Public Plan Facts


  • The Medicare reform illusion The administration credits Medicare’s seemingly healthier financial outlook to changes made by the new health-care law. In fact, the legislation has weakened the program. Worse, its changes create the perception of progress, making it more difficult to pursue the reforms that would put Medicare on sound financial footing so future generations of seniors will benefit.
  • ObamaCare: it’s here While many of Obama Care’s major pieces won’t kick in until 2014, a few big changes are already under way — and offering an early taste of what’s in store for American health care. It ain’t pretty. Think: greater government control, less competition and fewer options for consumers. As early as next month, for example, the administration is expected to unveil its definition of ‘unreasonable rate increases.’ This is its way of dictating premiums.
  • Anti-‘ObamaCare’ on ballot The Colorado Secretary of State announced yesterday that ‘The Right to Health Care Choice’ citizens’ initiative had enough valid signatures to get on the November ballot. The initiative, which is the brainchild of Jon Caldara’s Independence Institute, a Golden-based libertarian think tank, will ask voters to exempt Colorado from parts of the recent health care reform, including a provision requiring citizens and business owners to buy health insurance or pay a penalty.
  • Americans Confused About Health-Care Reform
    A Thomson Reuters poll of consumer confidence released on Monday shows Americans’ confidence in their ability to pay for and access healthcare has fallen by 5% since December 2009. ‘For months, the White House promised wavering Democrats that the bill would become more popular once it became law. The White House was wrong,’ said Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. Stephanie Washington, a 50-year-old clerk for the Chicago Public Schools, said she hopes healthcare does become an election issue. ‘We are in a recession. Anybody who thinks because the president is trying to reform healthcare and they don’t think one day it’s going to benefit you as well as the next person can go and vote Republican,’ she said.
  • ObamaCare Puts Government Run Monopoly on Fast Track
    Grace-Marie Turner
    Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi raised millions of eyebrows in early March when she told reporters, we have to pass the health reform bill “so that you can find out what is in it.” It goes without saying that few, if any, of the federal lawmakers who voted to pass the legislation had any idea of what was lurking in its 2,801 pages. Thus the president’s promise that government would ensure that all Americans have health coverage has turned into a mandate that we all must have insurance defined by the government and with the government determining what our “choice” of health policies will be. A prime example of this will unfold as the Obama administration begins to define what must be counted as medical care and what counts as administrative expense in health insurance. According to the new law, private insurers must spend between 80 percent and 85 percent of premium revenue on patient care and the rest on business expenses like fraud detection, profits, etc. — the so called “Medical Loss Ratio” or MLR. These and a plethora of other decisions relegated to federal regulators could make it almost impossible for private insurance companies to comply. Those that survive will become little more than regulated utilities — leading inevitably to a government-run health system.
  • Honey, I Shrunk My Approval Ratings In what will rank as one of the all-time presidential PR disasters, we’re now well over half way through what the White House called ‘the summer of recovery.’ And what a recovery it’s been. The administration’s misleading statements and obfuscations aren’t limited to the economy. On health care, for example, Mr. Obama continues saying that (a) health-care reform will reduce costs and the deficit, (b) no one who wants to keep existing coverage will lose it, and (c) the law’s cuts in Medicare won’t threaten any senior’s health care. These assertions are laughable.
  • Plan moving forward to require 80% of premium dollars be spent on medical costs Insurance commissioners are moving forward with recommendations that require health plans to spend at least 80 percent of premium dollars on medical costs, a key tenet of the health care overhaul signed into law five months ago. Under the new federal law, individual policies and small-group insurance products sold to businesses with 50 or fewer workers will have to spend 80 percent of health plan enrollee premiums on medical costs. Policies for groups with more than 50 workers will have to spend at least 85 percent of health plan subscriber premiums on health costs. The insurance industry wants the costs of ferreting out fraud and abuse to be included as a medical expense rather than as an administrative cost. ‘Fraud and abuse has a direct impact on the quality and safety of patient care,’ said Robert Zirkelbach, spokesman for America’s Health Insurance Plans.
  • Death Panel Siding The New York Times skews the study to make it seem that palliative care was used instead of actual treatment of the disease and that it was therefore wrong to eliminate end of life counseling from Obamacare by calling it a death panel. And the counseling was to include advanced care planning, including key questions and considerations, important steps, and suggested people to talk to about ‘living wills and durable powers of attorney, and their uses …a list of national and State-specific resources to assist consumers and their families.’ Not a word about living longer. To suggest now that’s what Democrats meant is absurd: If spending more money to let Granny live longer after a terminal diagnosis was the goal, why keep reminding people every five years about ‘living wills’?
  • Putting the Brakes on ObamaCare If Republicans take control of one or both houses of Congress this fall, many will have been elected with a promise to “repeal and replace” ObamaCare. But what are their options, really? There likely will be an initial showdown, but President Obama will surely veto any challenge to the law, and it would be hard to imagine mustering the votes to overturn it.
  • The doctors are not in To a large extent, the success of President Barack Obama’s health care reform rests on the field of primary care and its ability to respond to a forthcoming surge in demand. Broader Medicaid requirements, coverage for children under 19 with pre-existing conditions and other changes are expected to prompt millions of newly insured Americans to head to the doctor. ‘When you throw in Obamacare, it’s wonderful—but where are you going to get the doctors?’ says Dr. Kim Edward LeBlanc, professor and chair of family medicine at the School of Medicine at LSU Health Sciences Center New Orleans. ‘You’re going to need more primary care physicians at the very time that interest in primary care has gone down.’
  • Health Reform: Here We Go Again Consistency may emerge as the only merit of the health care reform circus. Damaging, poorly developed policies and a broken process characterized passage of the health law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Implementation is shaping up in the same vein. Consider the latest controversy over “medical loss ratios”. The MLR measures how much of premiums insurers pay out for medical care (versus, say, administrative cost). The new law requires that insurers have an MLR of at least 80 percent for individuals and small businesses, and 85 percent for large employers, or pay a refund to beneficiaries.
  • Fast Track To Government Health Care The consequences of government involvement in health care have become more and more apparent as people have become informed about what the health overhaul law would do. No longer does the government seem to be a fairy godmother but rather a tough enforcer of an avalanche of new mandates, taxes and regulatory requirements.
  • Employee health care costs are going up According to the survey by Washington-based National Business Group on Health, 53 percent of employers will make changes to their benefit plans despite uncertainty about compliance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Among the biggest changes were removing lifetime dollar limits on benefits, removing annual dollar limits on benefits and removing pre-existing condition exclusions for children.
  • Re-Engineering Healthcare Democrat extremists are trying to revive the public option, as a first step towards single payer health insurance. Single payer health insurance (as opposed to a national health service) is supposed to assuage fears of socialized medicine and government controlled rationing. According to the website sponsored by Physicians for a National Health Program.
  • Most see no cure for health system The 10th annual Canadian Medical Association poll released today shows that 80 per cent of Canadians fear the health system will buckle under the growing strain of demands from aging seniors, dubbed the silver tsunami. Canada’s ailing health care tops the list -before the environment, recession and taxes -as the No. 1 issue Canadians say needs immediate government attention, an Ipsos Reid poll conducted on behalf of the CMA found.
  • Americans confused about healthcare reform -poll A Thomson Reuters poll of consumer confidence released on Monday shows Americans’ confidence in their ability to pay for and access healthcare has fallen by 5 percent since December 2009.
  • Primary-Care Doctors: Saying No to $191,000 a Year
    The recent passage of health care reform legislation offers some improvement to primary-care doctors, but doctors see it as insufficient. ‘The new legislation adds a 10% bonus to primary-care physicians’ Medicare reimbursement salaries. But this is nowhere near enough. We need to see a 30% to 50% increase in salaries overall to make any real change in the system,’ says Dr. Lori Heim, president of the AAFP.
  • Dem allies deny they’ve changed their health reform strategy
    Democratic allies on Friday refuted a recent news report that they’ve shifted their election year health messaging strategy away from a discussion on cost…The Powerpoint slides — based on recent surveys by Democratic pollsters and delivered Thursday to party allies in a private conference call — urged that Democrats touting health reform to voters should ‘keep claims small … and don’t overpromise what the law delivers.’
  • The health care message White House spokesman Bill Burton, asked today about my report that key allies are shifting to arguing that they’ll ‘improve’ the health care bill and dropping the cost arguments, stuck with the older talking points…The comments follow the new script in one aspect: There’s no mention of cost or of the deficit, which were at the beginning of the process, and again in the middle as the deal closed with Congress, a key selling point.
  • Commissioners OK health rate plan The National Association of Insurance Commissioners approved Tuesday morning a preliminary outline of what insurers will be able to count as medical costs… ‘The current proposal could have the unintended consequence of turning back the clock on efforts to improve patient safety, enhance the quality of care and fight fraud,’ AHIP president Karen Ignagni said in a statement.
  • The The Obamacare Disaster The bottom line is that you will lose your health care under this legislation, if not your job, your country as they bankrupt America, and maybe ultimately your life or the life of a loved one. All that to make dreamy, emotionalized, liberals happy, even though many of them are not happy because the socialism in the bill is not overt enough.
  • States respond in health care overhaul lawsuit Twenty states and the nation’s most influential small business lobby plan Friday to file their response to the government’s attempt to dismiss their lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul. ‘The federal government does not have the authority to regulate an individual’s decision to do nothing. If they did, then they could force us to purchase any product they want,’ said Karen Harned, executive director of the Small Business Legal Center of the National Federation of Independent Businesssaid.
  • ENTER War on reform may backfire With the Missouri vote, it looks likely that the Supreme Court will be ruling on the constitutionality of the ‘individual mandate,’ a central plank of health care reform. It would be a bizarre outcome indeed, however, if the justices ruled that the Constitution of a country founded on free-market principles did not allow a regulation necessary for the private market to function. For the individual mandate is necessary to preserve a private market for health insurance.
  • Show Me ObamaCare No wonder Missourians rebelled, as with voters in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia last year. There will be more such what-have-they-done ObamaCare moments. Wait until the public discovers the government is now literally determining what qualifies as ‘health care’ in America. That isn’t a typo. ObamaCare mandates that insurers spend a certain percentage of premium dollars on benefits, but Democrats never got around to writing the fine print of what counts as a benefit.
  • GOP leaders push to repeal Medicare cost-cutting panel Top Senate Republicans this week unveiled legislation to eliminate the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), the panel recently created by Democrats to fast-track Medicare cuts when spending tops pre-set limits… The Republican critics argue that ‘unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats’ shouldn’t be granted such significant powers over the healthcare of seniors.
  • A Prescription for Fiscal Discipline In the few short months since the bill became law, the estimated costs of the new health care mandates have increased by a staggering $115 billion. ObamaCare not only robs patients of the freedom to make their own health care decisions, but it also takes away more economic freedom by forcing families and small businesses to bear a weighty economic burden.
  • As Massachusetts health ‘reform’ goes, so could go Obamacare If you want a preview of President Obama’s health-care ‘reform,’ take a look at Massachusetts. In 2006, it enacted a ‘reform’ that became a model for Obama. What’s happened since isn’t encouraging. The state did the easy part: expanding state-subsidized insurance coverage. It evaded the hard part: controlling costs and ensuring that spending improves people’s health. Unfortunately, Obama has done the same.”
  • Doctors wary of changes in health care Many central Ohio physicians think that federal health-care reform will drastically change their practices and harm health-care delivery, a survey has found. And the current climate and upcoming changes are prompting many to consider retiring early… Of the physicians who responded, 37 (almost half) said that health-care reform will ‘drastically’ affect their practice and 58 (74 percent) said health-care delivery will be ’somewhat worse” or “much worse.
  • Perverse Democrats The Obama Administration’s recess-appointed head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) — and his staff aren’t wasting a lot of time getting settled into their offices. Already, Berwick, according to career employees at CMS, has begun looking at what resources are at his disposal to launch a wide-scale media and public relations offensive in support of Obamacare and his views on government-funded health care.”
  • Health reform may cause state doctor shortage, council says West Virginia does not have enough primary care doctors to handle the expected influx of patients once the national health-care reform bill is fully enacted, members of a state health council said Thursday.”
  • The appointment of a new health-care tsar angers Republicans That is an important post, and it is reasonable that any candidate should be vetted. But since Dr Berwick got the job merely as a ‘recess appointment’, Republicans will get their chance to grill him in the future… Deprived of the congressional stage, right-wing partisans are taking to the airwaves with a three-pronged attack: the recess appointment is unjustifiable, and Dr Berwick is both poorly qualified for the post and ideologically unsound.”
  • How to Liberate the NHS Health Secretary Andrew Lansley’s NHS reform, announced this week, is the biggest decentralization of decision making ever undertaken in any organization. The idea of liberating front-line employees is a powerful and exciting one. The bureaucracy of the NHS is not just a nightmare for patients, but also for the doctors, nurses and other workers too. Patients only have to contend with it when they’re sick. NHS employees confront it every day.”
  • U.K. Will Revamp Its Health Service
  • The U.K.’s new coalition government, grappling with weak public finances and rising health-care costs, announced an overhaul of the state-funded health system that it said would put more power in the hands of doctors and save as much as £20 billion ($30.12 billion) by 2014… In one of the biggest changes, the government said it plans to eliminate a layer of financial managers and ask doctors instead to decide how the bulk of the National Health Service’s £105 billion annual budget should be spent.

  • High-risk pools off to slow start
  • Representatives of these pools in Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico and North Carolina told POLITICO that while they are generally pleased with the enrollment process so far, they still harbor some concerns about outreach and affordability… Lorez Meinhold, director of health reform implementation in Colorado, acknowledged that the new federal option still remains unaffordable for some individuals. ‘This is not necessarily for low-income people but a resource for folks who have needs but can afford the $5,950 out of pocket… The high-risk pool wasn’t meant to solve all of the issues.

