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. mike

    To Allen @3:47

    Lighten up! If you truly believe ANY of the statements you posted, you may need professional help. But you better hurry, because if this health care sham is passed, you may never get the help you need.

    June 19, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  2. Andy in Atlanta

    Wow. Looking at some of these comments makes me sad for America. I don't know how Allen's comments made it in but they are definitely inappropriate. I work in healthcare across each the Provider (that's the Docs), the Payer (that's the insurance companies) and Pharma (that's the pills) industries. There are many, many causes of escalating costs. Everyone that takes a view that there is a definitive cause in one portion of the healthcare equation is only, at best, partially right and at worst, ridiculously wrong. It's an emotional issue but you have to stop thinking emotionally. Government is not the answer. Government is responsible for Medicare, Medicaid and the VA and all have had critical problems for years. Giving goverment more responsibility for healthcare will just magnify existing problems and create new ones. Do you want to fix healthcare? Then do these basic things: Hold insurance companies to specific "Medical Cost Ratios" and penalize them when they are inefficient, do not let employees opt out of employer-provided health insurance so risk pools are kept large (that is, share the risk), invest more in fraud detection and prosecution, remove incentives for doctors to over-prescribe tests and procedures and enact legislation to prosecute unethical behavior (like accepting kickbacks for referring patients), enact tort reform on a large scale to limit awards to something sane and thus limit the cost of malpractice insurance, don't let emergency rooms tak the place of primary care Docs, and perhaps most importantly, invest in wellness programs to keep the healthy from becoming sick and understand that if you are overweight and smoke, you should be paying more for health insurance than everyone else. These are only a few suggestions but they would have a significant impact on cost. Please take the time to educate yourself on the issues and contribute constructively to the national debate. Don't just flap your ignorant lips.

    June 19, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  3. Independent_me

    Democrats -you are spineless!
    You are allowing the Repugnants to railroad you.
    If you don't grow a pair and step up to the plate the opportunity to reform health care will be lost. YOU ARE IN THE MAJORITY NOW – ACT LIKE IT, FOR GOD'S SAKE!

    June 19, 2009 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  4. ron

    America needs health care, not health insurance. Obama needs to stop pandering to the right.

    A trillion or even 2 trillion dollars over ten years is nothing compared to what we are already spending on health care in the US. The many people (repubs) just don't seem to understand this.

    We have money for war, but not to care for our citizens.

    June 19, 2009 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  5. David

    We can afford it because we can't afford the Republican Alternative that just gives a windfall to the Insurance comapies that refuse to cover us anyway, or lie about the coverage they will give and try to weasel out on technicalities, Leaving the taxpayer with the expense!

    June 19, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  6. Stacy from Leesburg, VA

    Steve (the Real One), recent history has proven out the GOP as the fear mongers. Be it with Iraq, passage of the Patriot Act in the post 9-11, TARP, and so on. Create or take advantage of fear, then they pounce. Besides, I thought the GOP was Pro-Life..meaning they are for life. You cannot have family values when your mother is sick and your dad is dead because he could not get healthcare at an affordable rate.

    In this case, they can spread outright falsehoods and they don't have to be correct, they just have to get misinformed people upset enough to write a congressman, who is more worried about being elected than doing the right thing.
    Is this program being proposed the best? I don't think so, I will concur with you. But to spread fear and falsehood in order to accomplish nothing for something that many many Americans need more than another bullet or bomb is simply unpatriotic. My message for both sides is to find a solution and find a compromise.

    June 19, 2009 04:20 pm at 4:20 pm |
  7. Anonymous

    i didnt realize we had another trillion to spend? Oh thats right, if this passes, a massive tax increase will fall on business owners, who wont pay it and then the only ones who will be able to afford health care are the republicans who we voted out, who by the way have the power to stop this. Oh, thats right we as a country hate republicans i forgot.

    I hope everyone enjoys their money now cause this time next year all the working class will be broke


    June 19, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  8. Jane

    I imagine it's on the rocks because the Insurance & Health care industry doesn't like to have competition & they are threatening to without campaign support for anyone in favor.

    It's high time to get campaign finance limits in place & eliminate the PACS - fat chance of this too. It's so disgusting what we have representing us!!!!

    June 19, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  9. M-AZ

    Bill Sampson,

    Thank you! I am with you.

    Mr. President,

    Do not COWER. People in this country need a national health care plan!!!!!

    June 19, 2009 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  10. Amazed

    Our real problem is a financially illiterate population that has forgotten the definition of “insurance”. What the weak-minded call “insurance” is really nothing more than a medical payment plan. Insurance is for covering unexpected and catastrophic events, and is readily available for a fee. That is not the same as a routine visit to the doctor. We do not expect our auto insurance to cover oil changes and routine mechanical work. Lets re-define some more words so our Washington thieves can fight over them.

    June 19, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  11. Franco

    Why should I not receive the same free healthcare that my Congresspersons receive? I still cannot understand this. They are not that special, yet we foot the bill for them. We need the country to foot the bill for everyone. It is such a mess, how can it be changed without a major overhaul and sacrifices on everyone's part.

