June 19th, 2009
02:55 PM ET
9 years ago

Democrats fear Obama health plan 'on the rocks'

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Several senior Democratic advisers to the White House are urging President Obama to further step up his personal involvement in the health care debate, as administration allies privately warn that the president's push for a major reform bill is hitting major roadblocks at a critical juncture on Capitol Hill.

One of the Democratic advisers told CNN there is fear within the party that the president's signature issue is "on the rocks" because of dramatically high cost estimates for separate bills being drafted by Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Massachusetts) and Max Baucus (D-Montana). The Congressional Budget Office's estimate for the Kennedy bill - that it will cost $1 trillion and yet leave millions of Americans without health insurance - has given Republicans strong political ammunition to charge reform may be too expensive at a time of massive federal deficits.

CNN Radio: Ed Henry reports on the status of the president's plan

"We're going to need the White House to step it up a little bit and get more engaged," said a second Democratic adviser, who acknowledged concerns that Republicans are gaining steam in the message battle. "We've got some time to sort this out, but decision time is just around the corner."

This second Democratic adviser said the CBO's $1.6 trillion estimate for the Baucus bill was particularly jarring to Democrats because it was "several hundred billion dollars more" than expected. Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, announced this week he's pushing back the official unveiling of his legislation until after July 4 - a delay that imperils White House hopes the Senate can finish work on the issue before leaving town for its August recess.

But senior White House officials contend that while there are legitimate concerns about the status of the legislation, the President is still confident the setbacks are a normal part of the legislative process and it will eventually get back on track.

"We're not hysterical," said one senior White House official. "We've seen this movie before: [the congressional process] looks like a total mess, nothing is getting done, and then something happens."

Amid the Democratic concerns about the need for the President to take on a more active role, the President is planning next Wednesday to appear in a primetime special broadcast on ABC News. The program entitled, "Questions for the President: Prescription for America" will be moderated by Charles Gibson and Diane Sawyer and will feature questions from audience members in the East Room of the White House.

Jim Manley, a senior aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), told CNN that even though there are some ominous signs for Democrats right now, party officials are confident they're just bumps in the road.

"Be very careful to sort out the wheat from the chaff, the noise from the reality," said Manley. "It's not easy, but we can do it."

But in a sign Democrats may be nervous that they will not be able to reach 60 votes in the Senate for Obama's plan, Reid reminded reporters this week that in order to pass the health legislation he still reserves the right to use arcane budget rules known as "reconciliation" that require only a simple majority of 51 votes to pass legislation.

Filed under: Congress • Health care • President Obama
soundoff (199 Responses)
  1. sick and tired

    I have a way to pay for the health plan. Let's give all the repubs and tratior democrats the same coverage, in other words the coverage we get is same as the one they get. I bet those morons will stop fighting our President then. They are set for life with good coverage and so is their families, these clowns don't have to worry about coverage they have the best, hyprocrites.

    June 19, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  2. Melissa

    Congress is all behaving like children, no kidding its on the rocks. Why don't you all just push through national health care? You have the majority, after all. Its time to stop caring about the Republicans and what they want and start doing whats right with or without them. Thats what they did to us.

    June 19, 2009 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  3. Eric Beck

    If people think providing health care to the aging population is an inevitable financial crisis now, wait until these younger generations who have been weaned on horrible diets and denied school exercise programs come of age. Diabetes will be, of course, through the roof, and that's just a place to start. To AVERT that, there needs to be a LARGE emphasis on physical fitness education and practice in the schools. The JFK Presidential Fitness program in the 60's was effective in raising awareness throughout school systems nationally. We are raising generations of obese, malnourished, over-medicated and illness-prone kids who will have a tough time of it far too early in their adult life.

    June 19, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  4. Bill Sampson

    If the American people are silly (or gullible) enough to allow the insurance lobby to kill health care reform again, then they deserve everything they get (or, in this case, don't get). The top 20 reasons there is so much opposition to universal health care are listed below. The opposition is well financed (for obvious reasons), but very misleading. Those listed below and their pawns in Congress are not on your side! Speak up. Now.


