President Obama’s Health Care Reform Summit Live-Blog

President Obama's Health Care Reform Summit Live-Blog



President Obama's opening remarks:  Takes no prisoners, reminds us of his mother fighting with insurance companies on her death bed, calls out McCain, Grassley, McConnell, on their past statements of support for health care reform….

“Politics ended up trumping practical common sense this year…  I didn't take this on because I thought it would be good politics…..what I'm hoping to accomplish today is for everybody to focus on where we agree…”

“I've looked at Boehner's plan, Coburn's, Paul Ryan's….I've looked at those very carefully….Mike Enzi….
When I look at the ideas that are out there, there is overlap… ”

“White House posted what we feel is the best blend of the House and Senate legislation that has already passed…  Basic concept is that we set up an exchange where individuals and small businesses could go and get choice and competition in their hc plans the same way that  members of congress do…”

Areas of disagraeement:  “I don't know that the gaps can be bridged.”

Wants this to be discussion, not theater…  No talking points, just problem solving…

McConnell up first.  Passes it on to Lamar Alexander for opening remarks for the GOP.

Alexander:  “We believe we have a better idea…”  Waiting…  Start over!  Claims constituents are saying “we hope you kill the health care bill, but my wife has cancer and we need to do something…”  Goes lamely into length of bill…how much time does he get?    Our view is that this is a car that can't be recalled and fixed and that we ought to…Start over!……Has a “suggestion” and a “request.”   Says only way to move forward is if the Dems ….. forget about reconciliation.   “The people want us to start over. “ We need to put aside jamming it through.    (no talking points there – you just give up all your leverage, and we promise we won't stick out our leg and trip you again as you attempt to pass…)

Obama:  Both I and Lamar went over time.  Nancy and Harry agree to split time. First filibuster successful.

Nancy next.  “Americans don't have time for us to start over.”  Go, Nancy!

Harry:  Shares another sad constituent health care story…  “Lamar,  you are entitled to your opinion, but not to your own facts.”  Calls out the Repugs' hypocrisy on recondiliation (that the GOP is currently forcing them to do) and mentions most of the reconciliations have been used by the GOP.  Let's look at FACTS.  45,000 Americans die every year due to no health insurance.  In 2008 750,000 bankruptcies – 75% due to health care costs – 80% of these were people who had health insurance!  Let's get it done.

Obama:  We need to be more disciplined re: time, makes a joke about that is to be expected in a room of electeds….nobody laughs…slaps down Lamar…reminds him the GOP ideas are actually in the proposal…..we will discuss the areas of agreement v disagreement…then we see if we can bridge….rather than start talking about legislative process (reconciliation), let's talk about SUBSTANCE (GOP's worst nightmare).  Obama still thinks it's worth a try, but admits there may be “too big of a gulf” and then “we'll have to see what to do next.”  Very effectively said, we're not going there Lamar, nice try.

This is on the screen right now:  Gallup:  54% say GOP won't make sincere effort.

Obama laying out some FACTS about the rising costs of health care… Lamar, according to the Congressional Budget Office, you're wrong about your “facts.”  Lamar interrupts saying Obama is wrong.  Obama cuts him off and tells him he is not factually accurate.  Tells what CBO says.  Explains what the CBO actually said.  Will be happy to present this to the press.  Lamar tries to interrupt again.  Obama claims his space, holds the floor.  Goes on.  Killing them with facts and reason.  McCain and Lamar Alexander visibly uncomfortable.  Alexander tries to interrupt again.  Obama cuts him off and continues.  What are your ideas that you don't think are in our bill?  We've adopted a lot of them. 

Lamar:  All my colleagues are eager to speak. 

Obama:  We'll get the issue settled today about the CBO.

McConnell:  The people are opposed.  Calls on Tom Coburn to speak on cost containment.

Coburn:  Opening volley –  Most of the problems in health care comes from government rules and regulations.  Talks about prevention (makes sense)…waiting for the crazy to start up again…here it is…FRAUD!  15% of gov't health care is FRAUD!  We need to fix FRAUD – this will fix health care…

Harry:  I may not know much, but I'm an expert on the filibuster… we've got 40 members of Congress here…

Obama:  Politely takes apart Coburn in typical Obama fashion…see how much we agree?

Coburn interrupts and gets in one last talking point.

Obama:  Steny?

MSNBC cuts away…goes to conservative commentator.  Will try to go to C-Span 3…

Baucus:  A great deal of consensus…

Back to the GOP:  Dave Camp, Ranking Member, Ways and Means… sounds kind of wonky about the particulars of the bill…page 959….Obama smiling indulgently…page 982….

