After watching yesterday’s bipartisan summit, Timothy Jost and I asked health policy experts in a variety of fields what they believe should happen. Within 12 hours, we received responses from 80 nationally prominent experts. Many signatories are familiar to readers of these pages: Jacob Hacker, Paul Starr, Theda Skocpol, Ted Marmor, Len Nichols, Jon Gruber, David Cutler, Henry Aaron, and many other luminaries from the social sciences, medicine, and public health.
Ben Nelson may be making trouble again. According to The Hill, the Democratic senator from Nebraska told a local radio station, KLIN, he's not sure Congress can still pass health care reform: I don't know if we can get a comprehensive bill through. Honestly, I just don't know. ... We may be forced to doing healthcare--to use my analogy--by making a pie a piece at a time, which is typically not the preferred way to handle legislation. But this is so big, and has so many moving parts and has so many supporters and detractors, that maybe that's the only thing you can do.
Republicans continue to accuse Democrats of "ramming" or "jamming" health care reform through Congress by using the budget reconciliation process. Put aside all the familiar rejoinders--that Republicans used it all the time to pass their bills, that the reconciliation process merely allows a majority to pass a law, etc.
Pushing for universal health care is the family business for Congressman John Dingell of Michigan. During the 1940s, his father, John Dingell Sr., sponsored the Dingell-Wagner-Murray bill, widely considered the first formal proposal for national health insurance. Today the son delivered one of the day's best lines, one that sent a message to skeptics on both the right and the left: ..the last perfect legislation was the Ten Commandments. This bill isn’t perfect, but it is a giant leap forward.
Who won? It's the exact same question people asked in 2008, after each of the presidential debates. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now. What's "winning"--scoring more debate points, making fewer gaffes, or simply appealing to more voters? And aren't all those judgments pretty subjective anyway? But if Thursday's event didn't produce a winner, it was clarifying. (Click here to read more.)
Here's what Representative Tom Price, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said after the summit: Today’s summit should have been used to start anew because Americans simply don’t agree with the Democrats’ approach. Instead, President Obama and Democrat leaders completely ignored the public’s call to start over with a blank sheet of paper. But Democrats came to the table unwilling to let go of their thousands of pages of big government. Amidst all the talk, one contrast stood out with crystal clarity.
Via the White House blog, spokesman Dan Pfeiffer has just released a statement about the summit. It talks about the meaningful discussion and the common ground explored.
The news coverage, I am sure, will lead with the testy exchange between President Obama and John McCain. But the vast majority of the past seven-and-a-half hours was about differences over policy, which is as it should be. Yes, there was some common ground. But not a lot. And while Obama offered to accommodate the Republicans further on issues like malpractice reform, I didn't hear the Republicans offering to reciprocate. Their mantra at the end seemed to be the same as it was at the start: Scrap the bill and start over. I'm not sure how that plays out politically.
Republicans today are spending a lot of time talking up "Association Health Plans." This is not a new idea. Among other things, it was part of George W. Bush's 2000 presidential campaign platform, when I wrote about it. Here's what I said then: Proponents of the Bush plan say Association Health Plans--under which a big trade group like the NFIB would offer insurance to its members--will allow small businesses to enjoy, at last, the same economies of scale and bargaining power as big companies.
President Obama says that health care reform will reduce insurance premiums for most people. Senator Lamar Alexander will raise them. Who's right? Obama, although the explanation is a bit complicated. Here's how I explained it back when the Congressional Budget Office first issued its analysis: The most important issue for most Americans isn't what the government spends on health care. It's what they, as individuals and families, spend on health care.