Live-blogging Obama’s news conference

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Did President Obama say anything that makes you change your opinion of his health care plan in any way?(answers)

5:47 p.m. – David Kurtz at Talking Points Memo suggests health care is to the Obama White House what oil and energy was to the Bush-Cheney White House.

6:59 p.m. – NPR ran an excellent piece on All Things Considered tonight, documented how health care interests have access to the chair of the Senate Finance Committee. If you make more than $7 million from PACs, and a little more than $650,000 from your own state, who are you most beholden to?

7:00 p.m. – We’re underway. Here are his opening remarks.


If you already have health insurance, the reform we’re proposing will provide you with more security and more stability. It will keep government out of health care decisions, giving you the option to keep your insurance if you’re happy with it. It will prevent insurance companies from dropping your coverage if you get too sick. It will give you the security of knowing that if you lose your job, move, or change your job, you will still be able to have coverage. It will limit the amount your insurance company can force you to pay for your medical costs out of your own pocket. And it will cover preventive care like check-ups and mammograms that save lives and money.

If you don’t have health insurance, or are a small business looking to cover your employees, you’ll be able to choose a quality, affordable health plan through a health insurance exchange – a marketplace that promotes choice and competition Finally, no insurance company will be allowed to deny you coverage because of a pre-existing medical condition.

His opening statements didn’t say specifically how we’ll pay for this. If my out-of-pocket costs are limited, what’s to stop my premiums from going up? “It will be paid for,” he said, “while reallocating money being wasted.” Is there that much waste out there? This thing has a $1 trillion price tag.

7:08 p.m. – “Not all of the cost containment was included in Congress’s initial bill,” he said. That reminds me of Jon Stewart’s chronicle of the climate change bill.

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QUESTIONS

Q: Have you told Congress how you want this paid for?

A: Obama initially ignores question and talks about the problem of rising premiums. “That’s what reform is all about.” He then says “the entire thing has to be paid for.” He says taxpayers are already putting money into the kitty. Through eliminating waste, he says two-thirds of it are already being paid for. He wants to limit itemized deductions for wealthiest Americans. That, he says, would raise sufficient funds for the remaining one-third. None of the bills include that provision. “I don’t want that final one-third of the cost of health care to be completely shouldered on the backs of middle class families who are already struggling in a difficult economy.

He says he’s opposed to tax on middle class. Didn’t say he’d veto that.

“If someone told you there is a plan out there that is guaranteed to double your health care costs… and is the biggest contributor to the national deficit, I think most people would be opposed to that. That’s what we have right now,” he said.

7:17 p.m. – A CBS poll last month showed the president’s problem. Most say health care is a big problem. But no solution has much support.

Q: Why the rush?

A: “I get letters every day from people,” the president says. “If you don’t set deadlines in this town, nothing happens. The default setting is inertia.” He says it’s important to “get it right” and “if at the end of the day I see we do not have it right, I’m not going to sign a bill that doesn’t reduce health care inflation… that I don’t think will work.”

Q: Will all uninsured Americans be insured under your bill?

A: I want to cover everybody. Unless you have a single payer system, there’s always going to be someone that’s not covered. He says his plan would cover 98 percent of Americans.

Q: You mentioned two Republicans in your opening statement. But you have 60 seats. Isn’t this a fight in the Democratic Party?

A: “You haven’t seen me out there blaming Republicans. I’m frustrated with some of the misinformation coming from Republicans. That’s politics.” Gave props to Chuck Grassley. Says even if “you don’t see Republican votes, you see Republican ideas.”

Says some Democrats are opposed to low reimbursement rates for Medicare. (This is the concern of the Minnesota congressional delegation)

Q: What sacrifices will Americans have to make?

A: “They’re going to have to give up paying for things that don’t make them healthier. That’s the kind of change you want. If hospitals and doctors aren’t coordinating enough… and nobody’s bother to send the last test you took to the next doctor, you’re wasting money.”

7:29 p.m. – Personal story time: I needed a painkiller shot in a shoulder last year. I had to go to four different doctors who did four different tests — many of them the same. Total cost of one shot: $6,000. He’s got a point. It’s pretty silly. Share your horror story below.

“It will (force) people to be better consumers,” the president said. (See my post earlier today. How can this possibly be anything more than you’ll decide to do without some health care you need? In the above example, I could’ve been a better consumer — which insurance companies say they want me to do — and I wouldn’t have gotten treatment for an injured shoulder. I had to go to doctor I had a referral to go to, in the order I had to go to them, paying every step of the way.)

