Off on a predictable foot

OFF ON A PREDICTABLE FOOT…. If you’re watching the White House health care summit, you may have noticed that Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) has delivered an extremely long opening statement. I can summarize it for those of you who’ve missed it: “No. No, no, no. We’re not willing to compromise on the legislation, and all we want is to kill the Democratic legislation and start over.” Imagine about 17 minutes of that, with a bizarre metaphor about a car show and a de Tocqueville quote.

And expect a whole day of it.

At [today’s] White House health care summit, lawmakers from both parties will sit down for six hours and, ostensibly, try to come up with a bipartisan compromise. But for the Republicans, only one compromise is acceptable: Scrap the bills we have and start over.

Minority leaders in the House and the Senate have both called for a total do-over, and other members of the Republican contingent are echoing the line.

In an op-ed today, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and White House Office of Health Reform Director Nancy-Ann DeParle raise a relevant response.

[W]e share the view of Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), who said last September: “We agree on about 80 percent of the issues right now. It’s just a matter of hashing out those few areas where we disagree.”

That’s why we think Republicans should find a lot to like in the proposal President Obama released on Monday. It contains several ideas taken directly from Republican bills, such as letting people save on their premiums if they participate in proven employer wellness programs, a proposal supported by Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.). Or giving states grants to evaluate medical liability models that can improve patient safety, reduce medical errors and bring down liability premiums, similar to a proposal Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) has supported. We know Republicans will support the measures to prevent health-care fraud, such as new background checks for Medicare suppliers and real-time reviews of claims, because they’re the ones who wrote them.

The president’s proposal also contains insurance reforms that Republicans have supported for years. For example, it would eliminate caps on benefits, a step that has been supported by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.). Republicans including Sens. Tom Coburn (Okla.) and Richard Burr (N.C.) have backed one of the proposal’s key elements: state-based, health insurance marketplaces where families will be able to easily compare insurance policies to find the one that’s best for them. The president’s proposal would also ban discrimination based on preexisting conditions, a change that Coburn and Burr pushed for insurance plans in these new marketplaces.

I’ve never heard of a set of talks where one side agrees with 80% of what the other side is offering, and to take the next step, recommends scrapping everything and starting over.