President Obama — February 25, 2010 at 11:01 am

Live-Blog of the White House Bipartisan Health Care Summit


Let the show begin!

Streaming live HERE.

Via C-SPAN 3:

Preshow: McCain and Boehner look like they’re planning a date. Giant square table, nobody gets a sweet spot. Everyone looks Very SeriousTM.

10:06 – President Obama enters, and gets right down to business. Opens with a few opening remarks.

Refers to last year’s health care summit and calls this one of the biggest drags on the U.S. economy.

The president talks about how many of the letters he gets are about this topic and how it affects everybody including those with insurance. Businesses and individuals agree that it’s getting worse, not better. Those in the individual markets are hardest hit. Most of the deficit we face are due to this problem.

Talks about his personal experiences with his own children and his mother dying from cancer and having to deal with insurance companies while in the hospital in her last days. And how so many others deal with these same problems.

Emphasizes that it works within the current system, will ensure a LOT more people who are currently uninsured, and improve it for those who already have insurance.

Dares to suggest that this be a useful DISCUSSION, not just people making speeches.

10:21 – Starting with cost controls. Republican Senate Leader Mitch McConnell speaks. He defers to Lamar Alexander.

Says he wants make sure governors’ are also represented. Slam against President for not inviting any governors???

Wants to start over. If you’re playing a drinking game, DRINK whenever a Republican says “start over”, “scrap the existing plan”, or “begin again”.

Claims he wants the president to succeed and that they lower health care costs.

10:25 – Lamar repeats they need to start over. DRINK.

Claims this is an unfunded mandate that diverts the costs to the states and still contains too many “sweetheart deals” for certain states. Need start over. DRINK.

Wants to end junk lawsuits and to allow insurance companies to work across state lines.

Lists these and four other steps. Says that reining in health care companies only pays for two days of health care costs. Insurance companies aren’t the bad guys apparently!

Calls reconciliation a “little-used process” and isn’t appropriate for something this big. Methinks the GOP is terrified of that. Good.

Invokes the “tyranny of the majority” and throws the president’s words back at him regarding letting the majority rule on big issues. Eh?

Says we have to avoid “jamming it through in a partisan way”. Terrified of the Democrats actually using their majority.

10:34 – “Start over”. DRINK.

10:35 – Pelosi speaks, will split her time with Harry Reid.

Pelosi references the bipartisanship surge in the House yesterday to lift the antitrust protection: 406-19. Unspoken comment: will the Senate take it up now or will it stall like the other nearly 300 bills the House has sent them?

References multiple Michigan families that have contacted her and then hat tips Congressman John Dingell. Go Rep. Dingell!

Talks about “job lock” for people and how it’s also about jobs, innovation, and wellness. People want to hear about results, not the ugly process to get them. Have to pass this legislation to keep our promise with regards to Medicare. Invokes Ted Kennedy: “Health care is a RIGHT, not a privilege.”

10:43: Reid speaks. Wants to talk about Nevada and the country, not Washington, D.C.

Kaiser poll says 58% of Americans will be disappointed if they don’t fix health care. Apparently he hasn’t heard that Americans don’t want it (GOP talking point). Slams Lamar Alexander. Blasts the Republicans on their hypocrisy on reconciliation. Says they are the only ones talking about it. Says it’s been used 21 times recently, mostly by the GOP. “It’s like there’s a different set of facts and reality”. Points out how much of the current legislation has Republican ideas in it. Snap!

“If you have a better plan, let’s hear it.”

10:52: President responds to Alexander’s comments about the process. Points out how many of the six steps he mentioned are already in the White House’s proposal. Wants to talk about substance. Crazy talk from the president?

Wants to start first with costs, something every speaker has mentioned. More than a quarter of small businesses have received rate increases in the last year. By the end of the decade, health care costs will double. Companies are not hiring in some cases due to their health insurance costs.

President smacks down Alexander for claiming the CBO says the legislation will cause premium increases. Hits him with facts. Says he’ll give the info to the press and whoever’s listening if necessary. Ouch.

McCain looks like he’s in pain.

Stuff that’s in the White House’s proposal: buying across state lines, small business pool. Wants to find out what they want that isn’t already in there. Asks Alexander to tell him what he likes in the bill instead of just bashing it.

