The White House took the latest step today in its efforts to ease everyone into the idea that its health care designs will succeed by the end of August, and that there's real momentum behind its goal to pass significant--in fact, unprecedented--reforms, as several groups joined Vice President Joe Biden and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for a press conference at the White House compound, pledging to save $155 billion in health care costs over the next ten years, through payment reforms and reducing hospitals' annual inflationary updates.
The groups were: the American Hospital Association, Hospital Corporation of America, Community Health Systems, the Catholic Health Association of the United States.
Like President Obama's announcement in May that a slew of industry players had pledged $2 tillion in cost cutting over the same time period, today's event was about showing that industry groups are on board with the premise, at least, of Obama's health care agenda--that costs are unsustainable. Contrasted to the frenetic ups and downs of health care reform efforts on the Hill, today's message was simple, and easy to digest.
The press conference happened without Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), who had planned to attend but was called away for a vote, and who, Biden said, had worked with the groups to craft a cost-saving proposal (though no specific proposals were delivered).
And it may have been just as well, from the White House's standpoint, that Congress didn't play too big a role in today's announcement.
Health care reform looks complicated on the Hill. There's a number of proposals floating around, and they differ drastically; Baucus's hearings got protested; when a specific plan comes out, such as the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee's last month, it's complicated to read; then the Congressional Budget Office scores it, and more confusion and reactions ensue.
But the White House's message today was simple, and the announcement was easier to digest than what goes on at the Capitol. Obama's narrative all along has been that reform is hard, but if you bring in all the sides, sit them down and talk, it can be done. Today, Biden and Sebelius let the convergence of industry groups, not the congressional nitty gritty, take the lead role, giving the appearance, at least, that there's momentum behind what the White House is trying to do.