25 February 2010

Live Blogging the "Health Care Summit"

So I decided to watch it. Yeah, it'll mostly be political theatre, but it'll at least be entertaining. Who knows? Maybe the dems and the repubs will actually hash out a workable plan...in one day? Yeah, that'll happen.

Anyway, it's started, so I'll get started.

Obama is making his opening remarks. Personal anecdotes about his daughters and his mom, regarding his experiences with them and health care. He says "everyone here has stories like that" but I have a hard time believing that a lot of the bluebloods among them have never had to go without, never had to face the hardship of dealing with a sickness without insurance.

Says he's read the opposition's plans. "Politics ended up trumping common sense." Too true.

He's going over some common ground regarding the ideas between the two parties: pre-existing conditions, fostering competition, etc.

Closing up, he is reiterating the four themes he wants to focus on: controlling costs, lowering deficits, expanding coverage, and

Says he wants a "discussion," not just trading talking points, that he hopes it doesn't turn into political theatre (we'll see).

Republicans' turn, delivered not by McConnell, but by Lamar Alexander.

Claims that the repubs represent a big chunk of the people, who are opposed to the health care bill, which he calls a "mistake" and makes the expected call to "start over."

Says he wants Obama to "succeed," but change directions.

Alexander is repeating the old criticisms: taxes, fees, cuts in medicare, etc.

Repeats the call to "start over."

He claims that a "comprehensive bill" won't work, ever. Cites failures of immigration and other comprehensive bills that failed despite "bipartisan" support.

He's listing off ideas...ideas that could only be part of a (DUH!) comprehensive bill!

Calls for a renunciation of the threat of using reconciliation to pass the bill. Where was he in 2005?

(Obama looks like he's a little annoyed at being lectured)

Start over, start over, don't jam it through. For pity's sake, it's been the longest debated bill in decades!

Now it's Pelosi's turn.

She's going back to March 5, when the whole process started, recalling the "bipartisan way" in which Obama brought them together...not sure, but I don't think they were that nice to the republicans.

"We cannot afford to start over" she says, as too many people already have waited too long, and suffered too much. Offers anecdotes.

Talks about John Dingell and the fight over Medicare back in the day.

We have a "moral obligation" to fix this. Pre-exisiting conditions stifles the "entrepreneurial spirit" by forcing people to stay in dead-end jobs because they can't leave for fear of losing their insurance and not being able to get new insurance because of pre-existing conditions.

The bill will create jobs, almost 400k right off the bat...we'll see.

Unless we pass this, she says, medicare is doomed.

Invokes Kennedy, "Health care is a right, not a privelege."

Reid's turn.

Starts off right off the bat with an anecdote about a constituent who had a baby with a cleft palate, and was denied insurance because that was considered a "pre-existing condition." Outrageous if true.

He's chiding Alexander that he's "entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."

Most people, including repubs, want us to reform health care.

Talks about the "donut hole" problem with medicare prescription drug plans.

Talks about reconciliation, defending its use.

The bill already has significant input from republicans, so why start over?

Cites Harvard studies: 45,000 people die a year because they're without health care. 70% of bankruptcies in 2008 were due to health care costs.

Calls on the republicans, "let's hear your ideas." Defends deficit cuts in the bill.

There's a huge stack by Boehner, how much you wanna bet he's gonna throw down with the
"2700 pages" critique.
Obama again, critiquing Alexander's interpretation of the "process."

He wants them to talk about the substance, not the process. "We might surprise ourselves that we agree more than we disagree." Novel idea.

Everyone agrees on costs. It's true that expanding a "broken system" is bad, but part of what we need to do is fix that system. We can't just leave it broken.

Cites small business numbers who are dealing with soaring costs, forcing many to drop coverage, reduce incomes, and forgo new hiring.

So how do we control costs? One bipartisan idea: health care exchanges.

(Damn CNN, going to commercial. Assholes. Switching to Fox. Wish I had CSPAN-3, but oh well. )

Alexander disputes Obama's CBO numbers, Obama responds that it is, offers justification that Lamar is not being fair, citing different numbers.

