Could GOP Ideas Save Health Care Reform?

Obama's hoping so

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Following the bipartisan health care summit, President Obama is working hard to move health care reform forward. Congressional Democrats are shooting for passage of a final bill by Easter. The plan to get the bill out of congressional gridlock, it seems, is to incorporate Republican ideas for reform. There are a few theories why: Obama may be including GOP reforms to woo the votes of on-the-fence conservative Democrats, he may be trying to give the appearance of bipartisanship, or he may simply think they're good ideas. Will the strategy work? Could the best new hope for Democrat-led reform be the inclusion of Republican ideas?

  • GOP Ideas Obama's Including  The New York Times surveys the four proposals: sending undercover health care workers to pose as patients in sting operations, implementing high-deductible insurance exchanges, testing alternative medical malpractice resolution systems, and imposing "fiscally responsible" payment increases to Medicaid doctors.
  • About Looking Bipartisan  ABC News' Rick Klein insists Obama is just including the ideas so the bill will look bipartisan, and thus more tolerable, to voters. He says it worked. "In embracing some Republican-offered ideas, the White House got the headlines it wanted on Wednesday. Thursday's and Friday's need to look a little different."
  • 'Providing Cover' for Conservative Dems  The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder says the move is designed to provide "cover for House Democrats -- at least ten of whom are open to changing their 'no' votes to 'yes' votes on health care." The 10 House Democrats in question, though unnamed, are almost certainly conservative Democrats who had been wary of endorsing health care reform without the inclusion of Republican ideas.
  • Could Secure More Conservative Dem Yes Votes  The New Republic's Jonathan Chait explains why. "The Democratic leadership has an incentive to say they can get the votes, because if members think the bill is going down, they have an incentive to flee. And moderate to conservative members have an incentive to express skepticism about the bill to preserve their bargaining leverage. Discussions with a neutral third party (the press) conducted anonymously give you the best sense of what might happen." The 10 House Democrats who told reporters they'd now vote yes are just the beginning.
  • Health Care Already Full of GOP Ideas  The New Yorker's Hendrik Hertzberg scoffs that Republicans have no excuses left. "Ideologically and substantively, it is centrist. It has Republicans, and Republicanism, in its family tree. For better or for worse, it's already bipartisan."
  • Real Differences Ideological, Unbridgeable  The Washington Post's Ezra Klein thinks these are cosmetic compromises compared to the one fundamental difference that can't ever be overcome. "Instead, as Lamar Alexander said, Republicans have 'come to the conclusion that we don't do comprehensive well.' And the president is not compromising on that point." Klein quotes Obama: "Piecemeal reform is not the best way to effectively reduce premiums, end the exclusion of people with pre-existing conditions or offer Americans the security of knowing that they will never lose coverage, even if they lose or change jobs."
  • Negotiating Democratic Divide  Think Progress's Igor Volsky notes that the biggest split could be within the Democratic Party. "Obama will have to appease progressive Democrats while simultaneously retaining more moderate Democratic votes. The package will have to invest more money in affordability affordability standards, move up the excise tax thresholds and close the Medicare part D donut hole, all while containing the cost of the legislation and ensuring enough deficit reduction. It's a tough haul considering that Democrats might also have to rely on Vice President Joe Biden to incorporate an abortion compromise in the reconciliation package if they hope to hold on to Stupak's pro-lifers."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.