Obama:  I don't mean to interrupt, but….focus is on costs for families….if every speaker goes through every provision saying what they don't like, we won't have time to focus on what we agree on…

Camp as if Obama didn't say anything, goes on…

Obama:  Yes, Lamar and I already discussed this…

Camp interrupts again…filibusters….blah blah blah…

Obama goes to the next Dem…

Robert Andrews New Jersey:  Talks policy…

GOP interrupts:  “We don't hear anyone complaining about their premiums…”  They must be feeling desperate…

On the screen now:  Gallup:  77% say sides won't reach deal

10:43 – GOP (McConnell) wants to quibble about which side is getting more time…counting the minutes…Obama says, “I'm just going back and forth, Mitch…”

Schumer:  We agree with a lot of what Tom Coburn said, has some great ideas that we can agree on…we have provisions that I would think you all could agree on…clarifies GOP mischaracterizations about Medicare cuts…points out talking about waste, not programs…

Going on break after Coburn and Kyl.  Kyl first..

Min. Whip Jon Kyl (R) – fundamental difs we cannot paper over..Obama looks tired….claims government is mandating more coverage, cost will go up…says medicare payroll tax will go up…it's a job-killer….raising taxes…this doesn't cut costs….fees raise costs on consumer…expense of legislation…

Obama rebuts, clarifies, explains.. can have interstate competition, but must have across-state baseline…”this is not a government take-over of insurance…let's set up baselines and then use private plans for everyone to get a better deal.”

James Clyburn, Majority Whip,  goes last, before the break… somewhere in his district, 31% of people treated in ER are there for primary care, not emergencies…many of these have employer-based health care that they cannot use because of huge deductible…says magic number on health reform is 50, not 60…some people cannot navigate the system…employees are at the mercy of business owners who are negotiating the plans…

Obama:  This has been a useful conversation.  After break, I want to go through areas we agree on.  Jon (Kyl), you shook your head when I said people could choose their plan…any plan you have you can grandfather in, so you could choose keep it.  Kyl interrupts…says Obama is incorrect…”with all due respect”….Obama compliments him on the talking point but says it doesn't address the underlying question…

Areas of agreement acc to Obama:  (1) you can't just drop someone (2) extend dependent coverage to a certain age, 25 or 26 (3) no annual or lifetime limits (4) philosophically, end prohibitions (5) other provisions we should explore to come up with longer list of areas of agreement; alludes to Mitch's counting the clock, so moves on…

Boustany (R) Louisiana talking:  “We all want  health care reform.”  Waiting for the crazy, here it is:  The American people want us to take a step back…they want insurance companies to treat them just like they treat the…labor unions!   How do you promote choice and competition?  Claims health care reform bill would raise premium costs…says CBO agrees…MSNBC cuts away, good for them…Unfortunately, Pat Buchanan is talking…back to C-Span radio…

Obama:  We'll have to get more disciplined on time today.  Want to hear from Sebelius.

Boehner:  I don't think we've been told what the time limits are.

Obama tells them how much time left…

Rep. Miller, Dem, shouldn't be co-pays on preventive care…etc.

McCain:  You said this would be in front of C-span cameras…was produced with unsavory – I say that with respect – deal making, Louisiana Purchase, the Cornhusker kick-back which I understand now has been done away with… particularly offensive was the carve-out of the 800,000 Florida seniors from Medicare Advantage…my constituents are concerned about the carve-outs for other states…why should that happen?  At town hall meetings I conduct, people are angry…we promised them change and what we got is a process that you and I both said we would change…so then we got into the special interests…AMA, particularly egregious was the pharma deal…

Obama tries to interrupt, Mccain – “may I just finish please?”  Talks about his constituents wanting them to….go back to the beginning! 

Obama:  We're not campaigning anymore.  The election is over…

McCain:  I realize this every day…gets a laugh on this…. 

Obama:  We can spend the remainder of the time saying our respective talking points.  I'm sure Reid and Dodd (et. al. ) who went through an exhaustive process in the House and Senate with the most hearings, the most debates on the floor, the longest mark-ups in 22 years would have a response for you.  But if we do that, we'll end up back on Fox News and MSNBC on the split screen, so I hope that we can focus on the issues of how we will get a bill done.

McCain interrupts.  The American people care…

Obama interrupts… “They absolutely do care about it, John, and the way you characterized it would win some debate from the other side.  Americans care more about us getting things done than they care about us arguing about process, so let's move on… ”

Goes to Kathleen Sebelius.

Cantor now:  The usual Cantor stuff…Obama looks fascinated, then like he's counting to ten, stops listening, calls someone over who whispers in his ear…Cantor still talking, catastrophizing….millions will lose their coverage because of the construct of this bill…people won't be able to see the doctors they want…

Obama:  The 8-9 million out of 300 million would be people who the CBO estimates would be because it's a better deal.  When you do props like this, stack it up, talk about 2400 pages.  We can try to pretend that health care is not complicated, but it is.  These are the kind of political things we do that prevent us from actually having a conversation.

