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Obama’s Plan for a Health Care Summit and the Unenthusiastic Response

Posted Feb 13 2010 12:00am


Last week, President Obama announced plans to hold a bipartisan health care summit to push forward on health care reform and to give both sides an opportunity to discuss ideas for health reform legislation that will be able to garner enough votes for passage.  While President Obama and Democratic Congressional leaders want to use the health care proposals that have already passed in the House and in the Senate, Republicans say that they are unlikely to vote for a bill unless the current proposals are scrapped and the process is started afresh.  It seems like Americans, once again, may be left watching the theatrics of the health care reform debate without actually being the focal point of it.

Some conservative Congress members have already responded to the President’s invitation publicly to make their steadfast positions known.  Representative Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said this past week that he was not willing to discuss a “health reform package that spends money we don’t have.”  He added that “House Republicans have offered the only plan that will lower health care costs.”  If that is true, it is likely attributable to the fact that the House Republican bill would cover only 3 million uninsured Americans, compared to the Democratic House bill which would  insure an additional 36 million Americans.

Exactly what are the citizens of American thinking about health care reform anyway?  CNN reported on Tuesday that nearly two-thirds of Americans want Congress to persist in passing health care reform legislation.  The poll, an ABC News/Washington Post survey, also indicates that Americans blame both Democrats and Republicans on their unwillingness to compromise.  HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius herself is quoted as saying, “When people look up close at the personal activities of Congress they are confused and disgusted with the whole process and too afraid that whatever is going on can’t possibly be good for them or their families.”

Many believe that the idea for the health care summit was to address the back-door processes that led to American distrust and to make it all more transparent.  Still, there appear to be more differences between the conservative version of reform and the liberal version than points of reconciliation.  Though the prolonged tug-of-war between both sides does not seem like one that might be resolved in a day of convening, the summit is, perhaps, at least a start.

It would make sense, then, that Americans do want reform.  Andrew Rubin, Vice President for Medical Center Clinical Affairs for NYU Langone Medical Center and radio show host for HealthCare Connect, says that one of the underlying reasons why Americans are reluctant to give support for legislation is their lack of understanding of what is happening, not because they do not want to see change.  Let’s hope that the proposed health care summit will be used to clarify issues for Americans who do need and want health care, instead of for just another political brouhaha.

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