Will Health Care Summit Jump-start Reform?
Bipartisan Meeting Puts Reform Proposals Back in the Spotlight
Details of the President's Plan continued...
In a nod to the House reform plan, the White House has sweetened the
subsidies for lower- and middle-income families to purchase insurance. But
Obama has followed the Senate's lead in jettisoning the ''public option,'' the
proposed government-run health plan, approved by the House, to compete with
private insurers. And it keeps the Senate's less restrictive language on
funding for abortion.
The Obama proposals contain aggressive strategies to attack waste, fraud,
and abuse in health care -- initiatives long championed by Republicans. "You
could get some real savings out of it,'' says Hobson, who represents family
physicians as a lobbyist.
Darling agrees that the anti-fraud measures are a needed improvement. "It's
definitely a step in the right direction,'' he says. But Darling adds that
these provisions don't make the overall bill palatable for conservatives.
Prospects for a Deal
The White House plan helps set the agenda for Thursday's health care summit.
But there doesn't appear to be much optimism that real deal-making will occur
under the TV lights.
Still, Taylor says it's a crucial moment for Obama. With Brown's election,
Democrats ''have been getting cold feet'' on reform, Taylor says. "The
president could have said, 'Let's give up."' Instead, Obama "has wrapped
himself up completely in this.''
A deal is very unlikely, Taylor says. But if one should take shape, he says,
it could start around Democrats accepting malpractice reform, a leading issue
The GOP has long called for a new start -- a blank sheet of paper -- on
health care reform. The House Minority Leader, John Boehner, R-Ohio, says Obama
''crippled the credibility'' of the summit by proposing ''the same massive
government takeover of health care.''
The Obama proposal as a whole ''is a nonstarter for conservatives,'' Darling
says, citing its federal mandates, tax increases and additional regulation. The
summit "is going to be high drama,'' Darling says. But ultimately, he says, the
two sides are too far apart to do anything but start over.
Meanwhile, a Kaiser Family Foundation poll released Tuesday shows the public
evenly split on health care reform, with 43% in favor and 43% opposed. The
poll, though, also found that most Americans support key provisions of the
current reform plans.
The summit will give Obama a shot at marketing his plan to Americans in a
clearer way, says Bill Custer, a health insurance expert at Georgia State
If the meeting descends into posturing, and no reform passes this year,
don't expect health care problems to disappear, experts say.
"The underlying trends are so bad for insurance coverage,'' Custer says.
Unemployment is rising, COBRA coverage is expiring, small employers are less
likely to offer coverage, and large employers will continue to see insurance
increases greater than general inflation, Custer notes.
"All the trends that have led us to this point are not going away,'' he
says. "It's likely they've gotten much worse.''