Alexander says the president is wrong about the CBO report but doesn’t want to do it in public. President says let’s do it here today before they are done. Heh.

11:02 – McConnell speaking. Says that Americans are against the bill 55% to 37%. Brings up reconciliation again. DRINK?

Defers to Senator Tom Coburn.

Coburn blames raising costs on government regulation. Wants to incentivize prevention. Finally, an idea from the GOP! Says federal food stamp program and school lunch program creates more diabetes. Talking about “undercover patients” gaming the system. Eh? President agrees and says they’ve incorporated every fraud-prevention scheme suggested and that still doesn’t come close to lowering costs.

11:13 – Democrat from Maryland Steny Hoyer on deck. Wants an open, transparent, competitive health care market. Agrees with Coburn that waste is a problem. Says they’ve put LOTS of stuff in their bills to “wringing fraud, waste and abuse out of our system”. Still no GOP support though, eh? Start over, eh?

Mentions the public option as a way to help hold costs down and increase competition. Yay!

11:21 – President asks the Republicans to explain why they are against the idea of a health insurance exchange since many of them have supported it in the past.

11:22 – House GOP leader John Boehner (R-Tanfast) up, defers to Rep. John Kline, Republican from Minnesota. Thinks we need to go step-by-step. Code for “start over”. DRINK.

11:25 – Senator Max Baucus up. Says we all know that there’s a problem. “We’re actually quite close, we’re actually mostly in agreement…the gaps are not that great.” Says that most of the Republicans’ suggestions on cost-containment are already in the bills. I’m sensing a theme here…

Talks about the health insurance pools that are in the House bill. Keeps repeating that they really aren’t that far apart. Maybe he’s forgetting that they need to throw away everything that’s already been done and start over (GOP talking point.)

Compares the exchanges (“a Republican idea”) to Orbitz or Expedia.

Compliments the president for taking their fraud and waste provisions farther. President says they took some of the Republicans’ ideas.

11:31 – McConnell defers to Michigander Republican Dave Camp (Ranking member of the House Ways & Means Committee.) Says that if we want to cut costs we shouldn’t spend a trillion dollars. Claims that the Senate bill will increase costs. He says “responsible lawsuit reform” is the answer. Maybe nobody told him that it’s in the bills? Says the House and Senate bills restrict health care savings accounts in unacceptable ways.

President interrupts him and asks him to stay on target and stop just ranting about what he doesn’t like. Heh.

Camp says the CBO report says that individual rates will go up but concedes that it’s because people will move to better benefits. Says the mandates are the reason for that.

11:37 – Democrat Rob Andres from New Jersey up. He’s on the Education & Labor Subcommittee on Health. Defends having minimum federal standards for treatment to protect patients from health insurance company policies. Kline says he doesn’t hear anyone complaining about it now when we don’t have that. Kline is apparently against minimum standards. That should fetch him a hefty check from AHIP.

11:40 – McConnell complains because Democrats have used 52 minutes and Republicans have only gotten 24 minutes.

11:42 – Republican Paul Ryan thinks that the federal government should stay out of mandating minimum standards because it kills competition. What??? Are they supporting a race to the bottom??? The GOP is on thin ice here, methinks.

President steps in to explain why minimum standards are important. The principle of pooling is to help rein in costs. Defines the disagreement as a dispute between whether or not we should have minimum standards. It’s not a “Big Government take-over of health care”, it’s because if you’re going to have a pool, it’s only fair if there are some minimum standards to level the playing field.

11:47 – Now comes Senator Chuck Schumer of New York. Agrees with Coburn that about a third of health care spending doesn’t go for health care. Likes Coburn’s ideas about “undercover patients”.

Makes a good point that if we’re going to cut out waste in Medicare, there will be CUTS to Medicare. Not the “good stuff” but the fraud and waste. Slam against Camp who said we can’t cut anything out of Medicare.

11:51 – Senator Jon Kyl up. Says this comes down to who makes the decisions about cutting costs. Says that Democrats put too much of that is in Washington, D.C. Cites the CBO report again saying individual policies will go up in costs with the Democrats’ bill. It goes up because they get better benefits and this is because of federal mandates. Says that raising taxes, fees on medical device manufacturers it will raise consumers’ costs.

