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Obama Incorporates GOP Ideas into Health Reform Plan

Janice Simmons, for HealthLeaders Media, March 3, 2010

Less than a week after the congressional bipartisan healthcare summit, President Obama will likely indicate in a White House speech this afternoon that he wants Congress to move quickly to pass healthcare reform legislation as early as late March before the Easter recess.

The legislation will now include several new provisions proposed by the GOP.

"After decades of trying, we’re closer than we’ve ever been to making health insurance reform a reality," Obama said in a letter sent Tuesday to House and Senate leadership. He said the summit meeting left him "convinced that the Republican and Democratic approaches to healthcare have more in common than most people think."

President Obama specifically turned down the idea of pursuing a "piecemeal reform" because he said it is not "the best way to effectively reduce premiums." Among the areas he is including, that incorporate GOP suggestions, are:

  • A set of initiatives to combat fraud, waste, and abuse related to Medicare and Medicaid that uses medical professionals to conduct random undercover investigations of other healthcare providers.
  • A reform bill that authorizes funding to states for demonstrations to resolve medical malpractice disputes, including health courts.
  • A review of Medicaid reimbursements to physicians to see if payments are adequate or inadequate.
  • A review of health savings accounts and the inclusion of high deductible health plans in state health exchanges.

While he doesn't mention it in his letter, Obama is expected to encourage the Senate to use the reconciliation process, which will only need 51 votes for approval of individual bill items—but could be proven to be time consuming.

"We are talking about a process where we use the simple majority to pass the legislation—without any fancy names a simple majority. That's a budget resolution. Under the budget resolution, you can only deal with issues that are central to the budget," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) explained about the bill Tuesday. "This is not an immigration bill. It is not an abortion bill. It's a bill about affordable health care for all Americans."

The Republicans, though, indicated that despite the addition of GOP-related provisions, they are unlikely to support the bill.

In a statement, House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) said: "If the President simply adds a couple of Republican solutions to a trillion dollar healthcare package that the American people don't support, it isn't bipartisanship—it's political cover."


Janice Simmons is a senior editor and Washington, DC, correspondent for HealthLeaders Media Online. She can be reached at jsimmons@healthleadersmedia.com.

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