    • Ronald A. Williams, Chair/ CEO, Aetna Inc., $23,045,834

    • H. Edward Hanway, Chair/ CEO, Cigna Corp, $30.16 million

    • David B. Snow, Jr, Chair/ CEO, Medco Health, $21.76 million

    • Michael B. MCallister, CEO, Humana Inc, $20.06 million

    • Stephen J. Hemsley, CEO, UnitedHealth Group, $13,164,529

    • Angela F. Braly, President/ CEO, Wellpoint, $9,094,771

    • Dale B. Wolf, CEO, Coventry Health Care, $20.86 million

    • Jay M. Gellert, President/ CEO, Health Net, $16.65 million

    • William C. Van Faasen, Chairman, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, $3 million plus $16.4 million in retirement benefits

    • Charlie Baker, President/ CEO, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, $1.5 million

    • James Roosevelt, Jr., CEO, Tufts Associated Health Plans, $1.3 million

    • Cleve L. Killingsworth, President/CEO Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, $3.6 million

    • Raymond McCaskey, CEO, Health Care Service Corp (Blue Cross Blue Shield), $10.3 million

    • Daniel P. McCartney, CEO, Healthcare Services Group, Inc, $ 1,061,513

    • Daniel Loepp, CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, $1,657,555

    • Todd S. Farha, CEO, WellCare Health Plans, $5,270,825

    • Michael F. Neidorff, CEO, Centene Corp, $8,750,751

    • Daniel Loepp, CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, $1,657,555

    • Todd S. Farha, CEO, WellCare Health Plans, $5,270,825

    • Michael F. Neidorff, CEO, Centene Corp, $8,750,751

    June 19, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  5. fishy fish

    It seems to me that the losers of the last election are winning the battle.

    June 19, 2009 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  6. J

    Ya our health care system is GREAT!
    Nothing like paying into a system for years and then getting dropped when you get sick and really need it the most.
    Sounds just perfect to me.

    June 19, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  7. Nelson Colorado Springs Co.

    There should be a way to estimate the total cost for America hospital over the last ten years, that to much, the last four years, to treat unensured people and give that cost to congress. I bet it would be well over $1 trillion, should be a way. Don't rush to past anything, if you are happy with your health plan keep it. Nothing like needing surgery or medication and the insurance company want pay for it

    June 19, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  8. Nick

    Good, it should be on the rocks. It can't be paid for, it puts the government in competition with private industry, the going rate for a government run organization is double that of the private sector, and on top of all that it's not a right to have medical care – it's a service that has to be paid for so the people that have made an investment in that career can pursue life and liberty like the rest of us. 50 years ago health insurance barely existed, what's changed that provokes the need to carelessly and quickly spend money we don't have?

    June 19, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  9. Skip, a black man

    Please people but down your crack pipes...find a job...pay your taxes...the only people who really think your going to it free are stupid or already a free loader!

    June 19, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  10. Mike in Fairfax

    Just step back and let 'em go.

    June 19, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  11. JP

    Where do you get the money? Tax the wealthy. What an outrageous idea.
    Is it blasphemous for someone to work hard for a good living? The current administration thinks so.

    June 19, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  12. HonestMistake

    I have to laugh at posters who think part of any of the plans in consideration is going to mean they will get to cancel their private insurance and won't have to pay $400 a month for their coverage. The plans aren't talking about cutting costs at hospitals and doctor's offices; they don't talk about universal coverage; they don't even have a real government monthly plan you can pay premiums for. They are pretty much talking about covering the uninsured. Try increasing your deductible to lower your monthly cost. If you are almost at retirement age check with your state's health services department to see if you quit work if you qualify for state assistance.

    June 19, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  13. BobbyAllen

    The Kennedy version exempts Congress and all federal employees. If the Democrat nationalized health care is so wonderful, it should exempt no one. If Congress and ALL other citizens are not participants in the SAME plan, then it must be trash.

