DeParle: All Sides Ready for Health Reform

Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office for Health Reform, says most everyone is in agreement that health care needs to be reformed. In an op-ed in today's Boston Globe, DeParle writes:

As a participant in the 1993-'94 health reform effort, I can say that this time, it feels different already.

Thursday's forum participants came from all sides of the debate. They were Democrats and Republicans; members of Congress and constituents; businesses and labor unions; hospitals, doctors, patients, and insurance companies. People who worked to pass healthcare reform a decade ago strategized with those who worked to defeat it. And while they certainly didn't all agree on every aspect of how to fix the system, they all agreed that the one thing we cannot do is continue on the current course.
Fifteen years ago, many felt that if they couldn't have exactly the change they wanted, their second choice was no change at all. Last week, there were no defenders of the status quo. More than one Republican member of Congress agreed with the principles the president laid out for reform. Even a representative of the insurance companies that famously played such a huge role in killing reform in the 1990s pledged the industry's cooperation this time around.

And that willingness is precisely what The Atlantic's Ron Brownstein observed last week at a National Journal health policy forum held at the Columbus Club in DC's Union Station: insurance companies and labor unions (major players on the right and left, respectively) agreeing that a requirement for all Americans to purchase health care could be balanced with a requirement that insurance companies sell insurance to everyone, given that the government offsets the higher premiums of higher-risk (old and sick) people with subsidies.

One issue with that: President Obama said during his heated primary campaign against then-Sen. Hillary Clinton that it was a bad idea to require everyone to buy insurance. DeParle seems to be right about different sides' willingness to come to the table, but the blueprint of the plan and the axis of discussion may take its own shape as those sides talk. While we watch the reform effort play out, it will be interesting to see how forcefully the Obama administration interjects its own designs and, particularly, the president's campaign platform, if negotiations stray from that blueprint. DeParle's op-ed today seemed to suggest that, for now, the administration is more concerned with bringing all sides together under the umbrella of broader goals and meaningful discussion.

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Chris Good is a political reporter for ABC News. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and a reporter for The Hill.

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