Oh! He just cut Lamar off. Here's that "muscle" that we've needed to see for too long.

Obama says he wants every possible cost-saving measure to be in the bill, challenges repubs to add their ideas. Asks them to focus on what's good in the bill, as well as bad, instead of just the bad.

McConnell's turn. Cites polls that show people overwhelmingly oppose the bill in its current form.

Turns floor over to Dr. No...er, Coburn.

Says we need to adress the disease, not symptoms. Let's see what he means.

He says prevention is important, and he couldn't be more right. But what's his idea??

Claims there is too much waste in government-run health care, as 20% of money spent is fraudulently awarded. Says cutting fraud would save 7.5% of costs.

Says the tort system, the "extortion system", needs to be reigned in. Fear of litigation forces docs to waste money on redundant or unnecessary tests. Says it would be worth a 7.5% in savings.

Conflict of interest in the medical field, huh?

Change food stamps and school lunches to make it meet people's nutritional needs, to incentivize prevention.

We need to attack "where the money is" referring to fraud.

Don't need government programs, just incentives.

Obama says that there is plenty in the bill that deals with fraud, which Coburn acknowledges, but points out that it only extends to government health care.

There are plenty of measures for prevention in the bill.
Steny Hoyer's turn.

Every American should be covered.

More anecdotes of the misery people suffer.

Cost containment is key, as all agree. The "how" is the problem, of course.

Wants an open, free market that's transparent, whatever that means.

He's paying Coburn compliments on his suggestions. Says the bill does most of what he said, so what's to disagree on?

Says he's trying to drive down costs by giving everyone access to "large group" insurance rates, which of course are cheaper.

Cracking down on redundant tests.

First mention of the public option so far, mentioned in passing as a way to incentivize competition and cover people who cannot afford private insurance.

Obama addresses Coburn's points, says there are things we can do at the state level, invites republicans to voice their objections to specific dem provisions to drive down costs, gives example of increasing access to large group insurance, doesn't mention whether it's through exchanges or the public option.
John Boehner, who cedes his time to John Kline.

Says that one idea is to allow small businesses to group together like large companies. Good idea! Where were you last year?

Says this is better than the idea of exchanges, but doesn't say why other that to claim it will save more money.

Max Baucus is up.

Says we are actually quite close, there's not a lot that keeps us apart.

Says most of what Alexander suggested is already in the bill.

People can buy across state lines. No tort reform, but states will be able to settle disputes. Small businesses can pool together to get better insurance, through the SHOP act, which allows businesses to run their own exchanges to shop and compare insurance plans. Tax credits for employer insurance, 35-50%.

We're not that far apart.

Changes the way we reimburse doctors, rewarding quality vs. quantity.

(Fox is showing the new taxes in the senate bill, vs. CNN which is repeating the speaker's main points. way to stay classy Fox).
Boehner cedes to Dave Kemp.

Oh, this guy is a twit. "How can you say you're saving money when you spend 1 trillion over 10 years?" Gee, I guess he really thinks it will be cheaper to do nothing.

Lawsuit reform, again. OK, but what else?

Mentions that there is a provision in the bill that would create an un-elected board which would make recommendation to congress on medicare cuts, then claims if congress does not act, then the board would have to "look elsewhere" in medicare to cut. If it's up to congress, what power does this board have that this guy is so afraid of?

Obama cuts in to re-address the same points raised previously by Coburn, namely the CBO report.
Rob Andrews.

Talks about exchanges again. Disagreement erupts between him and John Kyl(?).

McConnell protests that dems have had more time.
Paul Ryan's turn. Says that federal regulation of insurance will cut off competition. Ho hum, same old lie.

Kline responds asking Ryan if he supports consumer protections, which he does, making him squirm to justify why he opposes regulation.

Obama is using this opportunity to address the philosophical differences. Says both parties would agree that certain protections need to be implemented. The disagreement is how much should government set as a baseline for people's insurance, how much they are entitled/required to have.

Schumer's turn.

Compliments Coburn again.

I need to take a break, I've been at it for almost 2 hours. Back later.

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