Says they need to handle this “a piece at a time”. Code for “start over”. DRINK.

Accuses the president of raising taxes in a sneaky way.

President mentions again that it seems to be all about criticisms without any constructive ideas being put forth. Then he deals with the issue of minimum standards. Says the cheap plans are just catastrophic plans, “house insurance” that just protects people from going bankrupt if they get sick. Says a “catastrophic pool” still exists for those that can’t afford it but gives options for others who want actual GOOD insurance. If they take advantage of that, it’s a GOOD thing because they’ll have actual insurance.

Reminds them that cross-state plans have been included in the Dems plans. The minimum standards keeps the playing field level for all states and prevents a race to the bottom. Rejects that this is a “government take-over of health care”.

12:01 – Rep. James Clyburn, Democrat from South Carolina up now. Advocates for a safety net for folks that aren’t covered by adequate insurance or who are uninsured – expansion of Health Care Centers.

12:07 – President reminds Republicans people on “Acme Insurance” plans with high deductibles” are grandfathered in. Kyl says it’s a fundamental disagreement between “does Washington know better”. President slams him for using code word GOP talking points and not thinking about what’s good for Americans. Tries again to steer it back to places where they AGREE. Republicans apparently not interested in that.

Where they agree: (1) getting rid of recissions, (2) covering people up to a certain age, (3) no annual or lifetime limits, and (4) prohibiting exclusion of coverage based on pre-existing conditions.

12:11 – Moving on to insurance reform. Boehner defers to Rep. Charles Boustany from Louisiana, a doctor. Says we need to step back and go step-by-step. DRINK.

Speaks to standardizing paperwork because it gets in the way of doctor-patient relationships and wastes doctors’ time. Refers to a GOP plan that reduces premiums by 10% or more. Criticizes existing bill because it “raises premium costs”. Republican just can’t quit on that, can they?

Seems surprised insurance across state lines is something the Democrats would consider. Talks about health insurance savings accounts. Says if they were properly promoted they could make a difference. Criticizes the current bill for restricting them. Says it’s clear the American people have rejected the current legislation “because they see increases in premiums on families, the see it raises taxes significantly on families and raids Medicare to pay for a new entitlement.” Says we need a comprehensive, step-by-step process to fix things. DRINK.

12:19 – Rep. George Miller from California, Education & Labor Committee Chairman. Preventative care shouldn’t carry co-pays. Talking about pre-existing conditions, how it’s a trap for many families, keeps people from moving to new jobs. Says it doesn’t matter what kind of pool you’re in, pre-existing conditions trap you.

12:25 – Senator John McCain takes the stage. Slams Obama for not having the C-SPAN cameras on all negotiations and says that it took place in an unsavory way behind closed doors. Waiting for some ideas from him; seems to only have complaints, slams and criticisms.

“People are angry”. Actually HE seems angry. Brings up Big Pharma deal. Says we need to start over. DRINK.

President reminds him they aren’t campaigning anymore. Slams him for not presenting any ideas whatsoever. McCain just go owned by the president.

“We can have a debate about process or we can have a debate about how we’re going to help the American people at this point and I think the latter debate is the one they care about at this point.”

12:32 – Health & Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius up. Insurance market dominated by monopolies — there’s no competition. Supports minimum standards for care to protect patients, getting rid of pre-existing conditions.

12:38 – Eric Cantor comes now, sitting behind a giant stack of paper which is the Senate bill. “We’re here because we care about health care”. “We don’t care for this bill, the American people don’t care for this bill.” Doesn’t like that Washington will define what essential medical coverage will be. Railing against taxes. Asks “what is the consequences of that?”

Says he has read letters by constituents who are allegedly wronged by our health care system.” Allegedly? Does he have some question about this???

Says CBO says that 8-9 million will lose their current coverage because of the Senate bill. About government oversight of health insurance premium increases: if you stop them, who’s going to pay for them? Need to set this aside and start over. DRINK.

President slams him for grandstanding with his stack of bills. Goes on to talk sensibly why regulation is necessary and lowering costs isn’t a reason for not regulating. “We make decisions to protect consumers every day of our lives.”

Reminds them that they are for some regulation and says the these regulations aren’t arbitrary, they are a response to specific actions by health insurance companies. Asks them to talk about specific ideas they have rather than just criticizing. Again.

