Mid-Mortem Summit Reax
[M]ost the time, [watching Obama at the summit] is like watching Lebron James play basketball with a bunch of kids who got cut from the 7th grade basketball team. He's treating them really nice, letting his teammates take shots and allowing the other team to try to score. Nice try on that layup, Timmy, you almost got it on. But after a couple minutes I want him to just grab the ball and dunk on these clowns already.
My sense of this summit is that President Obama is exactly as he always is extremely intelligent, knowledgeable about policy details, so certain of the rightness of his views that he has no compunction about declaring the views of his antagonists to be merely politically convenient rather than substantive, startlingly condescending at moments, and even more startlingly long-winded when he gets going. As a result, he both looks good and bad in these settings good because he’s serious and doesn’t appear to be a fanatic, and bad because of the condescension.
Lamar Alexander and Barack Obama just had a contentious exchange on this point, so it's worth settling the issue: Yes, the CBO found health-care reform would reduce premiums. The issue gets confused because it also found that access to subsidies would encourage people to buy more comprehensive insurance, which would mean that the value of their insurance would be higher after reform than before it.
Cohn agrees. James Capretta doesn't. Kate Pickert highlights a real philosophical difference:
The Democrats want to set minimum standards for insurance sold to individuals and small businesses in the exchange. This will increase spending because individuals and small businesses often now buy cheap insurance that doesn't provide comprehensive coverage. This insurance tends to have high deductibles, high co-payments and annual and lifetime caps on coverage. Under the Democratic bills, this insurance would essentially get phased out; insurers would only be allowed to sell actual comprehensive insurance in the exchange. This would be better insurance and it would cost more. This insurance would have to cover, at minimum, around 65% of an individual's total health care costs.
The Republicans want to keep the market open without this layer of federal regulation.
The Republicans have not handled THE tough problem. By agreeing that insurance companies should not be able to price based on pre-existing conditions, they have backed themselves into a regulatory corner. Although Obama tends to be dismissive of Joe Biden, and he did it again at about the 12:50 point, Biden nailed it. If we agree, he said, that insurance companies shouldn't be allowed to "discriminate" based on pre-existing conditions, that's not a small agreement, that's a big one.
Whoa! The President just shot himself in foot on the mandated benefit issue repeatedly! He said the reason that coverage would be more expensive under the bill is because the coverage would offer more benefits. That is true. But then he almost (but not quite) said that people could still choose something else if they wanted too. He stopped mid-sentence probably because he realized what he was about to say wasn’t true. He then pivoted to state that the coverage Congress has includes a minimum benefit package and doesn’t have high-deductible plans. Both of those things are untrue.
The Democrats, who should be in better shape because they have a single leader, are insisting on letting every leader speak: Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Steny Hoyer, and Max Baucus so far. These folks are not great speakers. Why are they so lame that they insist on speaking anyway? For once in their preening lives, why don't they just fade into the background and let President Obama orchestrate their side? Obama may yet come out on top in today's session, but the behavior of the Democratic congressional leadership so far constitutes political malpractice.