  • Doctors’ lobby losing clout on Hill Months after delivering its crucial endorsement of the health care overhaul, the American Medical Association has found itself with fewer friends on Capitol Hill and more critics questioning its lobbying savvy… The AMA’s ‘doc fix’ failure was costly in more ways than one. The group has spent $6.2 million on lobbying in 2010, far more than other health groups… ‘For the amount of money that AMA spends, it doesn’t seem to get the bang for their buck,’ said a senior Republican health staffer who has worked with the group.
  • Tax report rehashes debate over cost effectiveness of healthcare reform law A warning that federal tax officials will need more congressional funding to administer the Democrats’ health reform law has rekindled the partisan debate over its cost effectiveness.
  • Who Pays for ObamaCare? Among Donald Berwick’s greatest rhetorical hits is this one: ‘any health-care funding plan that is just, equitable, civilized and humane must-must-redistribute wealth from the richer among us to the poorer and less fortunate.’ Count that as one more reason that President Obama made Dr. Berwick a recess appointee to run Medicare and Medicaid rather than have this philosophy debated in the Senate.
  • Copying the NHS is the last thing the US should do The US government, meanwhile, is galloping doggedly in the opposite direction, bizarrely determined to occupy precisely the ideological ground which Britain is abandoning. Barack Obama has, indeed, appointed a man as head of the American public health care programmes who professes a passion (no other word will do) for some of the most discredited features of our NHS.
  • States resist HHS control of premiums
  • Some state insurance commissioners are pushing back against a renewed effort on the Hill to centralize the authority of health insurance premium rate reviews under the secretary of Health and Human Services.

  • Health Care Reform: States Ramp Up War on Obamacare
  • Of all the hot-mike incidents in recent memory, the one involving a candidate for the post of Georgia insurance commissioner probably isn’t going to break any YouTube records. But to understand the state-level ground war raging over the new Affordable Care Act, this unguarded moment of accidental honesty is as instructive as any.

  • Health overhaul first provisions start to kick in Overall costs appear modest at this point, split among taxpayers, employers and individuals who directly benefit, although the biggest part of the health care expansion is still four years away… What that entails for costs is a matter of intense speculation. A recent survey of employers by Mercer, a major benefits consultant, found that 42 percent expect an increase of 2 percent or less, while one-fourth expect an increase of 3 percent or more.
  • $5 billion for the uninsured
    Starting Thursday, the Obama administration will dole out $5 billion to states to provide insurance for people who don’t have coverage because of pre-existing medical conditions…By 2013, CBO expects enrollment to swell to 700,000 and federal spending to reach as much as $15 billion.
  • Health care reform for early retirees kicking in
    Employers who offer health coverage to early retirees may begin applying for help with the costs…The Early Retiree Reinsurance Program will invest $5 billion in financial assistance for employer health plans offered to early retirees. This initiative will provide premium relief for employers and increase access to high-quality medical coverage.
  • Get tan today: 10% tax on its way
    A 10% tax will be tacked on to indoor tanning bills starting Thursday, as part of the health-care reform President Obama signed into law in March…The tax is expected to generate $2.7 billion by 2019, according to the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.
  • Human Resources
    Health-Care Reform: Rhetoric vs. Reality
    The CBO estimated that additional discretionary costs associated with the health-care reform legislation (which Congress would have to approve through separate appropriations) would cost at least an additional $105 billion over the 10-year period…According to the CMS Chief Actuary of President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services, national health-care expenditures would increase by $311 billion over the next 10 years as a result of the legislation…According to the CMS Chief Actuary of Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services, 14 million people will lose their employer-sponsored coverage, and doctors may no longer accept certain patients who have either low-reimbursement coverage or coverage through Medicare.”
  • Medicare changes could shortchange vulnerable hospitals
    “The U.S. government’s plan to base Medicare payments to hospitals on certain quality-of-care measures could end up transferring funds away from hospitals in the nation’s poorest, underserved areas, an analysis published Tuesday suggests…the proposed performance-assessment system gives hospitals that start at a low baseline less credit for performance improvements than centers that start at a higher baseline. So ‘low-attainers’ must have a greater increase in their absolute performance scores in order to ‘improve’ as much as hospitals that start off with relatively high scores.”
  • Verdict on Healthcare Reform Bill Still Divided The healthcare reform legislation Congress passed in late March divided the public then and has not gained significant support in the three months since…Seniors — who were among the most widely opposed to the legislation prior to passage, given their broad satisfaction with the status quo under Medicare — have not relented in opposing the bill. And while one might expect the highly charged views of partisans to remain fixed, as they have, it is noteworthy that support among independents has not grown.
  • OK, So It’s Not True Over the last year or so, Obama has repeated dozens - perhaps hundreds - of times that his health-care ‘reform’ would allow you to keep your existing insurance plan. It’s quite apparent now that this was false…In contract law, such a deal would be rescinded. In politics, the solution is for lawmakers to explain that the bill doesn’t do what it promised and repeal it so that they can start over.
  • Work to cut the waste in health care A Thompson Reuters white paper estimates that healthcare waste in America totals $700 billion annually - about one third of the nation’s health-care bill…While the government’s health-care reform expands coverage, it does nothing to curb cost. It’s up to all of us in the private system - insurers, doctors, hospitals, businesses and individuals - to reduce costs.
  • Democratic Governors Want To Testify For Health Care Reform
    Almost two dozen of the state attorneys filed suit against the new law the day it was passed, claiming it’s unconstitutional. But the governors of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Colorado and Washington say they disagree with their respective top lawyers. They’ve asked U.S. District Court for permission to file a friend of the court brief on behalf of the Obama administration, which must defend the law.
  • Healthcare reform pushes hospitals to align with medical providers
    “San Francisco-based Catholic Healthcare West and St. Bernardine Medical Center in San Bernardino have teamed up with Ontario-based North American Medical Management California Inc./PrimeCare to design a new system of medical care.
  • NHS cuts ‘haphazard’, doctors say
    “BMA chairman Dr Hamish Meldrum said it had received evidence of jobs being lost and access to services restricted…One in four doctors said their employer was planning redundancies and nearly two thirds reported freezes on recruitment…Feedback also showed new services and facilities were being postponed or scrapped, while some GPs had reported tighter restrictions were being placed on which patients they could refer on for specialist treatment.
  • Utah Officials Plan for Health-Care Law They Dislike
    “It’s hard to find a place more hostile to the federal health-care overhaul than Utah… Yet, on Thursday, Gov. Gary R. Herbert announced a step towards its implementation: Utah will join 29 other states and the District of Columbia in running its own insurance pool to cover high-risk people… Utah’s tardy decision-it was the last state in the union to decide, more than a month after the legal deadline-reflects a challenge it and other Republican-led states face in balancing their concerns about the health law, and the need to implement it.”
  • Only 28% Say Shifting Workers to Government Health Insurance Plan is Good “”If a company drops its insurance coverage and shifts its workers to a government-sponsored health insurance option, 48% of voters nationwide say that would be bad for the employees. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 28% believe it would be good for employees to go from a private insurance plan to a government plan.” ”
  • After passage, we learn the true cost of federal health care reform “”We were assured by the Obama Administration over the past two years that federal health reform would bend the cost curve down and actually decrease the federal deficit. Based on those assurances, Congress passed legislation with narrow partisan support and over the objections of substantial bipartisan opposition… Unfortunately, but not surprising, the number $940 billion turned out to be wrong. The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) re-examined the legislation after it passed into law. The bill is filled with unclear language and on further review, CBO analysts found additional costs of at least $115 billion. This wipes out any deficit reduction promised by health reform and puts its cost over $1 trillion.” ”
  • Gallup: Health Care Overhaul Support Flatlines
    “In the three months since Congress approved a broad overhaul of the U.S. health care system, the landmark legislation ‘has not gained significant support’ among the American people, according to the latest Gallup poll out today.”
  • Republican report marks health care reform’s 90-day anniversary
    “House Republican Leader John Boehner is marking the 90-day anniversary of health care reform with a 43-page report ‘designed to chronicle ObamaCare’s three-month journey from hype to harsh reality.’ The document outlines problems that Republicans say have been exacerbated or created by the reform law and forms the basis of their argument that the law should be repealed and replaced.”
  • Congress battles as Medicare burns “Lawmakers in Virginia and Maryland are bracing for a congressional impasse over millions of dollars in health care funding that threatens to thrust both states into the red. The Medicaid funding is set to expire in January, and a measure to extend it is stalled in the Senate over concerns about the ballooning federal deficit.”
  • Nomination of Medicare and Medicaid chief opens new avenue to attack Obama’s health care plan “Just because Congress passed health care reform, the fight isn’t over… Confirmation hearings for Donald Berwick, the White House’s choice to run the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, could turn into a proxy war over an issue that, though decided, still remains a political hot button for many Americans… Berwick’s critics, however, call him a ’starry-eyed health guru.’ They complain that he has lavished praise on Britain’s government-run National Health Service, which makes them nervous. But it’s also fuel for continuing the Republicans’ attacks on health care reform as ’socialism.’”
  • State budgets threatened by federal health care impasse “The worsening budget impasse over Medicare reimbursements is straining not just doctors but also House-Senate relations - with taxpayers facing millions of dollars in added costs for reprocessing claims. Having waited for weeks in hopes of a stay, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, is now enforcing a 21 percent cut in physician payments, and an estimated 50 million claims, held back since June 1, will be the first affected.”
  • Congress must repeal Obama’s health-care rationing plan
    “It has scarcely been three months since the new health reforms, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), were signed into law. Unfortunately, as I and many of my colleagues predicted, the promises made to the American people by the president and the majority are already unraveling… We ought to repeal this bill and replace it with a plan that would actually lower health care costs for all families, as well as protect patients and doctors from government interference in their most personal health care decisions.”
  • Doctors limit new Medicare patients
    “”The number of doctors refusing new Medicare patients because of low government payment rates is setting a new high, just six months before millions of Baby Boomers begin enrolling in the government health care program.”
  • ObamaCare and the Independent Vote
    “The Democrats made a strategic choice to pass health reform even though they knew it did not have majority support. They assumed passage would generate a positive initial response from the media-which it did. They also hoped that, with time, voters would see reform in a more favorable light, and that health care would not pose an issue in the midterm elections. Were the Democrats right? If our polling is correct, they were not.”
  • Democrats to tout reform’s early benefits
    They say good public policy makes good politics. In the case of health care, it may take years to determine whether that truism pans out for Democrats and President Barack Obama.
    In the shorter term, congressional leaders opted for another, more reliable strategy: front-loading their legislation with consumer-friendly, insurance industry reforms and other fixes they hope will generate support for the new law in the run-up to the pivotal midterm elections.
  • Five who flipped on health care
    They were the difference makers on health care reform: House Democrats who flipped from opposing the plan to supporting it, delivering a win on President Barack Obama’s signature domestic issue.Now, they are also among the Democrats’ most vulnerable incumbents, and none is building a reelection message around their famous vote.
  • Gingrich says Obamacare “socialized medicine”
    The new health care law is socialized medicine and should be repealed said Newt Gingrich in Richmond Friday.
    It is the first time the former Speaker has spoken publicly about the new law since President Obama signed the Federal Health Care Bill. Gingrich joined Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell at a forum organized by the Center for Health Transformation a for-profit think tank he founded.
  • GOP: Medicare pick favors ‘rationing’ Senate Republicans revived their health care ‘rationing’ theme Wednesday evening as they fired their first salvo in what’s expected to be a fierce battle over the confirmation Donald M. Berwick to be administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Republicans say Berwick supports the idea of rationing health care, a charge they deployed to stir public anger against the Democrats’ health care overhaul. While they focused on the public insurance option that ultimately was dropped from the legislation, they also said that a series of programs that made it into the final legislation, such as the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, would also lead to denying health care to save money.
  • Obama government defends healthcare law in court The Obama administration has urged a court to reject an attempt to block a controversial new law overhauling the U.S. healthcare system, saying it was constitutional and any challenge was premature… A conservative public interest group, the Thomas More Law Center, had filed a lawsuit in Michigan on March 23, the day Obama signed the law, and asked the court for an injunction to block it from taking effect.
  • Side Effects: Get Ready to Lose Your Doctor Remember the White House’s insistence that, under Obamacare, you keep your insurance plan if you like it? We didn’t believe it then. Turns out we were right. CNN reports that AT&T, Verizon, John Deere and others may well drop the health care coverage they now offer their employees. Obamacare makes it much cheaper for these companies to dump their workers into the government-controlled health exchanges and pay a penalty for NOT insuring them.
  • Editorial: Health care costs will keep going up
    President Barack Obama’s claim that the health care reform would cut costs was at best a half truth.
Indeed, a Congressional Budget Office analysis found that in the next 10 years, the law will cut government spending by $143 billion. That analysis is based on the law’s collection of new revenues for years before many of the benefits kick in. The law will be paid for, in part, by the estimated $120 billion in penalities from people who choose not to get health insurance and businesses that do not offer coverage.
  • Health overhaul law potentially costs $115B more
    WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s new health care law could potentially add at least $115 billion more to government health care spending over the next 10 years, congressional budget referees said Tuesday.
  • Insurance companies say reform won’t cut costs
    Health insurance companies acknowledge some of the virtues of the new health care legislation that will extend coverage to 32 million uninsured and help some small businesses afford insurance coverage.
  • New coverage for young adults will raise premiums Letting young adults stay on their parents’ health insurance until they turn 26 will nudge premiums nearly 1 percent higher for employer plans, the government said in an estimate released Monday.
  • HHS touts health care ‘progress’ The Obama administration told congressional leaders in a letter on Monday that it has made ’significant progress’ implementing the health care overhaul, including a load of consumer friendly provisions that could ease negative perceptions of the plan among a skeptical public. The letter is part of an administration campaign to convey the impression that the debate is over and the health care train is leaving the station.
  • WellPoint CEO blasts Obama WellPoint CEO Angela Braly blasted President Barack Obama for repeating a charge that her company singled out and dumped women with breast cancer from its rolls. In a sharply worded letter to the president sent on Sunday, Braly said the characterization ‘grossly misrepresents’ reality. Braly criticized Obama for raising the point in his weekly address on Saturday. She wrote that she was ‘disappointed to hear you repeat false information.’
  • Harry Teague’s companies cut health care When he ran for Congress in 2008, businessman Harry Teague boasted that he provided health insurance for all of his employees back home in New Mexico… What Teague didn’t say at the time: At the very moment he was voting against the bill, his own companies were eliminating health care coverage for employees… ‘We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause,’ the notice added. ‘Know that we value your employment here at Cavaloz.’
  • NYT Tells Greece to Abandon Socialized Medicine? You know, this has to be one of the strangest stories of the weekend. The New York Times, ever a champion of Obamacare during the recent debates, is reporting (from an April 30 article) on some rather compelling advice for the nation of Greece, which is currently teetering on the precipice of collapse… What might help them? Don’t have nationalized health care… or any other industry for that matter.
  • Health care reform hasn’t addressed major issue of cost Though the goal of expanding coverage is laudable, the timing could not be worse. To spend the amount of money currently projected on this limited type of health care reform in the worst recession we have had in generations, yet not directly addressing the true underlying problems in our health care system, i.e., cost, payment reform, more efficient delivery systems and even tort reform, seems more founded in politics than a desire for true reform.
  • GOP to insist on 10th Amendment Taking its cue from the Bill of Rights, the Republican Study Committee, a group of conservative House Republicans, says that the 10th Amendment dictates that initiatives such as the health care reform law and other massive government programs are the business of state governments, not Washington…The task force will work, it says, to ‘educate’ Congress and the public about the importance of maintaining a proper balance between state and federal governments.
  • Thought this wasn’t going to happen? In a stunning investigative report, CNN has uncovered documents from four major companies including Verizon and AT&T that confirm our worst fears - companies are seriously considering dropping employee health care benefits in the wake of the reform bill. It turns out that the penalties imposed by the U.S. government for such an action are cheaper than offering coverage in the first place. So much for “if you like your coverage, you can keep it.”
  • CBO: Doc fix will cost more than anyone thought Legislate in haste, repent at leisure. The ObamaCare bill signed by Barack Obama after getting hastily and repeatedly rewritten in backroom negotiations by Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid turns out to cost a lot more than they admitted - and in new areas that keep appearing after its passage… ‘On Friday, the Congressional Budget Office said that just freezing current Medicare payment rates to doctors would likely cost nearly $276 billion through 2020, a 33 percent increase.’
  • Rallies held across Canada to press for experimental MS treatment Wednesday, the MS Society of Canada formally called on federal Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq to inject $10-million to fund research into the condition, known as chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI…Some patients, mindful that MS is a progressive disease, are not willing to wait even a few years. Pierre Charland, a onetime businessman who gave up working when MS started to weaken his body, is spending $12,000 to travel to Poland in June to have the procedure done. ‘We pay our taxes here for health services - why should we have to travel so far to get this operation?’ the 51-year-old asked.
  • Health care law’s massive hidden tax change An all-but-overlooked provision of the health reform law is threatening to swamp U.S. businesses with a flood of new tax paperwork. Section 9006 of the health care bill — just a few lines buried in the 2,409-page document — mandates that beginning in 2012 all companies will have to issue 1099 tax forms not just to contract workers but to any individual or corporation from which they buy more than $600 in goods or services in a tax year. The stealth change radically alters the nature of 1099s and means businesses will have to issue millions of new tax documents each year.
  • ObamaCare rationing confirmed But now that ObamaCare has passed, at least some of its supporters have become quite candid in admitting that government rationing is on the way. Dr. Donald Berwick, a Harvard professor, has been nominated by President Obama to run Medicare and Medicaid. But Dr. Berwick has not been shy at all about saying that rationing will be the order of the day under ObamaCare. In an interview in 2009 in the journal Biotechnology Healthcare, Dr. Berwick declared, ‘The decision is not whether or not we will ration care. The decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.
  • Remember Richard Foster? Mr. Foster states that some provisions of the law, including cutbacks in Medicare payments to health care providers and a tax on high-cost employer-sponsored coverage, would slow the growth of health costs. But he said the savings ‘would be more than offset through 2019 by the higher health expenditures resulting from the coverage expansions…’ Let’s start a movement — and let’s call it ‘Appealism.’ Here’s how it works: Rather than calling for ‘repeal’ (which is a negative thing), let’s be for ‘appeal.’ That means appealing to common sense and un-fuzzy math. It means calling a spade a spade and (most importantly) being honest.
  • Dem embraces GOP health proposal
    A centrist Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee has endorsed two Republican proposals requiring hospitals to disclose their prices, pitting him against other Democrats on the panel who are pushing a much broader bill.
    Rep. Gene Green (D-Texas) hopes to bring other Democrats with him, arguing a scaled-down approach stands a better chance of becoming law than the Democratic proposal, which would apply to all healthcare providers, including hospitals, physicians, pharmacies, drug makers and insurers.
  • Democrats at Ramming Speed
    President Reagan had a sign on his desk that said, “It’s amazing how much you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” If President Obama had a sign, it would say, “It’s amazing how much you can accomplish if you don’t care what the public thinks.”
    Washington has never been held in lower esteem by Americans than it is today. Yet those in control of Washington—President Obama and congressional Democrats—are bent on enacting a series of sweeping domestic policy changes this year that have one thing in common: They are unpopular, in whole or in part.
  • Despite Spotlight on Health Care Reform, Consumers Still Do Not Understand the U.S. Health Care System: Deloitte Survey
    WASHINGTON, May 4 /PRNewswire/ — Following widespread media coverage of health care reform, political debates and legislative initiatives over the past year, consumers still profess to know very little about the health care system in the United States, according to the 3rd Annual Deloitte Center for Health Solutions Survey of Health Care Consumers. Less than a quarter (23 percent) of consumers surveyed say they understand how the health care system works, but 76 percent grade the system a “C” or below and nearly half (48 percent) believe that 50 percent or more of health care dollars are wasted.
    “In a year marked by historic debate over the future of the health care system, our survey indicates that not much has changed from 2009 to 2010 in terms of consumers’ understanding and perceptions of the system,” said Paul H. Keckley, Ph.D., and executive director of the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions.
  • 18 states refuse to run insurance pools for those with preexisting conditions
    Eighteen states have said they will not administer a stopgap program to provide insurance coverage to people whose preexisting conditions have left them uninsured, forcing the federal government to do the work.
  • Bloomberg Businesses Ask Geithner for More Leeway on Healthcare (Update1) May 3 (Bloomberg Government) — The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and 12 other business groups asked members of President Obama’s cabinet including Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner for more leeway in implementing the health-care overhaul.
    The groups said they’re being forced to make contract, employee-benefit and other decisions without guidance on how to comply with provisions that take effect in September. The letter dated April 30 was sent to Geithner, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Labor Secretary Hilda Solis.
  • Liberal challenge to Dems on health care falters WASHINGTON — Liberals who vowed to take revenge against conservative Democrats who opposed President Barack Obama’s health care law have little to show for their anger six months before the midterm elections.
    Most of the 34 Democrats who opposed the overhaul legislation that squeaked through Congress in March are facing only token opposition — if any — from the left. Some labor unions and party activists have turned to long-shot, third-party candidates as they try to send a message to the wayward Democrats.
  • Michael Tanner: ‘Fearmongers’ were right about Obamacare And, of course, during the health care debate, no presidential speech was complete without a promise that ‘if you have health insurance today, and you like it, you can keep it.’ But the Congressional Budget Office now says that as many as 10 million workers will lose their current insurance under Obamacare. Some of those workers will have to buy new insurance through the government-run exchanges. Millions more will be thrown onto Medicaid.
  • Opinion Shapers: Obamacare is bad medicine You don’t have to be an economist to know President Obama’s promise to lower the federal deficit by passing a nearly $1 trillion health care bill is a lie. Since when do you reduce debt by spending more money? In fact, the thousands of pages of so-called health care reform legislation are chock full of really bad news for everyone from the elderly to children in the womb. Included among those who will suffer substantial negative consequences as a result of this bill are present and future physicians.
  • Reid ads tout health bill Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is hoping to reshape the health care overhaul’s narrative in Nevada as an accomplishment for small businesses and the middle class, not the big-government tax burden his opponents have labeled it. His campaign has started a ’substantial’ round of media touting the election-year benefits of the overhaul as he struggles to retain the seat he’s held since 1986. But the ads don’t address the most controversial features of the overhaul - the mandates and the cost - that his Republican opponents are undoubtedly going to continue to talk about until Election Day.
  • Bill would allow Georgians to opt out of federal healthcare system A bill that would prohibit mandatory participation in any federal healthcare system is headed to the desk of Gov. Perdue for his signature. The bill, originally proposed as SB 317, was attached as an amendment to SB 411, the Healthy Georgians Act of 2010… ‘I want to thank the entire General Assembly for helping me protect all Georgians from being compelled to participate in the federal healthcare program,’ Hill said.
  • IRS lacks clout to enforce mandatory health insurance Starting in 2014, the agency will have another task: making sure all Americans have health insurance. Under the law, Americans who can afford health insurance but refuse to buy it will face a fine of up to $695 or 2.5% of their income, whichever is higher. More than 4 million Americans could be subject to penalties of up to $1,000 by 2016 if they fail to obtain health insurance, the Congressional Budget Office said last week… While the IRS can impose liens or levies, seize property or seek jail time against people who don’t pay taxes, it’s barred from taking such actions against taxpayers who ignore the insurance mandate. In the arsenal instead: the ability to withhold refunds from taxpayers who decline to pay the penalty.
  • Survey: Health Reform to Make Care Unaffordable to Some The health-care reform law may push employer-provided health insurance out of financial reach for some people. One of the unintended consequences of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act recently pushed through Congress is that 38% of the nation’s employers may find that they have some employees unable to afford their health care. ‘More than a third of the nation’s employers - 38% - have at least some employees for whom coverage would be considered ‘unaffordable,” according to an annual employer health plan survey by consulting firm Mercer.
  • The Insurance Mandate in Peril A ‘tell’ in poker is a subtle but detectable change in a player’s behavior or demeanor that reveals clues about the player’s assessment of his hand. Something similar has happened with regard to the insurance mandate at the core of last month’s health reform legislation. Congress justified its authority to enact the mandate on the grounds that it is a regulation of commerce. But as this justification came under heavy constitutional fire, the mandate’s defenders changed the argument-now claiming constitutional authority under Congress’s power to tax.
  • GOP seeks changes to new healthcare law through Obama’s debt commission President Barack Obama’s newly-formed debt commission may consider changes to the new healthcare reform law, a top Republican member said Wednesday. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), the ranking member of the House Ways & Means Committee and a member of the bipartisan panel formed by the president, said that changes to the healthcare law must be ‘on the table’ as part of the commission’s efforts to reduce the deficit and debt.
  • Bills to repeal health-care reform are failing to gain GOP traction THours after the House passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) made good on a promise and introduced a short bill that would repeal the whole thing… About one month later, neither Bachmann’s bill nor companion bills in the House and Senate have won majority support from their peers… ‘If Republicans cannot unanimously come together and support 100 percent repeal of Obamacare and then start to rebuild, then we will not win this victory, because we’ll be divided by the Democrats and fighting on Obama’s turf.’
  • Republican party demands health cost probe House Republicans on Wednesday demanded an investigation into whether the health care overhaul plan would increase national health spending, following a recent report from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that showed cost increases, at least in the first decade.
  • ObamaCare: Embattled Doctors & Patients
    The Obama administration finally finagled reticent Democrats into passing “healthcare reform,” despite the fact that a majority of Americans were against the Democrats’ bill. And the Democratic Party, as a whole, will likely face retribution by the public during elections in November, but the retaliation will probably not be for the reasons you might think.
    Though many Americans are against the “reform” because it represents the fulfillment of the final steps of full-blown socialism in America, in truth, a large majority of people express support for some socialistic features of the plan, such as those that effectively abolish insurance — forbidding insurers from “discriminating” against people with “pre-existing conditions” or setting a maximum lifetime insurance payout.
  • Healthcare could stretch U.S. states’ budgets-Moody’s

