NORMA CAPPELLETTI: Obama Passed Up a Chance to Promote Unity on Health Care
President Obama had a perfect opportunity on Sept. 8 to unite legislators by acknowledging the many points of concern in the health-care legislation and proposing a process by which bipartisan efforts would be set in motion to resolve differences.
Instead, he gave a partisan speech that further alienated those of opposing viewpoints. Not only was his tone combative, but he also made several statements that were not accurate.
Rep. Joe Wilson accused the president of lying, and his outburst has been front-page news ever since. Have the media forgotten when, in an address to Congress in 2005, President Bush told Congress that Social Security had to be reformed or by 2017 it would be paying out more money than it would be taking in, he was booed? Or that Sen. Reid called Bush a loser and a liar?
The following are three of the most troublesome contradictions in Obama's speech.
He stated that he would not sign a bill that would add one dime to the deficit now or in the future. Agreed -- it will not add one dime, just billions of dollars.
The Congressional Budget Office has reported that the House version will add $220 billion to the deficit over the next 10 years, increasing in succeeding years. The president hopes to realize savings of $500 billion by cutting out waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare. Mechanisms for eliminating fraud and abuse should be integral parts of all government programs, so why haven't large savings been concurrent?
In this context, who will define waste? Will it be considered wasteful to allow treatment considered too costly or because of a patient's advanced age?
"Under our plan," Obama said, "no federal dollars will be used to fund abortion."
Title V of HR 3200, Subtitle B, called School-Based Health Clinics, outlines a new federal program under which the government would fund health clinics near or in the nation's public schools. In July 2009, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, a pro-abortion Maryland Democrat, acknowledged in a committee meeting that the bill does not exclude Planned Parenthood. (Planned Parenthood performs more than 350,000 abortions a year.)
Legislators are keenly aware that if an entity is not explicitly excluded in legislation, it is deemed included. Five representatives and two senators offered amendments in the four committees reviewing the bill that would have prevented abortion funding or prohibited abortion mandates for covered services. All amendments were defeated by a party-line vote.
"The reforms I'm proposing," Obama said, "would not apply to those who are here illegally."
Critics of the legislation claim that it would, indeed, provide taxpayer-funded health care to illegal immigrants. Supporters of the bill maintain that Section 246 will prevent illegal immigrants from receiving benefits. Section 246 states that "nothing in this subtitle shall allow federal payment for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States."
"Affordability credits" can be used to offset the cost of health-care coverage for individuals who enroll in private insurance plans, but there is currently no provision barring illegal immigrants from enrolling in the taxpayer-funded public/government plan created in Section 221.
An amendment offered by Rep. Dean Heller at the Ways and Means Committee markup would have required that enrollees in the public plan or those seeking affordability credits must verify eligibility with the Income Eligibility Verification System (IEVS) and the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) system.
The amendment was rejected by the committee on a party-line vote. As currently written, the bill would allow illegal aliens to freely enroll in the public/government plan. It becomes readily apparent why the Hispanic Caucus and La Raza support the legislation. Adopting verification standards is necessary in order to protect the interests of the American taxpayer.
Rep. Wilson could have vented his frustration with the president's statements in a more appropriate setting, but his outburst should alert all to the masterful rhetorical duplicity our president employs.
Norma Cappelletti, a former Connecticut state representative, lives in Pinehurst. Contact her at email@example.com.
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