Facing Congressional Squabbling, President Pushes For Reform
The press for health care reform hit a snag this week as Congress sputtered to resolve its differences, but President Barack Obama continues his call, almost daily, to continue to try to change the system, The New York Times reports.
"Mr. Obama now rarely lets a day pass without pushing the case for broad-based change. His cool-headed analysis is increasingly sprinkled with impassioned rhetoric. 'If we do not fix our health care system,' he told the American Medical Association on Monday, 'America may go the way of G.M.' That politics and economics have converged to spark such momentum 'is remarkable,' said Peter R. Orszag, the White House budget director. 'You have industry groups that are cognizant of the need to make changes, members of Congress who have been preparing for this moment and a president quite committed to doing it. It is a rare alignment of forces.' And yet, students of history in the White House and Congress realize they are only now entering the riskiest phase, when real details begin to generate real opposition. To date, a fragile coalition of stakeholders has been kept at the table by presidential leadership and fiscal realpolitik. But it may not take much for the guiding principle of 'shared responsibility' to fracture into shards of self-interest."
"Although the Democrats may be able to pass bills without Republican votes, bipartisanship is important to Mr. Obama because it would set the tone for the rest of his term. The essential tension of the coming few weeks will revolve around whether the Democrats can maintain momentum while working to satisfy Republican concerns. Mr. Obama is leaving the details to Congress while pronouncing that he is 'open to' particular compromises, like substituting member-owned insurance cooperatives for the public plan'" (Sack, 6/18).
The Washington Post: "In a high-level meeting at the White House yesterday, Obama conveyed his concern over early pronouncements by the Congressional Budget Office that a bill drafted by the Senate health committee would cover just 16 million additional people at a cost of $1 trillion, said one official with knowledge of the session who was not permitted to talk to reporters and so spoke on the condition of anonymity. 'That is not his idea of good, affordable, universal coverage,' said this adviser. The preliminary estimate, pounced on by Republicans, 'has rattled everyone'" (Connolly, 6/19).
The Hill reports that the White House still sees the timeline for reform passage by the end of the year doable: "'I don't think it's a surprise that this is going to take some time to do,' White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. 'It's an issue that we've been discussing for 40 years so the president isn't pessimistic about being able to get this through Congress this year'" (Young, 6/18).
The Associated Press: "The last thing Obama wants is a groundswell of opposition, driven by Americans' fears of being forced to change their insurance or losing it. 'The president is committed to enacting reform that will lower costs, protect choice of doctors and plans, and assure quality and affordable health care for all Americans,' said Linda Douglass, a spokeswoman for the White House health reform office. 'He has made it clear that we would not support a reform plan that would require people to leave their current insurance plans'" (Alonso-Zaldivar, 6/19).
Approval ratings for Obama's plans have slipped, though he remains himself popular, The Associated Press reports in a separate story: "The White House strategy is to take the long view, hoping that pushing ahead with the kind of policies on which Obama campaigned will win him points with voters and that the economy will right itself in time for public ire to fade" (Loven and Sidoti, 6/18).
Obama called out "the critics for 'tinkering' around the edge of health care reform with their own plans. 'I sincerely hope that there are members of both parties who will participate in reform,' the President said, 'But for those who simply criticize without offering new ideas of their own, I have to ask -what's your answer?'", ABC News reports (Miller 6/18).
In the meantime, even Obama's personal doctor has shown a split with the president on reform, Forbes reports: "(Dr. David) Scheiner thinks that Obama's "public plan" reform doesn't go far enough. He supports the idea of that option for people who don't like or can't afford their HMO. But he worries that it will be watered down or not happen at all (Whelan, 6/18).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.