Obama Seeking Open Discussion at Bipartisan Health Reform Summit
President Obama is trying to use Thursday's bipartisan health reform summit to generate unscripted debate about Democratic overhaul proposals, an approach that gave him an advantage last month when he took questions on live television at a retreat for House Republicans, the New York Times reports (Stolberg/Herszenhorn, New York Times, 2/25).
Obama used his opening remarks at the summit to appeal to members of the GOP by saying that both parties share similar concerns -- such as the federal deficit and increasing health premiums -- which the president argued can only be addressed by curbing rising health costs (White House live feed of summit, 2/25).
Obama's Health Plan for Discussion at Summit
President Obama's own proposal for health reform legislation, which was released online on Monday, will be discussed at the summit. Several Democratic leaders said on Wednesday that they have not given much thought to how to pass Obama's plan through Congress because they are preparing for the summit (Wayne, CQ Today, 2/24).
However, White House officials have confirmed that the proposal is designed to be approved through budget reconciliation, which is part of a two-bill process being endorsed by a growing number of Democrats. The most likely use of the process would involve convincing House Democrats to pass the more moderate Senate reform bill (HR 3590) unchanged and sending it directly to Obama for his signature.
The Senate then could pass a separate package of reform measures to pacify more liberal House Democrats through the budget reconciliation process, which requires only a simple majority for passage (Levey/Hook, Los Angeles Times, 2/24).
GOP Strategy for Summit
According to a GOP source, Republicans at the summit will offer a six step approach for reforming health care, including permitting individuals to buy insurance across state lines; ending frivolous malpractice lawsuits; developing small business health plans, expanding health savings accounts; providing state incentives to lower costs; and making insurance affordable to people with pre-existing conditions (Budoff Brown, "Live Pulse," Politico, 2/24).
Obama Readies Fallback Health Plan
The president has developed a scaled-back reform plan in case the summit does little to elicit support for overhaul efforts from either Congress or U.S. residents, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The alternate approach would expand health care to around 15 million more U.S. residents, which is about half of what Obama's comprehensive proposal would cover, according to two sources familiar with the planning.
The smaller proposal would require insurers to allow people up to age 26 to stay on their parents' health plans and would moderately expand Medicaid programs and the Children's Health Insurance Program in various states (Meckler, Wall Street Journal, 2/24).
More on the Line Than Health Care
The outcome of the reform summit carries risks that could affect the midterm elections in November, the Los Angeles Times reports.Democratic Strategist Mark Mellman said, "Failure to pass a bill of any kind presents real problems for [Democrats] in the midterms." He said that if Democrats cannot pass a reform bill, "the message to the American people is that Democrats can't get anything done, can't govern and can't deliver on promises to the American public," adding, "And that's a bad platform on which to be running for re-election" (Nicholas, Chicago Tribune, 2/24). 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.