HEALTH REFORM: How Industry Pledges Came About -- And Amplifying the Message
Wondering how those industry groups ended up at the White House this week with their offer of $2 trillion in health care savings? According to the Washington Post's Ceci Connolly, it centers around President Obama's Health Care czar (czarina?) Nancy-Ann DeParle.
Eager to be at the bargaining table for this year's health-care reform debate, Karen Ignagni, president of America's Health Insurance Plans, told DeParle that the health industry was willing to wring about $2 trillion in savings out of health spending over the next decade.
"I was skeptical," DeParle recalled in an interview this week. She thought, "They probably don't even know what these numbers mean."
A few weeks later, in mid-April, Ignagni, who opposed President Bill Clinton's reform effort in the early 1990s, enlisted a hospital group and a labor union. DeParle still wasn't satisfied. "I need to see that it's more than just the three of you," she said she told them.
Over the next month, as DeParle kept a wary distance, a coalition was built and the proposal refined. Finally DeParle was sold, and on Monday she brought the group to the White House, where industry titans better known for killing health-care reform 15 years ago found themselves basking in presidential praise.
Of course, this doesn't solve the health care problem—economically or politically. But the White House has made clear that it helps. It's hard for critics to wave off savings as a mirage when the industry pledges to make them real. Hard for conservative to recite Frank Luntz's talking points about how reform will destroy the patient-doctor relationship when the doctors (or at least the AMA) is on board.
But the White House and the congressional Democrats know that they need to do more, to counter a conservative message onslaught and to link the Democratic health plans to the popular president. Obama had three upbeat health care events this week. At one, he said "the stars are aligned" for a health care overhaul as House Democrats outlined their ambitious summer legislative timetable. Today's newspapers are filled with stories about how the administration and the Democrats are refining their health care message about security, choice, affordability, and quality.
Whatever plans emerge, both from the House and the Senate, I do believe that they've got to uphold three basic principles," Obama said. "First, that the rising cost of healthcare has to be brought down; second, that Americans have to be able to choose their own doctor and their own plan; and third, all Americans have to have quality, affordable healthcare."
"We believe the public shares our views. But we don't want to be overwhelmed by either resources, messaging or boots on the ground," New York Democratic Chuck Schumer, who has been pivotal in trying to work out a compromise on the public health insurance plan option, told the New York Times after a meeting between Senate Democrats and White House officials.
"We won't make the mistake of 1993-94," Schumer said, when critics pulled apart and ultimately defeated President Bill Clinton's plan for universal health coverage.