point?  Was it to insure more people, fix the health care system in general, or to finally take over one sixth of the economy in a manner Democrats have sought for sixty years?

If their goal was noble, on the other hand, and Obama and the Democrats, wanted to create more choice, and competition, the question has to be asked when has government ever created true competition?  If you’re answer focuses on anti-trust activity, such as breaking up AT&T, you’re purposely missing the point.  The ACA is a product, that is going to be placed on the proverbial shelf to ostensibly compete with other health insurers.  Has such an action ever worked without unintended consequences?  Did the politicians, that sold the ACA to the American public, weigh the pros and the cons, before turning over one-sixth of the economy, did all the legislators carefully examine the law before them before affecting the lives of all their constituents, or did they view this as a win win for Democrats across the board, and the long-term, unintended consequences would be dealt with later by all the Democrats that won elections as a result of the ACA’s ability to make more people dependent?  Finally, were the architects all about creating competition in the marketplace, as the president suggested, and how many of them have any experience competing in the marketplace?  How many of them have experience in the health care industry?  Was it their goal to create more choice in the marketplace, or were they more concerned with eventually driving all competitors out of the market in an uncompetitive, government manner to eventually eliminate choice?



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