The ABCs of Obama's Health Care Plan

TV network aids Obama in reform blitz

By Andrew Greiner
|  Wednesday, Jun 24, 2009  |  Updated 9:32 AM EDT
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Obama will be all over ABC News today.

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First he took over the White House. Next he took over General Motors. Now the President is poised to take over a television network to push his health care agenda.

Welcome to ABC, the All Barack Channel.

In an interview with Diane Sawyer on "Good Morning America," Obama touted his health care plan and said he was open to supporting a law that would make health care mandatory and fine those who didn't purchase coverage.

"People have made some pretty compelling arguments to me that if we want to have a system that drives down costs for everybody, then we've got to have healthier people not opt out of the system," the president said in the interview. 

Obama didn't say whether he would consider taxing health benefits but said the need to reform the system is urgent.

"There's a reason why it hasn't been done for 40 or 50 years," he said. "It's hard."

He also said he "absolutely" thought reform would be passed by the year's end.

"We're going to get it done," Obama said.

Beginning Wednesday morning with the Sawyer interview and ending with a special "Primetime" called "Questions for the President: Prescription for America," a town hall style event, the Obama administration will be on just about every news segment ABC airs.

The evening news will even be anchored from the White House Blue Room.

Most Republicans, and some journalists, are not happy about the day of special coverage, calling the non-stop Obama-thon an infomercial for the president.

Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele tried to buy ad space for a Republican rebuttal, but ABC denied his request. That prompted an angry missive to his supporters.

“It seems that the mainstream media has finally decided to dispense with the pointless denials of favorable coverage of the Obama Administration. Now one network, ABC News, has actually turned its entire programming over to President Obama and his big-government agenda.

“On June 24, ABC News and anchor Charles Gibson will broadcast "World News" from inside the White House, and make Barack Obama's case for nationalized health care for him, without any opportunity for opposing views to be aired.”

The ABC blitz comes as Obama gets more personally involved with pushing his health care plan. Previously, he has used a hands-off approach, bringing major players from the insurance and pharmaceutical industries to the table and allowing Congress to draft the legislation.

Earlier this week, Obama announced an $80 billion deal with the big pharmaceutical industry to help expand Medicare coverage. In his press conference on Tuesday, Obama rebutted claims that the government health plan he backs would dismantle employer-backed plans and drive insurers out of business.

"If private insurers say that the marketplace provides the best quality health care ... then why is it that the government, which they say can't run anything, suddenly is going to drive them out of business?" Obama said in response to a question at a White House news conference.

Obama made his comments as officials disclosed that key Senate Democrats had whittled more than $400 billion off the cost of a health care plan that carried a $1.6 trillion price tag last week. The new cost is below $1.2 trillion, but still above the informal target lawmakers have set. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity, saying they were not authorized to disclose details of the closed-door talks.

Individuals and small businesses would get to pick either the public plan or a private one through a new kind of insurance purchasing pool called an exchange. Eventually, the exchanges could be opened to large companies as well.

"The public plan, I think, is an important tool to discipline insurance companies," Obama said.
That's not what the industry thinks.

In a letter to senators released Tuesday, the two largest industry groups warned in stark terms that a government plan would take over the system. The CEOs of America's Health Insurance Plans and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association said in joint letter that the government plan will explode costs and diminish coverage.

"A government-run plan no matter how it is initially structured would dismantle employer-based coverage, significantly increase costs for those who remain in private coverage, and add additional liabilities to the federal budget," they wrote.

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