White House Health Care Summit Fails to Resolve Differences

P022510CK-0217.jpgOn February 25, 2010, the White House hosted the much-anticipated bipartisan health care summit. As expected, no final legislation or agreement about how to proceed with health care reform emerged from the 7 ½ hour meeting. Democrats took the position that they would not start from scratch, and Republicans claimed they would not support the proposals that have already been put forth. The disagreements, however, may have given Democrats the public justification they need to proceed with reconciliation as a means to push forward with reform. President Obama stated:

 . . . the question that I'm going to ask myself and I ask of all of you is, is there enough serious effort that in a month's time or a few weeks' time or six weeks' time we could actually resolve something?  And if we can't, then I think we've got to go ahead and make some decisions, and then that's what elections are for.

Obama concluded the summit by acknowledging that it may be impossible to resolve the differences between the parties, and alluded to the fact that Democrats could proceed with reconciliation: “I don't know, frankly, whether we can close that gap. And if we can't close that gap, then I suspect Mitch McConnell and Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner are going to have a lot of arguments about procedures in Congress about moving forward.”

Meanwhile, according to a Wall Street Journal article, President Obama might be amenable to advancing a scaled-back version of health care legislation should a more comprehensive overhaul bill fail to garner requisite support. According to the article, this more modest approach would provide coverage to an additional 15 million Americans, which is half the amount a larger bill would have covered. More details about this alternate approach have not been released.

Republicans, by and large, seem to favor a more incremental approach to health care reform. On Wednesday, for example, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved by a 406-19 margin legislation that would repeal the anti-trust exemption in place for health insurance companies. The Health Insurance Industry Fair Competition Act (H.R. 4626), would amend the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945, which reaffirmed that states are the primary regulators of insurance, and expressly exempted the “business of insurance” from antitrust laws.

At the conclusion of the health summit, however, President Obama indicated that a piecemeal approach to reform was untenable: “. . . a step-by-step approach sounds good in theory, but the problem is, for example, we can't solve the preexisting problem if we don't do something about coverage.”

Transcripts from the summit can be found at The Washington Post’s political blog 44.

This entry was written by Ilyse Schuman.

Photo credit: Chuck Kennedy

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.