WH Official: ’100 Days’ Left to Do Health Reform

By Teddy Davis

Apr 7, 2009 11:06am

ABC News’ Teddy Davis reports: President Obama took office a mere 77 days ago, but the clock is already winding down on health-care reform. A top Obama adviser said Monday at a forum in Los Angeles that there are fewer than 100 legislative days left to get health-care reform done. "Today is April the sixth," said Melody Barnes, the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. "If you look at your calendar, to get this to the President by the end of this year, you’d think, ‘Oh, we’ve got 7 months.’ We actually probably have fewer than a hundred days." Barnes said that the short timeline "could mean" that the U.S. is "a hundred days from this not happening." She hastened to add, however, that the way she and the president look at it is that it "could mean … will mean . . . must mean" that "in a hundred days" . . . "we will be on the road towards a better health-care system." Obama’s top domestic policy adviser is not alone in thinking that health-care reform needs to get done this year in order to have a chance of passing Congress. It’s a view that’s widely shared on Capitol Hill. "I think if it isn’t done this year, it won’t be done for the next four years, so I think it needs to be done this year," Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, the top Republican on the Finance Committee, said on March 19 at a roundtable with reporters sponsored by the Kaiser Family Foundation. "If it doesn’t get done this year, why won’t it get done?" he continued. "One word: elections." To improve the chances of health-care reform getting through Congress this year, the White House and congressional Democrats are holding out the possibility of circumventing Senate Republicans and using the budget reconciliation process to pass legislation through the Senate with a simple majority rather than the usual 60 votes. But even with this fast-track procedure, there are still several contentious issues that could derail reform. As laid out in this week’s National Journal cover story, the four biggest potential deal-busters include the creation of a government insurance plan which would operate alongside private insurers; a requirement that employers contribute to the cost of their workers’ health coverage; changes to the way Medicare reimburses health-care providers; and paying for reform.  Barnes made her comments at a regional White House forum on health-care reform. She was joined by California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire (D). It was the fifth in a series of regional forums that the White House has sponsored around the country. ABC News’ Ferdous Al-Faruque contributed to this report.

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