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A Bipartisan Meeting on Health Reform

Guest LAW

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White House Release:


The bipartisan health care meeting on February 25th offered something you rarely see in Washington: an open, honest, productive discussion between the political parties. Leaders from across the political spectrum gathered at Blair House to exchange thoughts about an issue that touches all of us: rising health costs and unfair insurance company practices. Throughout the day, both sides found areas of agreement on important issues like: Preventing waste and fraud in Medicare and Medicaid; Addressing medical malpractice reform; Reforming the insurance market; And giving individuals more choices in coverage, and giving small businesses the opportunity to pool coverage for their employees.


But there were also important areas of disagreement. The President believes we should set some common sense rules of the road to protect American families and small businesses from insurance company abuses, and he believes that a problem this big cannot be addressed incrementally. And while insuring 30 million people is going to cost money, it’s important to remember that most of this money is going to tax credits that will reduce premiums and help people get better coverage. And while the President appreciated the participation and input of everyone involved, he doesn’t think we can just scrap a year’s worth of work and start over. The millions of Americans that are suffering can’t afford another year-long debate. There’s too much at stake.

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Guest Drew Hammil

Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered closing remarks at Blair House this afternoon during the bipartisan meeting on health insurance reform hosted by President Obama. Below are the Speaker’s closing remarks:


“Thank you very much, Mr. President. As one who has abided by the three and a half minute, I’m going to take a few seconds more now in closing to extend thanks to Mr. President for bringing us together, for your great leadership and without it, we would not be so very close to affordability, accountability for the insurance companies, and accessibility for so many more Americans to improve their health care, to lower their cost.


“Mr. President, I hearken back to that meeting a year ago. At that time, Senator Grassley questioned you about the public option and you said: ‘The public option is one way to keep the insurance companies honest and to increase competition.’ If you have a better way, put it on the table. Well, I bring that up, because we have come such a long way — we’re talking about how close we are on this, how far apart we are in here.


“But as a representative of the House of Representatives, I want you to know that we were there that day in support of a public option which would save $120 billion, keep the insurance companies honest, and increase competition. We've come a long way to agreeing to a Republican idea. The exchanges — Senator Enzi has been a leader in that, Senator Snowe along with Senator Durbin had legislation to that effect and bipartisan, because insurance companies opposed the public option. They couldn't take the competition.


“We have in our bill market-oriented encouragement to the private sector initiatives. I think that the insurance industry left to its own devices has behaved shamefully, and we must act on behalf of the American people. We have lived on their playing field all this time. It's time for the insurance companies to exist on the playing field of the American people.


“I believe I have news for some of my colleagues, because we have very much more in common. Senator Coburn, you had so many positive suggestions, which I didn't hear much else of, but from you we did. And I think you'd be pleased to know that after much debate in our house, we came up with value, not volume. Others have called it quality, not quantity in terms of utilization, overutilization. Senator McCain when you talk about fraud — we're talking about addressing regional disparities in terms of compensation and health care.


“So we have addressed many of these new issues in the bill. I think it's really important to note, though, and I want the record to show, because two statements were made here that are not factual in relationship to these bills. My colleague, Leader Boehner, the law of the land is there is no public funding of abortion, and there is no public funding of abortion in these bills and I don't want our listeners or viewers to get the wrong impression from what you said. Mr. Camp, you said that the Medicare cuts in this bill cut benefits for seniors. They do not. They do not. So I want the record to show just in those two cases, we may have differences of opinion and approach and evaluation of the value of different things, but certain things are facts about our bills that I cannot let the opposite view stand when they are stated.


“Yes, it's hard to do this. The misrepresentation campaign that is going on about these bills, it's a wonder anybody would support them, as Mr. Waxman said. But the fact is, as the President said, many of these provisions on their own are largely supported by the American people. So this will take courage to do. Social Security was hard. Medicare was hard. Health care reform for all Americans — insurance reform is hard — but we will get it done.