    WASHINGTON, April 27 (Reuters) - While the U.S. healthcare overhaul law passed last month included help for states to cover some costs of making sure all Americans have health insurance, in the long term some states may find their budgets stretched, Moody’s Investors Services said on Tuesday.
  • ObamaCare and the Constitution: What would Jefferson and Madison think?
    Davenport, Iowa
    When asked last fall where the Constitution authorizes Congress to require citizens to buy health insurance, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was temporarily caught off guard, finally sputtering, “Are you serious? Are you serious?” She then quickly turned to another reporter without further comment.
    Another Democrat, Rep. Phil Hare of Illinois, reacted similarly when recently posed that question by one of his constituents: “I don’t really worry about the Constitution on this, to be honest.”
    While the thought that the Constitution actually limits the power of Congress to enact legislation may be foreign to some Democrats, the framers of the Constitution intended for the federal government to be limited to the powers that are specifically enumerated, or listed, in the text of the document.
  • Health costs to rise
    As more information emerges on the recent health care reform legislation, it is not surprising that analysts now believe it will cost more than people were told.
    In the first report since the bill was passed, economic experts at the Department of Health and Human Services say the bill, passed only last month, will increase the costs of health care by $511 billion over the next 10 years, instead of bringing them down. That comes from the Obama administration, although the analysts involved are considered neutral, and while it represents only a 1 percent increase it’s still a sobering conclusion … because it’s a best-case scenario, and it’s dependent on a half-trillion dollars in cuts to the Medicare program, largely through Medicare Advantage.
  • Health Care Role Reversal
    The gladiators have laid down their weapons over health care. One has prevailed…for the moment. Unlike the combatants of Rome, those of ideology do not fight to the death — just the opposite — they fight to perpetuity. And that fight is now about to take its most novel twist in decades.
    Today’s gladiators of the mind do resemble the ancient of the Coliseum in one regard. In Rome, there were two classic types, pitted one against the other. Each had specialized equipment they mastered.
  • States wary of high-risk health pools
    The first real test of how cooperative the states will be in implementing the massive new health care reform law comes on Friday, and early indications are that it’s going to be at best a bumpy road.
    On Friday, states must decide whether to help the Department of Health and Human Services set up or expand high-risk insurance pools by the June 21 deadline set in the law, or, in the alternative, leave HHS to do it all by itself.
  • The Fix Is In Donald Berwick, CEO of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, was nominated by President Obama last week to be administrator for the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS)… Berwick thinks a ‘commissioner of care’ should limit health care spending nationally by dividing the country into health regions (exchanges?). ‘It could be a small state — or part of a large state… We could start with the current per capita cost,’ which he contends could be 20 percent to 30 percent lower. Berwick not only has a role model picked out for a role that sounds a lot like what he would be doing at CMS, he has a soulmate: For the past 15 years he has consulted for — or, in his words, been ’starry-eyed’ over — Britain’s National Health Service.
  • ObamaCare Mulligan When President Obama signed his health-care reform last month, he declared it will ‘lower costs for families and for businesses and for the federal government.’ So why, barely a month later, are Democrats scrambling to pass a new bill that would impose price controls on insurance? In now-they-tell-us hearings on Tuesday, the Senate health committee debated a bill that would give states the power to reject premium increases that state regulators determine are ‘unreasonable.’ The White House proposed this just before the final Obama- Care scramble, but it couldn’t be included because it violated the procedural rules that Democrats abused to pass the bill.
  • Claudia Chaufman: Health care reform will cause heachaches, and much more
    Right after the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Sentinel reporter Kurtis Alexander listed among its benefits that close to two-thirds of Santa Cruz’s County 45,000 uninsured residents would become insured, and that those under 26 years of age would now be allowed to remain in their parents’ plans.
    Is this great news and should we uncork the champagne? Not yet. Here go selected facts for the reader to assess:
  • Health care law’s unfinished business: cost curbs What’s it going to cost me? That’s the single biggest unanswered question about President Barack Obama’s new health care overhaul law - and its weak spot. Many experts believe the law falls short on taming costs, and that will force Congress to revisit health care in a few years.
  • Report: Health overhaul will increase nation’s tab President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul law will increase the nation’s health care tab instead of bringing costs down, government economic forecasters concluded Thursday in a sobering assessment of the sweeping legislation.
  • Democrats at the Edge of the Cliff There was always something eerie about the way the Democrats said their health-care legislation was what the American people had waited ‘70 years’ for. Invoking the ghosts of 1939 was kind of creepy… A Pew Research Center report just out, the one that says trust in government is at an ‘historic low’ of only 22%, looks like the something else… This report isn’t bad news for the Democrats. It’s Armageddon.
  • Government report: Health law could hike prices, make employers drop coverage Now that health reform is law, many physicians are complaining that while it may help their patients, it doesn’t go far enough to help doctors. Among their gripes, doctors say the legislation continues to leave them vulnerable to lawsuits and decreasing Medicare payments. fact-checked their concerns and here’s what we found…
  • Doctors: 5 gripes about the health law
    Now that health reform is law, many physicians are complaining that while it may help their patients, it doesn’t go far enough to help doctors. Among their gripes, doctors say the legislation continues to leave them vulnerable to lawsuits and decreasing Medicare payments. fact-checked their concerns and here’s what we found…
  • Take the Painkiller and Go Home
    The defining moment for the Presidency of Barack Obama came early, in June, 2009. It was one of many health reform extravaganzas to come, this one televised by ABC from the East Room of the White House, a town hall among health care experts and consumers.
    Citizen Jane Sturm took the mike to ask how the brave, new world of Obamacare would treat people like her 105-year-old mother.
  • Problem over health coverage for Capitol Hill is resolved
    A problem in the new health-care overhaul law that may have inadvertently left members of Congress and some congressional staff without health insurance has been resolved, the White House said Tuesday.
    The issue was highlighted in a recent Congressional Research Service report, which said a possible “drafting error” in the legislation left unclear the date by which lawmakers and certain staff members will be required to drop their existing insurance and sign up for state-run exchanges that the law will create for people who lack coverage through their jobs.
  • La.Panel Backs Bill to Nullify Fed Health Reform An attempt to nullify the federal health care overhaul in Louisiana, by declaring no one can be mandated to pay a penalty if they don’t have insurance, edged out of the House Insurance Committee on a 5-4 vote Tuesday. The proposal by Rep. Kirk Talbot, R-River Ridge, is backed by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal and is modeled after legislation pending in more than 30 states.
  • Alaska joins 19 states suing federal government over health insurance reform Invoking the Founding Fathers with a dramatic statement that it is ‘time for us to breathe deeply this American air,’ Gov. Sean Parnell announced Alaska will join 19 other states suing the federal government alleging the recently passed health insurance legislation is unconstitutional. Citing the ‘unprecedented’ expansion of Congressional power requiring all citizens to purchase health insurance as a condition of legal U.S. residence, Parnell and Attorney General Dan Sullivan held nothing back in declaring the individual mandate coercive and a threat to the liberty of both Alaskans and Americans.
  • As focus turns to economy, health care appears to be on White House back burner
    Three months ago, at a private meeting of nervous House Democratic lawmakers, President Obama promised to put the full weight of his office behind the marketing of the health-care bill once it became law… But since April 1, the subject has hardly escaped his lips publicly, and it looks like the entire month of April might go by without a presidential event focused on health care.
  • Drug Prices Rose 9.1% Last Year, Ahead of Federal Health Overhaul
    Drug companies sharply raised prices last year, ahead of increased rebates they must pay to Medicaid and other expenses tied to the federal health overhaul passed last month.
    Prices for brand-name pharmaceuticals rose 9.1% last year, the biggest increase in at least a decade, according to pharmacy-benefit manager Express Scripts Inc., which included the recent number in its annual drug-trend report. The boost for specialty drugs, a category that is largely biotech products, was even sharper: 11.5%. In 2008, the price rise had been 7.4% for traditional pharmaceuticals, and 9.4% for specialty drugs.
  • Bill to ban “Obama Care” advances in Louisiana Legislature

