Real Time host Bill Maher and his panel got into a debate on Friday over whether President Barack Obama lied regarding the effects of the Affordable Care Act, with Maher linking it to another presidential gaffe — but not the one pushed by many conservatives.
“I’ve heard people say it’s like his [Hurricane] Katrina,” Maher said. “I think it’s more like George Bush the father’s ‘Read my lips: No new taxes’: a campaign pledge that didn’t quite hold up to the realities of governing, and that’s a moral complexity I’m okay with because I’m not 12.”
But even though Maher was ready to declare that Obama “kinda did” lie when he promised Americans that they would get to keep their insurance policies under the law, none of the panelists would agree, with Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) challenging him most vocally.
“That was referring to the overwhelming majority of Americans had health care — 85 percent of Americans had health care coverage to begin with,” Wasserman Schultz told Maher.
But Maher countered that the law essentially bars people from having “crappy” policies.
“I would say to some people, ‘Why do you want a crappy plan?'” Maher acknowledged. “But some people want crap. What can I say? And because of Obamacare, they are not being able to keep it. To me, that is a lie.”
Wasserman Schultz responded that before the law took effect, people with good policies were already paying for the cost of caring for the “under-insured,” arguing that fellow breast cancer survivors have told her their own policies forced them to choose between chemotherapy or radiation therapy.
“Yes, there was a minimum floor of benefits that we had to make sure everyone had, so that we can make sure that we aren’t all paying at the end of the day for everybody else’s health care,” she added.
Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson pointed out that the complaints surrounding the law revolve around 14 million people, about 5 percent of the U.S. population.
“Since when did any legislation in this country ever care about 5 percent?” deGrasse Tyson asked.
Maher later suggested that Obama embrace the notion of the ACA as a “Robin Hood” law.
“Remember the thing that Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan were trying to get him on?” Maher asked the panel. “‘He stole $716 billion from Medicare’? No, he took $716 that was basically just lying around because it was owed in payments to insurance companies.”
Wasserman Schultz interjected that the money was then used to make Medicare more solvent and to account for 150 million people who can no longer be denied care because of pre-existing conditions.
“It’s not pure Robin Hood,” deGrasse Tyson said. “You’re getting all the people who were not paying before, to pay.”
Watch the discussion, as posted online on Friday,