Deciphering the health-care debate

Tamara Keith Aug 21, 2009

Deciphering the health-care debate

Tamara Keith Aug 21, 2009


Stacey Vanek-Smith: This week, President Obama went on conservative talk radio to discuss — what else? — health care. Obama guaranteed listeners that he would reform this country’s health care system. Of course, how is another issue entirely. The debate moved forward this week, sort of. It can be hard to keep track of it all.

Various opinions on health insurance reform:

Man 1: So-called “public option.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi: There’s no way I can pass a bill in the House of Representatives without a public option.

Woman 1: You can keep your doctor you can keep your insurance.

Man 2: That’s a lie.

Pres. Barack Obama: Choice, competition, reducing costs.

Man 3: Get a plan that gets people insured without having the government take over insurance.

To help us make sense of this week, we thought we’d turn to our reporter Tamara Keith in Washington. Tamara, where is the consumer left standing at this point in the debate?

Tamara KEITH: I think they’re left confused. You know, it’s hard enough to figure out what a co-op is or what a public plan is. And then to try to figure out what it would do for you is virtually impossible at this point.

Vanek-Smith: It is very confusing, I have to say. A lot of it seems so theoretical, but there are — from what a I understand — points that everybody can kind of agree on that will affect consumers. What are some of those?

KEITH: Well there are several things. One of them would be to require most Americans to have health insurance or they’d have to pay a fine. Also, one provision would prohibit insurers from rejecting customers for preexisting conditions. We’ve heard a lot of talk about this. But basically, that means that if you lose your job and you’re also in remission for breast cancer, you don’t have to worry about where you’re going to find health insurance, because everyone should have to accept you. So all of these ideas that even the health insurance companies agree on. Democrats, Republicans, a lot of people think that these are things that can happen. But there are a lot of things that they disagree on.

Vanek-Smith: Well it’s interesting that you say that health insurance would be required, because what happens then if people are required to have it, but they can’t afford it? Where does that leave consumers who can’t afford healthcare?

KEITH: Well there are several things that could be done that are in the legislation somewhere and who knows how it will come out in the wash. But there is discussion expanding MedicAid. This is the program for low-income and disabled people. And there would also probably have to be some kind of a subsidy for people to help them buy insurance. And that’s where this thing gets expensive and so that’s where it gets politically messy.

Vanek-Smith: So bottom line, it sounds like we don’t know much yet, but no matter what happens with the public plan, there will be significant reform of some kind for consumers.

KEITH: Well, you know, the president has made this a major issue and his party is in control. So I don’t think that he’s going to let this year end without some kind of victory that he can hang his hat on.

Vanek-Smith: Alright, well, thank you so much for talking about this with us Tamara.

KEITH: Thank you.

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