The Note, 5/11/2009: Dollars and Sense — Obama seeks light touch in healthcare push

By Caitlin Taylor

May 11, 2009 8:10am

By RICK KLEIN Sometimes less is more. And maybe a lot less can mean a lot more. (We’re not just talking costs here.) Monday begins the active phase in President Obama’s healthcare push — the part where he puts himself on the line publicly. Having the stakeholders in one place, leading with sacrifice (or some version of it) is likely to provide some impetus to the No. 1 domestic agenda item out there. (And has there been more optimism around healthcare reform’s possibility than there is at this moment? Will it stick around?) This remains a delicate congressional fight, stuffed with buzzwords and the possibility of buzz-off moments. The few Senate Republicans who are willing to work with Democrats fear that House leaders will take the process over at any time — and that the president won’t be there to cut the deals that get the Senate to 60. The “public” option has crowded out the rest of the debate — and that whole part of actually paying for universal health coverage is being left for another day. It comes at a time of party mistrust. Through an accumulation of circumstances and coincidences, a sharp critique of the Democrats’ national-security policies is emerging, from Guantanamo to interrogation techniques. (No, the voices of 1996 probably aren’t the most effective for the GOP. But having Wanda Sykes mix it up with Rush Limbaugh only hammers the point home — everybody ready to hear about the “drive-bys,” again?)  It’s time for some presidential cheerleading — and a bit of nudging. President Obama holds an 11:30 am ET meeting on healthcare, with stakeholders who know each other all too well bringing some good news with them. Per the White House, the president plans to say: “We cannot continue down the same dangerous road we’ve been traveling for so many years, with costs that are out of control, because reform is not a luxury that can be postponed, but a necessity that cannot wait.” “It is a recognition that the fictional television couple, Harry and Louise, who became the iconic faces of those who opposed health care reform in the ’90s, desperately need health care reform in 2009. And so does America.” “That is why these groups are voluntarily coming together to make an unprecedented commitment. Over the next 10 years — from 2010 to 2019 — they are pledging to cut the growth rate of national health care spending by 1.5 percentage points each year — an amount that’s equal to over $2 trillion.” ABC’s Jake Tapper, on “Good Morning America” Monday: “The White House calls this a game-changer — the major industries in the healthcare debate coming together pledging to voluntarily cut health care costs by $2 trillion over the next decade. The White House says this means healthcare reform will happen this year.” Adds Tapper: “These healthcare industries are not doing this out of the goodness of their heart — they want a seat at the table, so they can fend off things in the healthcare plan as it’s being written.”

“There’s a very good chance, probably the best chance we’ve had in 15 or 16 years, to get actually get a healthcare plan through,” ABC’s George Stephanopoulos reported on “GMA.” “The fact that this group . . . has said they’d rather switch than fight is a huge difference.”

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