In an appearance on a morning news show today, House Minority Leader John Boehner repeatedly charged that the health insurance reform bills being considered in Congress represent a “big government takeover” of health care.
It’s important to know that’s just not true. The claim of a “government takeover” is a time-worn attack raised by opponents of reform whenever real change is in sight. But the bills passed by the House and Senate would enact nothing of the sort.
The legislation would create a marketplace where private insurance companies would compete for business, and it would expand coverage by providing subsidies for Americans to purchase affordable coverage from private insurers. At the same time, the legislation would put the brakes on rising health care costs and put an end to insurance company abuses.
That's not a "government takeover": it's the solution to problems that have plagued our health care system for decades and slowed American competitiveness. And if the specifics sound familiar, it's because this legislation is very much like the bipartisan approach proposed by former Senate leaders Bob Dole, Howard Baker, and Tom Daschle, and the health care system supported by Senator-elect Scott Brown in Massachusetts.
Unfortunately, the knowing repetition of false claims has become a defining characteristic of this debate – and as the President said on Friday to House Republicans, that’s a loss for everyone:
“So I am absolutely committed to working with you on these issues, but it can’t just be political assertions that aren’t substantiated when it comes to the actual details of policy. Because otherwise, we’re going to be selling the American people a bill of goods.”
The President also stressed the broader point that in these trying times, the American people expect more from their elected officials than the same old political tactics:
“But we’ve gotten caught up in the political game in a way that’s just not healthy. It’s dividing our country in ways that are preventing us from meeting the challenges of the 21st century. I’m hopeful that the conversation we have today can help reverse that.”
If you haven’t seen the video of President Obama’s remarkable question-and-answer with House Republicans yet, you can check it out here.
Dan Pfeiffer is White House Communications Director