Obama Challenges GOP To Offer Reform Ideas at Bipartisan Summit
Over the weekend, President Obama challenged Republicans to come to Thursday's bipartisan health reform summit with their own ideas for the health care system overhaul, the Washington Post reports.
Obama also noted his reasons for the bipartisan meeting and his goals for health reform during a town-hall meeting on Friday in Nevada as part of a re-election campaign event for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) (Shear, Washington Post, 2/19).
Obama said, "I think this [bipartisan summit] is the right thing to do. The Republicans say that they've got a better way to do it. So I want them to put it on the table." He added, "I'm not an unreasonable guy. If you show me that you can do the things we just talked about -- protect people from insurance problems, make sure that the costs are controlled and people who don't have health insurance are covered -- you can do it cheaper than me, then why wouldn't I do that?" He continued, "So show me what you got, but don't let the American people go another year and another 10 years and another 20 years without health insurance" (Stolberg, New York Times, 2/20).
Obama acknowledged that health reform had become a political liability for himself and his Democratic colleagues on Capitol Hill, but he said that "it's important" and "it's the right thing to do" (Norman, CQ HealthBeat, 2/19).
Obama also urged voters to watch the summit, which is scheduled to be broadcast live on C-SPAN. He said, "Pay attention ... when we have this health summit," adding, "You may not want to watch all six or eight hours of it -- you've got other things to do -- but pay attention to what this debate is about" (New York Times, 2/20).
Obama Targets Insurers' 'Jaw-Dropping' Rate-Hike Proposals
During the town-hall meeting, Obama also used recent reports of proposals by health insurers to raise premium rates for consumers in the individual health policy market as an example for the need for health reform, CQ HealthBeat reports.
Citing Anthem Blue Cross of California's proposed rate hikes, Obama said, "That's the future," adding, "That's going to be one of the main things that helps to bankrupt local school districts, because all these teachers, all these employees, those health care costs go up" (CQ HealthBeat, 2/19).
Meanwhile, during his weekly radio and Internet address on Saturday, Obama called the double-digit rate-hike proposals a "jaw-dropping" effort by insurers to continue the status quo, causing small-business owners to scale back health benefit provisions for employees and force more people to drop their health insurance coverage. He said, "As bad as things are today, they'll only get worse if we fail to act" (Burns, Wall Street Journal, 2/20).
Obama also indicated his willingness to work with Republicans on rules that would allow residents to purchase health insurance across state lines, presumably at more competitive prices, and provide incentives to encourage small business owners to provide coverage. He said, "I think both of these are good ideas -- so long as we pursue them in a way that protects benefits, protects patients and protects the American people" (Murray/Shear, Washington Post, 2/21).
GOP Insists on Health Reform Restart in Weekly Address
In the Republican response to Obama's weekly address, House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Dave Camp (R-Mich.) reiterated the GOP's call for Democrats to restart the health reform debate. Camp said the discussions should shift away from what he described as the Democrats' "misguided plan of a government takeover of health care" and instead focus on making health care more affordable.
He said, "In fact, right now, Democrats are continuing to work behind closed doors, putting the finishing touches on yet another massive health care bill Americans can't afford and don't want," adding, "If the starting point for this summit is more of the same backroom deals and partisan bills, then this meeting will likely be a charade" (Wall Street Journal, 2/20).
McConnell, Pence Remain Skeptical of Summit Outcome
Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Republican Conference Chair Mike Pence (Ind.) on Sunday continued to express uncertainty about the outcome of the bipartisan summit and rejected criticism that Republicans are seeking to block Obama's health care agenda, Roll Call reports.
During an appearance on "Fox News Sunday," McConnell said, "[Democrats are] trying to spin the notion that we are stymieing everything theyâre doing. But my members were not sent here to do nothing, and the president knows that, and he has said it." McConnell added, "We have accomplished much for the American people. It's just that we are unwilling to approve [Democrats'] partisan agenda."On NBC's "Meet the Press," Pence said Democrats should discard the House and Senate bills (HR 3962, HR 3590) and start the process over, adding, "If we were talking about really starting over" and Democrats are ready to "renounce the abuse of the legislative process known as reconciliation, Republicans are ready to work" (Kucinich, Roll Call, 2/21). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.