At the top of Thursday’s CBS Early Show, co-host Harry Smith teased an upcoming segment on dispelling myths about health care reform: "There’s so much anger, this vitriol that we see day after day in these town meetings across the country....We’re going to try and determine this morning whether or not some of these bold statements are, in fact, true or not."
Smith turned to Jonathan Cohn, senior editor of the left-wing magazine, The New Republic, to find the "truth" about the President’s health care plan. Smith made no mention of Cohn’s political affiliation or the magazine’s liberal leanings but did find time to promote his guest’s latest book: "Jonathan Cohn is senior editor of The New Republic and author ‘Sick: The Untold Story of America’s Health Care Crisis And The People Who Pay The Price.’"
On Wednesday, Cohn wrote an article for The New Republic entitled: "The Swiftboating of Health Reform," in which he attacked conservative critics of the health care plan: "It’d be one thing if the lunatics on the right had a coherent argument for why these initiatives might be ineffective or counterproductive. But they don’t even bother to acknowledge them, preferring instead to throw out scare quotes like this one from [Sarah] Palin: ‘Who will suffer the most when they ration care? The sick, the elderly, and the disabled, of course.’"
Cohn worked to promote White House talking points while supposedly "separating fact from fiction." When Smith asked about Obama’s claim that people will be able to maintain their current health insurance, Cohn replied: "True. The administration’s plan basically says – the whole point of this insurance plan is to tell people who have insurance ‘you get to keep it. We’re going to try and get insurance for everybody else.’" At the same, Cohn admitted: "Now, the one catch to this is it may be if you have insurance from your employer, next year your employer might decide to drop it. No one can stop that."
Despite Cohn’s assertions that glossed over the concern, a study by The Lewin Group found that the health care plan: "If fully implemented in 2011, we estimate that about 103.9 million people would become covered under the newly established public plan. Coverage under private insurance would decline by 83.4 million people. This is a 48.4 percent reduction in the number of people with private insurance (currently 172.5 million people)."
Smith later asked: "You see signs in the protest line calling this reform plan socialism because it requires everyone to buy health insurance. Is it true that everyone will be required to get health insurance?" Cohn responded: "It is true. Everyone will be required to get health insurance. Now, I don’t know if you would call that socialism."
In his final question to Cohn, Smith wondered: "Will health insurance companies be able to still deny you insurance?" Cohn explained: "They will not be able to deny you insurance. In fact, that’s the flip side of the deal of requiring you to get insurance. If we’re going to require you to get insurance, we want to make sure insurers give you the insurance." Government manipulation of private industry sure sounds like socialism.
Here is a full transcript of the segment:
HARRY SMITH: There’s so much anger, this vitriol that we see day after day in these town meetings across the country. Some of what is being said is very interesting and very provocative. We’re going to try and determine this morning whether or not some of these bold statements are, in fact, true or not. We’ll do that in just-
DAVE PRICE: Not everyone knows exactly if everything they’re arguing for is fact.
SMITH: There you go.
PRICE: So, we’ll sift through that.
SMITH: Still to come, what does the Obama health care plan really mean for you and your family? We’ll break it down and separate fact from fiction.
HARRY SMITH: Those loud and angry health care town hall meetings continue to rage across the country, and it looks like things won’t quiet down anytime soon. CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante has the latest. Good morning, Bill.
BILL PLANTE: Good morning to you, Harry. Those confrontations are the reason, one of the reasons, that the President pushed Congress to pass health care before the members went home for a month. Now the opposition, organized or not, has a lot of questions and fears.
PLANTE: Opposition has grown beyond all expectations.
ARLEN SPECTER: We are not moving to socialism.
PLANTE: Many Americans are angry or afraid that government action will lessen the quality of care and raise prices. The President has answered the charges, but the latest USA Today/Gallup poll shows 34% of Americans say the demonstrations have made them more sympathetic to the protesters’ view. The White House says the town hall forum is still effective.
ROBERT GIBBS: The President believes that the town hall meeting is a structure where people can discuss those issues in a way that they think – the way that he believes engenders a positive discussion.
PLANTE: The President will take on his critics directly again, stepping right into it at town hall meetings in conservative parts of Montana and Colorado tomorrow and Saturday. Harry.
SMITH: Bill Plante at the White House. Thanks. So, what is fact, what is fiction, when it comes to health care reform? Jonathan Cohn is senior editor of The New Republic and author ‘Sick: The Untold Story of America’s Health Care Crisis And The People Who Pay The Price.’ Jonathan, good morning.
JONATHAN COHN: Good morning.
SMITH: I’m going to get right to some of these questions, some of these hot-button issues that get repeated and repeated and repeated, day after day, especially in these meetings. We just heard the man say ‘we don’t need Obama and his crew to tell us how to die.’ Is the health care reform plan going to create death panels telling people how to die, true or false?
COHN: Absolutely false. I think this is probably the most outrageous claim we’ve heard. There is a provision in the bills that are moving through that says if you want to write a living will, you want to talk to your doctor about it, you want to do it the right way, make sure you’re asking for what you want, then medicare will actually pay your doctor to sit down with you and do it, so that you can have the time and the conversation. That’s all. Voluntary conversation about living will. That’s it. No death panels, no euthanasia, nothing like that.
SMITH: Alright. The administration says if you like your current insurance plan, you get to keep it. True or false?
COHN: True. The administration’s plan basically says – the whole point of this insurance plan is to tell people who have insurance ‘you get to keep it. We’re going to try and get insurance for everybody else.’ Now, the one catch to this is it may be if you have insurance from your employer, next year your employer might decide to drop it. No one can stop that.
SMITH: Especially if there’s a public plan to help replace it.
COHN: Well, you know, that depends on how they design the rules, but it is possible.
COHN: And there are some people who say if they design the plan certain ways, more people will end up with it. So that’s where you get into the argument.
COHN: But basically people get to keep their coverage.
SMITH: Alright. Recently, a senator was confronted bay man to told him, ‘keep your government hands off my Medicare.’ Is the health care reform plan going to slash Medicare benefits, true or false?
COHN: False. Of course government runs Medicare. People sometimes forget that. Something else people don’t know is that one of the things the reform plans will do is actually add a major Medicare service, which is their going to fill in that doughnut hole, you know, that gap in Medicare prescription drug coverage. Now Medicare, like all insurance plans, chooses what to cover, what not to, and since it is getting to be a very expensive program, the idea is to give it more tools to make better decisions. Will that down the road lead to less services? Well, hopefully it’ll mean – lead to less expensive services. That’s where the argument is. But there’s no plans to slash benefits.
SMITH: And oh by the way, Medicare could go broke within the next decade if something doesn’t change.
COHN: Well, that’s why they want to try to do this.
SMITH: Exactly right. You see signs in the protest line calling this reform plan socialism because it requires everyone to buy health insurance. Is it true that everyone will be required to get health insurance?
COHN: It is true. Everyone will be required to get health insurance. Now, I don’t know if you would call that socialism. The idea here is simple, we – you know, reformers want everybody to be part of the system. But, you know, this isn’t free, it’s not a giveaway. The idea is that people should have to pay what they can, so you ask everybody to go and get insurance, be part of the system, take responsibility, and pay at least what they’re able to pay.
SMITH: Alright. And last but not least, the woman who introduced the President was denied health coverage because of a pre-existing condition, will this no longer be the law or not the law? Will health insurance companies be able to still deny you insurance?
COHN: They will not be able to deny you insurance. In fact, that’s the flip side of the deal of requiring you to get insurance. If we’re going to require you to get insurance, we want to make sure insurers give you the insurance.
SMITH: Jonathan Cohn, thanks so much.