Matthews falsely equates a "publicly financed [health care] option" with "single payer"May 3, 2009 5:23 PM EDT ››› LILY YAN
On the May 3 edition of his NBC-syndicated television show, Chris Matthews falsely suggested that a "publicly financed" health care option is the same as a single-payer plan. Discussing President Obama's strategy for passing health care legislation, Newsweek senior Washington correspondent Howard Fineman said that "the centrist Democrats in the Senate" are "coming out with their manifesto, which is going to say absolutely no to the publicly financed option." Matthews interjected, "[s]ingle payer." In fact, a single-payer system is a government-run health care system. President Obama has said he supports a "public plan" as one of many insurance options available in the health care market, and has explicitly rejected a single-payer system.
As Media Matters for America has documented, the Obama administration has proposed "[e]stablish[ing] a National Health Insurance Exchange with a range of private insurance options as well as a new public plan based on benefits available to members of Congress that will allow individuals and small businesses to buy affordable health coverage" [emphasis added]. In his closing remarks at the March 5 White House Forum on Health Reform, Obama said that "[t]he thinking on the public option has been that it gives consumers more choices, and it helps give -- keep the private sector honest, because there's some competition out there."
Moreover, when asked during a March 26 online town hall discussion, "Why can we not have a universal health care system, like many European countries, where people are treated based on needs rather than financial resources," Obama replied, "I actually want a universal health care system," adding that instead of adopting a "single-payer system" like England and Canada, "what I think we should do is to build on the system that we have and fill some of these gaps."
From the May 3 edition of NBC-syndicated The Chris Matthews Show:
MATTHEWS: By the way, do you either two who are on that side agree with that -- that this is his big enchilada? If he can't do health care this year, it's not a good year. If he does it, it's a great year. How --
KELLY O'DONNELL (NBC News Capitol Hill correspondent): Very much so.
MATTHEWS: Now for the opposition.
JOE KLEIN (Time political columnist): I have been through this show twice before -- with Nixon's universal health-care plan and with Clinton's universal health-care plan. And both times, the Democrats shot themselves in both feet and in the head. And, you know, this time --
KLEIN: -- if they go too far with a public choice option and things like that, you're going to see all kinds of advertising --
O'DONNELL: They have to be careful. You're right.
KLEIN: -- all kinds of advertising against them, and their majority is going to diminish.
MATTHEWS: For the affirmative, why health care looks good this year -- some kind of national plan.
KATHLEEN PARKER (syndicated columnist): Well, I think it's going to pass anyways. It's not in the Republican Party's interest to fight health care. It's just -- it's in the zeitgeist it's going to happen. And what Obama needs to do now is cross the aisle and say to the Republicans, "Look, let's talk. What do you need to see?" And maybe work out some compromises. You might get five to 15 votes in the Senate --
FINEMAN: Yeah. But Joe is right to this extent, Chris. I know that the centrist Democrats in the Senate, including people like Ben Nelson of Nebraska, next week, they're coming out with their manifesto, which is going to say absolutely no to the publicly financed option. That's where the fault line or the --
MATTHEWS: Single payer.
FINEMAN: That's where the fault line -- and Obama's got to square that circle if he's going to get it, which I think he will.