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Health Care Summit: Some Early Thoughts

The parlor game among those actually watching the health care summit is trying to determine what the 99.99% of the rest of America will perceive this. And the answer really is, who knows. Obviously the media will go far to filter this information. And I’m not hopeful about that. I said on Twitter feed that it will be fun to watch six hours of wonk speak condensed into one soundbite of President Obama saying to John McCain “we’re not campaigning anymore” along with a dramatic music sting.

The media would love to play up the conflicts – and certainly not the substance, because they largely don’t understand it – but outside of the McCain/Obama process vs. solutions debate, there haven’t been all that many. I would imagine that most Americans would be put to sleep by this, which is kind of sad.

And yet, there are some important nuggets. The President said outside Blair House moments ago, “The argument that Republicans are making really isn’t that this is a government takeover of health care, but that we’re regulating the insurance industry too much.” They’ve conceded some pretty key points. I saw Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA) talk about being denied coverage for a pre-existing condition. I saw Rep. Eric Cantor talking about “things we agree on.” Joe Biden basically gave the final word on this. “There is no philosophical disagreement,” he said. The GOP agrees that the current system is unsustainable and that insurance company tricks and games are unacceptable. The only question comes with government’s role in ameliorating that.

This is a key point, I think. Republicans have gone WAY too far in calling what amounts to a pretty conservative health care plan a socialist nightmare. But their acknowledgment of points of agreement undercuts that formation.

Also, Obama made a strong defense of regulations as a general principle which was one of the few ideological arguments from the President in this debate.

Outside of that, we’ve heard the usual assortment of distortions and lies. I would say that Louise Slaughter was actually the strongest speaker on the Democratic side, telling a room full of men about the problems with insurance discrimination against women.

Relatedly, I want to be one of Tom Coburn’s “undercover patients.”

…The most important news coming out of the summit didn’t happen there: Ed Henry reports that the new goal is to pass this legislation, completely, by the end of March. That’s about 30 days.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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