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. Herb in SC

    Mark in Vulcan Town. You hit the nail on the head. I totally agree with your viewpoint.

    June 19, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  2. Mike in MN

    Good!! Government run health care would be a change for the worse not better. We need health care reform to center around lower insurance and medical costs and getting everyone covered by private insurance. No government control of health care.

    June 19, 2009 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  3. lila

    Stop removing my post CNN. I have said nothing abusive.
    What's the republican alternative to our health care crisis? Make it so all size companies no longer have to provide health insurance to their workers. Give the workers a $5000 tax break so they can buy their own insurance. But wait one moment,,, how about if we want to cover our family? Too bad. The cheapest family rate is $11,000. That's an extra $6000 bucks out of my pocket.
    I lived in London for a short time. I had to go to a walk-in government health clinic (they are everywhere.. with in blocks no matter where you go) I was out in less than 15 mins with the meds I needed and it cost me 6 bucks total. I had to go to the hospital once.. and the food was bad.. beans and rice... but the medical care was top of the line. I was seen in 5 mins from the time I walked into the emergancy room. I got better care there than I have ever gotten in an American emergancy room. And it was all free. No bills. None. That is how it is for all people in the UK.
    You would think that it would cost the UK a fortune but England spends half of what the US spends now on their health care coverage for all. Why can't we do that? How can we be spending twice as much for the same amount of people and we have nothing, nothing like the full health coverage for every citizen like they do.
    I figure some massive health insurance corporation lobby group must keep us from doing what would save the USA tons of money in the long run while covering every American with top of the line health care.

    June 19, 2009 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  4. Chris in NC

    Why do conservatives think their tax dollars are personally earmarked for social/welfare type programs? There is NOT some special office in D.C. that divvies up our tax dollars based on your voter registration or political philosophy! Free or at least affordable health care is not a welfare hand-out for the needy...it should be a moral obligation for our government to provide health care for every citizen of this country.

    How do you pay for it? Adjust your priorities...find a way to make it work. Contrary to what Neo-Con teabaggers might hope for, big government ain't going away...may as well make it work in the best interests of our country, rather than the special interests that now control it.

    June 19, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  5. Bob

    @ Allen:

    I'm sure you're a likable person and you care about people, and they care about you. I'm very much the same. Another way we're similar is that neither of us have time for "ultra" views on the "other side". In my case, I have NO time for ultra-liberal views.

    For every one of you, there is one of us. While you might say "Obama won by a landslide and has the mandate of the people", that is hardly the case. Obama won the election but it was HARDLY a landslide victory (try looking at the actual numbers of votes cast and the larger number of Republicans that stayed home). And there are a large number of historical examples where a leader won an election by telling the majority of people, in essence, "elect me and I'll give you money". Recent examples include Venezuela.

    I'm very much in favor of finding affordable health care, as I DO believe it eliminates downstream problems. But there are MANY issues that need to be considered (lifestyle, diet, etc.) so simply making it easier (and at no cost) for someone to go to an emergency room for a non-emergency is HARDLY the answer.

    Last but not least, we differ in that I don't believe that health care is a right. Nor is happiness. Nor is food. We have the right to PURSUE happiness but it is not a guarantee.

    Allen, I'm sure you're a nice guy. I think you're also essentially a Socialist, and that is not what I (nor many others) want for our country. So expect a VERY significant fight from us, because our beliefs are every bit as strong as yours.

    By the way, perhaps you could help the Mr. Gibbs answer the question put to him at a recent press conference: "Can you tell me of a country in which a government-run health care system works well?" Give us the answer, and let's see how many people from other countries go THERE for treatment. It won't be anything at all like the number that come here.

    June 19, 2009 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  6. Randolph Carter

    Lila wrote: I figure some massive health insurance corporation lobby group must keep us from doing what would save the USA tons of money in the long run while covering every American with top of the line health care.

    Ding ding ding! We have a winner. Have a nice day!

    June 19, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  7. Larry S

    As usual, the liberals have little common sense and less intelligence. But of course, they do contiue the hatrid . . . and we all know that hatrid is a requirement to join the democratic party and be a follower of BO. Then you add the continued lies and you have the ideal democrat.

    June 19, 2009 05:15 pm at 5:15 pm |
  8. Len

    To Kate in SW Florida,

    I agree with your assessment 100%. The Republican party has rejected President Obama from day one. They are irresponsible and they do not care about all Americans. It is a shame!

    June 19, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  9. Donna from Colorado Springs

    Of course the Presidents health care bill will cost a ton of money. Everyone with a brain realizes that because healthcare is very expensive. But, the Republicans want the country to believe that their plan will cost so much less with the same options. Who are they kidding? Some of us were born at night......but not last night!

