Fact vs. Fiction

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The Obama administration says former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean made misleading and untruthful statements this morning on national television when he called the Senate health care bill an “insurance companies dream”.

Dean, a doctor and former candidate for President, told ABC’s “Good Morning America” that Washington conventional wisdom has become “passing any bill is a victory. Decisions are being made about the long-term future of this country for short-term political reasons. And that’s never a good sign.”

But that statement alone wasn’t what got the White House worked up. Dean went on to imply that 27% of the money put into the new health care program by individuals won’t go to their own health care, and that only a small number of people will get any insurance at all before the year 2014 if the bill works in its current form.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said these claims and others “quite simply weren’t true.”

“Nobody will be required to purchase something they can't afford. There are hardship exemptions and subsidies based on income levels that help people afford insurance,” Gibbs said. “He went on later in the interview to discuss the notion that legislation no longer contains anything that addresses pre-existing conditions. That's simply flat-out wrong.”

Gibbs even reached back to Dean’s failed Presidential bid in 2004, when the former Governor made health care legislation reform a key part of his campaign, and pointed out that the current plan by President Obama conquers obstacles Dean’s plan could not. “There's two differences in what Dr. Dean was doing in 2004 and what President Obama is doing in 2009. One, more people are uninsured and more people are losing their coverage because people can't afford it. Secondly, we actually deal with costs.”

The back and forth between Dean and Obama on health care reform is not new, but the former DNC chair seemed to touch a nerve today at the White House that could reverberate back to the Hill. Gibbs continually linked Dean to members of the Senate and his own party who do want health care reform and believe in the bill currently in the Senate, even with compromises.

“Understand, Senator Harkin, who shares many of the political views that Howard Dean has, supports the bill; Sherrod Brown, many other progressives in the caucus...Because they understand that passing a bill covering 30 million Americans that don't have health insurance is a giant step forward.”

Dean however, won’t be swayed by his friends on the Hill, including Senator Harkin. “In Washington, you get into this crunch where bad- good money gets thrown after bad- good money gets thrown after bad- and good policy gets thrown after bad policy. And at this point, I think, the bill is not worth passing in its present form,” Dean said.

The Democratic leadership of the Senate is pushing for a vote on the Health care bill just before Christmas, perhaps on December 24. The President, who is scheduled to take a vacation at that time, has not indicated if he would stay in Washington for that vote.