Health Care Summit In Review

CHRIS PUMMER: I’m sorry, but I didn’t watch the HCR summit. I didn’t have time, and even if I did, I wasn’t expecting much. Just skimming the recaps, it looks like it did when they first announced it: a waste of time orchestrated to provide some extra political cover for Democrats when they ram it down the GOP’s throat.

And that’s really what they should do right now. You could have guessed that Republicans wouldn’t play ball on this deal at the very beginning, and they’ve been out telling activists, constituents, and everyone else, that their only goal was to derail any progress on reform.

As a matter of politics and policy, it’s time to just do it. Consider me in the camp that believes the political price has been paid for Democrats in that no matter what, Republicans will use health care to campaign against them. No matter what happens now. Might as well recoup some of the losses by showing some fortitude and finishing what you aimed to do in the first place.

Doing that will help put some more energy into the base of the Democratic Party. And it probably doesn’t get anyone who opposes it any more worked up than they already are. At this point, the people who feverishly oppose this would probably have their heads explode if they build up any more lather. And to some extent, it probably demoralizes some of them who were expecting Scott Brown’s election to be the roadblock that was going to run this car off into a ditch.

It’s time for Dems to swing the hammer while it’s still in their hands. And after watching George W. Bush and Co. do it for the first four years he was in office, I’d like them to be less shy about it.At no point should they be caving to the notion that people are cynical and see through populist rhetoric for the drivel it mostly is coming from politicians. On the contrary: People eat it up.

To that end they need to continue to work on the messaging problem that’s plagued this whole endeavor. But I think if they can take the focus away from the process and back on the policy, it’s a message that resonates.

AKIE BERMISS: Unlike Chris, I DID watch the HCR summit and I can confirm that he didn’t miss very much. I made the painful commitment of watching from start to finish — which worked out to be something 10am to 5pm.  And the majority of it was spent either completely watching President Obama and the Democrats react to the highly organized Republican talking points.  In the press conference the Democrats held afterwards, Harry Reid opened by saying: “The most patient person in the world is Barack Obama.”

And it certainly seemed like the greatest artillery the Democrats could us was patients and understanding.  If the GOP insists upon being dragged kicking and screaming into Health Care Reform, then its important that the public realizes it.  And yesterday’s summit made that abundantly clear (to those who will open their eyes and see as much).

I have to give the Republicans credit — they threw everything but the kitchen sink at Barack.  And yes: at Barack.  I thought, in the first few hours, that they’d be squaring off a bit more, but they rarely got into it on facts and the Republicans are too trained to go off script and speak extemporaneously. So they wound up sticking to their “step-by-step” and “fresh sheet of paper” themes, directing them toward the President and saying very little otherwise.  There was a push towards the end of the conference to make it appear as if malpractice reform could be the answer, but that was quickly shutdown when a) the President agreed with them and b) said it wouldn’t amount to any real savings.

The crux of it all was that it came down to the Republicans assuring that their plan would lower cost and raise availability.  But only to 3 million more Americans.  And trying to defame the current bill as a loose, baggy monster of a bill when it will cover 30 million Americans.  The greatest shame?  When the President offered them a chance to recover (probably knowing they could not or would not) and basically said, “Your plan will only cover 3 million more people.  Do you have ANY ideas for the other 27 million?  Will you give ground anywhere?  Or are you saying they are a lost cause?”

And the silence (and obfuscation) was deafening.

There were some brilliant moments from the Democratic side — a few stand-out performances: Louise Slaughter reminding us that women were hardly a consideration for Pharma until the 90s; Dick Durbin highlighting the importance of malpractice as a means for patients to get recompense (because the doctors on the Republican side spent so much time poo-pooing malpractice suits and claiming that it would fix everything if we fixed that); Charles Rangel and John Dingell we two excellent closers, in my opinion.

On the Republican side, it was mostly embarrassing.  The most vigor was shown by Jon Kyle — who then tried too hard to show his chops and got chopped down by POTUS — and Paul Ryan — who at least TRIED to use logical thinking to talk about the deficit.

Ryan, incidentally, was then rather out-done by Xavier Becerra who called him out on his CBO skepticism.

More abundant, for the Republicans, were the failures.  McCain sounded like an angry, bitter old fool.  Tom Coburn (and the other GOP doctors) came off about as out of touch as can be. Maybe they were good doctors, but certainly, they aren’t very good leaders.  If I have to hear another Republican doctor refer to the current bill as “bad medicine” I’ll shoot myself in the face.  Eric Cantor was probably the dunce of the evening: he tried to show up strong like Kyl and Ryan, but Obama called him out on his using the bill as a prop for his questions.  And indeed, as Obama is reaming him out about using props there were wonderful CSPAN3 shots of Mr. Cantor, mouth open, papers arrayed before him in dramatic heaps, eyes seeing nothing — just looking like a stupid deer (a STUPID deer) in headlights.

But perhaps the worst move belonged Lamar Alexander who started the whole thing off by trying to explain to the President how the current bill raises insurance premiums and the President having to explain back how that was not the case.  And then Alexander trying to disagree again.  As it turned out, Alexander WAS wrong, and anyone with the internet was promptly able to avail themselves of several reliable sources for the right answer.

It was a total circus, is what I’m saying.  While it wasn’t the GOP Retreat Q&A, I think the Democrats came away looking simply more informed and eager to work for the American people than the Republicans did.  I am no longer surprised by Republican recalcitrance, but I do wish a FEW of them would wise up and vote for this thing.When, in the future, its as regular as Social Security and Medicare and everyone acknowledges it as simply one of the great things you get in America (good Health Care) they’ll be the ones who were afraid to make the right decision.  Still playing the short game, when they need to go long.

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