    June 19, 2009 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  10. All Good Things

    Neutralizer, you are wrong. Over 70% of Americans want real healthcare reform. Surely you are a billionaire who can afford 600% mark up and you must be able to pay someone to haggle with the health care provider you have so you can GET the healthcare you pay for. Big insurance and big pharma aren't interested in the average Joe. They rip us off and most of the people in DC, Dems and Repubs are in their back pocket, despite the fact that we the people pay for THEIR socialist health care plans.

    For those arguing that Social Security is an example of a poorly run system, look no further than W to see who looted a previously viable system. Get your heads out of the sand and into some research.

    June 19, 2009 05:17 pm at 5:17 pm |
  11. Bob

    And by the way, what would you Dems be saying if the roles were reversed and Republicans were threatening to use "reconciliation" to pass legislation that even some Republicans were against? You'd be through the roof. To not feel the same way now is incredibly hypocritical.

    Most folks (Republicans and Democrats and others) like the idea of developing an approach to health care that includes as many people as possible. Look...most of us are pretty good people and we DO care about each other. But this is among the most complex challenges we've faced as a nation in a long time, and RUSHING it through Congress for political reasons (e.g., midterm elections) is politics at its absolute WORST. EVERYONE (Repubs and Dems alike) will end up suffering for it.


    June 19, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  12. Steve (the real one)

    Lets see, a possible tax on health care benefits for your job! I said possible but we all know the libs have never met a tax, they did not like! Tax increases just to pay interest on the debt! You libs always point to England, and Germany as prime examples of universal healthcare. Just once have you EVER taken a good look at their tax rates? It's not just the rich who are paying a healthy (excuse the pun) tax rate! People need to be protected, I agree and most of the most they need protection from themselves!

    June 19, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  13. Bill, Atlanta, GA

    Health care reform is an issue that must get done. The United States spends roughly 13% of GDP on health care, and this figure will continue to rise if reform doesn't take place. Clearly the status quo is not sustainable nor can it be defended. The fact is not everyone having health insurace coverage is costing everyone more money. Health care costs have to be covered whether you have insurance or not. So health care providers employ a process called "cost shifting" to cover these costs. What this means is those with health insurance are charged higher than cost prices for their health care to cover the costs of the care for those who don't have insurance. This is why prices listed on hospital bills seem so high. Not only are you paying for your health care but the health care of others as well. Talk about socialized medicine. Of course, you're not paying the bill, the insurance company is. However, what does the health insurance company do? They pass on the higher costs to consumers in the form of higher premiums.

    Actually, health care experts today believe "cost shifting" is minimal which may be true. Those who have health insurance today are typically on managed care plans which negotiate with providers for discounted prices for their "subscribers". So maybe today, cost shifting is minimal. However, reverse cost shifting is on the rise. Since providers can't necessarily shift costs to the insurance companies, they try to stick it to the patient. The price for a procedure is vastly different for those who have insurance and those who don't. Those who don't are charged a higher, non-discounted price and if the uninsured can't afford it, they declare bankruptcy. We're back to cost shifting again, and the bottom line is we all pay more year after year either in the form of higher premiums or higher costs to the government which of course is backed by the taxpayer.

    This has to stop. President Obama has a good plan for reform. It may cost quite a bit initially, but maintaining the status quo will cost us more over the long haul. Don't let the fearmongers scare you with tales of health care disasters from Canada or Great Britain. Look to Japan. Japan has a system in place pretty close to what the President is proposing, and they spend about 6% of GDP, the lowest of any industriallized country. In Japan, health insurance is manadatory. You either have it through your employer or you have government insurance. Prices for all citizens regardless of insurance plan is set by the government, so there's no cost shifting. The sytsem isn't perfect and isn't without it's critics, but it works fairly well for their society. Everyone has health insurance coverage so no one has to worry about pre-existing conditions. Let's take a page from Japan and get this job done.

    June 19, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  14. Tania

    I am now in Canada, in a Prairie province. My family had quite a number of serious surgeries in the last few years, and we would have been homeless now if we were in the U.S.

    I go to any doctor I wish, see specialists when necessary. There is a wait if it is not urgent. But - my taxes cover my medical costs. Hip replacement, back surgery, aneurism, seriously broken bones, etc. etc. Did not even see the bill. The taxes are higher that in the U.S., but all of us, ALL of us are covered. There is no tier system. If someone wants immediate service (if not an emergency), they do go across the border - and they pay for it, pay highly. I waited a few months for my serious surgery, and am just fine now.

    I know a couple in Minnesota who are still paying off their 4-year-old daughter's birth.

    If you can afford it, you're fine. But the HMO will decide which illness you should not have gotten, and they won't cover that one. Really humane, eh?

    June 19, 2009 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  15. Bev - NYC

    The bill wouldn't be on the rocks if Democrats would grow a pair, and stop dreaming about their tax payer expensed summer junkets. We all know no matter what the plan is, Republicans will vote no and spend the next two weeks on TV complaining. Nothing new. It's not like a trilion dollar check will be written next week to fund health care. Like everything else out of Washington, if it's help the little guy it happens at a snails pace.

