The Corner

Republican Ideas Obama Will Include in the Bill

In a letter sent to Congressional leadership, President Obama says he is “open to” including four Republican proposals in a revised health-care bill.

In brief, they are: increased reimbursement rates under Medicaid; the use of “undercover patients” to reduce fraud and abuse in federal health programs; funding for states to demonstrate successful reforms to medical malpractice law; and the expansion of Health Savings Accounts.

Needless to say, while they may have their own policy merits, none of these Republican elements fundamentally change the structure of the entitlements and regulations that form the backbone of the bill. In fact, they look set only to make it more expensive.And the plank that enjoys the most widespread Republican support — tort reform — receives the weakest treatment:

My proposal also included a provision from the Senate health reform bill that authorizes funding to states for demonstrations of alternatives to resolving medical malpractice disputes, including health courts. . . .As we discussed, my Administration is already moving forward in funding demonstration projects through the Department of Health and Human Services, and Secretary Sebelius will be awarding $23 million for these grants in the near future. However, in order to advance our shared interest in incentivizing states to explore what works in this arena, I am open to including an appropriation of $50 million in my proposal for additional grants.

So, another $50 million for research and experimentation. As Ed Morrissey notes, this

. . .ignores the CBO analysis of existing tort-reform proposals that would save $54 billion from the federal deficit over the next ten years, and $11o billion for the industry as a whole in the same period.  It also ignores the fact that California has had precisely this kind of tort reform in place for years, and has seen the same kind of savings (which the CBO used as part of its analysis).

UPDATE: Leader McConnell responds to the president’s letter here. An excerpt:

We respectfully encourage you to consider a new approach to reform, one that does not cut Medicare to fund a trillion dollar takeover of the health care system or impose job-killing taxes in the middle of a recession. We encourage you to join with Democrats and Republicans in Congress in listening to what the American people have been telling us for more than a year now. Americans are telling us quite plainly that in order to reform health care, we should scrap the bills they have already rejected and start over with commonsense, step-by-step reforms we can all agree on. 

We would also ask you to encourage Democrats in Congress to scrap something else; namely, their last-ditch plan to jam some version of their original bill through Congress and past the American people by way of the highly partisan process known as Reconciliation. It should be clear by now how Americans feel about forcing massive policy changes through Congress with a back room deal. The fact that Democrats in Congress still seem intent on this approach suggests that they are completely out of step with the public. Now is not the time to repeat the same mistakes that brought us here. It’s time to listen to the people, and start over with reforms that lower costs. 


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