Some time after last night’s mayoral forum ended, Anthony Weiner found himself defending President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law to an agitated woman.
Politicker approached a small commotion involving Mr. Weiner outside the Midwood public school, where the forum had been held, when it became clear one of the attendees wanted to do more than simply schmooze with the former congressman.
“Can I ask you a question? Who do you think pays for the uninsured when they go to the hospital?” Mr. Weiner shot back at the woman, Laurie Fein, after she demanded to know why Mr. Weiner supported mandatory insurance coverage. “Who do you think pays that bill?”
Mr. Weiner, just beyond the steps of the school, appeared to be relishing the policy showdown.
“We do,” Ms. Fein replied.
“You do,” Mr. Weiner, a vocal proponent of expanding health care coverage when he served in Congress, quickly concurred.
“I understand that–” Ms. Fein began, growing upset.
“The only thing about Obamacare, just so you know, people make it more complicated than it is. It just, it’s less expensive for us as taxpayers to give us–” Mr. Weiner countered.
“Not true, my husband’s a physician,” she interrupted.
“Let me finish my thought, let me finish my thought, maybe you’ll agree. It’s less expensive to give people a subsidy to buy insurance than it is to treat them in emergency rooms. That’s the simple math of the situation,” Mr. Weiner said as a small crowd, as always, began to cluster around him. “We’re closing hospitals because the uninsured are coming in.”
“I know, my husband is in one of the hospitals,” she replied.
“We pay 20 billion dollars a year for healthcare in this city because the costs are so high because of the uninsured. It’s got to be fixed and I try to fix it, I mean, but I’m telling you, you’re blaming the wrong thing,” Mr. Weiner continued, talking over the woman’s thin voice. “What you should be blaming are the insurance companies that are taking 20 percent off the top of everything. There’s no incentive for them to keep costs down.”
After explaining that competition among healthcare providers would eventually drive down costs, Mr. Weiner insisted Ms. Fein was mad about a supposedly expensive portion of Obamacare that had yet to be enacted.
“Wait until you see how many doctors are not going to be here,” she said.
“All I hear is doctors!” interjected an 86-year-old woman, not involved in the conversation previously.
“Your husband’s doctor?” Mr. Weiner asked Ms. Fein. “Ask him who he likes dealing with more, Medicare or Oxford? Medicare’s the answer.”
As the former congressman turned away to powwow with some of the spectators, Ms. Fein told Politicker she was unswayed.
“Ask him if he’s read the 1,500 pages of the bill,” she said. “He didn’t.”