    June 19, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  16. Kathy Corey

    The rapidly escalating health care costs are from Medicare. In the private sector we have to make up the difference between what Medicare pays and the doctors/hospitals charge. If there is a public plan we will not be paying the difference any longer...because our employers will bail on providing a health care benefit...and we will all be on the government plan. Ask the CBO, 15M people who currently have health insurance through employer sponsored plans will end up without them. The US government seems determined to emulate California in providing more and more free entitlements. The entire country will go bankrupt if Obama has his way.

    June 19, 2009 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  17. MatthewDetroit

    How come Barack wont start some Tort reform and stop all the frivolous law suits. How about capping the payoffs and stopping the madness. That will cut 25% of health care costs.
    That is Change I can believe in.
    Stop talking out of both sides of your mouth barack. Stop lying.
    Stop paying for illegals. That will cut costs.
    Stop allowing people to use ER has their doctor.
    Limit the number of visits.
    That will cut costs.

    June 19, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  18. NoTelePrompTer

    Remember all you suckers who think Obama is going to GIVE you health care, NOTHING the government provides will come cheap. We will be taxed to death for this latest give away program and still ALL will not have coverage. The elderly on medicare and the medicaid poor will have cuts to their programs to help fund this pipe dream. Like most Democrat ideas this does not make any sense. Obama wants this rushed through, before anyone can think about it, just like the Stimulus Package that no one in Washington actually read.

    June 19, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  19. Carramea

    Watch the movie "Sicko" by Michael Moore. Showed France, Canadas, and Englands universal health care ...... No huge lines...... medicine is $10 no matter what it is in England. Look the states are drowning with medicaid. I do agree that we have to have tort reform for this to have a chance in hell of working

    American medicine wants to treat you once your sick. Preventative health care could save this country billions

    As for Medicare why not start paying for IV services in the home. Rather than a nursing home that costs 8 times MORE per day

    June 19, 2009 05:51 pm at 5:51 pm |
  20. Liberal and Proud of It

    Some posters here say that Liberals love taxes, but nothing could be less true. However, Liberals love fiscal responsibility.

    While Conservatives believe that the world owes them a free lunch, Liberals know that the bills have to be paid.

    Conservative administrations led by Reagan, Bush, and Bush have followed a spend and borrow strategy. Reagan doubled the national debt. Bush increased it by half. Bush2 doubled it again. Reagan added $2 trillion. Bush1 added a trillion. Bush2 added $5 trillion.

    Sooner or later, we have to pay the bills – lthough Conservatives have never learned that.

    Most of the Conservatives in Congress who are complaining about the debt voted for deficit spending every time a Republican President asked them to.

    June 19, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  21. Sheridan

    WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?? I was amazed to find so many against a public plan!

    Do you work for the insurance industry?? I can't imgaine any other reason why you would think our healthcare is NOT a right. We are the only civilized country that does not have public health care, and all THIS would be is an optuion for public health insurance.

    This government is not the boogeyman – the Insurance Companies are screwing you and just because you employer pays for it, that doesn't mean when you get cancer, it won't be diagnosed as a "pre-existing condition."

    June 19, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  22. Terry from Texas

    Tort reform is a great idea. Corporations are clogging the courts with frivolous lawsuits against each other, against their customers, against the government, against competitors, etc. Most of these suits have no legal merit, they are just trying to stifle competition, like the big phramaceutical manufacturers who sue makers of generic drugs just to keep them off the market, stalling their competitors for years and years.

    How about cranking up our medical schools and producing more doctors? It's basic economics. Lower the price by increasing the supply.

    June 19, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  23. Kevin Hewitt

    It is heart breaking to me to see how hard those who oppose health care reform are working to destroy the dream before all the facts get on the table. I wonder if those who oppose new healthcare reform are without insurance. It is easy for opponets to oppose President Obama's new health care plan when they have insurance.

    When a family have to choose between food and health insurance cost, what do you think they would choose? Food of course!!!

    If the shoe was on the other foot, I wonder if they would oppose everyone having access to healthcare when a doctor tells them they have cancer and need treatment, what then!!!


    June 19, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  24. J

    To the guy that listed the pay of all the health insurance execs.

    Nationalize it.
    Govt takes over.
    Then the execs quit along with talented doctors/nurses due to lack of incentive.
    Finally, everyone gets crappy health care.

    Sorry but I don't want a C+ student operating on my children...

    June 19, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  25. Mark,B'ham,Al.

    Anyone who thinks you are going to get the same medical sa the President, Congress, the Cabinet or civil servants, look at what has happened to medicne for the armed forces. You remember Walter Reed and the injured soldiers back from war waiting to see an orthopediac surgeon for 4 months. No, it was not Bush's fault either, Clinton created the HMO system the military is under.

    June 19, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
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