[You say you can’t afford health insurance for yourself or your family? Tough Shit, Obama is going to make you buy it anyway.]
By Nicholas Johnston
Sept. 20 (Bloomberg) — President Barack Obama said requiring individuals to have health insurance doesn’t amount to a tax increase and that a Senate Finance Committee proposal will move the effort to revamp health-care forward.
“For us to say that you’ve got to take a responsibility to get health insurance is absolutely not a tax increase,” Obama said in an interview on ABC’s “This Week” program. “Right now everybody in America, just about, has to get auto insurance. Nobody considers that a tax increase.”
Obama said one of his goals for health-care legislation is to make insurance affordable if it’s going to be required for everyone. He said that can be done by making plans compete for customers and providing tax credits for premiums.
Emergency care for those now without insurance is imposing a burden on families in the form of higher premiums and higher payments for their own care, said Obama, who promised during his campaign that he wouldn’t raise taxes on middle-income Americans.
Campaign for Support
The ABC interview was one of five Obama recorded for broadcast this morning. The appearances are part of his campaign to win wider public support for a plan to overhaul the U.S. health-care system, which represents about a sixth of the U.S. economy.
“What I’m trying to do is to explain the facts,” Obama said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” program. “If we don’t do anything a lot of Americans are going to be much worse off and over time the federal budget just can’t sustain it.”
“The president is selling something that people quite frankly aren’t buying,” Graham said. “He’s been on everything but the Food Channel.”
In addition to ABC, CBS and NBC, Obama on Sept. 18 taped interviews broadcast today on CNN’s “State of the Union” and Univision’s “Al Punto, con Jorge Ramos.”
He didn’t appear on “Fox News Sunday.” News Corp.’s Fox broadcast network did not carry Obama’s Sept. 9 address to a join session of Congress, leaving its cable outlet, Fox News Channel, to carry the speech.
“The White House made it clear they had no interest in talking to us,” Chris Wallace, host of “Fox News Sunday,” said on the program today.
The administration planned the drive as lawmakers begin a critical week in the debate. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus will convene his committee on Sept. 22 for three days of debate on his health-care proposal.
Baucus’s plan hasn’t yet drawn in Republican support and has come under criticism from other Democrats such as Senator Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi because it doesn’t include an option for a government-run health insurance program.
Baucus wants to raise $215 billion over a decade to help pay the estimated $856 billion cost by imposing a 35 percent excise tax on insurance companies that offer plans valued at $8,000 for individuals and $21,000 for families. It also would require almost all Americans to have insurance or pay a penalty.
“Everybody’s going to have to give some in order to get something done” on health care, Obama, 48, said on NBC. “We’ve got to get past some of these ideological arguments to actually make something happen.”
Obama said on ABC that the various proposals being considered in Congress have “80 percent of what I’d like to see” in health-care legislation. “That last 20 percent is tough,” he said.
On CNN and Univision, Obama addressed the status of immigrants in the health-care debate. “I don’t think that illegal immigrants should be covered under this health-care plan,” Obama said on CNN.
Obama, the nation’s first black president, dismissed suggestions from some Democrats, including former President Jimmy Carter, that racism is behind some of the most vocal criticism of his policies.
“What I think is going on is that we’ve got a healthy debate taking place,” he said on NBC. “The vast majority of people are conducting it in a very sensible way.”
On Afghanistan, Obama said he wants to “narrow” the U.S. goals in the country.
“We lost that focus for a while and you started seeing a – a classic case of mission creep where we’re just there and we start taking on a whole bunch of different missions,” Obama said.
The president said again that he hasn’t decided whether more U.S. forces will be required in Afghanistan because the future strategy hasn’t been set.
On NBC and CNN, Obama said that while he hasn’t set a deadline for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, the U.S. presence there can’t be indefinite.
On CBS, Obama defended his decision last week to scrap a U.S. missile defense system in eastern Europe, saying he is proposing a new program that better addresses the threat posed by Iran.
“We’re not eliminating missile defense,” he said. “What we’re doing is putting a system in that’s more timely, more cost effective, and that meets the actual threats that we perceive coming from Iran.”
Russia had objected to the earlier plan, initiated by former President George W. Bush, saying the defense system threatened its security.
Obama said that while he agreed with Bush that the U.S. anti-missile network was no threat to Russia if the new plan makes the government in Moscow “a little less paranoid” that will be an added benefit.