Q: When you talk about bending the long term costs downward, you talk about cuts in Medicare but there are never many specifics. What kind of sacrifice are you calling on beneficiaries to make?

A: Obama talks about the MEDPAC program to cut Medicare costs. Here’s the report.

“It’s not going to change Medicare benefits, it’s going to change how efficiently those benefits are delivered,” he said.

Q: Your administration turned down a request for a list of health care execs who’ve visited the White House (see link at top of this ost), you promised to hold health care negotiations on C-SPAN, an agency said it’s not getting enough information on TARP. Are you fulfilling your promise of transparency in the White House?

A: “You guys have been in there taking pictures, so it hasn’t been a secret who’s in there. You’ll recall … our kickoff event was here on C-SPAN and at a certain point you start getting into all kinds of different meetings. If they wanted those to be on C-SPAN, I would welcome it.”

“Let me take a look at what they say we haven’t provided (TARP). I think we’ve provided much greater transparency than the previous administration. I’ll find out and I’ll have an answer for you.”

Q: Do you think your administration should take a harder line with Wall St? Would you support a fee on risky activities that go beyond traditional lending?

A: “We were on the verge of a complete financial meltdown. Wall St. took extraordinary risk with other people’s money.” (aside: Be sure to catch the first 5 minutes of John Hope Bryant on Midmorning this morning discussing this)

“We’ve stepped away from the brink. Now, banks are starting to make profits again. Some have paid back the TARP money they received. That’s a good thing. What we haven’t seen is the kind of change in practices on Wall Street.”

Obama said financial regulatory reform must be passed.

7:47 p.m. Speaking of TARP repayments. From Marketplace:


As banks start paying back TARP funds, taxpayers are getting about 12.4% return on their investment. Now lawmakers are trying to decide whether to spend that money to help the housing market or to pay down the national debt. Steve Henn reports.

Q: Can you guarantee the government will not deny (health care) coverage?

A: “We want a public option to keep the insurance companies honest… having a public plan that also shows that if you take the profit motive out, reduce administrative costs, that’s going to incentivize the private sector to do even better.”

“There’ve been reports of insurance companies making record profits.

“Can I guarantee that there are going to be no changes in the health care delivery system? No. The whole point of this is to try to encourage changes that work.”

7:52 p.m.: Note that he changed the question. Then answered his. We all know what “deny coverage” means. It means coverage the consumer needs, but can’t get funding for. The president could’ve ended the fear about government involvement here by answering the question asked. He didn’t. So now we can expect even more analysis not only about whether the government would lead to less quality health care, but why he didn’t choose to end the fear.

7:55 p.m. – Obama is told the guy he called on for the last question isn’t the guy who stood up and asked one. It was supposed to be a reporter from the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Q: You cited the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic as models. The Mayo Clinic has problems with the House proposal (way ahead of you, Steve)

A: “The Mayo Clinic was initially concerned about whether there were enough cost-saving measures. After they found out we put forward specific criticisms, they wrote in their blog the next day, this would make a difference.”

8:02 p.m. – Fact Check: If the goal was to imply that Mayo is on board, that’s not even close to true. Here’s what the blog said:


Although there are some positive provisions in the current House Tri-Committee bill – including insurance for all and payment reform demonstration projects - the proposed legislation misses the opportunity to help create higher-quality, more affordable health care for patients. In fact, it will do the opposite.

And today, Mayo sent this letter to Congress


How much do you know about the specific health care proposals being debated in Washington?(polls)

Q: What does the arrest of Prof. Gates (Harvard) say about race relations in America.

A: “Skip Gates is a friend so I may be biased. If I were trying to jigger into my house — well, this is my house now, let’s say my old house in Chicago. Here, I’d get shot. (laughter). My understanding is at that point, Prof. Gates is already in his house. The police officer comes in, and my understand is he showed his ID to show this was his house. At that point he’s arrested for disorderly conduct.”

“Not having been there, I don’t know what role race played in that but it’s fair to say any of us would be angry. The Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting someone when there was already proof he was in his own home.”

“There’s a long history in this country of African Americans and Latinos being stopped by police disproportionately. That’s a fact. This still haunts us. The fact that blacks and Hispanics are picked up frequently — and often times for no cause — casts suspicion.”

  • dorothy

    There are two many loose ends — to pass this legislation in August would be a fool’s errand at best. Yes, changes need to be made in the delivery of health care; however, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. I watched in the hope that Obama would have more concrete answers — I was not convinced that he does in the least.

