KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Democrats, GOP Plot Health Reform Strategy For Obama ‘Summit’

News organizations focused on the president, his fellow Democrats and Republicans as they steel themselves for Thursday's health reform summit.

Reuters: "The White House will unveil its latest healthcare reform proposals on Monday ahead of a bipartisan summit that President Barack Obama hopes will advance the stalled legislation, a senior administration official said on Saturday. ... The administration official said the White House would publish its updated proposals on Monday but declined to outline details. The plan is expected to combine features of two Democratic bills passed by the Senate and House of Representatives, according to congressional aides and healthcare advocates" (Colvin and Mason, 2/20).

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reports that the president "used his weekly radio address to call on Congress to move forward on legislation to overhaul U.S. health care and to urge both political parties to work together on what has been a divisive and controversial issue. ... 'I don't want to see this meeting turn into political theater, with each side simply reciting talking points and trying to score political points. Instead, I ask members of both parties to seek common ground in an effort to solve a problem that's been with us for generations,' Obama said. Obama said congressional Republicans have offered some good ideas, including allowing Americans to buy health insurance across state lines and permitting small businesses to pool together and offer health insurance to employees at lower prices" (Burns, 2/20).

Roll Call notes that in the GOP response Saturday morning, "Rep. Dave Camp (Mich.) called the efforts foolish. Camp, ranking member on the House Ways and Means Committee, bashed Democrats for trying to move 'a misguided plan of a government takeover of health care.' ... Camp said Democrats are off to a bad start by trying to advance a comprehensive health care reform package that was crafted in 'a rushed backroom deal' instead of taking on the issue on a piecemeal basis" (Bendery, 2/20).

Politico: "Ahead of next week's White House health reform summit, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has signed on to a plan to try to resurrect the public insurance option in the Senate and signaled a willingness to use a 51-vote majority if needed to get it through. ... the moves by Reid and President Barack Obama toward using the procedural maneuver called reconciliation threatened to set off a revolt among Senate moderates, many of whom have expressed serious reservations or outright resistance to the idea. (Frates, 2/19).

The Hill: "'I've had many conversations this week with the president, his chief of staff, and Speaker Pelosi,' Reid said during an appearance Friday evening on 'Face to Face with Jon Ralston' in Nevada. 'And we're really trying to move forward on this.' The majority leader said that while Democrats have a number of options, they would likely use the budget reconciliation process to pass a series of fixes to the first healthcare bill passed by the Senate in November" (O'Brien, 2/20).

The New York Times: "'If we took a vote now, we would not have 51 votes for that [reconciliation] approach,' said a Senate Democratic aide. 'The president would have to do a major sales job. He is the only person who has the political capital to do it. But his focusing on health care means that our efforts to focus on jobs are likely to be drowned out.' Mr. Obama and his fellow Democrats are also pursuing a parallel political strategy: to use the televised event to put Republicans and their ideas on display. It is a gamble that Americans will actually watch an in-the-weeds discussion of health care policy and conclude either that Republicans are unwilling to negotiate or that their policy ideas - emphasizing tax incentives and state innovations - will not work" (Herszenhorn and Stolberg, 2/20).

The Associated Press: "Coming soon to daytime television: America's long-running civic drama over how to provide better health care to more of its people without breaking the bank. ... Ahead of the meeting, the White House will post on its Web site a health care plan that brings together major elements of the bills passed by House and Senate Democrats last year. Policy is important, but not as critical as the political skill Obama can apply to an impasse that seems close to hopeless in a pivotal congressional election year" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 2/20).

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