President Barack Obama laid out the first detailed legislative proposal for health care reforms to the United States’ $2.5 trillion medical care system this morning with an approach that largely follows the Senate’s version of legislation proposed in December.
The President’s detailed plan went live on the White House Web site at 10 a.m. ET. The 11-page summary of the changes, labeled "The President's Proposal," is designed to serve as the starting point for talks scheduled this week.
Amidst visible unrest among constituents in California who cried foul over a proposed rate increase by Anthem Blue Cross, President Obama’s plan references a measure that blocks insurers from attempting “excessive” rate increases, a White House official said, something that had not been included in Democratic health care overhaul bills.
The provision follows days of public messaging on health insurers’ profits by the Obama administration. "As bad as things are today, they'll only get worse if we fail to act. We'll see exploding premiums and out-of-pocket costs burn through more and more family budgets," the President said Saturday.
Among some of the other changes Obama seeks, notes the Washington Post, is a delay of the tax on high-end insurance plans until 2018, an end to the special Medicaid deal that negotiators had cut for Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D). The plan does not call for a public option health plan despite pressure from progressives in Obama's Democratic party to do so.
The bills as slated are generally similar. Both would extend coverage to many of the 46 million Americans who now lack health insurance and impose restrictions on insurance companies such as requiring them to cover people with pre-existing medical conditions. Congressional Republicans, who continue to unite in opposition to both health care bills, have told Democrats to scrap both and start over with a far less sweeping agenda.
The timing of this proposal, say experts, will add fodder to the drama expected this week as Democrats and Republicans prepare for an all-day televised health care “summit” at Blair House. The White House has admitted the necessity for this meeting as a way to re-energize the now-stalled health bill. Republicans, as of this writing, had not formally accepted the President’s invitation to Thursday’s meeting, but are expected to attend.
"This is the opening bid for the health meeting," White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer said. "We took our best shot at bridging the differences. It makes some strong steps to improving the final product . . . The president is coming to the meeting with an open mind."
(Reuters, New York Times contributed to this report)
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