Federal Healthcare Update

March 1, 2010

Pardon Our Dust

We recently launched this new site and are still in the process of updating some of our archived content. Some details of this article may be incomplete, links may be broken, and other elements may not display properly yet. We appreciate your patience and understanding.

By Mona Mohib

One of the main disagreements at Thursday’s health care summit was simply how far apart the two parties are on achieving comprehensive health care reform.  President Obama, repeatedly claiming that the Republicans and Democrats are close to agreement on health care, sought areas of consensus throughout the summit. However, Republicans, including Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) repeated calls to start over from scratch, saying it is  the only possible way to move forward.  The two parties exited much as they entered, with Democrats determined to pass a comprehensive health care bill, using reconciliation if necessary, and Republicans promising to block all attempts to do so. But most pundits agree that the summit did little to change the underlying dynamics of the debate, which depend largely on the willingness of moderate Democrats to agree to move forward with no Republican support. The main philosophical differences between the two parties that emerged by the end of the day were whether to pursue incremental change or comprehensive overhaul, and whether to focus on coverage or cost containment. Republicans said that the Democratic plan, which would cover more than 30 million Americans over 10 years, was far too costly, especially considering the cost of our current entitlement programs, like Medicare. Democrats said that the costs of not covering people were greater and that the current system was unsustainable.
President Obama played the moderator, and also responded to many of the Republicans’ arguments, at times challenging their interpretation of his proposal and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score of the bill, and at times conceding their points. Notably, when Senator John McCain (R-AZ) objected to a plan to carve out concessions for Medicare Advantage subscribers in Florida and other states, President Obama said, “I think you make a legitimate point.”  He did not, however, say he would change the bill.

As the parties left the summit, Democratic strategists said that the Senate could begin the necessary steps to begin reconciliation procedures as early as this week.