There will be plenty of posts about the details of the cost-cutting proposals today, and plenty of posts about the immediate political intermingling. But let's step back and look at the broader political implications of the staged event at the White House. "Voluntarily," Obama will say today, he's brought together the major health care stakeholders -- or most of them -- to promise cost cuts, yes, but actualy, let's end the sense at "stakeholders." The President of the United States was able to get the major union associated with health care and the major lobby associated with health insurance companies to come together, under his aegis, at an event that White House hopes will be the public kick off of the president's engagement with Congress as its committees write the health care bill. "This fundamentally allies these groups with the President's goal of getting health care reform this year and that's a game changer, in our opinion," a senior administration official told reporters last night. "And it makes clearer than ever that health care reform is going to happen this year in Congress."
This convention has been in the works for a week, and its existence has been a secret of sorts even to many White House officials. The worry was that if news leaked that these groups were going to participate, they'd receive intense internal pressure -- or pressure from their ideological compatriots -- to withdraw their participation.
This is the brainchild of Nancy Anne DeParle, the White House health care czar. Her approach to reform is quite different than the route preferred by former Sen. Tom Daschle, who had definite ideas and would have been less of an honest broker and more of a shaper, a crafter. De Parle has convinced the White House that the devil is not in the details, even though she knows -- and they know -- that the details of what comes out of Congress to matter. The White House favors some sort of public plan option, but it has not (as of yet) told members of Congress how big that plan should be, whether it should immediately complete with health insurers, and whether there should be more than one. This has pleasantly surprised the business community, mollified the insurance industry, and worried the unions, who want a public, competitive government health care option immediately, knowing that its leverage would essentially end the employer-based health care system within a decade.