    June 19, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  12. Branden

    I'm a Canadian and as far as I can tell it comes down to a simple decision for my American friends. Would you rather have a partially "socialized" healthcare system which insures everybody, or would you rather keep the privatized system that leaves nearly 50 million people in the dust?

    I love how the GOP is quick to claim the moral high ground but when it comes to helping the poor, they're nowhere to be found. They seem to think that government is incapable of running anything effectively, which is true, when they are in power.

    June 19, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  13. ron

    Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

    Our right to health care is guaranteed in these words. How can you have life without healthcare, how can you have liberty if you are shackled by the chains of paying for (profit driven) healthcare, how can you be happy when you are sick or dying?

    The right to healthcare is guaranteed in our constitution.

    June 19, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  14. Steve (the real one)

    People, if this is such a great democratic plan, why isn't it good enough for the Congress and federal workers? Maybe you are going to be the EXPERIMENT!

    June 19, 2009 04:28 pm at 4:28 pm |
  15. Kate in SW Fla

    It is such a shame that "the window of opportunity" is closing. the problem is the continuous campaign. This election, there was not even a few months of a break. They never stopped. McCain is still acting like he has a chance to win, for pete's sake. It is hopeless, thinking anythng can get done anymore. Hopeless. The Republicans have promised to obstruct anything and everythong the Democrats want to accomplish –

    June 19, 2009 04:29 pm at 4:29 pm |
  16. Andi

    Good grief, this is tiring.

    Ok, if you don't support OUR President's plan, have you at least read it or are you just looking at summaries from GOP leaders? I watched Mitch McConnel discuss this last Sunday and all he said was how bad President Obama's ideas are, but nothing else, even when asked what his ideas on Health Care Reform were.

    So, say OUR President's plan is not agreed on. Do any of you have a problem with Congress making the insurance companies are more responsible, caring, and less greedy? Or is that restricting your idea of a 'free market'? I get so angry with the posters who say 'get a job and you'll have insurance'. I HAVE a job and I HAVE insurance but I can't afford to use it! Most Americans work their tails off – whether liberal or conservative, so cut that crap out. God Forbid I have a serious illness. I'll have to cash in my retirement early to pay for it. I guess it doesn't matter either way – I'm not likely to live long enough to retire.

    June 19, 2009 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  17. M-AZ


    Work hard??? I would like to see the hands and backs of those multi-million dollar insurance executives...Work hard? You try telling the brick layers, construction workers, janitors, maids, and small business owners they don't work hard. The lobbyists and congressional members opposing health care reform have people like you just where they want them...and they are laughing all the way to the bank in route to their posh vacation resorts. In the mean time if a they or a member of their family gets ill they plenty of options to choose from without going broke.

    June 19, 2009 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  18. Ben

    NeverScared – You're totally clueless. If Corporations have the choice between healthcare they have to subsidize and a government-run plan that costs them nothing, which option do you think they're gonna take? They'll do whatever takes costs out of their bottom line, pure and simple. Anyone who thinks they won't is delusional.

    June 19, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  19. Kate in SW Fla

    It is such a shame that "the window of opportunity" is closing. The problem is the continuous campaign. This election, there was not even a few months of a break. They never stopped. McCain is still acting like he has a chance to win, for pete's sake. It is hopeless, thinking anything can get done anymore. Hopeless. The Republicans have promised to obstruct anything and everything the Democrats want to accomplish – ALL FOR POLITICS. It really is sad. If I live another 100 years, I will never vote for another Republican EVER. Not even Charlie Crist.

    June 19, 2009 04:32 pm at 4:32 pm |
  20. Ros

    I want a tax break if I maintain a healthy weight, exercise, and all that good stuff.

    June 19, 2009 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  21. Randolph Carter

    Healthcare reform will pass, but it'll be really watered down because congress obey their corporate masters. They will never bite the hand that feeds them. Everything is now a commodity. Everything. Isn't capitalism great? Have a nice day!

    June 19, 2009 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  22. Al

    Considering how wonderful a job the gov't has done with social security, better to keep out of healthcare. Medicaide and Medicare are so filled with fraud and abuse the best move would be to do away with them altogether.

    If they want to do something worthwhile, end the ridiculous punitve tort lawsuits, that hamstring the medical profession and drive up costs Punitive awards should be totally eliminated. Lawsuits should only provide for actual damages.

    Another problem...hospitals which receive any federal funding can't even ask if a person is a legal resident/citizen...so we end up footing the bill for 12 million illegals...

    June 19, 2009 04:37 pm at 4:37 pm |
  23. Mark,B'ham,Al.

    As a taxpayer, I should not have to pay for your liver transplant because you are an alcoholic, I should not have to pay for your heart transplant due to the illegal drugs you put in your system, I should not have to pay for your STD due to you promiscuity, I should not have to pay for your lungs from smoking cigarettes pot, or crack, and I should not have to sacrafice anymore for you who should be paying for health insurance instead of going partying, having a cell phone, I-Pod, computers, gas guzzling cars, and putting bad things in your body because it makes you feel good. You need to be responsible for yourself, your health, and your actions.

    June 19, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  24. Zero.

    Barack Obama. "The Star with no Points"... Going round in circles.

    June 19, 2009 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  25. Michigan Jim

    Kill it. Now.

    June 19, 2009 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
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