    June 19, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  14. Mary, New York

    I have lived under three countries' healthcare systems, Germany, England and the USA. USA is the worst! England was the best. Okay, once I had to wait a few months in England for a procedure that was not urgent, but no big deal. But I never had to fear job loss and health coverage loss in England! In the USA I have to jump through the hoop to get approval and all kinds of other paperwork with the insurance. And you try to get to see some specialists here in the US. when you need to, if you can find one that will accept your insurance! And the amount of time and effort involved to get taken care of is ridiculous and a total waste! One can chose to buy a car or house and pay for car and property insurance, but one cannot chose if one becomes sick. The word PROFIT should be taken out of healthcare.

    June 19, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  15. Jason S.

    Why can't they fix Medicare first before trying this national public option experiment?

    June 19, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  16. $1 TRILLION?!!!!!!

    So the government is trying to tell my doctors what to do and this is going to cost $1 trillion?? I can't even begin to think how ridiculous this is. My healthcare isn't going to be as great as it is now and my costs are going to rise?

    For the people that are un-insured, why do we have to pay higher fees for them to receive insurance? This administration is also talking about raising welfare benefits to an all time high. Enough is enough! Instead of just giving people money, how about you offer tax credits to businesses that offer medical insurance to their employees? More business will begin to offer insurance which means more WORKING Americans will have health insurance.

    This whole bill is a BUST. A trillion dollars?!! are you serious?

    June 19, 2009 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  17. lynn in NM

    What happened to Nancy? Why isn't she doing the arm twisting? How about Harry? If they won't vote for their own President's plan, then it must be fatally flawed.

    June 19, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  18. jm


    You're a moron. Why don't you take the same advice you gave JAE. CNN shame on you for printing such nonsense.

    June 19, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  19. Ex-Repug Gal

    There has to be a public option. It's the only way to keep the private companies from robbing us. The Rebublicans have already proved that whenever left alone the corporations in this country will rob you blind. It sucks but we have no choice.

    June 19, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  20. Dawn In Pa

    OMG so I guess that everyone here has Health Insurance, you pay out right or have it trough your employment or husbands employment.

    I agree with Kevin Luby, but go abit farther, have the Doctors and Nurses give better care and leaving things inside the patient...

    June 19, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  21. Heather

    This is odd. The problem is that this bill does not cover all 46 million and still cost over a trillion dollars. But somehow Obama getting more involved changes that?

    It seems it will still not cover all 46 million and it will still cost over a trillion dollars!

    Of course we can afford it! The Democrats think the American tax payer is a bottomless ATM machine. They will not care so long as the majority of their voter base does not have to pay the tax increase to cover the costs!

    June 19, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  22. Paul from Kissimmee

    They want Obama to work? Really? If it's not another celebrity tour, they can forget about it.

    June 19, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  23. Ben

    John H – "Oh, reform's cost is estimated to be about 10 – 15% of our military's yearly cost. Does anybody see the irony of this? If the U. S. quit playing world cop and avoided unnecessary military engagements, we could pay for health care easily. But oh, excuse me. Terrorists are just around the corner and we need to spend a TRILLION dollars a year defending ourselves"

    You're a typical Liberal whiner. What do you propse we do? Scap our military entirely? Not arm or defend ourselves? When are you Libs gonna wake up and realize that freedom isn't free?

    June 19, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  24. Steve

    Allen – this is your country? really? I don't recall see your name in the Constitution or recall you being sworn in as President. Or does Mr. Obama take his orders from you? Your comments are just about the dumbest thing I've ever hear anyone say. You make Rush Limbaugh look rationale. I am a Republican who is pro-choice, completely not religious, don't own a gun, and I don't like Rush L. HOWEVER, I pay taxes – lots of taxes given my income bracket and I am not in favor of paying your healthcare bills. Pay your own bills by working extremely hard as I do to get a good job in a great company which is very profitable and can afford to partially pay my healthcare costs. Or if you are too dumb, we have a public option already – it's called Medicaid.

    June 19, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
  25. Amazed

    Seems like the first good news I have seen on this ticker in months. I like the idea of government staying out of some small piece of my life.

    Good day, Comrades!

    June 19, 2009 04:13 pm at 4:13 pm |
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