The Debate Rages On...
The Obama Health Reform Strategy Meeting
By Garance Franke-Ruta
President Obama's health care reform strategy meeting this morning has kicked off a wave of analysis among the growing ranks of health care bloggers -- ranks which were today joined by a new blog at The Washington Post, The Daily Dose. The blog is part of a Post special package dedicated to the upcoming battle over President Obama's efforts to overhaul America's $2.2 trillion health care system, and bringing each days' stories together with links from around the Web, analysis and news as it happens. Check it out -- and keep checking back as the story progresses.
So what does Obama's meeting this morning mean? The New Republic's Jonathan Cohn thinks the confab is a very big deal:
On Monday morning, representatives for the nation's major health care industry groups--doctors, hospitals, drugmakers, device makers, and insurers--will pay a personal visit to President Obama. But instead of pitching a fit about health care reform, as they have so many times in history, they will offer their assistance. They will pledge their support for Obama's goals and they'll offer to do their part--by taking steps that would reduce the growth in national health care spending by about one-fifth over the next decade.
No less important, after delivering this message to Obama, they'll deliver it to the rest of the country. And they'll do it right there, from the White House, standing with the president himself.
Skeptical about the groups' motives? Dubious that, left to their own devices, they'd reduce their own revenue streams just to make medical care more affordable for the rest of us? You should be.
But make no mistake: This is a big deal, if only for the clear political signal it sends.
New York Times columnist Paul Krugman agrees:
Six major industry players -- including America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a descendant of the lobbying group that spawned Harry and Louise -- have sent a letter to President Obama sketching out a plan to control health care costs. What's more, the letter implicitly endorses much of what administration officials have been saying about health economics.
Are there reasons to be suspicious about this gift? You bet -- and I'll get to that in a bit. But first things first: on the face of it, this is tremendously good news.
The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder gives the back story:
This convention has been in the works for a week, and its existence has been a secret of sorts even to many White House officials. The worry was that if news leaked that these groups were going to participate, they'd receive intense internal pressure -- or pressure from their ideological compatriots -- to withdraw their participation....
The White House favors some sort of public plan option, but it has not (as of yet) told members of Congress how big that plan should be, whether it should immediately complete with health insurers, and whether there should be more than one. This has pleasantly surprised the business community, mollified the insurance industry, and worried the unions, who want a public, competitive government health care option immediately, knowing that its leverage would essentially end the employer-based health care system within a decade.
And Ezra Klein adds a note of skepticism:
I can't shake my skepticism about today's big health care announcement.
First, the announcement: At about 12:30 today, representatives from the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, Advamed, the California Hospital Association, the Greater New York Hospital Association, and SEIU will present Barack Obama with a letter promising to aid his health care reform effort by cutting health care spending by 1.5 percentage points over the next 10 years. That sounds minimal. But it actually amounts to $2 trillion in savings.
The politics of this should surely cheer supporters of reform....
But it's not just the administration that benefits from the optics. It's the medical industry. The fact that the White House is making a big deal of their support means it would be a big deal if they lost it. And so it's worth asking what, exactly, the health care industry has committed itself to.
And the answer is: Not much. As one senior administration official said to me, "this is a commitment, not a plan."
Posted at 1:40 PM ET on May 11, 2009
The Debate Rages On...
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