“Let’s not pretend that any form of regulation of the insurance market is somehow some onerous burden that’s going to result in terrible things happening to consumers.”

Cantor: We have a huge philosophical disagreement to bridge. When you start to mandate that everyone have insurance, we can’t afford this. Everybody can’t have everything they want. Need to set aside this mandated form of health care legislation. DRINK.

Vice President Biden: “We don’t have a philosophical disagreement. If you can’t be dropped, there has to be dependent coverage, there’s no annual or lifetime cap, then you’ve acknowledged that it is the government’s role. The question is how far you go. So this idea that we have a fundamental philosophical difference…you’re either in or your out.”


12:53 – Rep. Louise Slaughter, Democrat from New York: Pre-existing conditions have to GO! It’s cruel and capricious. Brings up the unfairness of existing insurance company rules for women.

12:57 – Taking a break so House members can go cast a vote. Resume at 1:45.

President now signing autographs. Cracks me up. Honestly, this guy has the patience of Job…

2:01 – Back in session. First we have Senator Mike Enzi, Republican from Wyoming and ranking member of the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee. Says senior citizens are scared (maybe because of his efforts???) Complains that President didn’t do this a year ago. Claims the Republicans were shut out of the process until now. Rii-iight…

Promoting tax-free health care savings accounts. Likes the exchanges. Actually has some positive contributions. Yay — bipartisanship!

2:08 – Senator Tom Harkin — sees a lot of common ground. Reminds the GOP that they have been at the table from the beginning. Nine out of ten GOP ideas put forth are in the House bill except for Health Care Savings Accounts.

Doesn’t agree with Republicans that this can be done incrementally. Need everyone in the pool to make it affordable. This “all hangs together”.

Says that the GOP’s “high-risk pools” segregates sick people.

2:16 – Republican Dave Camp again. Embarrasses me as a Michigander, this man does. Republicans’ plan stops waiting list. Democrats’ bills raise premiums, restrict benefits, and have government-mandated waiting lists.

Need to scrap this and start over, begin again. DRINK.

President Obama points out that Boehner’s bill deals with pre-existing conditions by creating a high-risk pool. But this concentrates the sickest people into a segregated category. Says they have looked at the GOP plan and there’s not enough money in it help those with pre-existing conditions. Having everyone in the large pool (because of the mandate to have insurance) helps keeps costs low. Doesn’t disagree with high-risk pools as a stop-gap to something that everyone in.

Camp continues to say it all gets determined in Washington which is BAA-AAD!

2:23 – Senator Jay Rockefeller, Democrat from West Virginia and Chair of the Finance Subcommittee on Health Care. Talks about Wendell Potter, the former Cygna employee and whistleblower and what they learned from him about how health care insurance companies scheme to increase profits by cutting off sick people. Says that sometimes the decisions have to be made in Washington in order to be effective.

2:31 – Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn from Tennessee. Says that the GOP and Dem ideas about provisions allowing across state line purchasing are very different. Complains that the Senate bill pushes that happening out to 2016 and that the Dems’ bills put up stop signs to that model.

President Obama says he supports allowing people to purchase across state lines. Believes that the exchange could be workable if the exchange gets set-up and then allows for companies to compete nationally.

The president explains his flip-flop on the mandate (that he didn’t support during the campaign): (1) Cost-shifting where all of us that have insurance pay for those who don’t which increases costs. Each family with insurance pays ~$1,000 a year to pay for those without insurance. (2) Pre-existing conditions and the larger pool factor.

2:42 – Vice-president Biden introduces Deficit Reduction. Starts off by saying that they should all be very cautious about claiming that they know “what the American people think”. ‘Cause they don’t. Compares the mandate to a similar conversation that took place when they passed Social Security in the 30s and they had to mandate it in order for it to work.

Everyone agrees we have the finest doctors and nurses in the world. Everyone agrees we have a lot of waste in the system. Everyone agrees that costs are rising out of control and that this wrecks family budgets, state budgets and federal budgets.

Says we need to bend the cost curve.

