Obama Vows To Protect Health Overhaul, Open to Some Modifications
In the little time he spent on health care and the federal health reform law during his State of the Union address, President Obama highlighted how consumers already are benefiting from the overhaul, Politico reports.
Obama also conceded that some portions of the overhaul can be improved and said he is willing to discuss those provisions. "Instead of re-fighting the battles of the last two years, let's fix what needs fixing and move forward," he said (Nather, Politico, 1/25).
Obama acknowledged the ongoing Republican efforts to repeal the health reform law and complicate its implementation but did not use the word repeal, according to CQ HealthBeat. Instead, he said, "I've heard rumors that a few of you have some concerns about the new health care law."
Obama warned that he is "not willing to go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a pre-existing condition." He cited invited guests to illustrate two of the law's consumer benefits: prohibiting insurers from denying coverage to individuals with pre-existing conditions and providing business owners with financial aid to help cover the costs of their employees' health coverage (Bunis, CQ HealthBeat, 1/25).
Obama Addresses Issues with Reform Law, Reaches Out to GOP
In admitting that there are portions of the reform law that can be improved, Obama urged Republicans to work with him on two issues the GOP supports: medical malpractice reform and a repeal of the 1099 tax-reporting requirement in the law.
He said, "Let me be the first to say that anything can be improved. If you have ideas about how to improve this law by making care better or more affordable, I am eager to work with you" (Politico, 1/25).
Scaling Back Health Spending
Obama said that the overhaul was the best solution to curb health care spending and to bring the rising federal deficit under control, Politico reports (Politico, 1/25). He said, "This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid, which are the single biggest contributors to our long-term deficit" (Kaiser Health News, 1/25).
He also noted that repealing the health reform law would "add a quarter of a trillion dollars to our deficit," referencing the Congressional Budget Office's deficit and revenue analysis of House legislation to repeal the reform law.
Obama also proposed a five-year freeze on domestic spending, which would come at a crucial time when Congress will have to authorize funds to enable HHS and other federal agencies to implement key provisions in the law (Politico, 1/25). He said his proposal "would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade and [would] bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy" since the late 1950s.
"The bipartisan fiscal commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don't agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress," Obama added, noting that "their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it, in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes" (Kaiser Health News, 1/25).
Reactions to Obama's Offers To Modify Law
Obama's offer to work with Republicans to overhaul current medical malpractice laws and repeal the reform law's 1099 tax-reporting provisions drew mixed responses, CQ Today reports.
Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) and House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-Texas) -- who on Monday introduced a bill (HR 5) to establish new caps on medical malpractice lawsuit settlements -- welcomed Obama's offer for bipartisanship (Ethridge, CQ Today, 1/25).
Meanwhile, Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he would support medical liability reform onlyÂ if it is part of a broader package of legislation that also would address other contentious issues, such as antitrust exemptions or regulations against incompetence in the medical industry, according to The Hill's "Healthwatch" (Bolton, "Healthwatch," The Hill, 1/25).
GOP Response Restates Party's Opposition to Overhaul
House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who delivered the Republican response to Obama's State of the Union address, was "predictable" inÂ his focus on the GOP's broad opposition to the overhaul, CQ HealthBeat reports.
Ryan said, "What we already know about the president's health care law is this: Costs are going up, premiums are rising, and millions of people will lose the coverage they currently have" (CQ HealthBeat, 1/25).
Referencing the House health repeal bill, which the chamber passed last week, he added, "[W]e will work to replace [the law] with fiscally responsible, patient-centered reforms that actually reduce costs and expand coverage. Health care spending is driving the explosive growth of our debt. And the president's law is accelerating our country toward bankruptcy" (Kaiser Health News, 1/25).
For additional coverage on the State of the Union address and on health care issues in Congress, see today's Road to Reform column.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.