Sunday, March 7, 2010

Obama at Healthcare rally at UMD

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Feeling that the administration largely neglected them last year during their healthcare push, House Democrats are insisting the White House go to bat for them this time around on the healthcare overhaul as President Obama is scheduled to release another proposal today.

House Speaker Pelosi pressed administration officials Tuesday in a meeting with leadership to line up reinforcements from inside as well as from industry and consumer groups, a Democratic aide said.

Pelosi's office did not respond for comment. Leaders met with senior White House adviser David Axelrod and Legislative Affairs Director Phil Schiliro.

Looking for more? For CongressDaily articles and markup reports, see our Healthcare Reform page.For more healthcare articles as well as blogs, videos and related materials, see the National Journal Group's expanded health page.

"The White House attention was on the Senate," the aide said of how last summer and fall shaped up. "The air support just didn't happen around the House bill. Most people blame the White House."

The White House worked closely with Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus over the summer and into the fall to craft a bill and strike deals with the pharmaceutical and hospital industries to help fund the measure.

Administration officials sought to assure Pelosi, the aide said, with an ad that Organizing for America, formerly Obama's grassroots arm and now run through the Democratic National Committee, ran in USA Today Tuesday showing volunteers have pledged over 8 million hours and counting to support members who vote for the overhaul.

A Democratic leadership aide said the focus of the meeting was on message. Democrats want to define themselves as the party that "would reform insurance to empower patients and lower costs, while Republicans would give insurance companies the green light to continue denying care and hiking premiums on families and small businesses." Obama stressed the difference in his letter Tuesday to congressional leaders regarding Republican ideas he is considering including in his proposal.

"There was a fundamental disagreement about what role the oversight of the health insurance industry should play in reform," Obama wrote. "I believe we must insist on some common-sense rules of the road to hold insurance companies accountable for the decisions they make to raise premiums and deny coverage."

Pelosi, House Majority Leader Hoyer, Senate Majority Leader Reid and Senate Majority Whip Durbin met with White House Chief of Staff Emanuel and health reform czar Nancy-Ann DeParle later in the day.

The proposal Obama will unveil today is expected to be similar to one he released last week, with some additions to incorporate Republican ideas from Thursday's bipartisan health summit. The president told congressional leaders in his letter Tuesday that he is considering four GOP proposals: undercover investigations of healthcare providers that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments; $50 million for grants to states taking innovative approaches to reduce malpractice abuse; increased Medicare reimbursements to physicians; and offering high-deductible plans in the exchanges to encourage health savings account use.

Obama's proposal is based on the overhaul bill the Senate passed in December. Democrats expect to pass the changes to the Senate bill through reconciliation. They stopped using the term reconciliation Tuesday, with Pelosi repeatedly referring to "a simple majority," in hopes they could combat GOP characterization of it as arcane or an attempt to ram it through Congress.

The undercover investigations are based on a suggestion from Sen. Tom Coburn , R-Okla., who praised the inclusion of the provision but added it would not change his opposition to the overhaul. "The ideas the president highlighted today are a path forward," Coburn said. "However, merely incorporating these ideas into the deeply flawed House and Senate bills will not bring us any closer to real reform."

Republicans want Obama to scrap the bills that both chambers passed. Senate Minority Leader McConnell said Obama's concessions were nothing more than an effort "to simply paper a few of these commonsense proposals over an unsalvageable bill."

Obama also appeared to support Coburn's suggestion to create a grant program through HHS for states to set up health courts. He mentioned GOP legislation Coburn introduced that established a grant program for health courts that would either consist of a review panel of medical experts and attorneys that would make a ruling on the liability of both parties or a tribunal of judges with expertise in health care that would rule on liability as well. Trial lawyers and victims-rights groups claim health courts strip victims of their right to a trial by jury.

Source Citation
Edney, Anna. "House Dems Want White House Support." Congress Daily AM 3 Mar. 2010. Academic OneFile. Web. 7 Mar. 2010.
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