So, I’m not The New York Times, which means I’m not the first journalist insiders go to with internal White House memos. Those go to Robert Pear at the Times, who recently gave us a peek inside the workings of the Obama health reform team. (See “Backstory” on the NYT page for an audio inteview with Pear — a joint effort with NPR’s The Take Away.)
Since last fall, many of the leading figures in the nation’s long-running health care debate have been meeting secretly in a Senate hearing room. Now, with the blessing of the Senate’s leading proponent of universal health insurance, Edward M. Kennedy, they appear to be inching toward a consensus that could reshape the debate.
Many of the parties, from big insurance companies to lobbyists for consumers, doctors, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies, are embracing the idea that comprehensive health care legislation should include a requirement that every American carry insurance.
While not all industry groups are in complete agreement, there is enough of a consensus, according to people who have attended the meetings, that they have begun to tackle the next steps: how to enforce the requirement for everyone to have health insurance; how to make insurance affordable to the uninsured; and whether to require employers to help buy coverage for their employees.
I understand that some initial public policy debates have to take place in private. But, I’m not a big fan of secret meetings. Remember Hillary Clinton’s secret team? That process didn’t work out too well for anyone. See what new-model journalism site ProPublica has to say about this.
Also see today’s (2/22) Times for a 1A story on moves toward taming the second head of the health care beast – costs
While some people have predicted that Mr. Obama would have to shelve his priorities given rising deficits, his determination to proceed, especially on health care, reflects his economic advisers’ conviction that the government cannot control its finances without reforming health care. The ballooning cost of health care, and thus Medicare and Medicaid, is the biggest factor behind projections of unsustainable deficits in coming decades.
“He wants to present an honest budget, he wants to focus on health care, and he will cut the deficit by at least half by the end of his first term,” Peter R. Orszag, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said in an interview.