- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 9, 2009

President Obama has promised repeatedly that he won’t “mess with” private insurance for those who are happy with their current health care coverage. When challenged with evidence that his health care plan would gradually destroy private plans, Mr. Obama dismisses the argument as mere “scare tactics and fear-mongering.” But fear of nationalized health care is justified.

In an address to the American Medical Association in June, the president accused his opponents of deception. “Let me also address an illegitimate concern that’s being put forward by those who are claiming that a public option is somehow a Trojan horse for a single-payer system,” he said. “So when you hear the naysayers claim that I’m trying to bring about government-run health care, know this: They’re not telling the truth.”

Mr. Obama has not successfully made the case for fundamental change in the health care system. A Fox News poll released July 23 shows that 84 percent of the insured rate their insurance as excellent or good. Another 13 percent rate their insurance as fair, and just 3 percent rate it as poor. With those numbers, it isn’t surprising that Americans want to keep their private insurance policies.

Reading the fine print in the Democratic health care plans shows that the days of private health insurance are numbered if any of the proposals pass and government’s role is expanded. One scheme is to increase cost-shifting by lowering reimbursement rates to hospitals and doctors by Medicare and Medicaid; this subsidizes some patients at the expense of others. Other initiatives propose below-cost pricing for government insurance and prevent private insurance companies from treating patients with pre-existing conditions differently from healthy individuals. Any of these mandates would kill private insurance by making it impossible to make a profit in the business.

Some of his campaign speeches uncover what Mr. Obama is up to. In March 2007, he addressed the Service Employees International Union’s health care forum. “I would hope that we can set up a system that allows those who can go through their employer to access a federal system or a state pool of some sort, but I don’t think we’re going to be able to eliminate employer coverage immediately,” he said. “There’s going to be potentially some transition process.”

In 2003, Mr. Obama told the AFL-CIO, “I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer, universal health care program … That’s what I’d like to see.”

The White House issued a video statement on Aug. 4 claiming that the quotes used above are out of context and distort what Mr. Obama said during his talks. Yet Linda Douglass, communications director for the White House’s Health Reform Office, has refused numerous requests from The Washington Times to provide a single example of how the above quotes were taken out of context.

Mr. Obama’s past statements against private health coverage parallel proposed legislation so closely that the intention to do away with private coverage is clear. As he said, the president is not going to take away private insurance instantly; there will be some transition. But the goal is to abolish private health coverage in America.