Ask Experts Your Questions on the Health Care Summit

BY News Desk  February 25, 2010 at 5:45 PM EDT

We asked our panel of experts to weigh in with their reactions to Thursday’s summit on health care. Here, their final thoughts on the day’s events.

You can submit your own questions for the panel in the comments section below and they will respond tomorrow.

Updated 3:47 PM, Friday, February 26: Answers will be posted Monday, March 1

Ron Pollack: Today’s bipartisan summit confirmed that the Senate and House bills incorporate many bipartisan ideas offered by both Democrats and Republicans.

However, it also showed that simply adopting these ideas as piecemeal, incremental proposals — as opposed to incorporating them within an integrated reform context — can cause more harm than good.

For example, simply prohibiting insurance companies’ pre-existing condition exclusions, in the absence of expanding health coverage, will result in skyrocketing premiums.

It is clear, therefore, that moving forward with integrated, meaningful reform is essential for the well-being of America’s families and businesses.

Now that the Senate and House have made history by adopting such meaningful reform, it is time to complete the job and bring reform across the finish line.

Robert Laszewski: There is politics and there is policy.

On the policy front what we saw today was the same exchange of the old talking points we have watched for a long time. No progress was made toward any kind of health care bill. That is no surprise –this was never going to be the place to fashion any kind of compromise. At the end, the president asked the Republicans if it was worth it to spend another month or six weeks trying to come to some agreement. I am glad he did that. I am not optimistic but a “yes” from the Republicans would be the right answer for the country.

On the political front this was a win for Republicans because it was a draw. Granted, they have a very thin health care agenda but all they had to do was hold their own over the course of the day. Politically, if not on policy, they did that. No minds were changed in the room and likely none out in the country. The left will still say “get on with passing this,” those on right will say “kill it,” and the majority of critical swing voters will still be concerned that the Democratic bills are going too far too fast in the face of the Great Recession. This is the biggest reason I don’t hold out a lot of hope there will be a lot of Republican willingness to come to the table — at least before the November elections.

Ironically, this “bipartisan summit” may have just increased the political cynicism in the country because it went off so predictably.

Most importantly, I don’t see the president and the Democratic leadership having accomplished their real goal: to “stiffen the spines” of the moderate Democratic votes they need to ram their health care agenda through using reconciliation rules.

A week from now, I expect the polls will still show only about the same 40 percent approval rating for the Democratic health care agenda, and the moderate Democrats won’t have the political cover they need to vote for a reconciliation strategy.

Unless the president gets a positive response from the Republicans on his offer to spend a few weeks trying for a bipartisan bill, it will be on to “Plan B” for the Democrats.

Thomas Mann: President Obama called for the summit and my strong impression is that it served his purposes very well. He managed to orchestrate a public event that presented the Democratic bill in more understandable and appealing a fashion that heretofore; underscored the many Republican ideas that are already included in the bill; and rejected the demand to start over and move step-by-step but indicated a willingness to consider further Republican proposals in return for their buy-in to the underlying bill. I don’t believe there is any market among congressional Republicans for the latter and this will become apparent in the hours and days that follow.

While the audience for this summit was too small to have any measurable impact on public opinion, clips and stories will bounce around the media and Internet in a way that strengthens the Democrats’ resolve to finish the job. I expect they will pass health reform
within a month or so, with the House approving the Senate-passed bill and both chambers passing a small bill under reconciliation that makes the changes proposed by the president this past Monday. Then, as the president said at the end of the summit, the public can have its say. That’s what elections are about.