"The president continues to feel that taxing employer-based benefits may actually help to dismantle the current system, which ensures about 180 million Americans and provides the basis for our private health insurance plan. ... Having that benefit taxed may be a step backward and not a step forward," she said. "So he continues to propose alternative methods of financing."
A Congressional Budget Office report Monday estimated that the Senate Health Committee's plan, offered by Sens. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., and Chris Dodd, D-Conn.,would cost $1 trillion over 10 years, and while a net increase of 16 million of uninsured Americans would get health insurance, tens of millions others would be left behind. Millions more would lose their employer-provided health insurance if employers opt to sign up for a competing public plan that Obama is proposing as a way to keep insurance companies "honest."
That proposal directly contradicts the president's statement yesterday.
"No matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you'll be able to keep your health care plan, period," the president promised.
White House officials said today the administration still needs to weed out the details with senators.
"This is not the administration's bill, and it's not even the final Senate committee bill," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in response to the Congressional Budget Office report. "What is clear is what will happen if we let political posturing stand in the way of reform again: exploding deficits, job loss, dwindling benefits, and millions more Americans joining the ranks of the uninsured."
A third issue, and the one where the president is likely to face the most resistance from the insurance industry, is a proposal for a public health care option, in which patients would have the right to choose a government-run plan that would compete with private plans.
Obama addressed criticism of the plan, saying it would not bring about government-run health care but only provide another insurance option to Americans, especially those that may not be able to afford a private plan.
"You will have your choice of a number of plans that offer a few different packages, but every plan would offer an affordable, basic package. And one of these options needs to be a public option that will give people a broader range of choices and inject competition into the health care market that [will] force waste out of the system and keep the insurance companies honest," he said.
Critics of the public plan say many employers will drop private insurance coverage, opting for the cheaper government plan.
Outgoing AMA president Nancy Nielson has said the AMA "opposes any public plan that forces physicians to participate, expands the fiscally-challenged Medicare program or pays Medicare rates, but the AMA is willing to consider other variations. ... This includes a federally chartered co-op health plan or a level playing field option for all plans."
The president's latest pitch given to a group of skeptical doctors was mainly to urge the industry to act on reform, and cut costs.