Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Obama “open” to adding several GOP health reform ideas

After last week’s health reform summit, President Obama has now indicated that he is open to including several Republican policy priorities in his health reform proposal. In a March 2 letter to Congressional leaders, Obama identified four items for possible consideration, including the following:
  • a sort of “secret shopper” approach, sending medical professionals disguised as patients in random undercover investigations to uncover fraud, waste, and abuse by health care providers;
  • expansion of medical malpractice reform pilot programs that would provide alternatives to resolving medical malpractice disputes, including specialized health courts;
  • increased payments to Medicaid providers; and
  • expanded use of health savings accounts.
At the same time, Obama rejected the Republican suggestion to start over with piecemeal health reform. According to the Obama letter, “piecemeal reform is not the best way to effectively reduce premiums, end the exclusion of people with pre-existing conditions or offer Americans the security of knowing that they will never lose coverage, even if they lose or change jobs.”

Obama also called for eliminating a special deal for Medicare Advantage beneficiaries in Florida and elsewhere which drew criticism at the recent health reform summit from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Further, his proposal would eliminate the special Nebraska federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) provision, replacing it with additional federal financing to all states for the expansion of Medicaid.

Despite the appearance of bipartisanship, many do not believe that this approach will garner any Republican support. As the Washington Post points out, “concessions to the Republicans in Obama's letter do not go to the core of their objections and are unlikely to change the dynamic in Washington.”

However, one report has suggested “it could give wavering Democrats political cover by showing the White House has been willing to compromise” in light of last week’s health reform summit. In fact, at least nine House Democrats who opposed health reform legislation the first time around are now undecided or withholding judgment until they see Obama’s final proposal.

Will any of this help get health reform signed into law? Only time will tell but that time is quickly approaching.


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