President Restates Commitment to Budget-Neutral Health Reform
On Tuesday, President Obama reiterated his goal that health reform legislation not add to the national deficit, and noted that Congress must continue to improve its overhaul plans to meet that goal, Reuters reports.
Appearing on NBC's "Today Show," Obama said, "Right now, [the reform bills] are not where they need to be." However, he added that he believes the final versions will be budget neutral (Frank, Reuters, 7/22).
White House Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orszag said that the estimated $245 billion used to avoid a 21% scheduled cut to Medicare physician fees would not count toward whether the House reform bill is deficit neutral because he said that was money the administration had always planned to spend (Alonso-Zaldivar, AP/Chicago Tribune, 7/22).
On the "Today Show," Obama also said that he would not support a tax on employer-sponsored insurance benefits (Reuters, 7/22).
Obama Relaxes August Deadline
Obama has lessened his insistence that the House and Senate pass reform legislation before their August recesses, according to the Christian Science Monitor.
Instead, he is now in favor of having a final bill to his desk by the end of the year. Regardless, on Tuesday he continued to express confidence that Democratic reform efforts will succeed.
In a televised address from the Rose Garden on Tuesday, Obama said, "Make no mistake, we are closer than ever before to the reform that the American people need, and we're going to get the job done" (Feldmann, Christian Science Monitor, 7/21). He also said that lawmakers working on health reform must "insist that this time it will be different" (Meckler et al., Wall Street Journal, 7/22).
Obama Takes On GOP Criticism
Also on Tuesday, Obama criticized Republicans and other opponents of his reform goals for following a "familiar script" in Washington to impede the progress of overhaul legislation (Youngman, The Hill, 7/21).
He added, "I understand that some will try to delay action until the special interests can kill it" (Bellantoni, Washington Times, 7/22). Obama said, "These opponents of reform would rather score political points than offer relief to Americans" (Jackson, "The Oval," USA Today, 7/21).
A senior Obama administration official said, "As we proceed through this debate, it's important for the public to know that Republican opposition is not substantive, it's political," adding that there will be a "big backlash against Republicans" if they are viewed as responsible for reform failing this year (Koffler/Drucker, Roll Call, 7/21).
GOP Decries Rush To Pass Overhaul
On CBS' "Early Show" on Tuesday, Republican National Committee Chair Michael Steele said, "It took a year and a half for us to create the Medicare system. Now we're going to do the entire health care system in two weeks or six weeks," adding, "It is urgent and it is indisputable. The problem that I have with it is the rush that is under way here" (Werner, AP/Google.com, 7/21).
In a statement provided to the Washington Times, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said, "The biggest obstacles to President Obama's $2 trillion government takeover of health care are Democrats, the American people and the facts" (Washington Times, 7/22).
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, "We certainly don't need to rush and spend a trillion dollars to enact this flawed proposal by the August recess." He added that the proposals "we've seen aren't just incomplete, they're indefensible at a time of spiraling debt and ever-increasing job losses."
According to McConnell, "Maybe this is why the administration has started to insist on an artificial deadline for getting its reform proposals through" (Drucker, Roll Call, 7/21).
Prospects for Reform, Timeline
David Axelrod, Obama's senior adviser, said, "We're using every single lever that we can to get our message across" that reform must be passed this year.
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), Obama's first choice for HHS secretary, said, "I think the risk of failure goes up consequentially if we don't get it done by the August break," noting that if that deadline is not met, "you've got a bill hanging out there for weeks for every special interest to shoot at and tear apart -- and a lot of members to have to defend without the advantage of having the momentum that we have right now" (Wall Street Journal, 7/22).
Democratic communications specialist Peter Fenn said, "There's no question that nobody is going to get what they want," but "I still think Obama gets a bill to sign by the end of the year" (Christian Science Monitor, 7/21).
NPR's "All Things Considered" on Tuesday reported on Obama's efforts to address the problem of overtreatment in the health care system, which is a significant contributor to high costs (Horsley, "All Things Considered," NPR, 7/21).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.