President Obama Discusses Health Reform Prospects With House Democrats
President Obama on Tuesday met with Democrats from the House Energy and Commerce Committee to discuss a climate change bill and health care, the Washington Times reports. Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) said, "The president said to us, 'Success breeds success. And let's move on this bill and then on to health care.'" White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said the meeting indicated Obama's desire to move on his priorities. Gibbs said, "You've heard the president on a number of occasions mention that his three most important priorities are health care, energy independence and education, that those three present an important foundation for creating long-term economic growth."
According to the Times, Obama is "taking flak from his party's left for not going far enough on health care." Some advocates are pushing for a health care overhaul that would allow U.S. residents to either remain on their current private insurance while getting government subsidies for the cost of the premiums or enroll in a new "Medicare-style" public option, the Times reports.
Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D) in a Monday phone call with MoveOn.org said, "If we can't deliver a real choice to the American people and real reform, I think we lose seats in the midterm election. I think we're going to have a hard time getting the president re-elected." He added, "As long as he sticks with us, and we stick with him, I think we're ultimately going to win this." He also spoke about the possibility of congressional Democrats agreeing to scrap a public plan in exchange for Republican support of overhaul legislation. "We have a Democratic president, Democratic Senate, Democratic House. There's no reason to trade it away," Dean said. He also said that Democrats should not fear being criticized for promoting socialized medicine. According to MoveOn.org, the Congressional Progressive Caucus has signed a petition written by Dean stating that a public option must be included in health reform legislation (LoBianco/Bellantoni, Washington Times, 5/6).
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius on Tuesday said the Obama administration's effort to overhaul the health care system is "not political, and it is not optional." Sebelius made the comments at the annual conference of the Council on Foundations, a national association representing 2,000 grant-making foundations and corporations. She said, "President Obama has committed to making health care reform an open, transparent process that brings all parties to the table. No voices will be excluded, and yours must be heard." She also said, "Our current system is unacceptable and unsustainable," and if "we work together, we will make health reform a reality" (Allen, Politico, 5/6).
Other Reform News
- Obama's role: Democrats are concerned that without more involvement from Obama, the effort to reform the nation's health care system could fail or produce a bill that does not make the changes they see as most important, such as a public plan, Time Magazine reports. Although Obama "has spelled out broad goals," he has "pretty much left it up to Congress to decide how to do it," according to Time. In addition, some Democratic lawmakers note that the negotiations over a reform bill are being influenced too much by Republican views. Obama himself has "indicated sympathy for [the] argument" that creating a public plan, which he proposed as part of the health care plan he promoted during his campaign, would give the government unfair advantages over private insurers, according to Time. Obama's chief adviser David Axelrod said, "You can expect that, as we turn the corner on this debate and discussion, he'll be speaking publicly and enlisting the support of the American people. We don't expect an immaculate conception" (Tumulty, Time Magazine, 5/5).
- Republican strategy: A confidential report written for Republican lawmakers by Frank Luntz, a leading party consultant on the use of language, states that on the issue of health care, Republicans "MUST be vocally and passionately on the side of REFORM," Politico reports. The report, obtained by Politico, adds, "The status quo is no longer acceptable. If the dynamic becomes 'President Obama is on the side of reform and Republicans are against it,' then the battle is lost and every word in this document is useless." Luntz adds that "Republicans must be for the right kind of reform that protects the quality of health care for all Americans. And you must establish your support of reform early in your presentation." In addition, the report suggests that Republicans argue that the current overhaul proposals "could lead to the government setting standards of care, instead of doctors," and that the current proposals could lead to the government "rationing care." The report also advises Republicans to ask constituents if they would be willing to pay the amount they currently pay for health care for the care they already receive, or pay less for care but potentially face waits of weeks or months for important treatments (Allen, Politico, 5/5).
"Since the 1950s" the U.S. "has relied on private employers to meet income and health care needs for retired workers," but labor interests "have never given up the vision of universal health and income security programs," United Auto Workers President Ron Gettelfinger writes in a Detroit News opinion piece. He adds, "As trade unionists, we've always been skeptical about leaving such responsibility to a single company or single industry." He adds, "For decades, we've advocated for strong Social Security benefits and other measures to aid older Americans, and for a national health care plan that would cover every man, woman and child in the United States," concluding, "Our cause has never been more urgent" (Gettelfinger, Detroit News, 5/6).