Today’s Health Care Checkup – GOP Plans Under the Spotlight

  • Share
  • Read Later

Perhaps to President Obama’s relief, Republican health reform plans are the ones being scrutinized now, in advance of the Feb. 25 bipartisan summit on health care that the president called for over the weekend.

* David Herzenhorn of the New York Times sees a way that the summit could be useful, informative and game changing…if Republicans have a unified health care plan that could be compared (on television) to a unified Democratic plan. This will be a stretch even if Republicans to pull together an actual bill that could be evaluated by the Congressional Budget Office and if House and Senate Democrats can agree on a merged bill before the Feb. 25 event. If you’re asking yourself why this isn’t as easy as it sounds, check out this passage from Herzenhorn:

In the Senate, Republican leaders made a calculated strategic decision not to put forward a comprehensive alternative to the Democrats’ legislation. Trying to draft a single counterproposal inevitably would have embroiled Republicans in the same internal disagreements and disputes that divided Senate Democrats over health care ideas for much of the past year. Putting such a measure forward and then being unable to generate broad Republican support in a vote would have been embarrassing.

Instead, the Republicans went into the floor debate over the Democrats’ bills armed with dozens of individual amendments that most if not all of their caucus supported, but that might have been totally unworkable or even contradictory if pulled together into a bill.

As a result, Republicans appeared unified in their opposition to the Democrats’ proposal, even as Democrats fought fiercely among themselves to make various changes to their own legislation.

* So Democrats understand the political perils of introducing necessarily controversial comprehensive health care reform, which is why they want to force Republicans to take a stand on a plan from Rep. Paul Ryan. (And make no mistake about it – any comprehensive health care reform would be controversial. There is simply no way, for example, to extend coverage and save entitlement programs without some combination of those oh so popular things called taxes and cuts.)

* Progressive Jonathan Cohn analyzes the official GOP plan for health reform tucked into the party’s “Roadmap for America’s Future.” Shockingly, he is not impressed.

* Judd Gregg points out some other paths forward.

* Jon Kyl doubts the President’s sincerity on wanting a bipartisan discussion on reform.

* Greg Sargent mocks GOP efforts at bipartisanship, saying they are anything but.

* Ezra Klein takes a look at the bipartisanship that’s already happened. (Yes, despite what you may have heard, there are Republican ideas in the House and Senate bills.)

* If the Feb. 25 summit doesn’t miraculously shift the trajectory of health reform toward passage, expect more consolidation in the health industry.

* And, according to a recently published study, here’s what happens when Medicare starts paying doctors more to do a procedure without enough long-term data on effectiveness.

On a not unrelated note, I’m at the National Health Policy Conference in Washington, DC and I’d be remiss if I didn’t share with readers what the mood here is like. Participants at the annual conference, co-sponsored by the journal Health Affairs and the research and policy organization AcademyHealth *, seem pretty depressed. Most of the attendees – those who made it despite the recent DC snowstorm – are policy experts, people who have spent their careers coming up with ways to make the U.S. health care system more efficient and more effective. Many of them spent years or even decades developing many of the payment and medical care delivery reforms contained within the House and Senate bills. Events at the conference have titles such as, “Understanding Geographic Variation,” but also titles like, “Health Reform on Hold? The View from the Private Sector” and “Health Reform is Sick again: Is It a Chronic Condition?”

It’s obvious that the vast majority of policy experts at this conference think it will be a tragedy of epic proportions if major comprehensive health reform slips out of reach. There’s no Obama cheerleading or Republican bashing – just a general, well-informed understanding that the status quo is a very, very bad thing.

(*This post was amended to include the names of both sponsors of the National Health Policy Conference.)