THE PRESIDENT: All right, this young lady right here -- since somebody was pointing at you, so I figured -- do we have a microphone for folks in the audience, so that everybody can hear the question? Okay. I think there's somebody coming from this direction. You can just hand her the mic.Debbie's story is tragic, and this isn't intended to undermine the urgency of getting the care she needs. Moreover, I don't fault the White House for pre-selecting the townhall audience and questions, as Press Secretary Gibbs forthrightly admitted;1 Obama's done that before. And Debbie's story further supports my long-standing suggestion: severing the tie between jobs and health insurance.
Q Good afternoon, Mr. President. I'll try not to cry. I'm trying to figure out what I can do currently. My situation is I had renal cell carcinoma in '98 that was radiated, because my dad was dying of colon cancer at the time, and I was his health care server on his living will, so I could not be tied up having my kidney removed. So they did radiation procedures to kill the tumor then. And I had insurance and everything was taken out.
But basically because of the damage that the radiation did in things, I'm no longer able to work and I have no health insurance. Now I have a new tumor. I have no way to pay for it. Doctors will not see you without paying $100 or $150 to come into their office. I can get checked into a hospital -- under their program, they will run tests and release me, but that costs a lot of money.
So currently I basically -- Social Security will not give me disability because renal failure is no longer a qualifying factor under Social Security currently. I cannot get Medicaid from the state of Virginia because you have to be considered disabled through Social Security to qualify for Medicaid in the state of Virginia because I have no dependent children at home -- it's just me. I get food stamps, but that's it. And I'm just trying to figure out how I'm going to make it in nine years until I'm qualified to get my regular Social Security -- now that I have a new tumor and I have nowhere to turn.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, here, come on over here. First of all, we're going to find out what -- we'll get your information and we'll see what we can do to help you. I don't want you to feel all -- like you're alone. (Applause.)
You know, without knowing all the details I'm not going to give you an answer right now about exactly how we can help. We're going to find out what we can do within existing law. But -- what was your name again?
Q My name is Debbie.
THE PRESIDENT: Debbie. Debbie is a perfect example of somebody who we should, in a country this wealthy, be able to provide coverage for her health care problems. And what we don't want is a situation where Debbie gets worse and worse because she's not getting treatment, and then ends up having to go to the emergency room. As I said before, all of you will pay for it anyway; it's just you'll pay for it in terms of a hidden subsidy. And she's not getting the best care, and we're actually paying more than we would have if Debbie right now was getting treated on a regular basis by a physician who knew her history.
So, Debbie, you are Exhibit A. And we appreciate you sharing your story. We are going to try to find ways to help you immediately. But the long-term problem here is going to be how do we create a system in which Debbie is getting the preventive care that she needs and is able to get regular checkups, is able to get treatment in a way that is much more cost-efficient than the one that we've got right now. And I'm going to make a commitment that we're going to get that done this year.
Still, my question: is it true that Debbie can't work? The Associated Press reports that Debbie "is a volunteer for Organizing for America, Obama's political operation within the Democratic National Committee." (That group was created in January 2009 as a successor to Obama's campaign organization, subject to "clear coordination" with the White House media arm, which explains Debbie's invite.) As blogger Riehl World View details, Debbie's been preparing for the healthcare townhall since at least April. Last December, Debbie moderated a healthcare townhall in her home town. She's also "a member of the Virginia Organizing Project, . . . and helped plan health care events and lobbied Congress on health care reform." Not resting after her star turn, Debbie's now working on another healthcare reform meeting scheduled later this month.
For a women with life-threatening cancer, Debbie has been amazingly active advocating the liberal agenda. Yes, the link between employment and insurance should be ended. Still, could Debbie simply be choosing to volunteer for liberalism rather than working and getting health insurance?
And will her televised hug trump the better public policy?
1 This offended liberal reporter Helen Thomas--go figure?--but the greater outrage was the New York Times downplaying the same conduct it highlighted under Bush; the WaPo was more honest. Also note the difference between former DNC chair Howard Dean slamming Senator McCain's orchestrated townhall last year and current DNC chair Tim Kaine blandly describing this meeting's audience as "packed with kids and parents, students and seniors." I doubt Kaine intended "packed" as an admission.
(via PowerLine, Sister Toldjah, Wikio, JustOneMinute, J's Cafe Nette)