By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
Instead of listening to polls and confronting public opposition to the government’s proposed health care reform that has been erupting at townhall meetings across the country, the White House is resorting to personal smears and accusations of “manufactured” anger to counter the growing outrage.
“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,” said Rick Scott, chairman of Conservatives for Patients Rights (CPR), to CNSNews.com.
In response, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs questioned the motives of the people appearing at town hall meetings, accusing groups such as Scott’s CPR of “manufacturing” the people’s anger.
“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 about Scott. ”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, where Scott served as CEO. The hospital eventually pleaded guilty to over-billing and paid $1.7 billion in fines to the federal government. Scott resigned in the wake of the scandal. However, he was never charged with wrongdoing and other hospitals were also fined for over-billing.
“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.”
Support for the Democrats’ plan is plummeting, Scott said, with town hall meetings erupting into near violence across the country as angry citizens confront their representatives to demand an end to the rush to pass health care reform that will create a ration-based government-run system.
However, in spite of the widespread opposition, the White House and Congress continue to insist that the public is largely in support of their plan.
For instance, after having lunch with President Barack Obama on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told reporters he was confident that health care legislation would be passed. 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 reporters outside the White House. He added, “Of course, the American people favor what we’re doing by almost a 70 percent margin.”
Polls are showing the exact opposite. A Rasmussen poll last month showed 53 percent of Americans opposing the Obama-backed plan, up from 45 percent opposed in June.
But behind closed doors, politicians who support the president’s plan appear to be fully aware of the public backlash. Politico.com is reporting that Senior White House adviser David Axelrod and deputy chief of staff Jim Messina briefed senators this week on how to handle their angry constituents during the August recess, telling them to focus on appealing to the insured by explaining how they would benefit from “consumer protections” in the overhaul, such as ending the practice of denying insurance based on preexisting conditions and ensuring the continuity of coverage between jobs.
During the briefing, they showed video clips of the confrontational town hall meetings that have been making headlines all week, telling senators to do more prep work than usual for their public meetings by making sure their own supporters turn out.
“If you get hit, we will punch back twice as hard,” Messina said, according to an official who attended the meeting.
The White House further enraged the public this week when Macon Phillips, White HOuse Director of New Media, wrote a blog in which he asked people to send them “fishy” information about the health care plan that is circulating on the web.
The president also appears to be ignoring the public ire and forging ahead with his unpopular plan. On Wednesday, he 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, Indiana. 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.
For a list of townhall meetings in your area, visit http://www.cprights.org/townhalls.php
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