President Obama this afternoon wrote a letter to Congressional leadership detailing four areas where he thinks Republican ideas can be included in a final health care compromise and pledging to drop the Medicaid deals for Nebraska and Florida from what he proposes tomorrow.
The White House released the letter which Obama wrote to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner summing up his take from the health care summit last week. Obama said he came away from the meeting feeling the group agreed the cost of health care is a massive problem that must be solved.
“I also left convinced that the Republican and Democratic approaches to health care have
more in common than most people think,” Obama wrote.“No matter how we move forward, there are at least four policy priorities identified by Republican Members at the meeting that I am exploring. I said throughout this process that I’d continue to draw on the best ideas from both parties, and I’m open to these proposals in that spirit,” Obama wrote.
Those areas are as follows:
1. Although the proposal I released last week included a comprehensive set of initiatives to combat fraud, waste, and abuse, Senator Coburn had an interesting suggestion that we engage medical professionals to conduct random undercover investigations of health care providers that receive reimbursements from Medicare, Medicaid, and other Federal programs.
2. My proposal also included a provision from the Senate health reform bill that authorizes funding to states for demonstrations of alternatives to resolving medical malpractice disputes, including health courts. Last Thursday, we discussed the provision in the bills cosponsored by Senators Coburn and Burr and Representatives Ryan and Nunes (S. 1099) that provides a similar program of grants to states for demonstration projects. Senator Enzi offered a similar proposal in a health insurance reform bill he sponsored in the last Congress. As we discussed, my Administration is already moving forward in funding demonstration projects through the Department of Health and Human Services, and Secretary Sebelius will be awarding $23 million for these grants in the near future. However, in order to advance our shared interest in incentivizing states to explore what works in this arena, I am open to including an appropriation of $50 million in my proposal for additional grants. Currently there is only an authorization, which does not guarantee that the grants will be funded.
3. At the meeting, Senator Grassley raised a concern, shared by many Democrats, that
Medicaid reimbursements to doctors are inadequate in many states, and that if Medicaid
is expanded to cover more people, we should consider increasing doctor reimbursement. I’m open to exploring ways to address this issue in a fiscally responsible manner.
4. Senator Barrasso raised a suggestion that we expand Health Savings Accounts (HSAs). I know many Republicans believe that HSAs, when used in conjunction with high-
deductible health plans, are a good vehicle to encourage more cost-consciousness in consumers’ use of health care services. I believe that high-deductible health plans could be offered in the exchange under my proposal, and I’m open to including language to ensure that is clear. This could help to encourage more people to take advantage of HSAs.
He also drops the special deal made for Sen. Ben Nelson in Nebraska that had the federal government covering the cost of the state’s Medicaid burden and a similar provision in Florida that he and Sen. John McCain discussed during the summit.
“My ideas have been informed by discussions with Republicans and Democrats, doctors and nurses, health care experts, and everyday Americans – not just last Thursday, but over the course of a yearlong dialogue. Both parties agree that the health care status quo is unsustainable. And both should agree that it’s just not an option to walk away from the millions of American families and business owners counting on reform,” Obama wrote.
Read the full letter here.