  • L Carlson

    Let’s face it. The president changes “facts” to suit his purposes. Please check out the Mayo Clinic site for yourself. He says they now approve the plan. Well guess what? They don’t! Not at all. Not even close.

  • subramanian

    It is no news that police is biased. I was the only one in the road at 11pm and police stopped me to check whether i was drunk but camouflaged as whether I was ok in health. In Minnesota, the police is biased and often traces non whites for giving tickets since this increases the income of local govenments. Whenever I see a white police, I am sure that he would doubt my integrity. But it is far better than in 1960s.

  • GregS

    Mr. Gates was arrested for disorderly conduct, not breaking into his own house as NPR implied this morning.

    Here is the police report.

    There were eight witnesses to Mr. Gates beligerent behavior. One of them spoke on Good Monring America, this morning, and confirmed that Mr. Gates was indeed abusive to the police.

    The office who arrested Mr. Gates needs an apology from Mr. Gates, and an apology from Pres. Obama who called what he did “stupid” without first checking the facts.

  • Robin Fricchione

    After watching President Obama’s speech last night I still walked away confused about how health care is going to be paid for, and how exactly it will affect the citizens of the United States. Questions which were not asked are: Will this health care program pay for illegal immigrants? What happens when companies will refuse to no longer offer health care to their employees and the choices we have are gone? Will we be able to choose the specialists we want? Will we be able to choose the better hospitals? With universal health care, how long do we have to wait for a procedure? How will this be different than Canada? After President Obama’s speech, the reporter, Soledad O’Brien from CNN was asked about the feedback from the audience, the reporter stated that it wasn’t until the questions asked about Professor Gates, his arrest and what it may say about race relations that sparked a response from the audience. While I am outraged what happened to Professor Gates, I am more outraged that it seemed to be the only thing that sparked this audience as a whole. Are we not all concerned about government control, particularly when the President can’t answer how our health care is going to be paid for? I, as an American citizen, would like to be much more informed about this topic, and not listen to the latest bias commercials for the reasons why universal health care is the way to go.

  • Bob Collins

    Re: Gates. It’s interesting to me that the picture of Gates being arrested shows a black police officer out front. I wonder if it at any time, it occurred to the CPD sergeant that one way to DEescalate an obvious tense situation would have been to have the black police officer communicate with Mr. Gates.

    And also whether the sergeant probably shouldn’t have invited Gates outside to continue the ‘conversation’ that was taking place in his home, especially since the police report apparently indicated the people in the sidewalk’s reaction was one of the reasons for the arrest.

    At what point do you simply walk away and keep walking?

    I’d be interested in hearing from any trained police officers who might be reading . I’m sure the police train for exactly this type of situation — knowing when to walk away.

  • bsimon

    “There were eight witnesses to Mr. Gates beligerent behavior. One of them … confirmed that Mr. Gates was indeed abusive to the police.”

    I would be abusive too, if police treated me like a criminal for being in my own home. They’re supposed to receive training on how to handle people who are angry or upset in a professional and courteous manner. Mr Gates’s behavior was not exemplary, but the cops handled it poorly.

  • bsimon

    “Will this health care program pay for illegal immigrants?”

    That question was asked. The President said they would not, though perhaps with minor exceptions for children that might be using public playgrounds or otherwise potentially impact the health of those around them. That was a pretty good answer that serves as a reminder that there are consequences to picking the easy answers like “just don’t cover illegals”.

  • GregS

    “I would be abusive too, if police treated me like a criminal for being in my own home. They’re supposed to receive training on how to handle people who are angry or upset in a professional and courteous manner. Mr Gates’s behavior was not exemplary, but the cops handled it poorly.” – bsimon

    Mr. Gates was treated like a criminal AFTER he engaged in criminal behavior, i.e. being abusive toward police.

    “At what point do you simply walk away and keep walking? – Bob Collins”

    That is precisely what the officer did, walk away and keep walking. Gates followed him, shouting abuse.

    At what point does the country walk away from racists like Gates?

  • Bob Collins

    //That is precisely what the officer did, walk away and

    keep walking. Gates followed him, shouting abuse.

    According to the arrest report you provided earlier, the sergeant said the acoustics in the kitchen were bad and he couldn’t transmit on the radio, so “I again told Mr. Gates that I would speak with him outside.”

  • GregS

    Bob,

    The report reads.

    “As I descended the stairs to the sidewalk, [the officer is leaveing ]Gates continued to yell at me, accusing me of racial bias and continued to tell me I had not heard the last from him.”

    Gates is then given two warning to calm down and quite being abusive. It is after this that he is arrested.