On the day of President Obama’s health care press conference this week, prominent health care providers released an open letter to members of Congress supporting a Medicare reform bill that has been introduced in Congress.
The letter opened with a general statement of support for health care reform and applauded congressional efforts to provide universal coverage, but tactfully opposed current proposals. Among the letter’s signatories was the Mayo Clinic, an institution the Obama has held up as a model provider. The next to last question asked at the press conference was this:
You cited the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinics as models for the delivery of health care in the past. The Mayo Clinic, though, has some problems with House proposals, saying they’re not focused enough on patients and on results. What do you expect to achieve tomorrow by going to the Cleveland Clinic, which hasn’t stated an opinion? And are you expecting some form of endorsement from the Cleveland Clinic?
This was Obama’s response:
I’m not expecting an endorsement. The Cleveland Clinic is simply a role model for some of the kind of changes that we want to see.
I think it’s important to note that the Mayo Clinic was initially critical and concerned about whether there were enough changes in the delivery system and cost-saving measures in the original House bill.
After they found out that we had put forward very specific mechanisms for this MedPAC idea, this idea of experts getting the politics out of health care and making decisions based on the best evidence out there, they wrote in their blog the very next day that we actually think this would make a difference. OK.
The reporter’s question did not directly cite the letter and Obama failed to acknowledge it. This was a perfectly representative moment at the press conference. On the one side there is the reporter’s incompetence and on the other Obama’s dishonesty. Here is the critical paragraph of the letter to which the question seems to have alluded:
Under the current Medicare system, a majority of doctors and hospitals that care for Medicare patients are paid substantially less than it costs to treat them. Many providers are therefore already approaching a point where they can not afford to see Medicare patients. Expansion of a Medicare-type plan without a method to define, measure, and pay for healthy outcomes for patients will move many doctors and hospitals across this threshold, and ultimately hurt the patients who seek our care. We should not put more Americans into the current unsustainable system.
Obama’s evasion to the contrary notwithstanding, this is a tactful statement of opposition to Obamacare. The letter ran under the heading Getting Reform Right. The implication of the letter is that pending proposals get reform wrong and that the current system of government-funded health care threatens the provision of services to its beneficiaries.
The problems with Medicare are to a great extent inherent in the system. Even if you disagree with the signatories’ proposed fix of Medicare or the letter’s suggestion that such a fix could rectify universal coverage, the letter raises an alarm about the expansion of government funded health care. And even there are few anywhere in the United States who think that the Mayo Clinic is feathering its nest performing unnecessary tonsillectomies.
Via David Freddoso’s “Take the red pill, Mr. President.”
UPDATE: In the comments, Steve Robbins adds:
The question you have cited was asked by Steve Koff of the Cleveland Plain Dealer under somewhat unusual, almost comical circumstances. Here’s why . . . Koff was scrambling a bit trying to enhance his question, so as not to ask a question that had already just been answered! If you watch the video (near the end of the Press Conference) you’ll see that Koff appears a bit disorganized, looking back and forth to his notes to try and cobble together a “fresh” question.
The reason was that President Obama called out his name — “Steve Koff” — but another reporter named Steven Thomma, of McClatchy, heard his first name and jumped up. The President, obviously not knowing what Koff looked like, pointed to Thomma, and Thomma promptly asked a question that the President did not answer.
His question neither said nor implied anything at all about the Cleveland Clinic. But in his answer to Thomma, the President went on and on about the Cleveland Clinic. Obama quite clearly believed he was answering Koff. For example, at one point, he said to Thomma, “I’m going to be visiting your hometown tomorrow to go to the Cleveland Clinic to show — to show why their system works so well.” And on he went.
After Thomma, the President called on Lynn Sweet, who explained that Steve Koff had not gotten to ask his question in the mix-up. So Obama gave Koff a shot at a quick question. But Koff’s prepared question had essentially just been answered in the response to Thomma! That’s why if you watch the video, Koff appears to be scrambling to somehow enhance the question, looking back and forth to his notes.
Overall, the whole thing made it look suspiciously like Koff’s prepared question had essentially been a set-up.
And, at least a portion of Thomma’s original question, was one of the best questions of the night: And secondarily, can you, as a symbolic gesture, say that you and the Congress will abide by the same benefits in that public option? Obama ignored that, but rambled on about the Cleveland Clinic, so Thomma followed up: And what about yourself and Congress? Would you abide by the same benefits package?
Obama never did address the Congress portion and, while tacitly agreeing for himself, he immediately pointed out why he believed it could not work for him.
Someone ought to ask every Member of Congress if they would agree to abide by the public option, and pay the difference themselves for whatever else they would like added!
Check the comment itself for Steve’s links to the video and to the related post on his site.