He was impressed by the speech, but he’s still not sold on the policy.
Freshman Rep. Mike McMahon was in the House chamber on Wednesday night, and was impressed by President Obama’s speech — he didn’t yell “You lie!” at the Leader of the Free World, after all — but he called us up hours after the orator had finished to say that lots of details remain to be worked out.
It’s just the latest conversation in our ongoing “McMahon on Line 1” feature.
Q: How did the president do?
A: He made a very good speech — the commander in chief became the salesman in chief for his most important domestic agenda. He brought focus to his priorities, but I’m still concerned about tax increases and what the cost will be to businesses and how it will affect our hospitals and health-care providers because of regional differences. For me, there are still three questions: How are you going to pay for it? Will there be mandates for small businesses or not? And will there be a public option?
Q: Do you support a public option?
A: I do, but the Congressional Budget Office says the public option would get five percent of population. If that’s true, that’s not enough people to justify derailing other positive things that could be done in a bipartisan way.
Q: We’ve found it a bit ironic that the Republicans, who are so opposed to a public option, are the ones championing Medicare. If that’s the case, why not just call their bluff and pass an expansion of Medicare so that it covers everyone?
A: Obama’s public option is not heavily subsidized like Medicare. And then there are those who say that the government can’t do anything as well as the private sector.
Q: I don’t hear them saying that about the armed forces, which are a government-run program that everyone seems to like.
A: It’s a great debate in our nation, government vs. the private sector.
Q: But don’t you just want to scrap our current health care system, which is too expensive and doesn’t serve everyone as well as it could?
A: It is not working as well as it can, but there are many good things in our system. Creating a new system is not achievable. For one thing, many Americans are happy with what they have, so we need to build on what we have. And money is not limitless. Countries with single-payer system started it many years ago, right after the Second World War. The president is taking a much more realistic approach.
Q: He’s even talking about tort reform, which has always been a third rail for Democrats.
A: Tort reform is an issue because so many doctors have said that their main concern is that so much treatment is done defensively to protect against malpractice. But I don’t support capping malpractice suits or eliminating them because there are instances when people have legitimate claims and people should have access to court. But there are some proposal out there that could give doctors a comfort level and protection against suits. Insurance companies advocate caps on awards. They’ve done it in Texas and Ohio, and studies show that it has not brought down costs. But it has meant more profits for the insurance companies.
Q: What did you think when your colleague, the right and honorable Joe Wilson of South Carolina screamed out, “You lie!” to the president?
A: It was completely disrespectful.
Q: Did you get any face time with the president?
A: After the speech, I congratulated him and he said, “Say hello to Brooklyn for me.”
Q: Can you tell him, “Hello” back, or is that not done?