Polls Prove Opposition to Democrats' Health Plan Is Not ‘Manufactured,’ Conservative Group Says
August 6, 2009 - 6:15 AMVocal opposition to the Democrats' health care overhaul legislation – evident at town hall meetings across the United States -- is genuine, a conservative activist told CNSNews.com on Wednesday.
“When 86 percent of Americans are happy with their current health care and they feel that it is threatened by a massive government takeover, no one needs to ‘manufacture’ anger or concern,” Rick Scott, chairman of Conservatives for Patients Rights, told CNSNews.com Wednesday in an e-mail response.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs on Tuesday singled out Scott’s organization when he questioned the motives of people appearing at meetings scheduled by members of Congress back in their home districts.
“I think you've had groups today, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, that have bragged about organizing and manufacturing that anger,” Gibbs said.
“I think you’ve got somebody who’s very involved, a leader of that group that’s very involved in the status quo, a CEO that used to run a health care company that was fined by the federal government $1.7 billion for fraud,” Gibbs said. ”I think that’s a lot of what you need to know about the motives of that group.”
Gibbs was referring to the investigation of Columbia/HCA Hospital that concluded in 2000. The company eventually pleaded guilty to over-billing and reportedly paid $1.7 billion in fines to the federal government. Scott resigned as CEO of Columbia/HCA in 1997 in wake of the scandal. Scott was never charged with wrongdoing, and he emphasized in a Washington Post interview that other hospitals were fined for over-billing as well.
“It is a shame that Mr. Gibbs chooses to dismiss these Americans and their very real concerns, instead opting to level personal attacks,” Scott told CNSNews.com. “The simple fact is that the more Americans learn about the president’s public option plan, the more they realize it is a massive government takeover that will mean higher taxes, bigger deficits and interfere with their current coverage, resulting in delayed or denied medical care for them and their families.”
Scott said support for the Democrats’ plan is plummeting: “Americans want lower health care costs, not a government-run system,” he continued. “And there are several reforms we can do immediately to lower costs that won’t cost a dime -- like allowing insurers to compete across state lines, requiring doctors and hospitals to post their rates and results to allow consumers to shop around, and creating one standardized reimbursement form for all insurers.”
The health care plan backed by President Barack Obama – and now working its way through Congress – would create a government-run health option to compete with private insurers, require employers to provide health insurance to employees, and prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of a pre-existing condition.
After lunch with President Barack Obama Tuesday, Senate Democrats left the White House, affirming their confidence in passing health-care legislation.
“In spite of the loud, shrill voices trying to interrupt town hall meetings and just throw a monkey wrench into everything, we’re going to continue to be positive and work hard,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporter outside the White House.
CNSNews.com asked Reid if the American people support the health care reform proposal in Congress, given the reaction at town hall meetings. “Of course,” Reid said. “The American people favor what we’re doing by almost a 70 percent margin.”
Reid walked away without responding to a question about why the town hall reaction is so negative if the public supports the plan.
Most recent polls tell a different story. Last month, a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showed that 46 percent of Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of health care reform, while 41 percent approved. A Rasmussen poll last month showed 53 percent opposing the Obama-backed plan, up from 45 percent opposed in June, and the 49 opposed two weeks earlier.
Despite the falling numbers, Obama on Wednesday pledged that he would sign health care legislation eventually.
“Of course, in order to lead in the global economy and ensure that our businesses can grow and innovate, we also have to pass health insurance reform that brings down costs,” Obama told a crowd in Wakurusa, Ind. Not only would reform bring down costs, it would provide "more security for folks who have insurance and affordable options for those who don’t. I promise you, we will pass reform by the end of this year because the American people need it,” Obama said.
A growing number of U.S. lawmakers are running into flak over health care reform at meetings with their constituents.
At a gathering in Philadelphia last weekend, Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were booed and jeered by opponents of health care reform. Other lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, have faced similar situations at their constituent meetings.
On Wednesday, Rep. Brad Miller (D-N.C.) said he would not be hosting any town hall events in August (none were scheduled anyway) but would hold one-on-one meetings with his constituents instead. He cited a telephone death threat for his decision to scrap public venues.
Gibbs on Tuesday did admit that some of the opposition to the health care plan might be genuine.
“I don’t doubt that there were people that came to ask their members of Congress honest questions about the direction of the country,” he said. “I also have no doubt that there are groups that spread out people across the country to get people to go these things and to specifically generate videos that can be posted on the Internet so that people can watch.”
“I think we’ve all seen videos over the past couple of days that leave you somewhat speechless,” Gibbs said.
Asked if the president would read the 1,000-plus health care bill, Gibbs said “I assume the president will study the details of the proposal, and will be – he’s a highly informed individual.”
The reporter followed, “But he won’t take time to read it front to back?” Gibbs responded, “I don't know what his vacation plans are currently.”
Conservatives for Patients Rights’ Web site has posted a list of town hall forums scheduled by members of Congress.