KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Health Overhaul Issues Fill The Sunday Talk Shows

Health experts and politicians filled Sunday talk shows as Obama administration officials push for reform.

The Associated Press reports: "President Barack Obama's advisers are urging critics of their health care overhaul to wait for Congress to finish writing legislation before issuing verdicts. They also signaled they are willing to wait longer than their White House-imposed August deadline for action if it means they can sway wary lawmakers. The White House spent Sunday defending Obama's health care proposals and stressing that Congress has not yet written the final draft of legislation that would dramatically reshape how Americans receive health care. Instead, they said, Republicans - and even some Democrats - should wait until a final bill takes form. 'There are basically five different plans in Congress right now and there are a variety of ways,' Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, trying to calm nervous lawmakers whose re-elections could hinge on the legislation."

The AP reports that White House Budget director Peter Orszag said: "And we have to remember, there are some who are advocating the delay simply because they don't have anything to put on the table. ... There are those who are advocating delay just as a desperation move to try to kill this." Sebelius appeared on NBC's Meet the Press. Orszag spoke with Fox News Sunday and CNN's State of the Union (Elliott, 7/20).

The Hill: "President Obama's top cabinet advocates for universal healthcare were grilled on Sunday over how to raise taxes, as well (as) budget reports questioning whether leading healthcare proposals in Congress will lower healthcare spending, a key pillar of Obama's sales pitch on his top priority. Appearing on CNN's State of the Union and Fox News Sunday, Obama's Budget Director, Peter Orszag, tried to defray those concerns and stressed that under a new CBO report issued Friday, a new universal healthcare will not add to the deficit."

The Hill quotes Orszag: "'Look at the report that came out from the Congressional Budget Office on Friday night with regard to the House legislation; once you take into account just maintaining current payments for doctors under Medicare, that bill is deficit neutral.'" It also notes: "Orszag also said that Democratic plans do 'not include some important things that we'd like to put in place with regard to the fiscal trajectory after the first decade, for example we have a proposal for an independent commission made up of doctors to help bring down costs over the long term.'"

The Hill also notes that Orsazg called MedPAC a "big game changer" of an idea on CNN. Meanwhile, on Meet the Press, "Sebelius also said that despite any initial budgetary potholes, the proposals are still works in progress and at the end of the day won't add to government health care spending" (Allen, 7/19).

Meanwhile, the chairman of the Republican Party, Michael Steele, offered sharp criticism for the administration in remarks prepared for delivery today at the National Press Club. The Associated Press reports that Steele "is accusing President Barack Obama of conducting "risky experimentation" with his health care proposals, saying they will hurt the economy and force millions to drop their current coverage... [he also] said the president, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and key congressional committee chairmen are part of a 'cabal' that wants to implement government-run health care." The AP reports Steele as saying: "Obama-Pelosi want to start building a colossal, closed health care system where Washington decides. Republicans want and support an open health care system where patients and doctors make the decisions" (Espo, 7/20).

The Associated Press / Boston Globe also reports that the Senate's top Republican, Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., appeared on NBC's Meet the Press. McConnell said "the U.S. has the best health care in the world and the system doesn't need to be scrapped... [and that] the Democrats' approach ignores what's right with the U.S. system. He says cost and access are challenges, but not enough to justify a complete overhaul" (7/19).

And, Michelle Obama is weighing in on the debate, according to The New York Times: "She has become one of the Obama administration's most visible surrogates on health care, announcing the release of $851 million in federal financing for health clinics, calling for tougher nutritional standards in the government's school lunch program and urging Democrats to rally around the president's efforts to revamp health care. ... After several months of focusing on her family, her garden and inspiring young people, Mrs. Obama is stepping into more wonkish terrain. She is toughening her message and talking more openly about influencing public policy as she works to integrate her efforts more closely with those of policy makers in the West Wing"  (Swarns, 7/18).

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