Obama Says Getting Health Reform Done Trumps Bipartisanship

Posted August 11, 2009 at 2:24pm

President Barack Obama on Tuesday appeared to begin to distance himself from the bipartisan health reform effort under way in the Senate Finance Committee, stating that getting a bill done was more important than making sure the legislation is bipartisan. Obama, who spoke at a health care town-hall meeting in Portsmouth, N.H., said GOP panel members Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Olympia Snowe (Maine) “are diligently working to see if they can come up with a plan that would get both Republican and Democratic support.— But then he noted what he perceived as the urgency of the health care crisis and said: “I say, we have to get it done. My hope is we can get it done in a bipartisan fashion, but the most important thing is to get it done for the American people.—Obama in recent weeks has held a series of meetings at the White House with Finance members trying to broker a compromise. But the Finance effort, originally due to be completed by the week of July Fourth, has delayed the president’s health initiative as the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee and three House panels all passed bills while Senate Finance Committee members continue to talk.Obama spoke in answer to a question about whether it was futile to try to secure GOP backing for his health care initiative. The White House says it did not screen questions before the event, and at least a couple of the questioners seemed skeptical of Obama’s proposals, though most seemed to back him.In his opening remarks, the president offered what amounted to a sustained attack on the insurance companies, assailing them for denying care, dropping coverage and receiving unwarranted subsidies through Medicare.“Right now we have a health insurance system that too often works better for the insurance industry than average Americans,— said Obama, who repeatedly referred to his effort as “health insurance reform— rather than “health reform.—In a statement, insurers said they have proposed reforms that would address some of Obama’s claims. “Health plans last year proposed health insurance reform to make sure that no one is denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition,— America’s Health Insurance Plans President and CEO Karen Ignagni said. “Our proposal includes new consumer protections and market rules to guarantee coverage for pre-existing conditions, discontinue basing premiums on a person’s health status or gender, and get everyone covered through a personal coverage requirement.—“We are encouraged that policymakers in both parties are coalescing around health insurance reform as an essential component of comprehensive health care reform,— Ignagni said.The president sought to address various charges made against his health reform initiative, denying that it would lead to a government takeover of the health system or that he would raid Medicare to pay for it. In addressing allegations that his plans would lead to rationing of care and even euthanasia, Obama directly rebutted a charge by former Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — without mentioning her by name — that he would institute “death panels.—