KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

With Falling Public Support, Obama’s Strategy Questioned

"The White House is facing uncomfortable questions about its strategy for selling President Barack Obama's healthcare overhaul to Americans, after a series of opinion polls showed eroding support for it," a Reuters analysis says. "On the surface, it appears the more Obama has talked, seeking to explain and win over doubters ... the worse his poll numbers have become." Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., says "I think President Obama has had the same problem we have had, in that you have had, and continue to have, a discussion about a lot of different alternatives. … Because you had so many different alternatives being discussed, it was difficult for the president to say, 'Look this is what we want to do.'"

Alex Conant, a Republican Party Strategist, says "'It appears [Obama's] speechwriters have got ahead of the policy writers. His speeches make these grand promises, but the policy-makers haven't figured out how to achieve all the goals he set forward.' But former Democratic strategist Jeff Eller, who worked on President Bill Clinton's failed healthcare reform drive in the 1990s, cautioned against Obama spelling out too many details, saying that helped sink the Clinton health plan. There is also an argument that Obama has been focusing too narrowly on people who do not have insurance rather than the majority of middle-class Americans who do and who worry they will end up having to pay for the overhaul" (Colvin, 7/31).

Obama, who promised during his presidential campaign not to raise middle class taxes, may face another challenge, if a tax is imposed on 'Cadillac plan' health insurance, The Wall Street Journal reports. "Many economists say a significant part of the cost would eventually be passed to employees, through higher insurance payments or slower wage growth. That could conflict with Mr. Obama's often-repeated promise not to raise taxes on middle-class families." John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO, says that the tax, though intended to target the wealthiest Americans, "could well end up hitting benefits of working families and retirees ... In recent days, Mr. Obama has said there might be ways to make [a tax on high-cost plans] more palatable -- for instance, by phasing it in gradually so no current plans are hit. But he hasn't gotten squarely behind any particular proposal" (McKinnon, 7/31).

Meanwhile, Obama's former doctor is critical of the administration's approach to overhaulng the health care system, CNN reports. "David Scheiner, a Chicago, Illinois-based doctor, has taken a hard look at the president's prescription for health care reform and sees bad medicine ... In his mind, the worst part of the proposal is that 'private insurers continue to be a part of the health scheme. 'Everybody keeps saying we don't want the government involved in health care,' Scheiner said in an interview. 'But the government is involved in Medicare, and it works.' Scheiner would rather see the nation adopt a single-payer system like the ones in Canada and Europe" (Acosta, 7/30).

Kaiser Health News also interviewed Scheiner, who said Obama is "being too much of a pragmatist in this situation. I think he should go to the people above the heads of Congress and get a groundswell of the public -- send his people out all over the country to support a real health reform and not this bogus plan" (Villegas, 7/30).

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