Big O: Friendly Fire on Health Reform

May 12th, 2009 | Sources: Washington Post

Everyone in policyville slept well last night on news that key stakeholders agreed in principal to help the Big O tackle health care cost escalation.

LeftyHealthPolicypow-wowToday it’s back to a thicket of problems that lie between us and reformland.

One particularly thorny issue is that government-sponsored health plan Obama had proposed during the campaign, the one supposedly designed for Americans who had problems acquiring private coverage.

The plan has been supported by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and a cavalcade of devotees on the left.

In the afterglow of yesterday’s announcement, the pessimistic few remind us that just last week, every one of those devotees gasped collectively when administration officials implied The Man was open to compromise on the idea.

Was Obama going to cave before serious negotiations got underway? 

No, Obama spokesperson Linda Douglass insisted. The Big O simply stated a willingness to consider any proposal that meets his broad goals. “The administration is open to all ideas for achieving those goals,” she reiterated to the Washington Post.

That did little to placate more than 70 House Democrats who told party leaders they’d reject any bill that failed to include a government-sponsored policy, not to mention 2 unions, which abruptly withdrew from a prominent health reform coalition after it said it would not endorse a public plan.

“It’s way too early” to punt on what the SEIU believes should be a central component of reform, a disappointed Andy Stern told the Post. The union’s president pulled his support from Health Reform Dialogue while taking a swipe at the Big O.

“You don’t make compromises with your allies,” he said. The SEIU by the way, is one of the groups that signed yesterday’s letter to the Big O.

“I took that as a signal to Senator Grassley” a Republican who has vehemently opposed the idea, seethed Len Nichols, director of health policy at the New America Foundation.

Amid the furor, Nancy-Ann DeParle, head of the White House Office of Health Reform, tried reaching for higher ground. The ultimate solution depends on how a public plan is defined, she offered. “There are different breeds of public plans,” she explained.

“We’ve gotten past the kumbayah phase,” concluded Nichols.


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