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Jack Welch critiques Obama's healthcare plan

June 22, 2009 |  8:46 am

Jack Welch, the guru of General Electric and the darling of Wall Street, is on a book tour.

The man who pioneered business innovations and put shareholder concerns on Wall Street's radar is also selling his new online MBA program -- the Jack Welch Management Institute.

So today he took a spin on MSNBC's Morning Joe program, where he delivered a telling critique of President Obama's healthcare program. The beef: It ignores the big questions.

Lashing the administration for suggesting that any government program can save money, Welch said that the Obama plan -- by putting off the table reform of malpractice insurance and ignoring issues like the cost of the last six months of life -- dooms any serious fix of the healthcare system.

"We've got to deal with tough issues if we want to get at costs," he said. While he credited Team Obama with tackling the right issues -- energy independence, the meltdown on Wall Street, rising healthcare costs -- Welch said he's concerned that "we're not getting enough debate about how to deal with each of these issues."



The former CEO did have kind words for Obama on foreign policy. Parting company from Republicans who have criticized the president's reaction to Iran as "timid," Welch said he thinks Obama, in walking a line between embracing democracy and avoiding the label of instigator, has been "pitch perfect."

Welch joins a growing chorus of observers who are finding fault with Obama's healthcare plan. When the Congressional Budget Office projected last week that a government-run health insurance plan would cost $1 trillion to $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, Sen. John McCain of Arizona called it "a body blow" to the Obama plan.

Even Democrats are growing uneasy.

"I don't know that he has the votes right now," Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said on CNN over the weekend. "I think there's a lot of concern in the Democratic caucus."

One thing on Feinstein's mind is the likelihood that the White House would try to pay for its plan by cutting Medicaid and Medicare payments that support public hospitals. That kind of cutting could severely cripple California at a time of already unprecedented budget deficits.

"If you change the Medicaid rate, for example, it has an impact on California between $1 billion and $5 billion a year," she said. "Now how can I support that?"

-- Johanna Neuman

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