2:51 – Paul Ryan again. (C-SPAN has weird march music playing in the background.) Claims that CBO score is wrong because the Democratic bills submitted are full of gimmicks and “smoke and mirrors”. First ten years is actually a $460 billion deficit and the second ten years is a $1.4 trillion deficit (rather than reducing the deficit.) Says the most cynical gimmick is how doctors are paid (“the Doc fix”) which Democrats stripped out to hide the expenditures.

Basic difference is that Republicans want PEOPLE not GOVERNMENT to be in charge of this. We all want to fix this but disagree HOW.

American people don’t want a government takeover of healthcare. Need to scrap existing plan. DRINK twice, I say!

President asks Ryan if he thinks Republicans believe Medicare Advantage (Part C) is working. Explains why he thinks it’s not and that it’s inefficient and that some Republicans agree.

McCain chimes in to rant about the Florida amendment that allows them to keep it. President agrees and leaves McCain speechless. Heh.

Coburn answers says that it’s okay to not fill the donut hole because it will raise debt. President points out that 80% of Medicare recipients are subsidizing the other 20% and the extra money goes to insurance companies, not senior citizens. Defends taking the money our of Medicare advantage and using it to pay for prescription coverage for seniors.

3:04 – Rep. Xavier Becerra, Democrat from California, defends the CBO against Ryan’s criticism. Gets Ryan to admit the CBO numbers are legit and the bills reduce the deficit in the first ten years. Ryan rebuts by saying that the bills they scored were full of gimmicks and “smoke screens”.

Rep. Becerra says one of the “unsung secrets” is that a lot of money could be saved by better coordination of care.

3:09 – Senator Chuck Grassley, Republican Iowa, ranking member from the Finance Committee. Gets back to double accounting in the Democrats’ bill. Says the CBO acknowledges that there is double counting going on. Says both bills hit small companies with higher tax rates, the House hits small businesses more, the Senate bill hits the middle class. He sounds like a crankier, older-man version of John McCain. All he lacks is a cane to shake at all those damn (Democratic) kids on his lawn. Keeps thumping the desk. Claims they are putting off decisions on Medicare and Medicaid.

President Obama: “If the notion is that we can’t make the some hard decisions about how entitlements work because it’s just not realistic, nobody’s gonna have the guts to do it, then we’re big trouble. Because that means that the federal budgets and state budgets and then family budgets and business budgets are going to be gobbled up by this thing. So I hope that we’ve got the courage to make some of these changes.”

Reminds them that lots of Republicans agree with him that Medicare Advantage isn’t efficient. You can make the argument about where those savings go but not that you shouldn’t make those changes to save money.

Grassley responds that a “hake of a lotta money cane be saved” but that if you’re going to have program cuts, that you’ve gotta have a system left to serve the people. President Obama points out that fixing Medicare Advantage has nothing to do with that. And he’s right.

3:19 – Senator Kent Conrad, Democrat from North Dakota and Chair of the Budget Committee. Points out that Medicare will soon go broke and that it’s disconnected from reality to suggest we don’t have to fix that. Calls it a “fiscal cliff”. If we do nothing, we can guarantee that Medicare goes broke.

Said Sen. Conrad made one of the most important observations of the day. 5% of Medicare beneficiaries use half the money. Conrad was right about the need to coordinate their care. A study shows that coordinating the care of the sickest people saves dramatic amounts of money.

3:25 – John Boehner finally speaks!

“Mr. President, I’m gonna say thank you for having us here. I think it’s been a useful conversation. As I listened to you open up this meeting, I thought to myself, ‘I don’t disagree with anything that you said at the beginning of this meeting in terms of the premise of why we’re here.’ Uh, the American families are struggling with health care. We all know it. The American people want us to address this in a responsible way. And so, I believe, I say thanks for having us here. I believe our job on behalf of our constituents and behalf of the American people is to listen. I spend time in my district, I spend time in a lot of places. I’ve heard an awful lot. And I can tell you the thing that I’ve heard more than anything over the last six or seven months is that the American people want us to scrap this bill.”


Now he’s making a speech about creating another entitlement that will “bankrupt this country” and calls it a “dangerous experiment”, a “government take-over of health care”. Rant, rant, rant…

Moving to abortion now. Says this bill will allow for the tax-payer funding of abortions. Need to scrap the bill.


Suggests they just go forward with the thing Republicans want and a “clean sheet of paper”, ignoring what the Democrats want.

