Sebelius to Health Reformers: ‘Game Is Still On’

Posted January 28, 2010 at 11:02am

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sought to reassure liberal health care advocates Thursday that the administration was still trying to push the massive health care reform bill through despite recent setbacks.

Noting that the upcoming Superbowl was on the minds of many Americans, Sebelius used a football metaphor to describe the state of play with health care.

“We were on the 1-yard line and we had a penalty,— she said, eliciting laughter from members of the Health Action 2010 meeting. “It moved back a few yards. But the game is still on. We’re in the game. We can see the goal.—

Sebelius reminded the audience of the past difficulties in passing health care reforms and said that “Medicare wasn’t perfect— when it was first crafted in the 1960s.

Sebelius’ comments came the morning after President Barack Obama, in his State of the Union address, also stressed that he was not giving up on the health care overhaul despite the Democrats’ loss of the 60-vote supermajority in the Senate.

But Sebelius did not offer any timeline or possible route for Congress to overcome procedural obstacles. She said it would be up to Congressional leadership to determine the schedule and process.

A number of liberal groups, however, are now rallying behind one approach that would use reconciliation, which only requires a majority vote of the Senate, to pass negotiated changes between the House and Senate versions.

“We do not need 60 votes,— said Ron Pollack, the head of Families USA, the liberal health group that sponsored the conference.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) told conference members he also favored a process in which the House passes the Senate version and then both chambers approve a reconciliation bill that includes compromises.

But Franken also admitted that explaining the complex health care bill to the public has been difficult.

The Senator, a one-time “Saturday Night Live— comedian, said the favorite bumper sticker for the opposition has been the word “No.—

“Our bumper sticker is way too many words,— he continued. “It says: ‘Continue onto the next bumper sticker.’ We need to use this time not to lick our wounds but to make it clear to people what is actually in the bill.—