    A committee of Louisiana lawmakers has advanced a bill to the full House that seeks to stop federal health care reform from taking effect in the state.
    The proposed constitutional amendment states that “no law or rule shall compel any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in any health care system.”
    “We think the people ought to decide if this is how they want to be governed,” Louisiana Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine told the committee. “Basically the state is asserting it’s sovereignty.”
  • Poll: 4 out of 5 Americans don’t trust Washington
    WASHINGTON — America’s “Great Compromiser” Henry Clay called government “the great trust,” but most Americans today have little faith in Washington’s ability to deal with the nation’s problems.
    Public confidence in government is at one of the lowest points in a half century, according to a survey from the Pew Research Center. Nearly 8 in 10 Americans say they don’t trust the federal government and have little faith it can solve America’s ills, the survey found.
  • Obama’s health reform isn’t modeled after Heritage Foundation ideas
    Think tank analysts usually brim with pride when the president of the United States goes around claiming that his policies are based on their work. But when President Obama tries to sell his health-care law as a moderate approach that borrows ideas developed by the Heritage Foundation, we get incensed.
    The Obama health-care law “builds” on the Heritage health reform model only in the sense that, say, a double-quarter-pounder with cheese “builds” on the idea of a garden salad. Both have lettuce and tomato and may be called food, but the similarities end there.
  • Critz ad: ‘I opposed the health care bill’
    Democrat Mark Critz, running to succeed the late Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), is branding himself as an opponent of health care legislation in his latest ad – a sign that the legislation is a tough sell even in working-class blue-collar Democratic confines.
    Responding to an NRCC advertisement accusing him of backing health care reform, Critz says: “That ad’s not true. I opposed the health care bill, and I’m pro-life and pro-gun. That’s not liberal.”
  • Insurer Sets Out Medicaid Coping Strategies for States
    UnitedHealth Group Inc. and its rivals in the managed-care industry are gearing up to go after one of the biggest new markets to be created by the new federal health-care law: the roughly 16 million new people expected to be eligible for insurance coverage under state Medicaid programs.
    The Minnetonka, Minn., insurer is releasing a report Thursday describing a variety of managed-care strategies it says will help cash-strapped states solve budget problems and doctor shortages that hobble the government health-care programs for the poor.
  • Health care battle sinks Obama in polls
    President Obama’s national standing has slipped to a new low after his victory on the historic health care overhaul, even in the face of growing signs of economic revival, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll.
    The survey shows the political terrain becoming rockier for Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats heading into midterm elections, which is boosting Republican hopes for a return to power.
    Just 49 percent of people now approve of the job Mr. Obama is doing overall, and less than that - 44 percent - like the way he has handled health care and the economy. Last September, Mr. Obama hit a low of 50 percent in job approval before ticking a bit higher. His high-water mark as president was 67 percent in February of last year, just after he took office.
  • Pence pushes health care repeal
    On Tuesday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said he saw the public further embrace the health care overhaul legislation as he visited five states over the recess.
    House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) said Republicans heard something different.“The American people aren’t happy,” Pence said. “They are not happy with all of the big government spending and the borrowing and House Republicans returned for this seven-week stretch firmly on the side of the American people.”
  • Dr. Galt He’s the Florida doctor who told his patients to go elsewhere for treatment if they voted for Obama. The message posted on his office door: “If you voted for Obama, seek urological care elsewhere. Changes to your health begin right now, not in four years.”
    It didn’t take long for Cassell’s Congressman, Rep. Alan Grayson, a Democrat, to say that he smelled racism.
    “Well, in fact, where he lives, in Mount Dora, which is in my district, many, many of the Democrats who live in Mount Dora happen to be African-Americans,” explained Grayson. “So, by saying that he will not treat somebody who supported Obama, he’s saying that he’s not going to treat a large number of African-Americans in this community.”
  • Georgia Insurance Commissioner Balks at Request on New Health Law
    ATLANTA — The insurance commissioner of Georgia has chosen not to comply with a federal request to create a state pool for high-risk insurance plans, opening a new front in the resistance by state Republican officials to the new federal health care law.

    The commissioner, John W. Oxendine, who is a Republican candidate for governor, appears to be one of the first politicians in the country to take that stance. His decision will not affect the cost of insurance for any patients, but it means that the federal government, not the state, will oversee the distribution of certain federal health care funds in Georgia.

  • The Monster That Ate Congress
    When Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of ObamaCare that “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” she wasn’t kidding. Some of the things we’re finding out are shocking, horrifying–and even hilarious.
    Remember President Obama’s promise not to raise taxes on anyone making less than $250,000 a year? The Hill reports that pledge has gone by the boards in a big way:
    Taxpayers earning less than $200,000 a year will pay roughly $3.9 billion more in taxes–in 2019 alone–due to healthcare reform, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation, Congress’s official scorekeeper.
    The new law raises $15.2 billion over 10 years by limiting the medical expense deduction, a provision widely used by taxpayers who either have a serious illness or are older.
    Taxpayers can currently deduct medical expenses in excess of 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income. Starting in 2013, most taxpayers will only be able to deduct expenses greater than 10 percent of AGI. Older taxpayers are hit by this threshold increase in 2017.
    Once the law is fully implemented in 2019, the JCT estimates the deduction limitation will affect 14.8 million taxpayers–14.7 million of them will earn less than $200,000 a year.
  • Will Obama create the Post Office of health care? If it stands, the new health care law will establish government offices and agencies to create and run health care exchanges, to closely regulate insurance companies, to establish standards of care, to determine what are appropriate levels of coverage, to ensure compliance with the law — it goes on and on. It is, well, a huge expansion of government involvement in the health system. And there is little doubt that many of its backers in Congress want to expand it further in coming years. Some envision a day when the government, which already runs Medicare and Medicaid, runs health care entirely. What could go wrong? It turns out Barack Obama has already told us: Just look at the Post Office.
  • John Boehner: Repeal number one priority House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said Monday that repealing the health care law is his ‘No. 1 priority’ as Congress returns from a two-week spring recess… ‘They got everything else in the entire bureaucracy that they need to control our health care system … with the signing of this bill… That’s why repealing this bill has to be our No. 1 priority.
  • Health care reform creates political theater Covering the debate and passage of health care reform legislation has been thrilling and disappointing… Yet, reform backers always found a way to keep the legislative drive going, culminating in final passage last month. With exhilaration also came disappointment, broad and deep… I just hope Republicans, Democrats and the administration will find a way to work together again to make whatever changes are needed to improve the health care reform law.
  • Transcript: Rep. Bachmann on ‘FNS’ ‘I think these policies are among the most radical we have ever seen in the history of the country. I mean, clearly, the country has never gone this far in taking over this much of the private economy. And it is changing the way that we’re doing business in the United States forever. And I don’t think it’s going in a good direction.
  • Health care debacle’s hidden costs The health care bill passage was landmark legislation for more reasons than one. In spite of taking more than a year to draft the bill behind closed doors, there never was a definitive explanation of what the bill contained and they are still trying to interpret it. The real cost is still unknown.
  • Over the Counter Goes Under But one of the first things millions of Americans will ’see’ is an effective 40 percent tax hike on the over-the-counter medicines — from an antihistamine such as Claritin for allergies, pain relief medicine such as Tylenol or Excedrin, Pedialyte to prevent their kids from becoming dehydrated when they are sick, and even prenatal vitamins if they are expecting another one.
  • GOP Obamacare strategy: Try repeal, then cut There’s an ongoing debate among Republicans about what it means to repeal Obamacare…First, of course, they have to win control of the House. If that happens, they are united in their resolve to repeal Obamacare and pass in its place a series of measures addressing the public’s most pressing health care concerns. But since they know it is highly unlikely they could overcome an Obama veto, they are also working on provisional plans to use the House’s spending power to cut funding for parts of Obamacare before it even comes into existence.
  • What will it mean to employers and employees We’ve updated earlier estimates of how the various subsidies in the health reform law affect the insurance market for both employers and workers. And the results remain quite dramatic: It appears that the new law will make it beneficial for many employers to drop their insurance coverage.
  • Health Secretary Warns of Insurance Scams The secretary of health and human services, Kathleen Sebelius, wrote to state officials on Tuesday to urge that they take action against “scam artists” reportedly marketing fake insurance policies to exploit the new law overhauling the health care system.
    “Unfortunately, scam artists and criminals may be using the passage of these historic reforms as an opportunity to confuse and defraud the public,” Ms. Sebelius said in a letter to state insurance commissioners and attorneys general.
  • A Call to Arms for Doctors…And Patients In January I wrote the following piece for the Fox Forum: “Why Doctors are Abandoning Medicare.” The primary reason? Washington views the common physician as the enemy—as purely mercenary. Given this, lawmakers should not be surprised that recent surveys suggest nearly one doctor in three—one third of all physicians—would consider leaving medicine if the proposed health care legislation passed. Now that the health care bill is law, the question becomes, how will these physicians escape?
  • New healthcare law is full of unknowns About the only thing Dr. Philip Schwarzman can be sure of under the national healthcare overhaul is that he is adding his daughters, ages 23 and 25, to his health plan immediately.
    Much less clear to Schwarzman is how the sweeping law will affect the emergency department at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank, where he is medical director.
    “It’s incredibly complicated,” said the white-haired physician, whose department sees 50,000 patients a year. “It’s hard to predict what’s going to happen.”
    That pretty well sums up the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Potential effects of the law, passed last month, can be described as profound and prosaic, obvious and unknowable.
  • Obama, GOP still face health care reform traps WASHINGTON — Health care reform is in the same political realm as climate change, with the country divided among those who believe it is settled, those who doubt everything about it, and those waiting for more evidence.

    Passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act hasn’t settled the issue or calmed the politics before this year’s congressional elections. Instead it has raised the stakes for President Obama and his party to assure millions of doubters that this is the right public course on an intensely personal issue.

  • Health care reform closes gap in prescription drug coverage, cuts funds from Medicare Advantage
    The national health care reform law can be viewed as a two-edged sword for seniors.
    On one side, it slices away an onerous gap in prescription drug coverage, which left many with chronic health conditions shouldering the full cost of expensive medicines for part of a year.
    But it also chops funding from a popular program delivering coverage for nearly 25 percent of those on Medicare.
    Neither of those key points, however, are important to many seniors, who say they are worried about the consequences - for them and the country - of providing health care coverage to an additional 32 million Americans, which the legislation says it will do.
  • Health care reform stifles innovation
    In his push for the new health care law, President Obama blamed rising health care costs on the private sector, demonizing health insurers, doctors and pharmaceutical companies. But the reality is that Americans have greatly benefited from competition within these groups.
    Anyone who argues that America’s free-market approach to health care is the problem fails to understand the benefits that have emerged as a result of this approach. This industry relies on direct competition, the end result of which is that as a nation, we are healthier and better off.
    Jeffrey S. Flier, dean of Harvard’s Medical School, wrote in The Wall Street Journal that one of the greatest casualties of the new health care law will be medical innovation — a hallmark of American health care.
  • Democrats Accused of Trying to ‘Intimidate’ Firms for Airing Health Care Concerns The CEOs of some of the country’s biggest companies are being summoned to Washington to defend claims that the health care reform law would cost them millions — a move Republicans say amounts to intimidation.
    Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, on Friday fired off letters to the heads of Caterpillar, Verizon, AT&T and Deere after they and other firms reported that the health care overhaul would dig deep into their bottom lines.
  • Consensus: Healthcare Bill Falls Short on Controlling Costs
    Forty-seven percent of Americans polled by USA Today/Gallup March 26-28 say it is a good thing the plan passed, while 50% call it a bad thing.
    These findings — in particular the large majority still desiring a public option — could explain why more advocates of the reform bill do not feel “enthusiastic” about it. According to Gallup polling conducted immediately after passage, most supporters of the bill said they were “pleased” rather than “enthusiastic” (66% vs. 29%). By contrast, nearly as many opponents of the bill were “angry” as “disappointed” (46% vs. 52%).
  • Seniors fear health care remake will hurt Medicare WASHINGTON — Seniors aren’t breaking out the champagne for President Barack Obama’s health care law, and for good reason. While Democrats hail the overhaul as their greatest health care achievement since Medicare, seniors fear it’s a raid on that same giant health care program — a bedrock of retirement security — in order to pay for covering younger, uninsured workers and their families.
    There’s no doubt that broad cuts in projected Medicare payments to insurance plans, hospitals, nursing homes and other service providers will sting. What hasn’t sunk in yet is that the new law also improves the lot of many Medicare beneficiaries. Obama is hoping that most will eventually conclude the plusses outweigh the minuses.
    Keenly aware that this is a congressional election year, Democrats structured the law so virtually all the cuts start next year and take effect only gradually. For this year, the law provides a sweetener. More than 3 million seniors who have been falling into a Medicare prescription coverage gap will get a $250 rebate, a down payment on closing the “doughnut hole.”
  • US health-care reform may squeeze some firms, retirees

    NEW YORK — The sweeping reform of the US health-care system could exact a high price on some businesses and deprive two million Americans of health insurance, industry and union leaders say.
    President Barack Obama on Tuesday signed a final, adjusted version of the health care reform bill into law, capping a historic overhaul that extends health insurance to an additional 32 million Americans.
    Congress, controlled by Obama’s Democratic Party, passed the legislation without a single vote from Republicans, who say the 940-billion-dollar reform is too costly.
    On Friday, telecommunications giant AT&T said it would take a one-billion-dollar charge in the first quarter of 2010 to cover changes in US health-care law.
    AT&T and other firms have pointed out the financial impact of the reform, which includes the elimination of a tax break to companies providing medication coverage to their retired employees.

  • Obamacare Starts Squeezing the Private Sector The news on healthcare reform this week is that right off the bat, the major corporations are discovering they will be losing stunning amounts to taxes as a result of Obamacare… If all this sounds familiar, it should. It is exactly what Republicans predicted would happen if Obamacare became law. If existing employee benefits were taxed or made more expensive, the GOP argued, employers would either have to absorb the loss or start pushing their employees into whatever ‘government option’ became available.
  • Obama’s Health Care Bill Is Not What He Promised
    Would Barack Obama and the Democrats have won in 2008 if he had promised what he ended up doing: to dramatically increase government spending and deficits, raise taxes on the middle class, hide special deals on health care, and make it impossible for people to keep their current doctors and health insurance plans?
  • Companies Push to Repeal Provision of Health LawAn association representing 300 large corporations urged President Obama and Congress on Monday to repeal a provision of the health care overhaul that prompted AT&T, Caterpillar and other companies to announce substantial charges for the current quarter. The association, the American Benefits Council, said the provision - which reduces the tax deductions for companies with drug coverage for their retired employees - would deal a significant blow to corporate profits and would discourage companies from hiring more workers.
  • Is the Health Care Law Unconstitutional? “Just minutes after President Obama signed the health care legislation into law on Tuesday, 13 state attorneys general, led by Bill McCollum of Florida, filed a federal lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality. Virginia’s attorney general, Kenneth Cuccinelli, filed a similar suit the same day. Both complaints charge that Congress has no power under the Constitution’s Commerce Clause to require that all Americans buy health insurance or pay a penalty. Do the opponents have a strong case that the individual mandate is unconstitutional? How likely are the courts to strike down any part of the health legislation?”
  • Why the Health Care Bill is Unconstitutional
    Unless you live under a rock, you know that Congress passed the Obama-Pelosi Health care bill last week. If you have been stewing, crying, or a combination of the two, I have news that may brighten your spirits: the individual mandate in the bill is unconstitutional, and will, by any court that still believes in the Constitution as mandatory authority, be struck down.
  • The Health Care Liberation Movement

    In 1992, the Cato Institute published the book Patient Power, by John Goodman. That book proposed sweeping, fundamental reforms to maximize patient power and control over their own health care. Goodman, myself, and many others have worked on implementing such reforms ever since, with some substantial success over the years.
    Last weekend, the ultra-left President Obama, the far-left House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and the easily confused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid led enactment of just the opposite. We could rightly call it Government Power. Anyone who doesn’t understand that it is a complete government takeover of health care is not living in the real world.
  • Health Bill May Exempt Top Hill Staffers
    The health care reform bill signed into law by President Barack Obama Tuesday requires members of Congress and their office staffs to buy insurance through the state-run exchanges it creates – but it may exempt staffers who work for congressional committees or for party leaders in the House and Senate. Staffers and members on both sides of the aisle call it an “inequity” and an “outrage” – a loophole that exempts the staffers most involved in writing and passing the bill from one of its key requirements.
  • Republicans and ObamaCareAs for the White House, House GOP leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor in May sent a letter to President Obama “respectfully” requesting a meeting to discuss ideas. The White House didn’t respond. Mr. Obama’s first deadline for House passage was July, and only after public opinion turned against the bill did he begin to engage Republican ideas. Yet in his September address to Congress attempting to revive his bill, he made no concession save pilot projects for tort reform.
  • Obama’s Purple PoliticsThe health care reform bill was a partisan Democrat smorgasbord of taxes, regulations and entitlement. There was nothing bipartisan about it, but there the Democrats were, wearing their purple and attacking Republicans for uniformly opposing the bill that didn’t have any Republican votes because it didn’t earn any.
  • Health Measure’s Opponents Plan Legal Challenges Officials in a dozen states who oppose the health care bill say they hope to block it in court by arguing that requiring people to buy health insurance is an unprecedented intrusion by the federal government into people’s lives - the equivalent of going a step beyond simply regulating automobiles to requiring people to buy a car.
  • A Look at the Health Care Overhaul BillAlmost everyone is required to be insured or else pay a fine…Childless adults would be covered [by Medicaid] for the first time, starting in 2014… [A] special deal that would have given Nebraska 100 percent federal financing for newly eligible Medicaid recipients in perpetuity is eliminated. A different, one-time deal negotiated by Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu for her state, Louisiana, worth as much as $300 million, remains…employers are hit with a fee if the government subsidizes their workers’ coverage. The $2,000-per-employee fee would be assessed on the company’s entire work force, minus an allowance.
  • Petrash: Expect Health Care Reform to Cost Trillions, not Billions

