Tuesday, February 23, 2010

White House Asks Republicans to Produce a Healthcare Plan

A post on WhiteHouse.gov by White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer asks Republicans to provide their plan to reform the nation's healthcare system. The White House posted President Obama's plan earlier this week.

On Thursday, President Obama will host a bipartisan healthcare summit. In advance of that summit, the White House has decided to highlight the absence of a specific Republicans plan:
You can read through [President Obama's] bipartisan ideas section by section, or you can select your health care status and find out what the proposal would mean for you. You can even submit a question for our policy staff to answer.

What you can’t do just yet is read about the Republicans’ consensus plan – because so far they haven’t announced what proposal they’ll be bringing to the table. To be sure, there are many Republicans who share the President’s conviction that we need to act on reform, and there are several pieces of Republican health care legislation out there. Previously we were told this was the House Republican bill. Is it still? We look forward to hearing whether this the proposal they'll bring. The Senate Republicans have yet to post any kind of plan, so we continue to await word from them. As of right now, the American people still don’t know which one Congressional Republicans support and which one they want to present to the public on Thursday.

President Obama has been clear that his proposal isn’t the final say on legislation, and that’s what Thursday’s meeting is all about. But after a year of historic national dialogue about reform, it’s time for both sides to be clear about what their plan is to lower costs, hold insurance companies accountable, make health insurance affordable for those without it, and reduce the deficit. A collection of piecemeal and sometimes conflicting ideas won’t do.

As we said today, we’ll be happy to post the Republican plan on our website once they indicate to us which one we should post. We hope they won’t pass up this opportunity to make their case to the American people.
This post represents a shift in strategy by the White House. President Obama's new communications strategy will include more aggressive engagement with his political opponents. Although the post sometimes comes across as "taunting," it will probably score some points with people who want more substance (in whatever form) and less criticism. It is important to note, however, that President Obama only posted his specific reform plan this week, and his failure to do so earlier led to criticism among Democrats.


Sue said...

I'm happy to see the word Agressive, I'm so anxious for Thursday!

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

It's about time!!! Even The Onion had written about Obama's muted approach.

Elizabeth said...

This "taunting" amounts to merely pointing out the painfully obvious -- and not a moment too soon. What took Obama so long?

Even Ezra Klein (can you imagine?) is getting angry with Obama. Now, that must mean only one thing: the end of the world is near. ;)

Peter Kay said...

uhh...Mr. President...the GOP has had its proposal online since, uh, last year.


Kansas City said...

Mr. Kay is correct. The disingenuousness of the Obama administration is scary. They seem to believe it you tell a lie often enough with a straight face, you can get away with it.

Here is a link to a simple health care plan far superior to what the politicians have advocated:


Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Elizabeth: Ezra is making me dizzy again!

Peter Kay and Kansas City: That is not the "GOP" proposal; that is the House Republican proposal. As you notice on the GOP website itself only compares this with the House Democrat bill. So, it is not surprising that the White House is wondering whether this is the GOP proposal. Furthermore, Pfeiffer's statement reference that statement, but asks whether it represents the GOP proposal. So -- no lie here, Kansas City.

Kansas City said...

You might be able to parse the facts sufficient to conclude Pfeiffer's words are not a lie, but he is the latest of an organized effort to present the image that there is no republican proposal, when there hase been one for months.

The website I cited has some very smart writing on the subject - I don't even know who he is, but he is smart. The following is the most significant point of his analysis:

"There are only two solutions to this health care mess:

1.The plan I put forward previously, or something darn similar to it. Barring differential billing predicated only on who's cutting the checks, forcing all "insurance" companies to accept anyone who wishes to buy into their plan under the same terms as they offer to anyone else, barring as a matter of federal law cost-shifting for those who show up without insurance and real tort reform. Do those four things, plus drop all protections against "reimportation" (in other words, if you buy it, it's yours, and you may sell it to anyone you wish) and a huge change in the health care cost picture would instantaneously occur.

2.A true single-payer system. Vastly inferior to the above, because such a system rations by definition, and provides little or no incentive for people to manage their own costs and health. This is, in essence, the destruction of the capitalist free-market health system."


Obama and the democrats want single payer. They can't get it. So they are pushing for changes that they think will evolve into single payer.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

KC said: "You might be able to parse the facts sufficient to conclude Pfeiffer's words are not a lie".....

Or, the facts reveal that Pfeiffer's words are not a lie.


