The Facts

After months of heated debate and an unprecedented all-day White House health reform summit on February 25, 2010, President Obama has begun the final push toward passage of comprehensive health reform. Current negotiations involving Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are focused on the president’s proposal, which is largely based on the bill approved by the Senate on December 24, 2009, but which also reflects compromises reached between Senate and House Democrats.

On March 2, 2010, the president submitted a letter to congressional leaders indicating that he is open to further examining the following four issues raised by Republicans during the summit:

  • Engaging medical professionals to conduct undercover investigations of health care providers to combat fraud, waste and abuse within federal reimbursement programs
  • Establishing “health courts” to resolve medical malpractice claims
  • Encouraging the use by individuals of high-deductible health plans
  • Increasing physician reimbursement—in response to expanding Medicaid to cover more people—in a fiscally responsible manner.

Click here for the letter.

And, on March 3, 2010, just a little under a year after his initial speech announcing his intent to overhaul the health care system, President Obama made it clear during his 20-minute speech that he intends to utilize the reconciliation process, resulting in an up-or-down vote on a merged measure. Click here for the speech transcript. The president also made it clear that he expects Democrats to support this strategy, regardless of their re-election prospects and concerns.

What’s at Stake

Succeeding with this strategy, however, will not be easy. Not only will Speaker Pelosi have difficulty rounding up the necessary votes in the House, but Senate Republicans may attempt to forestall the process by offering a myriad of amendments. However, if the president and bipartisan negotiations are successful, a health reform plan may be enacted by early April 2010.

Steps to Consider

All in the health sector, including health care consumers, should analyze any revisions to the president’s proposal and should continue to closely monitor the progress of the health reform debate.