Let me respond to your question:  We could set up a system where food would be cheaper than it is now if we eliminated meat inspectors and any regulations in terms of how food is distributed and stored.  We could definitely reduce pres. drugs if we didn't test the drugs first.  We make decisions to protect consumers in every aspect of our lives and we get bi-partisan support for doing it.  Because people don't want to expect one thing and get another, or get harmed by a product. 

We can argue about the regulations, but you guys seem to believe in some regulation…so what are the specific regulations that you object to?  Pre-existing conditions – we all agree this is a bad thing…two ways of dealing with this (1) establish high risk pool – explains why this is problematic…everyone needs to be in the pool, healthy and sick…spreading the risk…  Let's not pretend that any regulation is some onerous burden that is terrible for consumers..

Cantor:  Has the stack of the legislation in front of him for the camera…  Business can't afford it!  Set aside this mandated form of health care regulation…let's go back…

Biden tries to jump in – we don't  have a philosophical disagreement:  five speakers are left to get in before break, including Harkin. 

11:56  Dem Louise Slaughter, pre-existing condition has to go… tells constituent story of a woman who had no dental insurance and had to wear her dead sister's false teeth…in America…

Obama:  Need to break for a vote in the House; after break, will finish up insurance reform and then will move on to coverage, back at 1:45 (ET).

3:45 pm CT – had to bug out this afternoon…just got back…missed Harkin…Charlie Rangel talking – says Obama saved the best for last… “people aren't concerned with the debate, they're concerned with what we're going to produce…”

Dingell (D): ….I beg you, let's go forward on this great task.

Obama gives it back to Pelosi

Pelosi:  “Thanks, Mr. President for great leadership…without it we would not be this close…”  …brings up public option… “we've come a long way over past year to agreeing to GOP ideas because the insurance companies opposed the public option…insurance companies have behaved shamefully and we must act on behalf of the American people.  We have lived on their playing field all this time, now it's time to exist on the playing field of the American people….”  …clarifies to someone who brought it up earlier, that the law of the land is that there is NO public funding for abortion and there is NO public funding for abortion in this bill.  The bill does NOT cut benefits for seniors.  These are facts…  says important for Americans to understand that there should be an end to discrimination on the basis of pre-existing conditions…the GOP plan does NOT do this.

Obama:  Thanks everyone…for being here…for being civil….only running over an hour….want to summarize where we agree, where we disagree:  We agree that we need some insurance market reforms.  The ones not included in the GOP plan but that are included in the Dem plan are popular – capping out of pocket expenses, making sure people can buy insurance even if they have a pre-existing condition – insurance should be regulated.  Shot of the GOP…they look as if they feel sick…

Exchange is NOT a government take-over, explains it like they're four… need big pool…  insurance across state lines…approaches differ…Obama explains that that would create the same thing as credit cards, where they all move to the state without any regulations…need baseline protections if we do this…NOT a big government take-over, just standard regulation. 

Medical malpractice – historically, Dems have been resistant to this concept.  Obama suggests exploring this more…may be ways we can work on that… 

Exchange is market-based approached, not a government run approach – (Grassley really looks like he's suffering..).  “On the more contentious issues, I'm not sure we can bridge the gap.”  Brings up how to help people who are being priced out of the market or lose their jobs. 

“The point that Harkin, Dodd and others made is important: I did not propose something complicated just to be complicated.  The reason is that it turns out that baby steps don't get you where people need to go, they need help right now.  We can't solve the pre-existing condition problem if we don't do something about coverage.  In order to help the 30 million, it is going to cost some money…”  Talked about rich people ponying up…  Blasts the GOP for using their own ideas that the Dems adopted, to attack the Dem health plan…  “After five decades of dealing with this issue, with respect, starting over means not doing much or doing John Boehner's proposal that Republicans find acceptable, and [means] that it's not possible to move the Republicans to cover more than 3 million more people, or to do anything about pre-existing conditions…”

Obama asks GOP to soul-search to come up with way of dealing with pre-existing condition issue.  “If we can't close this gap, I expect that there will be a lot of fighting in congress about procedural issues regarding moving forward…”  Talks about parents with sick kids, small businesses who are laying people off due to high insurance… “They don't want us to wait.  They don't have another five decades.  For political reason, there may be no reason for GOP to want to do this.  Most Republican voters are opposed to this bill and may be opposed to the kind of bill we could craft, but I thought it was worthwhile to make this effort.”

“If we saw movement – significant movement, not just gestures – you wouldn't need to start over,  because everyone knows what the issues are and we could get done quickly.  We cannot have another year-long debate about this.  I ask all of you, is there enough serious effort that in a month or 6 weeks time we could actually resolve something.  If not, we make some decisions, and that's what elections are for.  We go ahead and do something, and then we see what happens in November….thank you, everybody.”

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