President Obama smacks him down in his calm, diplomatic way. Tries to get them back on to discussing deficit reduction.

3:32 – Rep. Jim Cooper, Blue Dog Democrat from Tennessee. Says the deficit is the biggest issue of all. Agrees with McCain that we need to get all the special deals out of the legislation. Talks about the death of good bipartisan bills in the Senate where people who say they agree with things vote against them when it comes time to vote.

[Hey! There’s Dick Durbin. He’s awfully quiet…]

Cooper is basically calling members of Congress cowards. Said we need a new day, a new beginning but then says that this bill is a good beginning. Drink or not drink???

Starts singing Kumbayah.

3:36 – Grandpa McCain again. Says we need to start over. DRINK.

Still ranting about special deals that are “more than offensive”.

Now on to medical malpractice. Says Obama promised to look into it. Says there are two examples of this working. “One is called California and the other is called Texas. I won’t talk about California because we Arizonans hate California because they’ve stolen our water.”

Jebus, did he really just say that? Does he know he’s a U.S. Senator???

Cites the Texas law. Says lawsuit filings are down and spending on defensive medicine is down by 10%. Reads off a list of examples of why it has worked. Not using a teleprompter, either! Just old fashioned paper!

Says there is an issue that’s overhanging the entire conversation: RECONCILIATION SCARY! Says he has some sympathy for those in the majority who can’t get things done. Recalls when a group of Senators worked together to avoid the Nuclear Option as if it has anything to do with discussions of using reconciliation to get a health care bill passed. Says that nothing of this magnitude has ever been done that way before. “I think it would harm the future of our country and of the institution I love a great deal for a long, long time.”

President Obama: “I do think [Americans] want a vote on how we’re going to move this forward. And, ya know, I think most Americans think that a majority vote makes sense.”

Disagrees with Boehner’s contention that medical malpractice is the single biggest driver of rising health care costs (“That’s just not the case”). The CBO looked at their bill would save about $50 billion over ten years from that part of it but it’s part of a $2 trillion system. Not a very big part, in other words. Says he still cares about it. Is interested in some bills he’s seen that would reduce the impact of medical malpractice threats.

3:44 – Ah! Now time for Dick Durbin! He’s the Democratic Senator from Illinois and the Majority Whip. He’s sat on both sides of the table (used to be a medical malpractice lawyer that sued doctors.) Orrin Hatch asked the CBO how much medical malpractice reform would save. Answer: $54 billion over 10 years. Except that spend $2.5 TRILLION PER YEAR! One-fifth of one percent. In other words: SUCK IT, BOEHNER!

98,000 people die every year from medical malpractice. Finding innovative ways to prevent mistakes is more appropriate. These aren’t junk lawsuits, they are just compensation for people’s lives being ruined. The number of malpractice lawsuits in the past 20 years has been cut in half and the amount of money paid out in the past five years has been cut in half as well.

Durbin is on fire! “If you think it’s a socialist plot and it’s bad for America, for goodness sakes drop out of the federal employees’ health benefits program. But if you think it’s good enough for YOUR families, shouldn’t our health insurance be good enough for America?”


3:50 – President starting to sum things up. Says they’ve found a couple of areas of fundamental philosophical disagreement. The first is the mandate and government standards on the level of care. The second is coverage and whether or not we can cover the 31 million American that don’t have coverage.

Calls the phrase “government-run health care” good poll-tested language but isn’t accurate. Tells John Boehner his bill only covers an additional 3 million so that’s a “27 million person difference”. Says we need to debate whether or not we can do something for those other 27 million people.

Says we have to figure out how to pay for covering these extra 27 million people and not pretend we can cover them without spending any money.

3:53 Wyoming Senator John Barrasso, a former physician speaking on the lst topic: Expanding Insurance Coverage. Says everybody believes that their costs will go up and the quality of their health care will go down if this bill is passed, especially senior citizens. Doesn’t mention that this is because the Republicans have spent the past year freaking them out and that the insurance industry has been spending millions upon millions of dollars per WEEK to freak them out.

Says people with catastrophic-only health care ask the best questions because the first question they ask is “how much does it cost”. (Shouldn’t the first question actually be do I NEED it???)