    The more I read and watch Congress in action, the more I realize that Obama’s plan to reform the health care system is really a veiled attempt to radically transform this nation, from free enterprise and independent to socialistic and government-dependent. First it was the bailouts which were tantamount to government ownership of the major industries of this country, i.e., banking, automobile and now health care. Health care reform was supposed to be a good-faith effort to cut costs and expand coverage. Now we hear from the Congressional Budget Office that the reform bill will cost upwards of $940 billion.
  • Is Health Care Reform Constitutional? Virginia’s attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli II, has said he will file a legal challenge to the bill, arguing in a column this month that reform legislation ‘violate[s] the plain text of both the Ninth and Tenth Amendments.’ On Friday, South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster and Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced that they will file a federal lawsuit if health-care reform legislation passes.
  • ObamaCare: A Fraud From A To Z ObamaCare is an attempt by the federal government to takeover one-sixth of the American economy, and expand an already outrageously bloated federal government and federal deficit. It would wreck the greatest health-care delivery system in the world, and would go a long way to wrecking our economy…It’s time to listen to the people, who know better than the radical ideologues and demagogues now in the White House.
  • Obamacare threatens U.S. futureBy now, most Americans know the dirty details of Obamacare. It raises taxes. It will force Americans to pay for other people’s abortions. It will put the government in charge of more than 18 percent of our private sector economy. It may provide benefits to up to 6.1 million illegal immigrants. It diminishes liberty and gives government more power…Most people today believe they have a better life than previous generations. But they are worried that their kids will be worse off. It is our children and our children’s children who have the most to lose under Obamacare.
  • Rep. Darrell Issa: The lackluster record of government-run health careBefore the Democrats who control Congress push through a trillion-dollar expansion of government-run health care, they might want to know the facts about how efficiently the government has handled health care in the past, and how much bigger the government will grow once the bill becomes law…. The taxpayers are not deceived. They know that the government’s track record in managing healthcare has proven less efficient and more expensive than private insurance. They know that the President’s plan is a recipe for more waste, fraud, and abuse.
  • Why Obamacare Would Fail Despite the polling numbers, the White House publicly insists that once Americans understand what’s in the bill, they’ll come to like it and over time will embrace it just like Social Security and Medicare. Yet the reverse is more likely to be true. Once Americans confront the consequences of this government takeover of the health care system, it will only become more unpopular.
  • House Democrats’ tactic for health-care bill is debatedRepublicans condemned Pelosi’s idea — in which House members would make a final decision on broad health-care changes without voting directly on the Senate version of the bill — as an abuse of the legislative process. House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) called it ‘the ultimate in Washington power grabs.
  • Op-Ed: Health bill is malpractice The American people have good reason to be concerned. The bill that may become law in a few days is not a collection of so-called fixes or compromises but the exact bill the Senate passed on Christmas Eve that was filled with backroom deals such as the Cornhusker Kickback. The Senate bill also still contains half a trillion dollars in Medicare cuts, half a trillion dollars in tax increases, job-killing penalties for employers, provisions that will cause premiums to spike, and radical provisions to fund abortion and ration health care.
  • Democrats on the defensive about ‘no vote’ plan to pass health bill The move would allow skittish Democrats to avoid going on record in favor of the original health care bill, which was authored by the Senate and includes many provisions they don’t like such as special deals carved out for certain states and a tax on expensive insurance policies. ‘Other than the people in this room, do you think any American is going to make a distinction?’ House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.
  • Democrats Against DemocracyPelosi signaled on Monday that she favors Rep. Louise Slaughter’s proposal to pass the health care bill, in the words of the Washington Post, ‘without having members vote on it.’ That’s an awfully peculiar step to take for a party that has spent the last few weeks clamoring about how democratic it would be to do away with the filibuster so we could at last have a simple majority vote on the health care bill in the Senate. What’s democratic about voting on a bill without voting on it?
  • Health-reform vote deserves a reasonable processWE UNDERSTAND the administration’s sense of urgency on health-care reform. But what is intended as a final sprint threatens to turn into something unseemly and, more important, contrary to Democrats’ promises of transparency and time for deliberation… These changes — the so-called reconciliation bill — are not all minor ‘fixes’; some could have far-reaching consequences. Such changes deserve to be fully understood and debated before they are voted on.
  • Obama tries to recast health plan as a moderate move In Cleveland, Obama said his plan ‘essentially’ does three things: It ends insurance company practices such as denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, creates market choices and makes insurance more affordable. Not mentioned: Federal government regulation of the industry, mandates to obtain coverage or face a tax penalty, new taxes on investments for upper income taxpayers and a tax on high-value benefits plans, among other things.
  • American Does not need Obamacare Hiding in the dark halls in our nation’s Capitol is a bill some call ‘Obamacare,’ a government-funded health plan. Government health care has been attempted before and defeated every time… Comparing the systems of three individual nations, the one with the least amount of government interference is the one that is the most successful. That system is here in America.
  • House Budget Committee Approves a Reconciliation BillBy a vote of 21 to 16, the House Budget Committee on Monday advanced a budget reconciliation bill to the next stage of the legislative process. As yet, the bill contains no specific language related to health care; those provisions are to be added by the House rules committee later this week. Instead, the bill establishes a legislative framework by which to modify the Senate-passed health care bill… Under a procedure being considered by House Democrats, the Senate bill would be ‘deemed passed,’ without actually being voted on, when the House adopts rules for debate on the budget reconciliation bill.
  • Democrats lack health care votes, but not bravado‘No, we don’t have them as of this morning,’ House Majority Whip James Clyburn, D-S.C., said on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press,’ when asked whether the votes were there… Pelosi and other top Democrats have refused to say when they plan to take up a bill or what provisions will be in it. House Democratic leaders are pushing for a vote as early as this week or at least before the two-week Easter recess that begins March 26.
  • Homestretch scramble for House votes on health careAfter nearly a year of haggling, most of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s 252 Democratic colleagues still have concerns about passing the Senate bill, even with some fixes. Their objections range from the ideological to the procedural, and the shape of the final package hinges on an obscure, unelected official - Senate parliamentarian Alan Frumin.
  • Democratic leaders say health bill will pass Democratic leaders scrambled Sunday to pull together enough support in the House for a make-or-break decision on health-care reform later this week, expressing optimism that a package will soon be signed into law by President Obama despite a lack of firm votes for passage. The rosy predictions of success, combined with the difficult realities of mustering votes, underscore the gamble that the White House and congressional Democrats are poised to make in an attempt to push Obama’s health-care plans across the finish line.
  • Health-Care Endgame Begins House Democrats laid the groundwork for a vote on a health-care overhaul as early as next Friday and President Barack Obama postponed an overseas trip to be on hand for what he hopes will be the passage of his top domestic priority.”
  • If Democrats ignore health-care polls, midterms will be costly…Acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts’ — captures the conditions that are gripping President Obama and the Democratic Party leadership as they renew their efforts to enact health-care reform. Their blind persistence in the face of reality threatens to turn this political march of folly into an electoral rout in November..
  • Why Health Reform Is Bad Politics No way around it, the politics of ObamaCare are bad. So bad that it lends credence to the belief that some in the White House and Congress are far more ideologically interested in establishing European-style health care than they are the public’s will or their party’s electoral success. The question now is how many congressional Democrats are going to follow them into a political black hole.
  • Pelosi: ‘The choice has to be made’ Congressional Democrats embarked on the final push for an historic health care bill on Thursday with no guarantee that they have the votes to pass it…. Democratic leaders were nonetheless gearing up for a pair of committee hearings next week that will start the clock on a final, down-to-the-wire vote, which will require House Democrats to swallow their significant distaste for the Senate bill and to vote on faith that Senate leaders can muster the support to change it.
  • Parliamentarian’s ruling deals blow to Democrats’ healthcare reform chances The Senate parliamentarian has delivered a blow to Democrats by ruling President Barack Obama must sign the broader Senate healthcare legislation before the upper chamber can take up changes demanded by the House…. Ultimately, the parliamentarian’s ruling could cost healthcare reform crucial votes in the House, as some lawmakers may view it less likely the Senate will adopt their requested changes at a later date.”
  • Obama’s deadline plays havoc with health passageThe White House fondness for deadlines is once again playing havoc with President Obama’s agenda, this time on health care…. But the many moving parts of Congress are balking at the administration’s timetable — and have learned from several previous forays that missing them carry virtually no consequences. ‘Any talk of deadlines is an absolute waste of time,’ said Sen. Kent Conrad, a North Dakota Democrat and chairman of the Senate Budget Committee.
  • Obama wants side deals out of billPresident Barack Obama is pushing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to go further than Obama has previously disclosed to strip the final health care reform bill of the narrow deals aimed at appeasing specific senators… Ever since last-minute deal making helped sour voters on the Senate bill that passed on Christmas Eve, any provision identified by Republicans or the media as benefiting a single state or a small number of states has sat on shaky ground.
  • McConnell Knocks White House Fraud InitiativeThe Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, said that President Obama’s new initiative to root out fraud in government health programs could be accomplished without the Democrats’ expansive health care legislation… ‘Tackling fraud and abuse is one of the issues that can and should form the basis of a bipartisan, step-by-step approach to health care reform - not as a hook to drag this monstrous bill over the finish line..
  • Democrats: No thanks to new ‘Gang of 14′Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) wants to revive the bipartisan Gang of 14 - this time for health care reform, not judicial nominees… ‘Many Republicans who were ready to pull the trigger on the nuclear option on judges are now glad they didn’t,’ Graham said. ‘This place would have ceased to function as we know it. If they do health care through reconciliation, it will be the same consequence. So if you are a moderate Democrat out there looking for a way to deliver health care reforms and not pull the nuclear trigger, there is a model to look at.
  • Bending the Cost Curve — With a CrowbarHaving failed to excite the majority of American about covering 30 million of their fellow citizens at the expense of jeopardizing their own medical care, the Obama Administration has settled on an even more implausible reform argument — extending these benefits will lower medical costs.
  • Dems are stuck with a mess of their own making There’s a lively debate going on in the blogosphere and the press about whether Democrats would be better off passing or not passing a health care bill. Some liberals claim that Democrats would be better off passing a bill, any bill, even if it’s unpopular with the general electorate… Others, mostly conservatives but also some liberals speaking privately, figure that Democrats would be better off letting the issue drop… But sometimes in politics there is no course that leads to success. Disaster lies ahead whatever you do. In this view, the Democrats’ mistake was making government-directed health care a priority in the first place.
  • Parliamentary Hurdle Could Thwart Latest Health Care Overhaul StrategyThe White House and Democratic Congressional leaders said Tuesday that they were bracing for a key procedural ruling that could complicate their effort to approve major health care legislation, by requiring President Obama to sign the bill into law before Congress could revise it through an expedited budget process.
  • Obama on the road to pitch health billSeeking to close the deal on a health care overhaul, President Obama is getting out of Washington, leaving the city he loves to bash and giving himself a platform to portray himself as an outsider going up against big insurance companies and their Capitol Hill lobbyists.
  • Four big obstacles remain for ObamacareHouse Democratic leaders concede they do not have enough support to pass President Obama’s health care package, but the party is hopeful it will come up with the 216 votes needed to pass the bill before the March 18 deadline set by the White House. But first they will have to clear a number of hurdles standing in the way of passage.
  • Hidden Dangers It’s all supposed to be voluntary, those ‘home visits’ that are tucked into the mammoth Obamacare bill. All voluntary, they say, but once you ‘volunteer’ to have the oh-so-helpful folks from Social Services come in to help with your newborns, or with a number of other specified issues, will you ever be able to get rid of them? The bill provides for federal funding and supervision for this vast expansion of government intrusion into family life… Is your family being ‘targeted’ for such home visitations? Let’s see if you fit into one of these very broad categories…
  • President Obama takes reform on the roadA trio of national polls taken in late February shows opposition to the Democrats’ health plan at between 47 percent and 52 percent. Support hovers in the 41 percent-to-44 percent range, with most of the intensity on the side of those opposed. Moreover, a big majority of poll respondents say they want the White House to focus more attention on job creation and the economy than on the yearlong health reform push.
  • A Handy Road Map for the Final WeeksThis really is the home stretch in the health care debate. But after 199 laps around the racetrack, it is hard not to feel dizzy, and even a little lost. So here is a handy road map for the next three weeks - a sort of GPS guide to the health care finish line.
  • Obama to appeal for public support on health care With the fate of his signature legislative initiative far from certain, President Barack Obama is taking his last-ditch push for health care reform on the road… Though his plan has received only modest public support, Obama has implored lawmakers to show political courage and not let a historic opportunity slip away..
  • Baird: Healthcare votes of retiring Democrats aren’t necessarily in the bag Rep. Brian Baird (D-Wash.) stressed Sunday that the votes of retiring Dems such as himself aren’t necessarily in the bag. Appearing across from Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rep. Chris Van Hollen (Md.) on CNN’s ‘State of the Union,’ Baird heartily agreed in principle with the need to reform healthcare but expressed reservations about the current bills. He responded ‘yes’ when host Candy Crowley asked if he would vote against the current proposals even if it meant that healthcare reform went down.
  • Lieberman: Bipartisanship the best route for health careSen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., who broke with Democratic leadership on a public option and expansion of Medicare as part of health care reform, is now not sure he will vote for the overhaul if it depends on use of reconciliation. In a conference call Thursday, Lieberman said a Republican colleague told him there will no agreement on any legislation going forward if the major health bill passes through this parliamentary tactic, which requires only a simple majority, avoiding a filibuster and the 60 votes needed to overcome one. He said reconciliation is usually “not used on something this big,” and said the best thing is to have bipartisan agreement.
  • A dozen Democrats may sink health care reform over abortion Appearing this morning on ABC’s Good Morning America, Rep. Bart Stupak told George Stephanopoulos that he and 11 other Democrats will not vote for the health care bill unless it includes more stringent language to prevent federal funding from going toward abortion services. The Michigan Democrat was the author of the Stupak Amendment which became part of the House bill after a vote of 240-194.
  • Dems Race to Pass Health Care Bill as Tea Partiers Plan Town Hall WaveDemocrats are racing the clock to pass health care reform ahead of a wave of Tea Party-driven town hall meetings planned for the spring recess — the kind of gatherings that nearly derailed the package last August. But there’s a big difference this time around. Last summer, Democrats were encouraged to hold the town hall meetings, and they were blindsided by the backlash, which was recorded and promoted in countless YouTube clips. This time around, they have a good idea of what’s coming — and they’re lying low, in case work on health care carries over into the recess.
  • Obama wants Dems to keep trying on stalled plan President Obama’s Republican-flavored health-care proposal landed with a thud on Capitol Hill, where backers face a brutal fight to get it passed… ‘The fact is, reconciliation wasn’t designed to be, and has never been, used as a partisan political tactic to force wildly unpopular policies on America,’ said Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.
  • W.H. warns Dems: Don’t flip-flopTwo senior administration officials said the White House is telling Democrats reconsidering their support for health care reform that they will pay the price for their original vote no matter what happens, so they should reap the political benefits of actually passing a law.
  • President Launches Last Push on Health-Care Overhaul With polls showing that the legislation is unpopular and congressional Democrats bracing for big losses in this fall’s elections, the president urged them to ignore the politics. ‘I do not know how this plays politically, but I know it’s right,’ he said. ‘Let’s get it done.
  • Obama: ‘Congress owes the American people a final vote on healthcare’Republicans seem pretty certain about how they think it will play with voters: ‘This is politically toxic in the extreme,’ said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). ‘What we know about the healthcare bill is that the people don’t want it passed. It’s overwhelmingly unpopular. I assure you that… there’s an overwhelming likelihood that every Republican candidate will be campaigning to repeal it,’ McConnell said.
  • President Obama looking for up-or-down voteObama is expected to stop short of formally calling for the use of reconciliation when he addresses his plans for health reform in remarks at the White House Wednesday, but officials say his message will be clear - Congress should take an up-or-down vote on a comprehensive plan.
