Administration Officials Take Health Reform Reins In Obama’s Absence
White House staff and administration officials are trying to maintain their visibility on health care reform this week with public events and meetings as President Obama travels, Roll Call reports.
"In public statements and in private meetings with lawmakers, administration officials appeared to convey a sense of inevitability about the legislation in order to diminish worries that it is off track - and to try to get floor action in both chambers this month."
Among those "leading the charge on Capitol Hill while Obama is away are White House Legislative Affairs Director Phil Schiliro and health czar Nancy-Ann DeParle. A heavy focus has been on the Finance Committee, where Democrats are struggling to strike a deal among themselves and with Republicans. An e-mail from [Organizing For America] Director Mitch Stewart asks members to combat 'the lobbyists trying to block reform' with letters to the editor that emphasize what OFA says are Obama's 'three basic principles' for legislation: 'Reduce costs by improving efficiency and investing in preventative care. Guarantee every American the right to choose their plan and doctor-including a public insurance option. Ensure quality, affordable care for every American.'" (Koffler, 7/9).
Roll Call, in a separate story, reports that Vice President Joseph Biden also led the charge, however, on Wednesday, with an announcement on cuts hospitals have agreed to make to drive down the cost of care in America. "Biden was emphatic in insisting that the health care reform effort itself remains healthy, saying multiple times that it is 'on track' and that it will get done this year. 'Reform is coming. It is on track, it is coming,' Biden said. 'We've never been as close as we are today, and we remain on track.' He also repeated twice that President Barack Obama was 'firm' in his goal of ensuring that the legislation is deficit-neutral" (Koffler, 7/8).
White House Budget Director Peter Orszag upped the ante, Bloomberg reports, by "telling Democratic lawmakers a proposal they are considering 'would perpetuate a system in which best practices are far from universal and costs are too high.'"
"While Orszag, 40, expressed 'strong support' for many of the proposals to extend coverage to the estimated 46 million uninsured, he said it would be 'desirable to build upon these measures with additional steps that will help make our health- care system sustainable for generations to come.'
"Among other points, he urged lawmakers to include further cuts in the Medicare and Medicaid payments that hospitals receive for treating the uninsured" (Donmoyer and Gaouette, 7/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.