Health Care Reform Summit - Blair House: Afternoon Session

Published February 25, 2010

by Diane W. Collins


health care reformExhausting experience... for all, I'm sure. Starting with VP Biden's statement that, " one really knows what the American people think," one might wonder if he needs to get out more often. I was glad to see Republicans responded with the number of times they had visited their districts and listened to the people they represent.


Tom Harkin (D) Iowa pulled the "segregation" card by applying a long stretch from race and disability to how we "segregate" people or businesses based on health care. (And Harkin wasn't scolded.) Rep. Dave Camp (R) Michigan referred to the role of Kathleen Sebelius, Sec. of Health and Human Services as the "unelected" arbiter of premiums. Both sides got in a few punches.


But finally, Rep. Paul Ryan spoke and brought real numbers to the table. I honestly think the Republicans have had much more of a real world experience exemplified by today's remarks. Rep. Ryan made one of the best comments this afternoon, "(The bill)...adds a new entitlement when we can't cover the entitlements we already have." He went on to site the CBO's numbers and reminded all of us that the CBO can only score what's been placed in front of them. In other words, the CBO is constrained by the financial parameters they are given regarding any legislation they are asked to evaluate. I personally found the political antics of Rep. Xavier Becerra's following attack on Rep. Ryan quite insulting. Rep. Becerra openly accused Ryan of distrusting the CBO... not the legislation handed them. This is the type of political maneuvering that breaks trust. The American people aren't stupid. Make your point on an honest playing field. If you can't... keep still. (I actually just erased language quite a bit stronger but we'll leave it there.)


Sen. Chuck Grassley made a great point on what many believe is the unconstitutional mandate to purchase health insurance. Sen. Grassley said he had personally visited thirty-two (32) town hall meetings in his district where he said the overwhelming opinion of the people was to drop the bill. Sen. McCain cited Texas as an example where health care costs were reduced through restrictions on malpractice. This is actual experience not experiment. Then he discussed the issue of reconciliation and its prior application. Reconciliation was not created to deal with a bill that restructures one-sixth of the gross national product. He called it a "magnitude to harm." Sen. John Barrasso (R) Wyoming discussed the bill's approach as one that seeks to extend coverage. But, as Sen. Barrasso said so well, "...coverage does not equal care." The focus must be the best possible care. Joe Barton, (R) Texas stated Republicans were not calling for an incremental approach to health care, but for congress to start over and work on areas of agreement. The Republicans offered their ideas and held true to their principles.


The anticipated outcome of the Summit remains unchanged. The President's closing remarks laid it out. He spoke of "areas of agreement" being (1) pre-existing conditions, (2) developing an insurance exchange (although the philosophies of how that should be done differ), (3) inter-state health insurance option with a baseline for coverage, and (4) medical malpractice or tort reform. But then the President went on to say he was "... not so sure we can bridge the gap." I think what he means by that is even though we see the same things as the problem we do not see eye to eye on the solutions.


His ending remarks seemed to scold. The President told those present, "Even if we scrap the bill and embrace John Boehner's bill we might get a lot of Republican votes but not many Democrats." He called for Republicans to work on areas of agreement. Then the President without using the word "reconciliation" alluded to it. He said if the Republicans and Democrats can't close the gap "there were going to be a lot of arguments with regard to procedure and moving forward...." "Politically speaking, there may not be any reason for Republicans to do anything," the President continued. He called for a "workable solution within a month or a few weeks..." He said there was no need to start over... there would be no year long debate. The President made it clear his party would make decisions and "test out the consequences in the elections."


A very long day.












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