Differences bridged: zero. Lines drawn in the sand: too many to count.
That's how things stand after the historic one-day presidential health care reform summit televised live Thursday. The intent was to move the stalled health care reform bill forward by identifying areas of agreement between Democrats and Republicans. Expectations were low for achieving meaningful consensus, and the event delivered. For Democrats, it's clear that moving forward means going it alone and passing reform through reconciliation.
President Obama's main achievement was that the summit likely made it easier for Democrats to do so. Republicans came armed with their talking points -- reform equals government takeover of medicine, the bill is 2,600 pages, we need to take reform step-by-step. But Obama did much to disarm them.
Setting baseline consumer protections for those buying insurance hardly amounts to a government takeover of medicine, as Obama pointed out. Congressional members' own health plans provide basic benefits. And, the government already regulates many products to ensure that they're safe and don't harm consumers. Why should health insurance be any different?
As for the bill's length, it's long because health care is complicated, he said. Provisions to root out fraud alone can take hundreds of pages of legislation. And taking things step by step? The president noted that's how the current bill came into being. "We cannot have another yearlong debate over this,'' he said.
Hard-core reform opponents aren't going to change their minds. But this summit was really aimed elsewhere. The presidential parrying of Republican talking points should shore up reform's popular support and give moderate Democrats the gumption to cast a yes vote in reconciliation.
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