He Doesn’t Lie
With all due respect to Rep. Joe Wilson, who has become a cult figure among the GOP (he raised $750,000 within 48 hours of his remarks), President Obama hasn’t lied on healthcare yet. Well, that’s not exactly true, but on most points, President Obama could certainly be seen to be truthful in one of those “it all depends on what your definition of ‘is’ is” kind of ways. He is careful enough with his wording that he isn’t lying- but if what he says is truthful, it’s not exactly the whole truth.
One claim that the President has been making is that, if we are satisfied with our current insurance, there will be no need to switch to a new plan. Fact checking this statement, it is true- there is nothing in the currently discussed legislation that would compel you to switch simply because of the bill’s passage. As a CNN Money/Fortune magazine report indicated though, this isn’t the whole story. If, for example, you work for a company that is self-insured (meaning they have their pay for your health care with their own money, and not that they outsource health plans to a traditional insurance company), you will be able to keep your plan for five years. After five years, the company now must meet the requirements of the new health legislation by placing their employees into the government-run health exchange. So while you can keep your current plan, there’s only five years to do it. Maybe. As the report goes on to detail, while there’s a couple of years that the big companies need to wait, they have the option to stop insuring their employees and instead pay an 8% payroll tax that goes toward all employees who aren’t insured by their companies, an option far more suitable for companies as the tax will probably rise at less of a rate than that of health care. So now instead of five years for keeping your insurance, you might find yourself with a new government-approved plan after two or three years. Two or three years is far better still for those people that have actual insurance, whether through their companies, small business’, or that they purchased on their own. Insurance companies will need to offer all of its new customers a “qualified” insurance plan. While those who have insurance with them before the legislation will get to keep it, if the insurance changes in any way at all (different co-pay, covering one drug but not another, etc.), you now become a new customer and need to buy from their qualified insurance plans. Typically, such changes are made to insurance plans every year, meaning that within a year of the legislation’s passage, everyone with this type of insurance will lose it and end up with a government-approved plan.
What really seemed to get Wilson’s goat was when the President insisted that health care coverage would not be provided to illegal aliens and that it would not go to fund abortions. Both of these things are technically true- there are no provisions that I know of in the bill that does either of these things. Still, you could understand Wilson’s confusion. After all, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted 29-28 against Rep. Nathan Deal’s amendment that would have required states to verify citizenship status before enrolling any non-insured persons into the proposed government-run option, and also voted down an amendment to explicitly prevent abortions from being covered, an amendment offered by Rep. Joe Pitts and Rep. Bart Stupak. Instead, the committee passed a “neutral” amendment offered by Rep. Lois Capps, allowing elective abortions to be covered by the public option and by federally subsidized private insurers- although not mandating their coverage. (More details here) Maybe Mr. Wilson had read the Daily Kos, where the Vice President of Planned Parenthood, Laurie Rubiner, expressed support for the health care plan and the Capps amendment, stating “It [The Capps amendment] explicitly states that abortion will neither be mandated nor prohibited. It also mandates that every region will have at least one insurance plan that offers abortion coverage and one that does not, so people have a choice,” and he simply misunderstood the part where the federal government mandates that every region have at least one insurance plan that offers abortion coverage as meaning the federal government would provide health coverage for abortions. It’s a misunderstanding I can certainly forgive him for.
Mark Antony, seemingly an ally of Brutus and Cassius after the murder of Caesar, remarks in the Shakespearean version of the events “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” By the end of the speech, the crowd was so swayed to Caesar’s side that they joined Antony in war against the followers of Brutus and Cassius. Bill Clinton, known for “rhetorical flourishes,” as Vice President Joe Biden likes to call them, infamously told us that he did not have sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky or with Paula Jones. We all know how that worked out. Now President Obama tells us that the insured will get to keep their plan under the new legislation, legislation which does not provide health care for illegal immigrants or abortions. Is he telling the truth? Well, I guess that all depends on what your definition of “is” is. For Joe Wilson, his definition of “is” leads him to believe that what President Obama said and what is reality are conflicting things. And for my money, I don’t think Joe Wilson is lying when it comes to that statement.
[Brendan Roche is a History and Literature Concentrator and Sophomore in Winthrop House.]