“And as we leave this debate, I think that many of the differences that we have are complicated and they are legitimate. They are differences of opinion about the role of government and the rest. But I think it's really clear on one point that the American people understand very clearly, they understand that there should be an end to discrimination on the basis of pre-existing conditions. The proposals we have put forth end discrimination on the basis of pre-existing conditions, the Republican bill does not.


“With that, Mr. President, I thank you again for the opportunity to discuss the differences and to try to find some common ground on this.”

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Guest Subscribe Unsubscribe Bar

Senator Dick Durbin asks Republicans who oppose health reform to give up the health plans they and their families receive from the federal government as members of Congress: "The federal employees health benefit program that we enjoy as individuals and want for our families is all we are asking for in this bill for families across America. If you think it is a socialist plot and it's wrong, for goodness sakes, drop out of the federal employees health benefit program. But if you think it is good enough for your family, shouldn't our health insurance be good enough for the rest of America?"


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Guest Senator Enzi

Senator Enzi statement at White House health care summit:


Thank you, Mr. President, colleagues.


When we're talking about insurance reform, we haven't really talked about, but Representative Slaughter kind of opened the door on it, and that's Medicare.


Seniors out there are really nervous. Seniors are the ones objecting the most to the program, and it's because they see half a trillion dollars coming out of their program.


If Medicare were separate, and any savings that we did in Medicare reform went back into Medicare, it would do a lot to relieve the tension that's out there. It'd even be a way to pay for the doc fix.


So I'm hoping that can be a piece of what we're doing.


I really appreciate this exchange. It would have been helpful had we had this nine months or a year earlier and had it in even more detail and for more days.


What we were presented with in the HELP Committee of course was a bill that was already half drafted, and we started the markup on it, and then we got the other half later, and since we had not had any input to the drafting we're credited with 150 amendments. Well, 17 of those amendments were Senator Murkowski where she was inserting Native Americans and tribal in 17 different places. I had 11 of them where we put in a thing that required agencies to cooperate.


So the ideas that we had -- when Senator Kennedy and I were working bills, we'd set down some principles and then put some detail in, and then draft the bills together. And I hope that that's something that we go to on future bills. It works. In a three-year period, he and I got 38 bills signed by the president. In the last year I've gotten two that I've gotten pens from this president. And the way that we've done those has been through that kind -- that kind of a process, and unless we go through that kind of a process, I don't think we're going to -- I don't think we can get to the bipartisan thing, and that's what the purpose of this meeting is, is to kind of get all these ideas together and see how they gel.


In insurance reform, small-business health plans, that's different than the AHPs, which is what they were talking about, and it covers some of the problems that were talked about.


One of the problems is mandates. And Olympia Snowe contributed to that part. She had a provision that if 26 of the states adopted a mandate, it would be a mandate nationwide. And as other mandates became 26, they would be included with it, too.


We talked about health savings accounts. I don't think that meets some of the federal minimum standards that the federal government might put on it, and that's going to disappoint some of our employees, because that is one of the options that federal employees have, is health savings accounts.


And it's particularly good for the younger, healthier people. They can get that. They've got catastrophic coverage. If they put the amount of money that they would have spent on a Blue Cross plan or some other plan, the difference between the two, into a savings account, in three years they've covered the huge deductible, and they can continue to do that tax-free. So it's a -- it's a process that would be really objected to if it's excluded or changed.


I like the exchanges, and the reason I like the exchanges is it's kind of a form of bidding, it's more transparency, people can see what they're buying, and that would be a big help. When we were in the shoe business, my wife used to -- after 10 years she decided she'd bid out our insurance. We didn't know there was that much flexibility in insurance. She saved a bunch. And then, of course, she didn't -- since we were selling shoes, it's kind of a fixed price, so she didn't really take the low bid and then go back to somebody else and say, "Can you make this a little lower?" But that insurance company we'd been with for 10 years came to us and said, "We could have done a better deal." She said, "You should have when I was buying the insurance." And we got much better -- much better bids the next year.


