KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Obama Calls Senate Democrats To White House For Tuesday Health Care Meeting

The Associated Press  is reporting that President Barack Obama is asking Senate Democrats to meet with him at the White House Tuesday "to press for action at a make-or-break moment for his health care overhaul. All 60 members of the Democratic caucus have been invited, according to three Democratic officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement was not yet public."

The New York Times Prescriptions blog notes a change in the White House strategy: "The president is seeking to push – or prod? – Democrats to coalesce around a bill and pass it before Christmas Eve." This meeting will be the first time since "the tumultuous health care debate" that the President has extended this White House invitation. "The meeting, confirmed by administration officials and Senate aides, is designed to increase the momentum around the legislation. But it still remains an open question how involved Mr. Obama intends to get in the debate. When he went to Capitol Hill a week ago to meet with the Democratic caucus, he did more listening than talking. That may not be the case on Tuesday, officials said, with Mr. Obama poised to begin pushing in hopes of getting his signature domestic priority accomplished before the holidays" (Zeleny, 12/14).

Kaiser Health News has coverage of new concerns being raised by Democrats over the weekend.

Earlier in the day, Politico reported: "The White House is encouraging Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to cut a deal with Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and eliminate the proposed Medicare expansion in the health reform bill, according to an official close to the negotiations," Politico reports. "But Reid is described as so frustrated with Lieberman that he is not ready to sacrifice a key element of the health care bill, and first wants to see the Congressional Budget Office cost analysis of the Medicare buy-in. The analysis is expected early this week. 'There is a weariness and a lot of frustration that one person is holding up the will of 59 others,' the official said. 'There is still too much anger and confusion at one particular senator's reversal." Lieberman told Reid on Sunday that "he would filibuster the bill if it allowed Americans ages 55 to 64 to purchase coverage in Medicare.

The report adds, "Reid has called a special Democratic caucus meeting for 5:30 p.m. Monday." (Budoff Brown, 12/14).

USA Today's On Politics Blog notes that the White House was quick to dispute the Politico report. "White House spokesman Dan Pfeiffer denies that the administration is pressuring Reid to drop the Medicare buy-in plan," USA Today reports. "'The report is inaccurate,' he said in an email. 'The White House is not pushing Sen. Reid in any direction. We are working hand in hand with the Senate leadership to work through the various issues and pass health reform as soon as possible'" (Page, 12/14)

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