KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Democrats: Health Care Reform Is Still Alive

The Los Angeles Times: "...behind the scenes, senior Democrats have settled on a strategy to salvage the legislation. They are meeting almost daily to plot legislative moves while gently persuading skittish rank-and-file lawmakers to back a sweeping bill. … Many have concluded that the only hope for resuscitating the health care legislation is to push the issue off the front page and give lawmakers time to work out a new compromise and shift public perception of the bill." However, eventually party leaders "plan to rally House Democrats behind the health care bill passed by the Senate while simultaneously trying to persuade Senate Democrats to approve a series of changes to the legislation using budget procedures that bar filibusters" (Levey, 1/30).

Politico notes that health care was on the talk show circuit. "The American people do not want the president to walk away from health care reform, White House senior adviser David Axelrod said Sunday" on NBC's "Meet the Press." He later added, "The president is determined that we deal with the problems in front of us, and health care is one of them (Budoff Brown, 1/31).

CNN reports that Robert Gibbs said Democrats "are within striking distance of passing a health care reform bill notwithstanding Democrats' loss of their filibuster-proof supermajority in the Senate. 'We're still inside the five-yard line,' Gibbs said Sunday on 'State of the Union.' … 'We're one vote in the House of Representatives from making health care reform a reality,' the White House press secretary said, positing a scenario where the House passed the version of the bill already passed by the Senate which President Obama would then sign into law" (Stewart, 1/31).

USA Today: "ABC's 'This Week,' with guest host Barbara Walters, featured new Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who suggested that Obama and congressional Democrats scrap the existing health care talks and start over 'in a transparent, bi-partisan manner.' Brown said, 'it was on its last legs before I even got elected.' Brown also confirmed he is 'pro-choice' on the abortion issue" (Jackson, 1/31).

Roll Call reports that House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, on NBC's "Meet the Press" said "health care reform is not dead and that Democrats are still determined to 'shove this down the throats of the American people.'" Boehner said that "Democratic leaders are unwilling to give up on passing the overhaul, despite the public opposition to the plan. … 'Republicans continue to [be] vigilant in opposing this,' Boehner said, adding that the 'American people need to stay engaged' (Billings and Brady, 1/31).

The New York Times reports that hundreds of millions of dollars were spent lobbying on health care last year. Although President Barack Obama has blamed lobbyists for helping to stall the legislative effort, "many of those lobbyists actually worked to support his health care overhaul, not oppose it," the Times finds. "Health care and insurance lobbyists spent more than $648 million in 2009, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the influence of money on elections and policy," which "dwarfs the amount spent on any other single issue in a single year."

The biggest spenders were drug companies, with $245 million on lobbying. Their trade group, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, separately spent $26 million for lobbying and another $120 to $130 million for a television campaign and grass-roots activity, an industry official said.

"The campaign against a health care overhaul was led by the United States Chamber of Commerce, which spent about $144 million on lobbying. ... Individual insurance companies, as well as their trade group, America's Health Insurance Plans, funneled money to the chamber to help pay for some of the commercials" (Seelye, 1/30).

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