So these exchanges can be good. But what I would hope you would consider is having the exchanges to list anybody's insurance that wants to put in on there, and then mark the ones that meet the federal minimum standards so that people can decide really what's out there in the market, and I think it would pull up some of the ones that are lower down up into the category, and at the same time everybody could see what all is on the market out there, and hopefully regardless of states.


Thank you, Mr. President.

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Guest U.S. Senator Mike Enz

U.S. Senator Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., Ranking Member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, issued the following statement following the conclusion of today’s White House summit on health care reform:


“I’m glad we had the opportunity to meet with the President today and talk frankly about our views on health care reform. As I’ve been saying, I think it’s important that we move forward in a bipartisan way, work on the problems that are driving up costs and keeping millions of Americans from finding affordable health insurance, piece by piece instead of trying to pass one huge bill. The glimmers of hope for common ground are further evidence that we should move away from the current partisan bills and discard the idea of using the partisan reconciliation process to reform our health care system.


“Ideally we wouldn’t even be talking about the President’s bill or the Democrat bill or the Republican bill. We should be talking about our ideas and how we can take those ideas, combine them to make our bill in each of these issue areas. Although it’s clear that many differences still separate us, I was glad to hear some fairly encouraging responses from the President on issues like allowing individuals and small businesses to purchase insurance across state lines; strengthening Medicare for our seniors instead of cutting benefits, and exploring ways to reform medical malpractice laws. We can and should move forward in these areas.


“I hope we can continue to talk about sensible, but fundamental changes in health care – changes that will lower costs, get as many folks covered as possible, and lead to more and better choices in health care for everyone.”

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Read this Luke before the Liberals try to sway you.




Is abortion health care, or is it not?


Charmaine Yoest


The health care debate, the greatest challenge of the Obama presidency, has abortion at its epicenter, and no one realizes this more than the White House. In recent weeks, President Obama, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have all insisted that the health care proposals under consideration would not cover abortion.


Nevertheless, that's not the reality we face on the Hill. Recently, we had a meeting with senior White House officials to focus on our serious opposition to the abortion mandate in health care reform. They reiterated the president's statement from his address before Congress and were noncommittal about specific language that would address the current concerns of pro-life advocates.


The truth is that the health care packages under consideration do include abortion funding. Without a specific statutory amendment that includes an explicit ban on federal funding and coverage, we face health care reform that includes abortion.


Lost in the debate over whether or not abortion is "in there" - whether or not you can flip to a certain page and point to a particular clause related to abortion funding - is an understanding among political elites that this is a watershed battle over definition. It's existential, if you will, and comes down to a very straightforward question: Is abortion health care, or is it not?


An inadvertent answer from the abortion advocates' side emerged during the debate over H.R. 3200 in the House Education and Labor Committee on July 22 after Rep. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican, offered an amendment to exclude abortion funding from health care reform. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, California Democrat, clearly miffed, responded:


"[Abortion] is a legal medical practice and by even having to talk about it ... we're not talking about having your tonsils out. ..."


No, indeed we are not. As a matter of public policy, we still have the ability to differentiate between an abortion and a tonsillectomy. But this is precisely the debate we confront.


Planned Parenthood and the abortion lobby define abortion as health care, as being morally equivalent to a tonsillectomy, and health care reform is their vehicle for imposing that view definitively with the full force of the federal government.


For the record, the Souder amendment to bar federal funding of abortion failed, as have all similar attempts to provide a clear and unequivocal abortion exclusion.


This is literally a defining moment for the pro-life movement. On Planned Parenthood's Web site, the very first category under Health on the navigation bar is Abortion.


This is its agenda - to win by definition. If the abortion lobby succeeds at equating abortion with health care at the federal level, it will have shifted the entire debate. It has been marking this turf for years with poll-tested messaging, describing abortion as "reproductive health."