Our current system "rations" care -- if by that you mean determines what is available as a covered expense. If you have the resources, you can pay for greater care and coverage. But "free market" theories do not address this issue. Under the current system, taxpayers subsidize use of healthcare -- not just in public plans like Medicare, but in "private" employer plans, which are not treated as income under the tax code. Those plans provide very little incentive for individuals to control their health costs as well. But of course, calling them "private" means they work perfectly fine.....

LETICIA said...

It is amazing the lengths people will go to in order to defend corporations, no matter how corrupt. Banks and investment firms run the economy into the ground, and are they allowed to suffer the consequences for their reckless behavior? No, our government breaks their necks to give them our money. Do they rush to enact comprehensive reform that will prevent a repeat of the situation? No, Obama will make some nice speeches condemning the behavior, while doing absolutely nothing to change it.
Meanwhile, large amounts of people are dying due to a lack of insurance, or because of devious policies practiced by insurance companies, and are they punished for it? Slow down there, Chairman Mao! That would be socialism! No, the answer of course is to pass an corporate friendly bill that masquerades as true reform.
Sorry if I went off the rails for a second there, but this whole situation makes me sick.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Hey, Leticia: It's ok to go off the rail -- "passionate and respectful commentary"! I have always laughed at the socialism argument. Giving tons of $$$ to banks is not socialist.

Elizabeth said...

A true single-payer system. Vastly inferior to the above, because such a system rations by definition, and provides little or no incentive for people to manage their own costs and health. This is, in essence, the destruction of the capitalist free-market health system."

Obama and the democrats want single payer. They can't get it. So they are pushing for changes that they think will evolve into single payer.

With due respect, this is nonsense, KC.

First of all, single-payer was never on the table; even during his campaign, Obama never talked about it.

Second, the arguments against single-payer -- rationing, no incentives for self-care, etc. -- are products of some feverish and uninformed imaginations.

I grew up under single-payer, fully socialized medical system (and everything else) and can attest from my personal experience that these claims are completely bogus.

Moreover, we already have rationing here -- and of the worst kind, but Darren already described how it works, so no need for me to repeat that.

As for the claim that a health care reform, specifically single-payer, would be "the destruction of the capitalist free-market health system" -- you say it like it's a bad thing.

Name some positive things that "the capitalist free-market health system" has brought individual Americans and the country as a whole. Tens of thousands of deaths a year? As many, if not more bankruptcies? Broken families?

OK, name even one positive thing that could not be accomplished cheaper and more efficiently with the single-payer than it is through "free-market" health care.

And since we are on the subject of free market, as inappropriate and inefficient as it is in providing health care, you'd have to acknowledge that American health care has not much to do with it (i.e., free market), given that health insurance companies are exempt from anti-trust laws (the GOP proposals never addressed that, BTW) and are able to monopolize markets and squelch competition across the states and nation. What's more, health care "consumers" have no idea how much they are paying and for what exactly, since pricing for medical services is random, obscure and widely discrepant throughout the nation. There is no way a health care "consumer" -- that is, a sick patient -- can make reasonable decisions about the costs and advantages of particular services s/he is considering (not to mention that most people who are sick have no choice in the matter -- thanks to their insurance prohibitions about the choice of doctors and facilities, nor do they have any desire to go price shopping when they are in urgent need of medical help).

So even if the rules of free market were applicable to the American health care -- and they really aren't, the free market system is not an appropriate solution to health care. If you don't believe me, take a look around and check some stats.

We are spending twice as much as any advanced democracy on health care, yet occupy the 37th place in general health outcomes. We are the only advanced (I use this word with some reservation when it comes to the US, btw) democracy where people die for lack of access to affordable medical care and where families go bankrupt daily because of exorbitant medical bills.

I won't even go into less(?) tangible effects of this health "care" system on the American productivity, national security (yes) and overall health of the nation, but yes, they too are not looking good under this so-called "free market" system.

At a certain point it is useful to put ideology aside and acknowledge facts.

Elizabeth said...

BTW, I spent some time in the summer looking over the various GOP proposals (there was more than one), and did not find any of them useful in addressing the issues of affordability and cost controls in medical care.

They sounded (and still do) more like Republican talking points, with the old (and discredited) idea of tort reform being the most prominent.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Elizabeth: you are right about the GOP arguments failing to address affordability and especially costs. First of all, tax credits are not deficit neutral. In my Con Law class last week, I mentioned that spending and tax cuts have the same immediate effect on the government's balance sheet (discussing the line-item veto), and some of the students seemed shocked. Second, simply handing consumers money to purchase insurance does not deal with cost-containment at all. As much as Republicans claim to know about economics, I am astonished that they fail to get this aspect.

Darren Lenard Hutchinson said...

Elizabeth: good post on the free market critique. What free market?

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