The Ethical Take

Published: November 8, 2013

By Jim Lichtman
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The president earns 4 Pinocchios; Thank you, Michael Bloomberg; Incognito no longer and a Pope for the ages!

Obama’s Drama –

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler is persnickety about facts. His weekly column, The Fact Checker checks the reality behind the spin of most politicians. President Obama gained notoriety recently (Oct. 30) by receiving a full, 4 Pinocchios for this oft repeated promise from June 2009:

“That means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

As Kessler points out, the facts are these: “The president’s pledge that ‘if you like your insurance, you will keep it’ is one of the most memorable of his presidency. It was also an extraordinarily bold – and possibly foolish – pledge, unless he thought he simply could dictate exactly how the insurance industry must work.”

As far back as August, 2009, Kessler adds, Republican Tom Price, a doctor, said, “On the stump, the president regularly tells Americans that ‘if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.’  But if you read the bill, that just isn’t so. For starters, within five years, every health-care plan will have to meet a new federal definition for coverage — one that your current plan might not match, even if you like it.”

“As we have noted,” Kessler says, a key part of the law is forcing insurers to offer an ‘essential health benefits’ package, providing coverage in 10 categories. The list includes: ambulatory patient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management; and pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

“For some plans, this would be a big change. In 2011, the Department of Health and Human Services noted: ’62 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for maternity services; 34 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for substance abuse services; 18 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for mental health services; 9 percent of enrollees do not have coverage for prescription drugs.’ ” writes (Oct.29), “We’ve been saying for years that President Obama was over-simplifying and over-promising when he kept saying, ‘if you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan’ under the new health care law. Now reality is catching up with his political spin.” gave the president a Pants-on-Fire rating for the statement. “Let’s start with what is clear,” Politifact writes, “President Barack Obama said, ‘if you like your plan, you can keep it,’ at least 34 times in some form, both before and after passage of the Affordable Care Act. But that is literally not true for hundreds of thousands and likely millions of people.”

In a recent NBC News interview (Nov. 7), President Obama apologized. “I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation,” he said. “We’ve got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and that we’re going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.”

Ethical Take: While I support the notion of increased health insurance standards, the president had too many chances to change or revise his statement. As Politifact calls it: “a little too late to change his tune.” My advice: the president needs to read the sheet music before singing.

Thank you, Michael Bloomberg –

Many New Yorkers well remember Mayor Michael “Nanny State” Bloomberg’s attitude when it came to health concerns. After banning smoking in public places, he required chain restaurants to list calorie count listings on their foods. Perhaps his most contentious issue was banning the use of “trans fat” –hydrogenated vegetable – from all New York restaurants in 2008. While trans fat increases the shelf life of foods, it also increases the risk of heart disease.

Yesterday, the Food and Drug Administration announced it is taking steps to eliminate trans fats in all food products in the U.S.

According to The Washington Post (Nov. 7) ” ‘While consumption of potentially harmful trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern,’ said FDA commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg. She said eliminating trans fats in the American diet could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths from heart disease each year.”

The E.T.: Thank you, Mr. Bloomberg! All of those who feel that their rights are being violated can take it up with the Supreme Court, as I’m sure some will.

Incognito No More –

An investigation by the National Football League is underway into alleged harassment of Miami Dolphins player Jonathan Martin by teammate Richie Incognito. Told to “toughen up” Martin by coaches, Incognito crossed the line by bullying Martin and using racial epithets. “In a transcript of a voice mail message from April, Incognito referred to Martin as a ‘half n—– piece of s—,’ ” ESPN reported.

Going from worse to worser (it’s a word, look it up), the ESPNwebsite carried a story originally reported by NBC’ that said, “Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland suggested offensive tackle Jonathan Martin physically confront guard Richie Incognito – even saying he should ‘punch’ him – as a means of dealing with how he was being treated.”

Martin remains in California with family members after making claims of harassment by teammates. Incognito has been suspended indefinitely “for conduct detrimental to the team.”

The Take: After a thorough investigation, those Dolphin coaches who knew or condoned any actions against Martin should be fined, suspended and possibly fired. Football will never be an example of teamwork and sportsmanship until they rid themselves of a destructive sub-culture that fosters bullying or hazing in any form.

A Pope for the Ages –

The Catholic News Agency reports (Nov.6) that Pope Francis held and kissed a man “suffering from neurofibromatosis, which causes great pain and can result in impaired vision, learning impairment, and even cancer, according to non-profit research group Mayo Clinic…. People with this disease – which is genetic and not contagious – often face discrimination because of their appearance.”

Francis approached the man who appeared at a general audience in St. Peter’s Square. Spending several minutes with him, the Holy Father held the man’s face in his hands, kissed him and gave him a blessing.

This is just one of several overt acts of caring and compassion the Pope has confirmed demonstrating the kind of character that his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, became known for.

What else has former Archbishop Bergoglio accomplished?

According to Vatican Insider (Apr. 17), Pope Francis “…has set up a commission of eight cardinals from all around the world, who advise him on how to reform the Roman Curia. He has removed the 25 thousand euro annual ‘bonus’ usually given to the cardinals in charge of overseeing the Vatican bank (IOR). So far, the Pope has not given any definitive answer about whether the bank will undergo reform, be shut down or handed over. The bonus Vatican employees usually get when a new Pope is elected, went to charity this time.

In September CNN reported, “Pope Francis said the church has the right to express its opinions but not to ‘interfere spiritually’ in the lives of gays and lesbians, expanding on explosive comments he made in July, ‘If a person is gay and seeks God and has good will, who am I to judge them?’ ”

The E.T. says: Here’s a Pope who takes his job, and the reputation of the Church seriously. Keep going, Big P!



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