Today, President Obama kicks off his effort to reform the health care system with a White House Health Summit. The administration is billing the event as an effort to bring the different stakeholders — the insurance industry, drug makers, business groups and consumer advocates — all into one room to agree on common principles of reform.
The Obama administration has vowed to inject transparency into the reform process and has indicated (in its budget and elsewhere) that it is open to considering Republican proposals. In fact, all of the major stakeholders have expressed enthusiasm for the Summit:
– Bill Gradison, ran old Harry & Louise ads: My impression is that there’s been a real openness to reach out to diverse interests, not leaving anyone out — which is how a lot of people felt back in the 1990s. . . . They seem to have learned the lessons of what not to do this time.” [WP, 3/5/2009]
– Karen Ignagni, AHIP: The stakeholder community is no longer organizing to say ‘no.’ [USA TODAY, 3/5/2009]
– Chip Kahn, Federation of American Hospitals: “This is a different day. I think among most of the stakeholders, everyone wants to see this work. There is a tremendous feeling that it’s time.” [AP, 3/5/2009]
The camaraderie may be short lived. If the final solution is seen as threatening to industry profits, some stakeholders will likely fund their own front groups to attack reform. But for now at least, the gang is sticking together. Everyone wants a seat at the table to influence the final legislation.
Unfortunately, conservative ideologues are playing a different game. The Heritage Foundation, Betsy McCaughey, Rush Limbaugh, the Drudge Report, and Fox News (among others) are actively misrepresenting Obama’s proposal.
Today, Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, the $20 million smear effort funded by disgraced Columbia/HCA Healthcare CEO Richard Scott, published a full-page ‘Open Letter To President Obama’ in the Washington Post.
The letter accuses Obama of providing “virtually no details on your [health care] plan itself,” recycles the Right’s big-government talking points, and asks the president to share the details of his plan to “allay our fears and end the speculation.”
Of course, if detailing the plan could stop the attacks, then Scott can click the ‘Plans’ tab on his own group’s website and download Obama’s proposal or Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-MT) 98-page vision for reform.
But the details of the plan won’t matter. The Right will continue to box Obama’s proposal (which actually incorporates the values of competition and choice) into a familiar big-government narrative. The goal here is to echo the same message of attack (over and over again) and hope it sticks. Define Obama’s proposal before he can define it himself.
Today, the administration begins its pushback.