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Congressman John Boehner (R-West Chester) participated in the weekly Republican leadership press conference this morning to discuss President Obama’s massive government takeover of health care outlined. Boehner issued the following statement:


The American people have spoken: they want us to scrap the Democrats’ health care bill and start over. That isn’t the ‘Republican’ position; it is the position of the American people. They want their elected officials to start with a clean sheet of paper and work on common-sense, step-by-step reforms that lower costs. House Republicans have such a plan. It’s been available for months at HealthCare.GOP.gov. The President discussed it with us in Baltimore, and it’s even linked on the White House website.


The President has crippled the credibility of this ‘summit’ by proposing the same massive government takeover of health care the American people have already rejected. It doubles down on the same failed approach that will drive up premiums, destroy jobs, raise taxes, and slash Medicare benefits. Their latest backroom deal makes this ‘summit’ a charade.


Americans are still asking ‘where are the jobs?’ Yet the Democrats’ new health care proposal increases the Senate bill’s tax on employers who do not provide coverage from $750 to $2,000 per employee. CBO and numerous health care economists have made it clear that such a provision will reduce wages and eliminate jobs. Republicans have offered common-sense reforms to help small businesses create jobs. That’s what the American people want, not the job-killing agenda that Democrats keep trying to jam down their throats.

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Guest Get a Job

Get a job or get funds from family, friends, church etc and quit whining. No One owes you a thing so get off your couch and quit whining. Whine, whine, whine. This country needs a strong work ethic, discipline, sacrifice, and individual accountability. Not more Whining from glorified panhandlers that want a Free Lunch and Free Healthcare. Stop the Welfare and Entitlement programs that are bankrupting this Great Country.

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Remarks from the President from last week's meeting.


Now, when it comes to meeting the larger challenges we face as a nation, I realize that finding this unity is easier said than done – especially in Washington. But if we want to compete on the world stage as well as we’ve competed in the world’s games, we need to find common ground. We need to move past the bickering and the game-playing that holds us back and blocks progress for the American people.


We know it’s possible to do this. And we were reminded of that last week when Democrats and Republicans in the Senate came together to pass a jobs bill that will give small businesses tax credits to hire more workers. We also saw it when Democrats and Republicans in the House came together to pass a bill that will force insurance companies to abide by common-sense rules that prevent price-fixing and other practices that drive up health care costs.


We need that same spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship when it comes to finally passing reform that will bring down the cost of health care and give Americans more control over their insurance. On Thursday, we brought both parties together for a frank and productive discussion about this issue. In that discussion, we heard many areas of agreement. Both sides agreed that the rising cost of health care is a serious problem that plagues families, small businesses, and our federal budget. Many on both sides agreed that we should give small businesses and individuals the ability to participate in a new insurance marketplace – which members of Congress would also use – that would allow them to pool their purchasing power and get a better deal from insurance companies. And I heard some ideas from our Republican friends that I believe are very worthy of consideration.


But still, there were differences. We disagreed over whether insurance companies should be held accountable when they deny people care or arbitrarily raise premiums. I believe they should. We disagreed over giving tax credits to small businesses and individuals that would make health care affordable for those who don’t have it. This would be the largest middle class tax cut for health care in history, and I believe we should do it. And while we agreed that Americans with pre-existing conditions should be able to get coverage, we disagreed on how to do that.


Some of these disagreements we may be able to resolve. Some we may not. And no final bill will include everything that everyone wants. That’s what compromise is. I said at the end of Thursday’s summit that I am eager and willing to move forward with members of both parties on health care if the other side is serious about coming together to resolve our differences and get this done. But I also believe that we cannot lose the opportunity to meet this challenge. The tens of millions of men and women who cannot afford their health insurance cannot wait another generation for us to act. Small businesses cannot wait. Americans with pre-existing conditions cannot wait. State and federal budgets cannot sustain these rising costs.


It is time for us to come together. It is time for us to act. It is time for those of us in Washington to live up to our responsibilities to the American people and to future generations. So let’s get this done.

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