Obama To Spend More Time on Health Care Reform in Coming Weeks
Senior White House aides have said President Obama over the next two weeks will have an "aggressive public and private schedule" aimed at increasing public pressure on Congress to pass health reform legislation, the Washington Post reports.
The president's health care push will include a prime-time news conference on Wednesday, a trip to Cleveland this week, increased use of Internet video and more frequent meetings with lawmakers, the Post reports (Shear/Murray, Washington Post, 7/20).
Obama also is scheduled on Monday to host a roundtable meeting with health care providers at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. After the meeting, Obama will issue a statement on health reform (Koffler, Roll Call, 7/19).
Although Obama and his aides have not backed down from their hopes of having reform legislation passed before the August recess, they have not mentioned a timetable in recent statements. According to the Post, the chances of an overhaul being passed this year could depend on whether Obama can quell revolts among Democratic allies who have recently criticized reform proposals.
Obama senior adviser David Axelrod said, "Our strategy has been to allow this process to advance to the point where it made sense for the president to take the baton. Now's that time." Axelrod added that Obama is "going to be very, very visible."
White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel said, "It's getting hotter, and there are bumps, but we are closer to health care reform than ever before."
Another administration aide said, "We're swimming upstream against a culture of failure on health care in Washington" (Washington Post, 7/20).
In an unplanned address from the White House on Friday, Obama expressed confidence that health reform legislation will be passed this year, but did not mention his original timeline of having the bill on his desk before the August recess (Youngman, The Hill, 7/17).
The president said, "We are going to get this done. We will reform health care," adding, "It will happen this year. I'm absolutely convinced of that."
Obama added, "I realize that the last few miles of any race are the hardest to run, but I have to say now is not the time to slow down, and now is certainly not the time to lose heart" (Murray, Washington Post, 7/18). "Make no mistake, if we step back from this challenge at this moment, we are consigning our children to a future of skyrocketing premiums and crushing deficits," he added (Levey, Chicago Tribune, 7/19).
In addition, Obama said that reform "cannot add to our deficit over the next decade, and I mean it" (Bettelheim, CQ Today, 7/17).
According to The Hill, Obama focused on reform topics that have received widespread support, such as preventive care, a health insurance exchange and streamlining insurance paperwork (The Hill, 7/17).
In the Friday address, Obama also voiced support for a proposal that would create an independent body to make decisions about how to rein in Medicare spending (CQ Today, 7/17).
White House Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag presented the proposal to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) earlier in the day, marking the first time the Obama administration has sent specific health reform legislation to lawmakers (Chicago Tribune, 7/19).
Under the plan, a new independent agency would be created to set Medicare reimbursement rates for hospitals and doctors, a process now overseen by Congress.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) proposed the plan, which would allow Congress to stop the rate changes only by issuing a joint resolution (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 7/18).
Obama said, "I want to be very clear: I will not sign on to any health plan that adds to our deficits over the next decade." He also said that opponents of health care reform "warn that this is all some big plot for socialized medicine, or government-run health care with long lines and rationed care. That's not true either."
The president said, "I don't believe that government can or should run health care," but "I also don't think insurance companies should have free reign to do as they please" (Colvin, Reuters, 7/18).
He noted, "This is an issue that affects the health and financial well-being of every single American and the stability of our entire economy," adding, "By helping improve quality and efficiency, the reforms we make will help bring our deficits under control in the long term."
Obama said that "the debate in Congress is all about â¦ [w]hether we'll keep talking and tinkering and letting this problem fester as more families and businesses go under and more Americans lose their coverage -- or whether we'll seize this opportunity, one we might not have again for generations, and finally pass health insurance reform this year" (Fletcher, Washington Post, 7/19).
Obama's Approval Ratings Drop
Public approval for Obama fell six percentage points from last month and is below 60% for the first time, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll, the Washington Post reports. The poll was conducted by telephone from Wednesday through Saturday. A total of 1,001 randomly selected adults participated, and the margin of sampling error is plus or minus three percentage points.
Overall, 59% of the public approves of Obama's performance, while 37% disapprove.
Since April, approval of Obama's handling of health care has fallen from 57% to 49%, with disapproval rising from 29% to 44%. The public still trusts Obama more than Republicans on the matter, but support for Republicans has grown somewhat, according to the Post.
However, 44% of Independents viewed Obama's health care efforts positively, while 41% disapproved, compared with 53% approving and 30% disapproving in April.
The poll shows that majorities believe that Obama is doing enough to push for health reform or that he should increase his efforts. It also indicated that 54% of U.S. residents support the outlines of reform legislation in Congress, which would institute individual and employer mandates and create a new public insurance plan.
However, responses differed among groups of different political parties and incomes.
Three-quarters of Democrats said they support the plans, as well as nearly 60% of Independents, but more than three-quarters of Republicans said they oppose the plans. About two-thirds of those with household incomes below $50,000 favor the outline of legislation, while 52% of those with higher incomes are against it (Balz/Cohen, Washington Post, 7/20).
Broadcast CoverageNPR's "Weekend Edition Sunday" discussed Obama's recent actions on health care and what is likely to happen next in the effort to overhaul the health system (Hansen/Liasson, "Weekend Edition Sunday," NPR, 7/19). 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.