  • Obama cites GOP ideas as he preps health care planIn a bit of political sleight of hand, Obama said he might include four GOP-sponsored ideas in his plan, even though virtually no one in Congress or the White House thinks it will procure a single Republican vote. The move is aimed instead at wavering Democrats, especially in the House. Some of them might find it easier to vote for the health care package if they can tell constituents it had bipartisan elements that Republicans should have supported.
  • What Obama ‘left out’ about the uninsured Over the last year, Obama has offered three rationales for reform: cutting costs, curbing insurance industry “abuses” that undermine middle-class security, and insuring the uninsured. In his riposte to Barrasso, though, the old community organizer really seemed to be speaking from the heart. This was a case for health reform as social justice, and Obama made it with conviction. Just one question: Does it correspond to the facts?
  • Government heath care—whether you want it or notAmericans do not want this massive government takeover of our health care. Fearing that Cajun extraterrestrial James Carville is correct, Obama is intent on ramming it down our throats. This is not about what’s right; it’s about politicians perpetuating their power.
  • Reconciliation on health care would be an assault to the democratic processAmerica’s Founders gave us a system of governance designed to limit government power and maximize liberty… No single branch has all the power… To impose the will of some Democrats and to circumvent bipartisan opposition, President Obama seems to be encouraging Congress to use the “reconciliation” process, an arcane budget procedure, to ram through the Senate a multitrillion-dollar health-care bill that raises taxes, increases costs and cuts… But the Constitution intends the opposite process, especially for a bill that would affect one-sixth of the American economy.
  • Pelosi’s challenge: Hold the lineThe world has changed a lot since the House passed its health care bill last fall. Back then, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi passed the bill with just two votes to spare. If she took the same vote today, she’d have the bare minimum of votes she would need, after the death of Pennsylvania Rep. John Murtha, three House resignations and the defection of the only Republican to vote yes.
  • EDITORIAL: Canada’s warning against government health care President Obama and congressional Democrats are ramping up efforts to ram through a government takeover of the health care system. The vast majority of Americans are opposed to this bureaucratic power grab because they know government will do what it always does, which is increase cost while lowering efficiency and service. In case there’s any doubt, all you have to do is look to our neighbor to the north for tales of doom and gloom that come with nationalized health care. Canada provides a clear warning about government involvement in health care as even its most prominent citizens come to America for important procedures.
  • Health care summit uselessBefore last Thursday’s health care summit devolved into a classic blame game, there was a slight hope of some meaningful health care reform. Republicans and Democrats both mentioned fraud prevention and tort reform as worthwhile goals. Many Republicans also want to allow people to buy health care across state lines, increasing competition. Unfortunately, Democrats will not pass any of these goals. They see themselves too close to their ultimate objective of a massive increase in the power of the federal government to make sacrifices for health care.
  • Democrats dig in for last standDemocrats, including President Barack Obama, like to say Americans care more about the shape of a final bill than the way it was passed. But the Senate health care bill has suffered, in part, because of a voter backlash over the tactics Democrats employed to secure 60 votes in the Senate. Republicans are craving a repeat.
  • McCain: Obama, Congress Must Move Past ‘Unsavory Deals’McCain said he hoped last week’s health care summit at the Blair House could be “the basis for some good negotiations,” but said that would be undercut if Democrats tried to move the health care reform bill under reconciliation protections requiring just a simple majority in the Senate. McCain said he and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) would unveil legislation limiting the use of reconciliation related to entitlement programs.
  • Pelosi to Dems: back health bill even if it hurtsHouse Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged her colleagues to back a major overhaul of U.S. health care even if it threatens their political careers, a call to arms that underscores the issue’s massive role in this election year.
  • Democrats push ahead on health care, against nation’s wishesThese promises are of a kind with the others made by supporters of health care reform: that people will be able to keep their existing coverage; that those in the middle class will face no tax increases to pay for the expanding coverage; that the quality of care will not decline. These promises are empty. These promises are false. They have no connection with economic reality.
  • The aftermath of the health care summit: Confusion, conflict
    So that means a party looking to emerge from the summit with a clear sense of the path forward instead find itself in the same old place - fighting the clock to finish health care, with an uncertain timeline, a complex legislative path and no idea if its leaders can muster the votes.
  • At health-care summit, Obama tells Republicans he’s eager to move aheadPresident Obama declared Thursday that the time for debate over health-care reform has come to an end, closing an unusual seven-hour summit with congressional leaders by sending a clear message that Democrats will move forward to pass major legislation with or without Republican support.
  • More Talk, No Deal at Health Summit At the end of the session, the president suggested that if no deal was at hand, Democrats would press forward alone and let voters be the ultimate judge. ‘That’s what elections are for,’ he said.
  • President Urges Focus on Common Ground By day’s end, it seemed clear that the all-day televised session might have driven the parties even farther apart. Republicans said there was no way they would vote for Mr. Obama’s bill, and Democrats were talking openly about pushing it through Congress on a simple majority vote using a controversial parliamentary maneuver known as reconciliation.
  • Less health care for massesAmericans are going to hear lots of scare- mongering anecdotes at today’s health care summit, such as the 39 percent increase in insurance premiums announced this month by Anthem Blue Cross, a California company. President Obama and the Democrats have a solution: Pass a law to impose additional coverage by insurance companies, eliminate the multimillion-dollar cap insurance policies have on total benefits, and pile on lots of new red tape. These policies are guaranteed to raise rates.
  • What to watch for at the health care summitThursday’s made-for-TV health reform summit is shaping up to be more like a presidential debate (without the podiums) than a backroom negotiation in which horses are traded and deals get done. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be illuminating, with Democrats and Republicans debating their differences in living color, not just on health care but on the role of government in American life. Here is what to watch for Thursday…
  • Report Concludes President Obama’s Health Proposal Would Lead to Public Option President Obama’s new health care plan will all but guarantee the elimination of private insurance and lead to a single payer government-run health care system, says a new report, “White House Health Care Plan Contains Back Door to a Public Option” by policy analyst Matt Patterson of the National Center For Public Policy Research.” Learn more about the findings.
  • Senate Dems warm to reconciliationAn idea that seemed toxic only weeks ago - using a parliamentary tactic to ram health reform through the Senate - is gaining acceptance among moderate Democrats who have resisted the strategy but now say GOP opposition may force their hands… Democrats remain hesitant about using the procedure, fearful that Republicans will be successful in convincing voters that it is an end-run around the normal legislative process.
  • Obama’s nanny care insults the American spiritYou are victims. You are helpless against the wiles of big corporations and insurance companies and you need protection. You need the government to take over and do things you cannot do for yourself.That is the thinking of what David Brooks calls ‘the educated class’ that favors the Democrats’ health care bills… But voters quickly sniff out what this means. The government will use the ’science’ of comparative effectiveness research to achieve cost savings the only way government can: denial of care.
  • For Dems and GOP alike, optics are everything The official objective of Thursday’s health care summit at Blair House is to air a frank, public exchange of ideas that could lead to a thus-far elusive bipartisan compromise demanded by the American people. The Democrats’ unstated goal, of course, is to make congressional Republicans look like a bunch of whiny, cynical, ideologically bankrupt crybabies who don’t have a plan of their own.
  • Key Dems: The public option is dead After months on life support, the public option died Tuesday. The White House and House leaders on Tuesday pronounced the government-run health program dead even as some Democratic senators continued their effort to resurrect it.
  • Tony Fratto: Instead of Fixing Health Insurance Markets, Obama Plans to Fix PricesMake no mistake: having a White House-appointed panel set prices in health insurance is - effectively - government-run health insurance, and far more onerous than the so-called ‘public option’ rejected by Congress and the American people over the past year.
  • Weiner: ‘This is a 51 vote plan, not a 60 vote plan’[T]his bill is a 51 vote plan and not a 60 vote plan - that is great news,’ Weiner said in a statement. ‘Democrats wasted a year bowing to the altar of Olympia Snowe, Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson and it got us nowhere.
  • Obama is the real obstructionist at his health-care summit
    Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) says of this week’s bipartisan health-care summit: ‘Sounds like the Democrats spell summit: S-E-T-U-P…’ The president’s real objective is to paint GOP leaders as obstructionists — so that Democrats have an excuse to ram through their health-care legislation using extraordinary parliamentary procedures.
  • New health care plan, but with the same old problems The White House opened its last-ditch push for health reform Monday by releasing a $950 billion plan that signaled a new phase of hands-on presidential involvement. But by day’s end, President Barack Obama was staring down all the same old problems. Republicans called it a retread of the same bills Americans have panned, even though it included some GOP ideas. “Déjà vu all over again,” said Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.).
  • Obama sets stage for summit fight
    Republican leaders fiercely criticized the proposal, declaring it a partisan document that contradicts Obama’s claim that he will enter Thursday’s healthcare sit-down with an open mind. ‘The president has crippled the credibility of this week’s summit by proposing the same massive government takeover of healthcare based on a partisan bill the American people have already rejected,’ House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio.) said. ‘This week’s summit clearly has all the makings of a Democratic infomercial.
  • Sebelius: White House may fight for public option in health bill
    Eighteen Senators have signed a letter asking Harry Reid to push for the public option using reconciliation, which would allow Democrats to pass it with just 51 votes. (Republicans may be able to slow or halt the processing with procedural objections.) Appearing on MSNBC tonight, Sebelius said the administration would back that decision.
  • Obama to Offer Health Bill to Ease Impasse as Bipartisan Meeting Approaches
    Democratic officials said the president’s proposal was being written so that it could be attached to a budget bill as a way of averting a Republican filibuster in the Senate. The procedure, known as budget reconciliation, would let Democrats advance the bill with a simple majority rather than a 60-vote supermajority. Congressional Democrats, however, have not yet seen the proposal or signed on.
  • Obama to get specific on healthcare legislation President Obama, after sustaining months of criticism for not being clear about what he wanted in healthcare legislation, will post specific proposals for a comprehensive plan on the Internet by Monday, according to the White House… ‘I think the idea is that it will take some of the best of the ideas [from the House and Senate bills] and put them into a framework moving forward,’ Sebelius said.
  • Rep. Boehner: If Democrats are finishing the healthcare bill, why have a summit?
    House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) doesn’t much like the fact that Democrats continue to piece together an agreement on healthcare reform in advance of a bipartisan summit next week - and mocks their inability to do so successfully… ‘We don’t need a six-hour infomercial for the latest Democratic backroom deal. We need to start over on real health care reforms to lower costs. That’s what the American people want, and what they deserve.’
  • Republican Holds Out Hope on Health Care Overhaul Unlike some of his lame-duck colleagues, Sen. Judd Gregg isn’t disillusioned with Congress. Bipartisanship isn’t dead, he says, and neither is health care reform… But the plan is almost secondary to the approach Gregg is pushing: Start from scratch and work through the goals Republicans and Democrats agree on one by one rather than using the Democratic bills as a starting point or pitting them against a Republican-crafted alternative.
  • Four more Dem senators sign on to public option letterFour more Democratic senators have signed on to a letter asking Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to bring the public option back up for a vote. Today, Sens. Al Franken, Pat Leahy, John Kerry and Sheldon Whitehouse signed on to the letter sent to Reid yesterday…. Still, its inclusion in a reconciliation bill is a long shot, as many Senate Democrats are loath to refight the public option battle.
  • Zogby Poll Shows Americans Unwilling to Pay Higher Taxes to Insure Everybody The poll showed that Americans opposed the health care legislation by a 51 percent to 40 percent margin. More tellingly, the intensity was on the side of the opponents, with 43 percent saying they ’strongly oppose’ the bill compared to just 20 percent who say they ’strongly support’ it.
  • Is Health Care Overhaul Doomed to Failure?As Democrats and Republicans sharpen their knives ahead of President Obama’s summit on health care, experts are questioning whether the president’s health care agenda is doomed to fail just as President Clinton’s did in the 1990’s. ‘If I had to place a bet on it, I would say two to one, it doesn’t [pass],’ said Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research and a proponent of health care reform.
  • Both sides push health debate mythsAhead of next week’s White House summit on health care, both parties are pressing story lines on how the reform debate has played out that aren’t as tidy or truthful as Democrats and Republicans would like voters to believe…. The summit could help reset the negotiations, but with Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, other top administration officials and 37 lawmakers all in attendance, the likelihood of a serious breakthrough appears dim.
  • Excise Tax Loses Support Amid White House Push An agreement to tax high-cost, employer-sponsored health insurance plans, announced with fanfare by the White House and labor unions last month, is losing support from labor leaders, who say the proposal is too high a price to pay for the limited health care package they expect to emerge from Congress… With support for the tax eroding, Congressional leaders are searching for alternative sources of revenue.
  • Progressives and the growing dependency agendaMost Democrats favor a ‘public option’ — a government health insurance program. They say there is insufficient competition among the 1,300 private providers of insurance…For congressional Democrats, however, expanding dependency on government is an end in itself. They began the Obama administration by expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. It was created for children of the working poor, but the expansion made millions of middle-class children eligible — some in households earning $125,000.
  • Dems Eye ‘Reconciliation’ on Health Care, But Tactic Is No Smooth SolutionReconciliation is a seldom-used and controversial tactic that allows bills to be passed in the Senate with only a simple majority of votes, and Democrats said this week they are considering it as part of a plan to push through their stalled health care reform legislation in the face of entrenched Republican opposition…some Democrats believe the threat of reconciliation will be an effective negotiating tool going into the bipartisan health care reform summit scheduled for later this month.
  • Get ready to call time of death on healthcare reform Healthcare reform is clinically dead. It is like a patient who has unexpectedly slipped into a coma without a do-not-resuscitate order. No one wants to disconnect life support. What was once so promising and vibrant is suddenly lifeless…There are many reasons why reform has failed. Here are my top 10…Reform must be bipartisan…’What’s in it for me?’ was never adequately answered…It never was true health reform..
  • Interview with Senator Judd Gregg I think it is possible for a fair number of conservative senators, like myself, be willing to sign onto a bill that unalterably bends in the odd year the cost of health care and uses Medicare savings to make Medicare solvent. There is extraordinary fertile ground there. We are talking not hundreds of billions but trillions of dollars of potential adjustments in the unfunded liability and Medicare.
  • Obama maps a way forward for a health OverhaulDespite their enthusiasm and Mr. Obama’s, it is no longer clear that Senate leaders could muster even 51 votes to make fast-tracked changes to the Senate-passed health bill, let alone the 60 votes it would take to approve a revised measure under the normal rules.
  • Obama suggests Republicans could have a role in health-care billPresident Obama urged congressional Democrats on Wednesday “to finish the job on health care,” but amid tentative signs of bipartisan outreach on Capitol Hill, he suggested that Republicans could be enlisted to play at least some role in negotiating a final bill.
  • Scott Brown sworn in as new Massachusetts GOP SenatorScott Brown was sworn in by Vice President Biden shortly after 5 p.m., ending the Democrats’ supermajority in the Senate and becoming the Republicans’ so-called “41st vote” to block Democrats’ proposals on health care reform — as well as anything else Republicans are able to line up to block by filibuster.
  • Democrats protect backroom dealsThe health care bill is in trouble, but a series of narrow deals - each designed to win over a wavering senator or key interest group - is alive and well, despite voter anger over the parochial horse-trading that marked the rush toward passage before Christmas… But Washington being Washington, none of that has cooled the appetite of senators and House members to tailor the bill to their specific needs - even though some Democrats worry that it could help destroy any chances of resurrecting reform, if lawmakers seem oblivious to voters’ concerns.
  • Obama’s words fail to bridge health care divide President Barack Obama exhorted Democrats to ‘finish the job’ on a health care overhaul Wednesday, but his comments failed to bridge deep divisions within his party… The legislation remains stuck in limbo, and there were fresh signs Wednesday of greater skepticism among some rank-and-file Democrats. California Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa, both moderates who voted for the House-passed health bill, burst out laughing when asked about the issue’s fate.
  • Scott Brown will be sworn in as Massachusetts senator Thursday Sen.-elect Scott Brown (R), the successor to the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), will be sworn in to office Thursday afternoon, giving Republicans 41 seats in the upper chamber… Brown’s entry into the Senate marks the formal end of the Democrats’ filibuster-proof Senate majority.
