The Health Care Summit

February 24th, 2010

By Tom Carter

It’s hard to imagine how anything very positive will come out of the President’s health care summit in Washington tomorrow.  An article in Politico describes the atmospherics and the haggles involved in detailed negotiations. 

A gaggle of congressional Democrats and Republicans will meet with the President at Blair House for about six hours, apparently all of it televised.  The White House has attempted to portray this as an example of long-promised bipartisanship and transparency.  It’s a mystery how they could think that after a year of partisan conflict in Congress, health care reform can be resolved in six hours, particularly in the presence of TV cameras.  But maybe they don’t think that at all — maybe this is just a cynical scheme to portray the opposition as a hopeless obstacle to justify forcing health care reform through Congress in the most partisan way possible.

The President and the congressional Democratic leadership are not going to suddenly see the value of satisfying Republican concerns about specific issues like tort reform and the possibility of tax dollars paying for abortion and medical care for illegal immigrants.  They also aren’t going to accept the Republican argument that their plan is far too expensive and should be scrapped in order to address more specific measures in a less costly way.  In fact, the Democrats can’t even agree among themselves on many health care issues.

Republicans aren’t going to walk into Blair House, take their seats at the table, slap themselves on their foreheads and say, “You know, those Democrats have actually got a great plan.  Let’s all hold hands and be friends.”  If they’re smart, the Republicans will present at least the outlines of an alternative plan that they can support, in full view of the cameras.  That would defuse some of the charges of obstructionism.  If they’re stupid, they’ll do some pontificating and mainly sit with their arms folded and a petulant pout on their faces.

It’s pretty obvious what the objectives of the two sides really are.  As the Politico article noted,

The Democrats’ unstated goal, of course, is to make congressional Republicans look like a bunch of whiny, cynical, ideologically bankrupt crybabies who don’t have a plan of their own.

For their part, the Republicans are determined not to be lectured to by the President, as evidenced by their insistence on a round (or square) table where everyone sits at the same height, with no raised lectern.  They’re not going to sign on to the Democratic plans (now in three versions), but they want to avoid the charge of being totally negative.  We’ll see how that works out.

The real story coming out of the health care summit may be the confusion and disarray among Democrats.  The Senate has their health care bill, the House has theirs, and neither of the two chambers can muster enough votes to accept the other chamber’s version.  But wait — now the President has published his plan, which is more like the Senate bill but includes things the House wants.  And the kicker is, the President’s plan hasn’t been accepted by either the House or the Senate.

And now they’re all going to gather at Blair House, probably to accomplish little more than making themselves look foolish and ineffectual.  One thing is sure — we won’t hear a bipartisan choir singing “Kumbaya” at Blair House.

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7 Responses to “The Health Care Summit”

  1. d |

    All while the American public are losing their healthcare,due to enormous rate hikes. Bluecross in California raising their price 39%. We can do little more than sit by and watch,while the insurance companies raise rates in response to healthcare reform. The insurance we had went up 20% in November,then is to go up 20% more in March. These increases,will invaribly cause lots of folk to drop their insurance. The pres needs to do something,even if he just stops talking about healthcare,so the insurance companies can stop,already. Incidentally,those same insurance companies,had record profits last year. In this case,I believe we need some sort of Gov regulations.We could all protest,and drop all our insurance,but you know how that would go. Still can’t get three people to agree on anything long enough to protest it.
    I think this show,is just that a show. I can’t see it solving anything,but should be interesting to see if anyone makes a fool of themselves, or their party.

  2. Clarissa |

    I agree with d completely. The politicians keep haggling and going round in circles while the citizens suffer. This is what we get for electing people who are only capable of giving a good show. With this Congress and this administration we only get what we bargained for: people who know how to speak well and how to look good for the camera. As for doing something useful, that should not be expected from them.

  3. d |

    In our current administrations’ defense,it is both sides causing this mess. None of them can agree on anything,even amoung their own parties. This president,looks good,speaks good,but as yet,only has ideas to help us,no action. We need speedy action for healthcare,even if only to tell insurance companies to lower prices. I don’t like any of their plans,but come on,find a middle ground,already. Insurance companies have gone profit crazy,with no compassion,or even concern for their customers. I want to see a knock-down,drag out on this summit,someone needs to act.

  4. Brianna |

    Republicans should simply flat out refuse to vote for any plan that doesn’t

    a) Lift restrictions on insurance companies competing across state lines. Goodbye rate hikes in CA as CA residents purchase elsewhere.

    b) Put insurance received through an employer on an equal tax footing with insurance purchased individually. Goodbye fear of losing insurance by losing job.

    c) Optional (because it should more properly be handled by individual states): tort reform.

    Not only do they have a good shot at working, they’re all free. Might even make money if you decide to enact condition b by taxing benefits as a part of wages.

  5. larry |

    This waste of time get together is nothing more than a mock trial of the republicans. Obama wants them to resist in public so he can ridicule them for their lack of non-partisanship. Will Obama mention the fact that he had enough democratic vote to pass this boondoggle for over a year but it didn’t get passed. WHY?????

  6. Brianna |

    Larry – I wouldn’t say “ridicule”. I would say “blame”.

  7. Tom |

    Blame is the right word. I don’t think the Republicans hurt themselves at the summit, but they’re still going to be blamed for health care reform not passing — despite the probability that some Democrats may vote against it, too.

    The reason health care reform wasn’t passed is because most people don’t want it in its present form (whichever version). They want specific parts of it (as I do), but the total package is beyond anyone’s comprehension, and people aren’t going to buy that if they have a choice.

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