Trots out several examples of people from other countries coming here for health treatment. Doesn’t mention that they are rich and can pay for it out of pocket.

Says that Democrats aren’t listening to Americans and that only one in three Americans support the bill. Says it’s time to start over.


President asks him if he thinks all members of Congress should have catastrophic-only coverage? YES. Would you feel that way if you only made $40,000 a year? No answer. Points out his examples were rich people. Really, really rich people. Owned.

Says again that we can debate whether or not we can afford to help the 31 million people that don’t have health insurance but let’s not pretend we can do it for free.

4:02 – Henry Waxman, Rep. from California and chair of the Energy & Commerce Committee. Says we should ask Republicans if they think people on Medicare should have only catastrophic coverage. Agrees with Tom Harkin’s statement that segregating the most sick people into high-risk pools means those that are healthy get the tax break and those that are most sick get screwed.

Slams Republicans for their use of the phrase “government-run health care”. Says Americans deserve to be given a choice just like members of Congress get.

Re-emphasizes the need to have everyone in the pools so that the sickest people aren’t discriminated against and bankrupting the whole system.

Says you can’t do it piecemeal. Obama appropriately shuts him down for making a speech.

Asks the Republicans: are there areas of coverage that they would embrace and agree with outside of John Boehner’s bill?

4:10 – Rep. Peter Roskam, Republican from Illinois: says it all boils down to messaging with Democrats asking Republican what they need to do to get them to vote for the bill. Thinks they’ve been tweaking the bills repeatedly to get them to vote for it. Says this legislation isn’t “entitlement reform” (quoting Nancy Pelosi), says it’s “entitlement expansion”.

Says it’s a flawed foundation. The GOP bill would cover an additional 3 million people [wait, that’s BETTER???] and, wait for it…they need to scrap the current bills and start over! Like an Etch-A-Sketch!


President reminds them he asked a question if there were any ideas they’d be willing to support outside of Rep. Boehner’s bill and that he still hasn’t gotten an answer. Says that the people that are hardest hit are those that are that make too much money for Medicaid but can’t pay for their health care insurance. Poor people actually have health care that is superior to middle class people that can’t afford insurance. Very ironic.

4:19 – Senator Chris Dodd from Connecticut now. Points out that everybody is entitled to a lawyer but if you’re sick you’re not entitled to a doctor. Reminds everyone that we’re ALL paying for poor people to be treated in an emergency room when they have no insurance. Says 14,000 people lose their health insurance every day. Says that unlike many other issues, this issue “defies incremental approach”.

4:24 – Rep. Joe Barton from Texas, ranking member of the Energy & Commerce Committee says that there’s a fundamental difference in that Dem’s think government knows better about health care than average Americans.

Says selling insurance across state lines would reduce health care costs in California by half if they could buy insurance in Nevada. Small businesses should be allowed to form pools and that would reduce their costs. Says the House and Senate bills only pay lip-service to medical malpractice reform. In Texas costs have gone down 27% because of this, according to him. Extrapolate this to the whole country and it could save the country $150 billion a year.

Says we need to start over and “change the vision” and use Boehner’s bill as the starting point. Of course, it only covers 10% of those who aren’t currently insured but I guess he doesn’t care about that.


4:30 – Senator Ron Wyden from Oregon speaking now. Says Republicans want incremental reform and Democrats want comprehensive reform. Says studies show that incremental reform costs more than comprehensive reform. Also, they’ve been doing incremental reform for years and it hasn’t stopped rising health care costs. Suggests that they all rally around “real reform” that change the incentives that drive the consumer.

4:34 – McConnell: Congress hasn’t been listening to the people. If you average all the polls, people hate it. They also hate RECONCILIATION!

Apparently that’s only true when Democrats threaten it. Need to … wait for it … start over again with a blank sheet of paper.


President corrects him. Says that when you poll people on the individual elements – prohibiting preexisting conditions, etc. — they are for it.

Last three speakers who haven’t spoken:

4:39 – Senator Patty Murray, Democrat from Washington and Democratic Conference Secretary. Gives a speech about why the Democrats’ reform is better.

4:41 – Senator Coburn speaks (again). Says that if there’s enough potential in the pool of money available by cutting out the one-third that’s wasted that we don’t need a government-run system. Too much government involvement, not enough patient involvement.

