KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Makes Impassioned Argument For Health Reform, Tough Measures To Combat Health Fraud

A shirt-sleeved President Barack Obama took his closing arguments for health care reform to the St. Louis area Wednesday.

The Washington Post: "He spoke with evident anger about 'political gamesmanship' in Washington leading to 'terrible consequences,' as he evoked the outsider's message that he delivered successfully in his 2008 campaign. 'Congress owes America an up-or-down vote,' he said over raucous applause, which greeted his remarks at several points. 'The time for talk is over. It's time to vote.'" The president may be planning a similar trip next week to Cleveland, aides said, as he makes an effort to visit "media markets that touch multiple congressional districts, particularly in swing states such as Missouri and Pennsylvania, which he visited earlier this week" (Wilson, 3/11).

The Wall Street Journal: "Growing hoarse and coughing at times, Mr. Obama worked to close the deal on the health-care bill, saying it would decrease health-care costs without cutting government-sponsored benefits. 'Every argument has been made, and everyone has made it,' he said. 'The plan I put forward is a proposal that's basically somewhere in the middle' between Democratic and Republican proposals, he said" (Williamson and Adamy, 3/10).

Los Angeles Times reports that the president promoted "a new initiative to reduce waste in Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs ... Obama's new fraud initiative builds on a proposal he made ahead of his White House summit last month to woo Republicans. ... Last year, the Medicare and Medicaid programs for seniors and low-income Americans made $54 billion in unwarranted payments to healthcare providers, according to White House. To combat the problem, Obama has proposed expanding a program to reward private bounty hunters who find waste by auditing government payments through what are called 'payment recapture audits.'" A pilot program in three large states, California, Texas and New York has saved more than $900 million for Medicare over five years (Levey, 3/11).

The New York Times: "'The health care system has billions of dollars that should go to patient care, and they're lost each and every year to fraud and abuse and massive subsidies that line the pockets of insurance company executives,' Mr. Obama told about 500 mostly supportive local residents in the gymnasium of St. Charles High School here." Obama's plan is designed to attract both Democrats and Republicans to support a tenet of a health overhaul. Republicans seem unmoved, however: "For their part, Republicans said the government could step up its efforts against fraud without passing the Democrats' bill" (Cooper and Pear, 3/10).

USA Today quoted Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky: "Finding and prosecuting fraud is 'something we can and should be doing already. Do we really need to pass a $2.5 trillion spending bill, raise taxes and slash Medicare to implement it?" (Jackson, 3/10).

The New York Times Prescriptions blog: "'The White House seems to be throwing out every idea it's got, hoping something will stick,' Mr. McConnell said in a speech on the Senate floor. … Mr. McConnell added: 'Finding waste, fraud and abuse is one of the areas where we have agreement - Senators Grassley, Coburn, Cornyn, Lemieux and others have been leading this effort for some time. Tackling fraud and abuse is one of the issues that can and should form the basis of a bipartisan, step-by-step approach to health care reform - not as a hook to drag this monstrous bill over the finish line'" (Herszenhorn, 3/10).

Bloomberg: "The president earlier signed an order authorizing government agencies to use private auditors to uncover fraudulent claims and payment errors, a step the White House says may save $2 billion over three years. The order, along with pending legislation, will help keep the Medicare health program for the elderly solvent, Obama said" (Runningen and Jensen, 3/11).

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