WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama participated in a scripted online discussion of his health care overhaul with a friendly audience of religious voters and pastors Wednesday. It ended with him bemoaning those who bear "false witness" against his plans — and then making a claim of his own that's been widely shown to be false.
"There's been a lot of misinformation," Obama said, complaining about people who are "bearing false witness."
He said the first thing he wanted to correct was the idea that the proposed overhaul would force some people into different health care plans. "If you like your health care plan, you can keep your health care plan," he said, repeating one of his stock lines.
That's not true, however, according to FactCheck.org, an independent truth squad run by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania.
"He can't make that promise to everyone," concluded FactCheck's analysis, one of several that point out that the Democrats' health care plan could lead to employers switching plans, and thus forcing their employees into different plans and perhaps to different doctors.
"Under the House bill," FactCheck said, "some employers might have to modify plans after a five-year grace period if they don't meet minimum benefits standards.
"Furthermore, some firms are likely to buy different coverage for their workers than they have now, or simply drop coverage and pay a penalty instead, leaving workers to buy their own private coverage or go on a new federal insurance plan."
Obama tried anew to knock down false assertions that the overhaul would create "death panels" that would euthanize old people. "That is just an extraordinary lie," Obama said.
He also noted that the proposed plan would ban financing health care for illegal immigrants, not provide care for them, as some have charged.
He also said that there would be no federal financing of abortion under the plans, a charge made again Wednesday by the Republican National Committee.
"These are all fabrications," Obama said.
He said he'd need help from the people on the call to correct the record, and prod Congress to pass a health care plan.
"I'm going to need the help of all of you," he said. "Knock on doors, speak the truth."
The 40-minute program, on blogtalkradio.com, featured testimonials about the need for health care changes from pastors and members of various churches, mosques, synagogues and temples around the country, all of them apparently supporters of Obama's proposals.
"I don't want my parents to die," said Karla Carranza, a 15-year-old who attends Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Denver. She said her parents are going without needed care because they lost their health insurance.
Many called for a health care overhaul in moral terms.
"We are in danger of losing the moral core of this debate," said the Rev. Jim Wallis, the president of Sojourners, a liberal Christian group. "This call shows how united the faith community is . . . . We are calling on people of faith to make our political representatives understand that the faith community will be satisfied with nothing less than safe, accessible health care for all Americans."
Midway through the program, Melody Barnes, the White House director of domestic policy, jumped in. She tried to remove any doubts that Obama wants the overhaul to include the option of a federal government insurance program for many Americans. "There have been a lot of questions about . . . whether the president is still committed to that," she said. "The answer is yes."
The program was sponsored by churches and religious groups including the National Baptist Convention, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good.
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