Who says government health care doesn’t work? There is a government health plan that is available to a small number of individuals. The risk pool consists of a few dozen people, all of whom work in one building in downtown Washington. If they need a check-up, the doctor comes up to their office for a house call. If they need a prescription, the medicine is delivered to their desks. If they need to see a specialist, they are taken by government transport to one of the best hospitals in the world. If they need surgery, a special suite is available.
And it is all free of charge.
This is not Obamacare. But it is the care President Barack Obama gets. Obama, his family and members of the White House senior staff are all taken care of by the doctors of the White House Medical Unit. It’s the best health plan in the world. I know. For a brief time, I was on it.
The president should have this kind of health care. And to the extent that he depends on having his top aides healthy and available to him, they should, too.
But with this kind of health coverage, why on earth did the president make such a show of “signing up” for Obamacare? He admittedly has no intention of using it. The White House says he signed up as a “symbolic” show of solidarity, so he could lead by example. Really? That would be like Obama signing up his kids to attend D.C. public schools as a sign of solidarity with the poor kids trapped in failing schools — but then saying it was just “symbolic” and sending his kids to their tony private school instead.
But since he was showing solidarity with the rest of America, did the president actually get on his computer like the rest of America and try to navigate the disastrous Obamacare website he created? Nope. While most people had to plug their personal information into a website that ABC News reports still has “serious security vulnerabilities,” the White House decided that for “security reasons” sharing the president’s personal information on government websites was unwise. So, an administration official said, “Like some Americans, the complicated nature of the president’s case required an in-person sign-up.”
Ah, yes, back in November Obama reminded us that we could buy Obamacare “the old-fashioned way — offline, either over the phone or in person. … You can talk to somebody directly and they can walk you through the application process.” So of course Obama went to the D.C. exchange, spoke to someone directly and walked through the application process himself, right? Nope. Obama was too busy enjoying the beaches of Waikiki. Aides back in Washington did it for him. Because most of us have aides who can fill out the paperwork and navigate the nightmare of Obamacare for us.
Leading by example.
If the White House was so confident that “the product is good” and Americans are “willing to be patient,” then they would have been eager for a photo op of the president signing up with other happy customers. But there was no photo op.
And finally, to cap it all off, Obama waited until the last minute to sign up. If the president was so enthusiastic about signing up for Obamacare, why wasn’t he customer No. 1 when the exchanges opened in October? Or when the government relaunched the website in November?
In other words, the president signed up for Obamacare coverage he does not intend to use, skipped the disastrous website he forced millions of Americans to navigate, had someone else do the paperwork for him, chose the cheapest possible plan to avoid the premiums he is imposing on others and waited until the last possible moment to decide whether he wanted to cough up $400 a month as a symbolic show of solidarity.
That’s symbolic all right — but not in the way the White House intended.
If the president really wants to show solidarity with the rest of America, there is an easy way for him to do so. While he needs to have doctors on call at all times when he is in office as a matter of national security, once he leaves office that is another matter. Will the president agree to give up his free military health care when his presidency is over? Will Obama live under Obamacare once he is a private citizen?
If you believe he will, you probably still think you can keep your doctor.
Marc A. Thiessen writes for The Washington Post.