RSC Unmoved After ‘Candid’ Meeting With Sebelius

Posted October 7, 2009 at 8:59pm

President Barack Obama’s top health official acknowledged that the GOP has ideas to contribute to the health reform debate during a “very candid— meeting with members of the Republican Study Committee on Wednesday evening, according to the chairman of the conservative group. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, who met with the RSC in the Capitol, pleased Republicans by telling them they were doing more than just criticizing Democratic-proposed health care reform plans, a charge that Democrats levy regularly.RSC Chairman Tom Price (Ga.) told Roll Call that Sebelius also addressed many of the concerns Republicans have about the shape of the leading House and Senate reform plans.“I think it was a candid exchange,— Price said. RSC members “highlighted virtually all the major concerns that we have with both the process and policy that [Democrats] put forward.—A total of about 40 Members and staff of the 100-plus-member RSC attended the meeting, and Price said questions ranged from concerns about any governmental intervention in health care to questions about whether a public insurance option to compete with private industry would diminish the quality of care and eliminate choice in the American health care system.Price said in addition to asking questions, Members also gave Sebelius copies of their various proposals and solutions they believe are better alternatives to the Democratic health care reform bills that are being considered in the House.“I think it was helpful to get the pulse of what the administration is thinking. It’s clear that they are moving forward,— Price said, adding that the RSC would continue to request a meeting with the president himself.Nicholas Papas, a spokesman for Sebelius, said the secretary considered the discussion to be positive.“The secretary had a productive discussion with the members of the RSC and answered multiple questions for the members who attended,— Papas said.“The president’s plan contains good proposals from both parties, and the bill he signs will be built on bipartisan ideas,— Papas added. “We are always open to good ideas that will help provide stability and security for Americans with insurance and affordable options for uninsured Americans.—Despite what both sides described as a vibrant and productive discussion, conservatives said afterward that no minds were changed, meaning that the GOP likely still intends to vote against the eventual House bill, which is still taking shape because of deep Democratic divisions.“She had a difficult job because she was in essence defending 3200, a bill and proposal that clearly we don’t believe the American people support,— Price said of the House health care bill.While appreciative of Sebelius’ visit, other RSC members were dissatisfied with her answers to their questions.“Secretary Sebelius said it is impossible to guarantee Americans can keep the health coverage they have today,— Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) said in a statement after the meeting. “I would say Madam Secretary and Mister President that answer is not good enough and underscores how flawed this reform plan is.—