KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Obama Attacks Insurers As ‘Dishonest,’ Pushes For Health Reform

Just days before the full Senate is expected to vote on health care reform legislation, President Barack Obama ramped up his attacks on insurers.

Politico: "President Barack Obama took what may be his hardest shots yet at the health insurance industry, stating that while a health-care reform bill is close to passage, opponents are trying to 'marshal their forces for one last fight to save the status quo' and are running 'deceptive and dishonest ads' - and suggested insurers' could lose their anti-trust exemption if they continued to attack the plan" (Henderson, 10/17).

Related KHN story: Ad Audit: Do The Insurers' Claims Add Up? 

Reuters: "'For the first time ever, all five committees in Congress responsible for health reform have passed a version of legislation,' Obama said in his weekly radio address. 'As I speak to you today, we are closer to reforming the health care system than we have ever been in history.' However, he acknowledged the overhaul still must clear significant hurdles before becoming law. 'And there are still those who would try to kill reform at any cost,' he said" (Zengerle, 10/17)

The New York Times: "Mr. Obama's sharp attack comes as the health care debate moves out of congressional committees to the wider stage of floor debates in the Senate and House. While he has criticized insurers before, his bare-knuckled language on Saturday reflected a more open break with the industry and recognition that his efforts to bring it into some sort of consensus had failed. The White House is concerned that the insurance industry can undermine public support for changing the health care system much as it did in dooming President Bill Clinton's overhaul efforts in the 1990s" (Baker, 10/17)

The Washington Post:  "Health insurers released two reports this week warning that the reform legislation passed by the Senate Finance Committee would result in soaring premiums. The White House and congressional Democrats have dismissed both reports as misleading efforts to stop the legislation -- a charge Obama repeated in his address. Independent analysts have criticized the reports for not taking into account or underestimating key sections of the health-care bill in reaching its conclusions"  (Fletcher, 10/17).

The Associated Press:  "President Barack Obama pushed back against critics of his health care plan on Saturday with a stern warning that absent reform, costs will continue to rise and eventually devastate the U.S. economy.
The administration is trying to build momentum for the effort following a 14-9 vote this week by the Senate Finance Committee for legislation that would extend health care to millions of people. Democrats hailed the vote as a victory, in part because the bill was supported by a Republican, Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe. But the legislation faces considerable opposition with the health insurance industry, labor unions and large business organizations lining up against it" (Superville, 10/17).

The Hill reports on the Republicans' weekly address: "'Liberal policies' -- and the 'myths' guiding them -- are expanding the federal debt and stunting economic recovery, Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas) stressed in his party's radio address this week. Consequently, the 'Democratic doctrine of spending more, borrowing more and higher taxes' has also severely troubled families and crippled small-business owners, many of whom are still struggling to weather the ongoing economic downturn, the congressman said. 'There are three big myths hurtling around Washington these days: no jobs equals an economic recovery, government-run healthcare will make it more affordable, and deficits don't matter,' said Brady, the ranking Republican on the Joint Economic Committee. 'The American public – to their credit – isn't buying any of these'"  (Romm, 10/17).

Meanwhile, MSNBC notes that: "No matter what happens with national health care reform, employers already are shifting part of the rising cost of care to employees. For decades, most company-sponsored health plans gave employees relatively little financial responsibility for the cost of their care - often a small 'co-pay' portion of a medical bill or prescription refill. But the relentless rise in health care (costs), often invisible to workers, has prompted companies to begin passing along those steeper costs. 'Employers are in a desperate bind,' said Dahlia Remler, a health economist at Baruch College at the City University of New York. 'There are only three ways they can deal with (higher health care costs): they can have lower profits, higher prices or lower wages'" (Schoen, 10/16).

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