  • Matt Patterson: Rhetoric of fear behind health care agenda How do you convince people who are happy with what they have to go along with radical change? Convince them that what they are happy with can be lost at any time, and through no fault of their own. In other words, scare them… It is true that America’s peculiar system of employer-based health coverage makes the prospect of job loss all the more terrifying, but this is an argument for decoupling health insurance from employment, not an argument for expanding government. In fact, the existing system that creates so much insecurity is a result of too much government — World War II-era wage and price controls.
  • Republicans urge Democrats to start all over on health care As senior Democrats struggled to rescue their health-care legislation, Republicans urged President Obama and congressional leaders to give up on the unpopular bill and launch bipartisan talks on a new consensus approach… Despite the GOP’s near-lockstep opposition to Democratic health-care efforts over the past year, Boehner insisted that he wasn’t urging his Democratic colleagues to walk away from the cause. ‘Let’s start over on common sense steps that we can take to make our system work better,’ the Ohio Republican said. ‘No one in Washington thinks our current health care system is perfect and certainly not Republicans.’
  • Deja vu a
    nightmare for Democrats?
    The parallels to 1994 - the last time health reform died - are unmistakable. Democratic senators huddled for weeks in backroom meetings, groping for a workable alternative. Some of the attempts at reviving it were genuine, while others were only designed to suggest forward progress, observers recall. After four or five weeks, the effort was abandoned as Democrats geared up for the midterm elections. The same signs are all there for health care, circa 2010. No one in Congress will say it’s dead, but smart people can’t figure out how it stays alive.
  • Democrats quietly working to resuscitate healthcare overhaul President Obama’s campaign to overhaul the nation’s healthcare system is officially on the back burner as Democrats turn to the task of stimulating job growth, but behind the scenes party leaders have nearly settled on a strategy to salvage the massive legislation. They are meeting almost daily to plot legislative moves while gently persuading skittish rank-and-file lawmakers to back a sweeping bill. This effort is deliberately being undertaken quietly as Democrats work to focus attention on more-popular initiatives to bring down unemployment…
  • Senate Dem: Health care bill ‘on life support’ President Barack Obama’s health care appeal failed to break the congressional gridlock Thursday, dimming hopes for millions of uninsured Americans. Democrats stared down a political nightmare - getting clobbered for voting last year for ambitious, politically risky bills, yet having nothing to show for it in November.
  • Health care moves to back burner Democrats in Congress said all the right things Thursday to show they were dutifully heeding the president’s call to keep plugging away on a health reform bill… But listen more closely, and it’s clear health care is already falling to the back of the legislative line, behind the Democrats’ feverish new focus on jobs and the economy.
  • Pelosi launches two-track approach to salvage healthcare House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Thursday described a two-track healthcare strategy, in which House Democrats will look to move a number of smaller measures that can gain widespread support as they try to pressure the Senate into adopting, through reconciliation, a package of House-made changes to the Senate healthcare bill.
  • State of health reform: Still grim With Democrats in Congress looking for a way out of the health care impasse, President Barack Obama offered them words of encouragement but little else -no concrete plan to jump-start progress on a bill, no timeline for getting it done and no guidance on what he wants to see in what was once his top legislative initiative.
  • Obama tries to salvage health care bill His health care remake near collapse, President Barack Obama on Wednesday implored lawmakers not to abandon a historic opportunity even as he accepted part of the blame for failing to sell the complex plan to average Americans… With more than a year of work in danger of being wasted, Obama failed to give lawmakers a roadmap - or timetable - for getting health care done. Deep disagreements on how to move forward have broken out among House and Senate Democrats and the speech didn’t bridge them.
  • Backlash on W.H.’s backroom deals A top House committee responded to the mounting voter backlash against backroom deals on health reform by seeking more information Wednesday about White House negotiations with industry groups.
    Hours before President Barack Obama delivered his State of the Union address, Republicans and Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee agreed to pursue a revised GOP request for additional documentation about the talks that led to a series of controversial administration agreements with doctors, hospitals and drug makers at the outset of the health care debate.
  • Obama to Party: Don’t ‘Run for the Hills’ President Obama vowed Wednesday night not to give up on his ambitious legislative agenda, using his first State of the Union address to chastise Republicans for working in lock-step against him and to warn Democrats to stiffen their political spines… Still, after a year of working to get health care passed, Mr. Obama said his No. 1 issue is now the economy and jobs. ‘Jobs must be our No. 1 focus in 2010,’ Mr. Obama said, adding ‘People are out of work. They are hurting. They need our help.
  • All Eyes on the State of the Union Address What will President Obama say about health care? White House officials have offered a preview in recent days of some of the main features of the president’s State of the Union address on Wednesday night… But officials were less forthcoming about what the president would say about the embattled health care overhaul, which for the moment, at least, remains Mr. Obama’s top domestic priority. On Capitol Hill, some lawmakers have already turned their attention to the issue of jobs and the economy, convinced that the health care bill at best will be stalled for several weeks and may not survive at all..
  • Backroom health care deals fuel voter anger Special legislative favors, especially one designed to secure a Nebraska senator’s vote for the embattled health care package, ignited so much public outrage that President Barack Obama is calling them a mistake and House leaders say the bill can’t be resurrected unless such sweetheart deals are scrapped.
    Obama says Americans were understandably upset by the backroom dealmaking that he called ugly… He acknowledged making ‘a legitimate mistake’ by letting White House and congressional negotiators include the items during last month’s closed-door negotiations.
  • Democrats Slow Efforts on Health Senate Democrats, struggling to find a way forward on their health bill, signaled Tuesday that they are no longer in a rush to pass the overhaul. After dominating the congressional agenda for months, fixing the health system is taking on less urgency as Democrats place more emphasis on measures to create jobs and help the economy recover.
  • Dem impasse on health bill continues Democrats searching for a way to resuscitate health reform ran into a wall of opposition from party moderates Tuesday - throwing into doubt whether congressional leadership can salvage the sweeping reform plan that once was President Barack Obama’s top domestic priority. Signs were everywhere that Democrats were quickly shifting their focus from health reform that dominated 2009 to a jobs-and-economy agenda they believe must dominate this midterm election year, with congressional leaders saying they doubted Obama will gave any clear guidance on how to proceed during Wednesday’s State of the Union address.
  • Dems look for a way to press ahead on health care President Obama’s top adviser and senior Democratic lawmakers on pledged to push forward with health care reform, insisting that the nation still wants legislation despite weakening poll numbers and a Republican win in a Massachusetts election that became a referendum on their proposal… Axelrod insisted that Scott Brown’s victory over Democrat Martha Coakley in the race to fill the seat long held by Ted Kennedy was not a signal from voters that they reject the $1 trillion Democratic health care proposal.
  • Democrats focus on key elements of health bill The White House, with its health-care initiative in doubt, on Sunday zeroed in on several elements it hoped would survive, including measures to extend the life of Medicare, lower prescription drug costs for seniors and cap consumers’ out-of-pocket medical expenses… White House officials notably didn’t emphasize that any revised legislation should include a major expansion of health insurance. Expanding coverage to the uninsured was the key plank of the parate health bills passed by the House and Senate last year, but such efforts largely accounted for the about $1 trillion cost of the bills, and Republicans decried them as too costly.
  • Hatch calls for restart on health care reform Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, said Sunday that Congress needs to hit the reset button on health care reform and that Republicans will work with their counterparts on new legislation — if Democrats allow it. ‘I don’t know one Republican who does not want health care reform,’ Hatch said on CNN’s State of the Union. ‘I don’t know one Republican who wouldn’t try to work together with the Democrats. We weren’t even involved in this process. We weren’t even asked.’
  • Cohn Heads Ignoring Brown’s huge upset victory and the fact that half of those who voted for him cited his stance on healthcare reform as the reason they did so, they are now arguing that the election results was not a referendum on health reform… Americans want affordable, understandable health care reform. To respond to that demand, legislators should stop listening to ‘experts’ who shaped the health care bill and excuse the deals needed to ram it through.
  • Pelosi: House won’t pass Senate bill to save health-care reform As Democrats continued to grapple with the consequences of their loss in Massachusetts, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Thursday eliminated the most obvious avenue for completing health-care reform, saying the House will not embrace the version of the legislation already approved by the Senate.
  • Filibuster reform headed for Senate floor; measure faces uphill battle Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) soon intends to introduce legislation that would take away the minority’s power to filibuster legislation. Harkin’s bill would still allow senators to delay legislation, but ultimately would give the majority the power to move past a filibuster with a simple majority vote.
  • Dem health care talks collapsing Health care reform teetered on the brink of collapse Thursday as House and Senate leaders struggled to coalesce around a strategy to rescue the plan, in the face of growing pessimism among lawmakers that the president’s top priority can survive. The legislative landscape was filled with obstacles: House Democrats won’t pass the Senate bill. Senate Democrats don’t want to start from scratch just to appease the House. And the White House still isn’t telling Congress how to fix the problem.
  • Calif. Democrats revive single-payer health care A key legislative committee in California revived a bill Thursday to create a government-run health care system in the nation’s most populous state, two days after Massachusetts elected a senator who opposes the president’s national health care plan… Republicans mocked majority Democrats for reviving the bill as health care reform flounders in Washington, and California struggles with a new $20 billion deficit. ‘California Democrats are either tone-deaf or delusional,’ California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring said in a statement.
  • House Democrats reluctant to take up Senate health-care reform bill Obama added to the confusion Wednesday when he seemed to endorse one option: having both the House and the Senate start from scratch, by voting on a scaled-back package of popular provisions that would crack down on insurance companies but provide health coverage to far fewer additional people… That message alarmed House Democratic leaders who had been seeking to round up votes for the Senate bill — Obama’s first choice, they had believed.
  • Democrats weigh scaled-down reform The White House’s stripped-down plan would include provisions such as tighter insurance regulations and moderate coverage expansions, according to Democratic officials. But it would amount to a major retreat from Obama’s initial vision of near-universal coverage - a stunning comedown made necessary by Republican Scott Brown’s Senate win.
  • Rep. Barney Frank walks back comment that healthcare compromise is ‘dead’ Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) on Wednesday walked back comments he previously made that the current healthcare reform negotiations are ‘dead.’ … ‘I have realized that my statement last night was more pessimistic than is called for, although I still regard the fact that the Republicans have now elected a 41st Senator as a serious obstacle to getting health care done,’ Frank said.
  • Obama retreats on health Winning Republican support for even a modified version of the bill also seemed unlikely. ‘You can’t drive a policy that doesn’t have the support of the American people,’ said Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe, the Republican who had shown the most openness to passing the bill during last year’s health negotiations. Republicans said the election results were a clear order to stop the health bill and start over. Asked whether he thought the bill was dead, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said: ‘I sure hope so.’
  • Malpractice system survives healthcare overhaul intact Critics, especially Republicans and doctors, had long complained that the medical malpractice system showered huge fees on attorneys, did little for ordinary Americans and added billions of dollars in costs… Even President Obama in a speech to the American Medical Assn. said he recognized the issue as a problem. But after a massive lobbying campaign and party-line votes in Congress, the malpractice system is largely untouched by the Democrats’ healthcare overhaul.
  • Upset could trigger healthcare rush Congressional Democrats are considering passing healthcare reform before the winner of the Massachusetts special election is seated in the upper chamber, Democratic sources say… This would be complicated enough in normal circumstances, but if Brown wins, they would have to do it within a span of seven to 15 days… ‘Trying to delay the seating of duly elected senator to jam through a bill that is tremendously unpopular would be met with outrage,’ said [a Congressional] aide. ‘The perception of this would be catastrophic.
  • No easy rescue plan for health care Ever since health care reform flamed out in the 1990s, Democrats thought lots of things might derail their longtime dream this time around. Losing a Senate seat in liberal Massachusetts was not on the list. But that is the harsh reality sinking in among Democrats - that a Republican victory Tuesday could spell the end of health reform because there is no good option to rescue the plan from this latest brush with political death.
  • Exchanges to raise prices, limit choices Both the House and Senate health-reform bills create health insurance exchanges, and both, I hope, will be scrapped by Democrats who are forging the final legislation. Of the two versions, however, the House plan is by far the worse. It is both national and more sweeping in scope, severely limiting choices and driving up premiums for everyone — especially for the young and healthy.
  • Democrats in Congress: Pass The Health Care Bill At Your Own Peril Americans are already mad, but if the Democrats in Congress shove this unconstitutional, buy-off-their-union-friends, Nationalized Health Care Bill down the collective throats of free Americans, we can’t predict the level of the unintended consequences or the fierce backlash that will result.
  • Health reform: ‘Repeal It’ campaign has Utah supporters A group of Utah politicos have signed a pledge to help repeal any health reform bill that Democrats may get into law… Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, is the most prominent politician from the state to sign the one-sentence pledge that says the signer promises ‘to sponsor and support legislation to repeal any federal health care takeover passed in 2010 and replace it with real reforms that lower health care costs without growing government.
  • Where U.S. Health Care Ranks Number One The comparative ranking system that most critics cite comes from the U.N.’s World Health Organization (WHO). The ranking most often quoted is Overall Performance, where the U.S. is rated No. 37… What apparently does not matter is that our population has universal access because most physicians treat indigent patients without charge and accept Medicare and Medicaid payments, which do not even cover overhead expenses. The WHO does rank the U.S. No. 1 of 191 countries for ‘responsiveness to the needs and choices of the individual patient.’ Isn’t responsiveness what health care is all about?
  • House Democrats confer on health-care reform Worried House Democrats held a caucus-wide conference call Thursday to strategize about health-care reform before lawmakers return to Washington next week… With Senate Democrats barely able to muster the 60 votes necessary to pass their own bill and President Obama leaning toward the Senate’s position on some key issues, House Democrats are increasingly concerned that they could be marginalized at the bargaining table.
  • Medicare and the Mayo Clinic President Obama last year praised the Mayo Clinic as a ‘classic example’ of how a health-care provider can offer ‘better outcomes’ at lower cost. Then what should Americans think about the famous Minnesota medical center’s decision to take fewer Medicare patients? Specifically, Mayo said last week it will no longer accept Medicare patients at one of its primary care clinics in Arizona. Mayo said the decision is part of a two-year pilot program to determine if it should also drop Medicare patients at other facilities in Arizona, Florida and Minnesota, which serve more than 500,000 seniors..
  • An unhealthy procedure Congress is about to perform one of the biggest mash-ups the country has ever seen in order to deliver a health care reform package to President Obama’s desk by February. And you won’t be in on it…Reform, something so contentious and important to the nation’s future, should not be dropped in our laps with a wink and a wave once the final bill has been hashed out. Political bickering, wheeling and dealing, and fact-twisting are inherent parts of government, but Americans must be part of the process - even if it is just watching the madness through a camera lens.
  • Democrats in Congress look for end run to health care win Congressional Democrats, eager to complete health care legislation by the end of the month, will try to skip the step of having a committee of House and Senate members craft a compromise bill from the different versions produced by the two chambers. Democratic leaders are close to an agreement to negotiate a compromise informally between the two chambers, thus bypassing the conference committee process that would allow Senate Republicans many opportunities to block the bill through the use of a filibuster.
  • Democrats in final push on US healthcare overhaul Democratic leaders could bypass a formal conference between the House and the Senate, shutting out Republicans and avoiding potential partisan procedural roadblocks, to work behind closed doors in concert with the White House to strike a compromise… That would allow Obama and his fellow Democrats to turn to other issues ahead of November’s congressional elections in which they will try to protect their majorities in the House and Senate.
  • Senate Likely to Have Edge as Democrats Craft Final Health Bill Senate Democrats will have the upper hand as U.S. lawmakers return to Washington this month to confront the last major hurdle in the effort to overhaul the nation’s health-care system… Senate Democrats have more clout because they have no room for defections, analysts and lawmakers said. Even so, House members will push for their provisions, including the public insurance program, likely making the negotiations among the most complex in congressional history.