Capitol Hill Bureau Chief
Callers to Michael Smerconish's radio show on Thursday fought through their nerves to ask President Obama about the nuts and bolts of health care reform and other issues.
With Smerconish and his crew set up in the Diplomatic Room of the White House, Obama took caller questions on everything from health care reform to cash for clunkers to the release of the Lockerbie bomber.
Smerconish led off the questioning, asking about the unprecedented expansion of government into several areas of the economy. Obama said he did not start the intervention into the banking or auto industries. "They were started by a conservative Republican administration." He said he felt government expansions this year have been necessary, and not ideological, adding, "On health insurance, I would love the private marketplace to handle this without government interference. The problem is it's not working."
When a caller asked about illegal immigrants under health care reform, Obama said the topic is one of many where misinformation has taken root. "This has been an example of just pure misinformation out there. None of the bills that have been voted on in Congress, and none of the proposals coming out of the White House propose giving coverage to illegal immigrants -- none of them," he said. "That has never been on the table; nobody has discussed it. So everybody who is listening out there, when you start hearing that somehow this is all designed to provide health insurance to illegal immigrants, that is simply not true and has never been the case."
Smerconish followed up by asking if illegal immigrants would still be treated at emergency rooms, as is often the case now. "That will continue," Obama said. He explained that if a child with tuberculosis goes to an ER, that child should be treated regardless of immigration status. "I think there is a basic standard of decency where if somebody is in a death situation or a severe illness, that we're going to provide them emergency care," he said. "But nobody has talked about providing health insurance to illegal immigrants. I want to make that absolutely clear."
The House bill, H.R. 3200, excludes anyone who is not a legal resident of the United States from coverage of extended insurance provisions. Section 246 reads, "Nothing in this subtitle shall allow Federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the United States."
One caller, Joe, told the president, "I'm scared out of my mind talking to you," but then said he was frustrated by Obama's willingness to compromise with Republicans. "I'm getting a little ticked off; it feels like the knees are buckling," the caller said.
Obama told Joe, "I guarantee we're going to get health care done."
Tagged: barack obama
, breaking news
, health care
, health care reform
, illegal immigrants
, michael smerconish
, talk radio