KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Obama Presses Forward In Health Overhaul Efforts

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The Washington Post: In a speech delivered this afternoon at the White House, "Obama defended health-care reform as crucial to American families and businesses, saying it would lower skyrocketing costs and end abuses by insurance companies, including discrimination against people with preexisting conditions." He rejected calls from the GOP to start fresh "with an incremental approach" and signalled "support for a Democratic legislative strategy that includes a controversial procedure known as reconciliation" (Branigin, 3/2).  

Read the full text or watch highlights of President Obama's Wednesday speech.

The Wall Street Journal: Obama "called for Congress to press ahead with a comprehensive bill, which means using a legislative vehicle called reconciliation, which requires just 51 Senate votes. But he didn't use the term reconciliation, instead calling for a simple 'up or down vote.'" He urged lawmakers to schedule a vote in the next few weeks. He also appealed to public frustration with insurance companies and emphasized that he had included GOP ideas into his plan (Meckler, 3/3).

Politico: Obama "laid down a timetable – which would wrap up the bill before the Easter break in Congress – and a Democratic line of attack: we're not passing this in a backroom deal, we've already passed it in both the House and the Senate under the traditional rules. All that's left now is the clean-up." He also used a "Democratic talking point" to note that the GOP has used reconciliation in the past and to make the argument that the health overhaul "'deserves the same kind of up-or-down vote that was cast on welfare reform, the Children's Health Insurance Program, COBRA health coverage for the unemployed, and both Bush tax cuts – all of which had to pass Congress with nothing more than a simple majority,' Obama said" (Budoff Brown, 3/3).

The New York Times: "Wednesday's remarks ... marked Mr. Obama's entry into the end game of Washington's long and divisive health care debate." He made clear that he expects Dems to back his plan "no matter how skittish they feel about their re-election prospects in the fall."

Based on a "tentative" reconciliation strategy, "the House would first approve the bill that was adopted by the Senate on Christmas Eve." House and Senate Democratic leaders also would draft a "package of changes to be approved by both chambers in a separate reconciliation bill. ... But while that sounds feasible, carrying out the strategy could yet prove tricky" (Stolberg, 3/3).

Bloomberg: "The plan includes the 'best ideas' of Democrats and Republicans, Obama said." Obama questioned how spending more time on negotiations "could help" and also "said he's not worrying about how the issue will affect his party in the November congressional elections" (Chen and Jensen, 3/2).

The Associated Press: "GOP leaders were unmoved, despite Obama's declaration that he had incorporated a few of their proposals into his revised legislation. The Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said a decision by Democrats to invoke rules that bar filibusters would be 'met with outrage' by the public, and he said Obama was pushing a sweeping bill that voters don't want."

Obama's updated proposal would "extend health care to tens of millions of uninsured Americans while cracking down on insurance company practices such as denying coverage on the basis of a pre-existing medical condition" (Fram, 3/3).

Roll Call: "Democratic leaders in the House and Senate, as well as top White House officials, had already begun work on a reconciliation bill before Obama's Wednesday afternoon address, delivered from the White House briefing room. Their plan would most likely call for the House to pass the $871 billion Senate bill approved on Christmas Eve, as well as a sidecar bill of 'fixes' sought by House Democrats" (Drucker, 3/3).

The Hill: "Moving the legislation will take a full-court press from Obama and congressional Democratic leaders to assemble winning coalitions in Congress without any Republican support. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) faces a considerable challenge in getting 216 votes for both measures and must turn opponents of the original House bill into supporters of the final package. Backing Pelosi's remark Tuesday that Democrats 'are right now freezing the language on the legislation,' Obama declared, 'This is our proposal. This is where we've ended up. It's an approach that has been debated and changed and I believe improved over the last year'" (Young and Youngman, 3/3).

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