5 Areas For Bipartisan Agreement At Tomorrow’s Health Summit

ObamaRepublicansRoll Call and the Washington Post are reporting that Republicans are planning to present a “united front” at tomorrow’s bipartisan health care summit, settling on a two-prong strategy designed to avoid the embarrassment of the Republican retreat. “Republicans are preparing to use Thursday’s White House health-care summit to sell their own ideas for using the private marketplace to expand coverage and reduce costs,” the Washington post reports. “The Republican summit strategy is twofold: to portray the Obama plan as radical and ruinously expensive, while reassuring a potential television audience of millions that the GOP takes the health-care crisis seriously and is prepared to address it head on.” Put simply, the Republicans will say that the health care bill will eat your first born, but their incremental solutions will cause gold to fall from the skies.

Considering this strategy, many are predicting that the summit will turn into a very long photo opportunity, but lawmakers do have an opportunity to reach a consensus on some provisions. The Senate health care bill — which is the basis for President Obama’s proposal — already includes numerous Republican ideas and if the GOP was truly interested in passing legislation they could find ways to improve the existing provisions.

Here are 5 areas where Democrats and Republicans can reach bipartisan agreement:

1. Tort reform: While the Senate bill authorizes demonstration projects, Republicans continue to insist that caps are the only way to eliminate junk lawsuits. But given Obama’s openness to adopting more malpractice reforms, lawmakers can explore other solutions like ‘Sorry-Works’ programs or special health care courts.

2. Selling policies across state lines: Under the existing legislation, states can form compacts within which insures then sell their policies across state lines. The Democrats plan establishes a floor of regulation that prohibits insurers from selling insurance from the least regulated location (i.e. like the Northern Mariana Islands in the Republican proposal) and cherry pick the healthiest individuals. Both parties can find a way to tweak the compact provision (maybe change the way the ‘primary state’ is established) and form a consensus.

3. Small business tax credits: The Senate bill and the President’s proposal offer tax credits to small businesses that continue to offer health care coverage. Since Republicans consistantly claim that they stand behind ‘the engines of our economy,’ they can certainly find a compromise. The bill already exempts small businesses from the mandate but lawmakers can expand small business participation in the exchange or allow small business tax credits for those purchasing insurance outside the state insurance exchange. (Republicans proposed both of these ideas as amendments to the Senate Finance Committee’s health bill.)

4. Wellness and prevention provisions: Republicans have long advocated job-wellness programs that give employers greater flexibility to financially reward employees who seek to achieve or maintain good health and the Senate bill already includes these provisions. But if necessary, lawmakers can increase the premium discount that employers can use to reward employees for participating in wellness programs. (The House bill allows employers to offer higher discounts.)

5. Delivery system reforms: Both parties agree that the current fee-for-service reimbursement system encourages quantity, not quality care. The Senate bill already includes reforms like bundled payments and accountable care organizations, but lawmakers can work to expand and strengthen those demonstration projects.