KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

At Ohio Town Hall, Obama Says Congressional Delay Is ‘Okay’

President Obama rallied support for health care at a town hall meeting in Shaker Heights, Ohio, on Thursday, despite news of a legislative delay in the Senate.

NPR reports that "President Obama pressed for a new timeframe for passage of an overhaul of the U.S. health care system Thursday after Senate Democrats decided not to vote before the August recess. Obama took the decision by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in stride, saying at a town hall meeting in Cleveland that he didn't mind the wait, as long as lawmakers are trying to work out difficult issues associated with the plan. Pushing back from his original August deadline, the president said he still wants to sign a bill into law this year, preferably in the fall."

Obama told his audience in Ohio, a state where "17 percent of working-age adults are uninsured," to "stay on your members of Congress. Keep up the heat." Obama said he wants health care "done by the end of the year. I want it done by the fall." He added that "if there's not a deadline in Washington, nothing happens" (Tedford, 7/23).

CBS News reports that "the president skirted around a question from an audience member about whether he was willing to force the Congress to stay in Washington, through its August vacation, until it passes the legislation. He said he has not talked to Reid yet today. 'My attitude is I want to get it right, but I also want to get it done promptly,' he said. 'As long as I see folks working diligently and consistently, then I am comfortable with moving a process forward that builds as much consensus as possible' (Condon, 7/23).

The Plain Dealer adds that the delay meant the goal of Obama's stump speech "became a bit more complicated during his trip to Cleveland, where he hoped that the innovative medical institutions he named in his speech -- the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals of Cleveland and the MetroHealth System -- would help him make his case. … During the speech, Obama praised the Cleveland Clinic for how it pays its doctors and for its use of electronic medical records. Clinic doctors receive a salary and are not paid by the procedure, something known as fee-for-service. Obama hopes more hospitals will copy that approach. But he acknowledged during his speech that not all hospitals will embrace the idea" (Naymik and Tribble, 7/23).

Kaiser Health News posted a transcript of the town hall event.

The New York Times reports that "White House officials negotiated furiously on Thursday to keep major health care legislation on track" after Reid's announcement. "The White House chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, led a hastily called three-hour negotiating session at the Capitol with conservative Blue Dog Democrats, the group of fiscal hawks who have stalled action on the health care bill in the House" (Herszenhorn and Zeleny, 7/23).

In a separate story, NPR reports that "if the next few weeks are crunch time for health care legislation, there's an equally big test looming for the army of volunteers that Barack Obama assembled during last year's presidential campaign. While the president continues his daily push for a health care overhaul in Washington, his grassroots political operation known as Organizing for America is trying to build public support around the country." OFA holds phone banking sessions, telling Americans to contact their lawmakers on health reform. Mitch Stewart, director of OFA, says that the organization had a "thousand events last week where canvases, phone banks, town halls, people engaging in health care… part of what we had to do is make sure we facilitate that sort of energy and activism that's happening in communities across this country, so that are leaders here in Washington know that there is a huge amount of support for supporting the president's plan" (Liasson, 7/23).

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