4:43 – Rep. Charles Rangel from New York, Democratic chair of the Ways & Means Committee. Says we’re oh-so-close. Says that they are listening to Americans, not just those from Wyoming and Tennessee.

Why scrap these bills over the 10-20% of areas where they disagree, for God’s sake?!

“Sick people, scared people aren’t Democrats or Republicans.” Says he’s sure Republicans want to cover more than just 3 million of those who aren’t currently insured. People aren’t concerned with the debate, they’re concerned with the result. Someone sick in the emergency room doesn’t care about the size of the bill.

4:48 – Last speaker, from my own state of Michigan, the legendary John Dingell, Democratic Chair Emeritus of the Energy & Commerce Committee. Says they desperately need the president’s leadership. Invokes his father. Quotes Republican governor Schwartzenegger saying that “starting over” is bogus talk, partisan talk. Lists some of the areas where they agree. Says there’s nothing wrong with passing this legislation with 51% of the vote.

The last perfect legislation was the Ten Commandments, everything since then has been imperfect but it’s still worthy and should be passed. “Let us go forward on this great task.”

4:54 – Speaker Nancy Pelosi has some closing remarks. Invokes the public option which would save $120 billion. Says we’ve come a very long way in a bipartisan fashion. The health insurance industry, left to their own devices, has behaved shamelessly. Tells Boehner that the law of the land is that there is no public funding of abortions and he should quit lying. Tells Camp that the bills do not cut funding for seniors and he should quit lying. Calls what they’ve done a “misrepresentation campaign”. Yes, it’s hard, but we will get it done.

John McCain still in pain apparently.

4:59 – President Obama wrapping up. Congratulates them for behaving so civilly. Summarizes areas where they agree:

  • Need some insurance market reforms. Don’t agree on all of them but on some of them. The ones that aren’t included in the Republican plans are actually very popular (capping out-of-pocket expenses, prohibiting pre-existing conditions, etc.) Asks them to make sure the ones not in their bill really aren’t ones they don’t think Americans should have.
  • Allowing small businesses and individuals trapped in the individual market to be part of large group (just like Congress has). It’s not a government take-over. It’s more like Walmart that uses its buying power to drive down costs. Difference in opinion on a baseline of coverage (just like Congress has). Asks them to consider if that’s an area where the problem can be solved.
  • Purchasing insurance across state lines. Republicans want to open it up so that anyone can buy anything anywhere. Democrats want to make sure that it doesn’t create a “race to the bottom”. Compares it to the situation with credit card companies. Is there a way to deal with interstate purchase that provides some baseline protections? Again, not a big governement take-over, it’s commonsense regulation we have in many areas.
  • Medical malpractice reform. Didn’t happen under a Republican president somehow. Suggests we build on what they’ve already done and perhaps take Coburn’s suggestion that they try more aggressive experimentation in this area.

Points out that the in the past two weeks a report came out saying that for the first time in history, more people are getting their health care from the government. Not because of anything Congress did or “quote unquote Obamacare” but because employers are shedding employees and employee coverage due to rising costs.

None of the Democrats proposed anything complicate just for the sake of being complicated. But this is a complicated issue. It’s absolutely true that in order to help the 30 million, it’s going to cost some money so they have to raise some taxes or it won’t get done (talking about raising taxes on the rich or the biggest, most profitable companies.) They’ve got to pay their fair share or the rest of us have to pick up the tab. It’s not a welfare handout, it’s money going into the market-based exchange. Gives a shout-out to Coburn for his ideas on reducing waste. Says he embraces them and they are included in the bills. “The irony is that that is where got attacked for a ‘government take-over’.” Talking about the oversight committee that was originally a Republican idea that they hated when Obama embraced it.

Says that if the Democrats were willing to scrap the bills and take up John Boehner’s bill, they’d probably pick up some Republican votes. But that just shows people that Republicans aren’t willing to move toward covering more than an additional 3 million people or prohibiting pre-existing conditions. He’s put some things on the table he’s willing to work with them on. He’d ask that the Republicans “do some soul searching” to see if there are some areas they are willing to move. And if they can’t find common ground, it’s going to come down to procedures.

And that, boys and girls, probably means RECONCILIATION!!!

Thank you and good night.

I’m just sayin’…