It is yet to be seen if President Obamas health care summit is a genuine attempt to reach out and resolve health care in a bipartisan manner, or a ruse to check the box on bipartisanship before proposing another liberal Washington takeover of health care. Recent reports that the President and Congressional leaders are secretly writing yet another bill to attach to the filibuster-proof reconciliation bill certainly indicate the latter, and if that is the case, conservatives should boycott the event, and call it out for what it really is. But if the President and Congressional leadership are committed to bipartisan reform, there are real grounds of potential agreement among Republicans and Democrats.
Help the Uninsured – First, most agree that the government should provide help to working American families who do not or cannot get health insurance through the place of work. This means changing current federal tax and insurance rules that block access to affordable coverage and undermine the portability of health insurance.
Increase Competition – Second, most agree on the need for more competitive health insurance markets and see the tremendous potential of the states to enact serious health insurance market reforms. Such reforms can dramatically expand coverage and improve safety net care for the sickest, poorest and most vulnerable of our citizens. States will experiment with different approaches. For example, states as radically different as Massachusetts and Utah have embarked on far reaching and consequential changes.
Control Costs – Third, Members of Congress must first control health care costs in the giant public programs they run, Medicare and Medicaid. They should give states more flexibility to manage Medicaid and provide care without breaking their budgets. The President has already proposed more rational subsidies for enrollees in the Medicare Drug Program and a new system of competitive bidding for Medicare Advantage plans. These Presidential proposals could be the basis of a broader reform of the entire Medicare program.
Promote Transparency – Finally, if the Presidents health care summit is to result in genuine bipartisan negotiations, he should also recommit himself to supporting real transparency so that the American people can better see and understand the process before drafting any new proposals.
If the summit is to be a serious effort to arrive at a true bipartisan agreement on health care reform, a measure that will impact the lives of three hundred Americans and generations to come, the President and Congressional leaders should start with a clean sheet of paper. Americans do not want a summit that is only a public relations stunt, or a mere pretext for jamming a liberal health policy agenda through Congress outside of regular order through the arcane Senate reconciliation process.