How the press greased the skids for Obamacare

John Linder Former Congressman
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Thomas Jefferson once said, “Great innovation should never be forced on slender majorities.” Obamacare never had a slender majority. It had a driven political class, determined to “organize” a free society. They, of course, would be the organizers. This entire charade has been enabled by a servile press, which is supportive of the ends and refuses to report on the means.

This is the second presidential push for universal health care in 16 years. While the two plans are very similar, what is not similar is the way they are treated in the press and thus how differently they are received by the public.

Bills to provide universal heath care have been introduced for decades. Americans followed the pros and cons of each proposal in the press of their day. The details of the discussions were reported broadly and debated by the public.

Americans have always believed that their health care is a very private matter and are reluctant to turn it over to the government. There has never been a majority in support of this kind of change.

President Clinton won the presidency in 1992 with 43 percent of the vote. Healthcare was an important part of his platform.

In September of 1993, in a major health care speech to the Congress, he laid out his plans to totally reorganize the delivery of healthcare in America beginning with a mandate that all businesses would have to provide coverage for their employees.

Mrs. Clinton led the group that would write the bill. They engaged in a heavy schedule of meetings and, when finished, published a paperback book outlining the proposal in detail. That book, with its mind-numbing detail, contributed to their undoing.

Mrs. Clinton appeared before Congressional hearings to answer questions about the proposal, which came to be known as Hillarycare. Some were covered live and watched by an interested nation. Her command of the subject impressed everyone. The question of mandates on coverage, community rating, gender equality, and pre-existing conditions were explored in detail by a generally supportive press.

At the same time Denny Hastert, who would go on to be the longest serving Republican speaker of the house, chaired a task force of Republican House members seeking solutions to the inflation in healthcare costs.

The task force was particularly interested in Health Savings Accounts, which required a tax law change so that individuals could put pre tax dollars in a health account just as businesses did. Supporters said giving individuals more control over their health care would bring more competitive forces and lower costs. Businesses were experimenting with HSAs with very good results.

The Republican support for HSAs was broadly known in the Congress, and reported on by the media.

Sometime in early 1994, Betsy McCaughey, a scholar at the Manhattan Institute, read the book published by the Hillarycare committee. She understood the plan and outlined it in detail.

When she presented her understanding of Hillarycare to the Republican Conference they were flabbergasted. Newt Gingrich, the Republican whip, immediately realized that, armed with specifics, Republicans would defeat Hillarycare.

Betsy did the rounds on TV and talk radio bringing significant attention to the details in Hillary’s plan, including the fact any doctor treating a patient outside of the government system was subject to a $10,000 fine.

President Clinton was asked about that in a press gathering and, stunned, he looked at an aide and asked if that was in the bill. The aide said it was. Americans saw that happen and were stunned also.

Bits and pieces of Mrs. Clinton’s plan began to come out from the House and the Senate. Changes were being made to get another vote here and there. The press did its job and the public was informed.

The more the public knew the less they supported the proposal and as public support declined politicians began to walk away. The bill never came to a vote in a heavily Democrat-controlled Congress. In September of 1994 the Senate Majority Leader, George Mitchell (D. ME.), pronounced it dead.

In the 1994 election, held a few weeks later, eight million new voters came to the polls and slammed the door on Hillarycare. Republicans became the majority for the first time in 40 years.

In 2008 Barack Obama became president in a huge victory. Healthcare was at the top of his agenda. In his campaign he espoused much of what was in Hillarycare with one exception. He went out of his way to distance himself from Mrs. Clinton during the primary campaign in one important way. He was totally opposed to mandates.

Every campaign speech included the risible claim that his reforms would reduce premiums for a typical family by $2500. It was the first big lie in the long travelogue of reform – and the press knew it. They just chose not to investigate.

In April of 2009, less than three months after Obama was sworn into office, Jan Shakowsky (D. IL.), a prominent member of the Progressive Caucus, told an audience that the goal of health care reform was the destruction of the private health insurance industry. Those who get their news from the Internet saw that video and took it seriously. It was hardly mentioned in major media coverage.

When Obamacare was introduced, it was as comprehensive as Hillarycare. It even included the mandates he campaigned against.

In the House the bill was assigned to three committees. Republicans offered over 100 amendments in each committee. All were defeated on party line votes.

The Republican amendments took two tracks. First, they tried to reduce the mandates on benefits to prevent the catastrophic cancellations that the bill, as written, guaranteed. Second, they tried to put into law their convictions regarding more personal choice and competitive forces. Tort reform, association heath plans and purchasing insurance across state lines were in that group and ultimately became the Republican alternative to Obamacare.

The Republican bill was never considered in the Democrat-controlled House. If you do not know about the Republican proposals you are forgiven. It was never given serious attention by the press.

The constant whine that Republicans have no proposal continues to be another one of the big lies – and the press knows it.

Contrary to common belief, there was never much of a fight between Republicans and Democrats on the bill. The Democrats had the votes and everyone on the team remained in lock step.

The real battle was between the progressives in the Democratic Party and those who were merely liberal. The progressive group wanted single-payer healthcare. So did the President. The votes just were not there so they settled on what could pass. And what could pass was still very comprehensive. There was community rating, gender equality, prohibitions on restrictions for pre-existing conditions and, despite the campaign promise – mandates.

During all three committee markups, large numbers of insurance policy cancellations were predicted. In every instance the predictions were mocked by the Democrats and ignored by the press. .

The president sealed that debate with the now-famous statement, “If you like your healthcare plan you can keep it. Period.” That refrain was repeated by dozens of Democratic members of Congress until it became part of our lexicon. It was a lie – and the press knew it.

The Democrats knew it too as Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, (D. NY.), admitted in an ABC interview. She said they all knew, but they were fighting for better coverage for all Americans.

President Obama signed the bill in March of 2010.

Three months after the bill was signed, the administration issued regulations further defining what policies would be allowed to continue in force. That guaranteed that the vast majority of individual policies would not meet the government standard and would be cancelled.

In September of 2010, Senator Mike Enzi, (R. WY.), introduced a resolution repealing the regulations. Every Democrat in the Senate voted against it. The debate occurred in a vacuum. It was ignored by the press and the public was kept in the dark.

Now the chickens are coming home to roost. The web site debacle is only a blip in this disastrous takeover of healthcare. Sooner or later that will be fixed. What will remain is a government-mandated insurance policy that will include benefits that discerning buyers do not want and will not pay for.

The other shoe is about to drop. The Justice Department has filed a court brief saying that the majority of group policies will likely be cancelled. We are now talking about 75 to 125 million people losing their health coverage. You didn’t know that, did you?

This will all be undone in time. Given information, the American people will come to a decision. Politicians will follow. Imagine what would have happened if we had a press more interested in truth than politics.