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May 12th, 2009
10:56 AM ET

President Obama's new take on healthcare reform

John P. Avlon is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and writes a weekly column for The Daily Beast. Previously, he served as Chief Speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and was a columnist and associate editor for The New York Sun.
[cnn-photo-caption image= caption= "John Avlon says President Obama is cultivating a broader coalition than past presidents to tackle healthcare reform."]

By John Avlon
Special to CNN

Something’s happening on healthcare reform – and it isn’t just déjà vu all over again.

Democratic presidents since Truman have wrestled with healthcare reform. Jimmy Carter 's attempts died at the hands of congressional liberals who wanted a Canadian-style single-payer system. These advocates of all-or-nothing got nothing. Bill Clinton’s ambitions fell under criticism of its secretive top-down policy approach and a successful industry effort to stigmatize it as “socializing one-seventh of the economy.”

You’ve got to give this to President Obama – the man is a student of history and he’s determined not to repeat the mistakes of the past. Yesterday, he brought health care industry executives and union leaders to the White House in an example of his patented ability to bring diverse interests to the same table. They emerged with a voluntary agreement to cut costs by $2 trillion over the next 10 years, which could eventually translate to a savings of $2500 per family. As impressive as the promised savings, the odd coupling was arguably more impressive: some of the same folks who were fighting healthcare reform a decade and a half ago are today eager participants.

They seem to have bought into President Obama’s reframing of healthcare reform beyond individual heartstring stories and toward a more hard-headed argument based on fiscal responsibility and international competitiveness. It is an argument that business understands.

Healthcare reform legislation is still in development, but President Obama is already cultivating a much broader coalition that presidents have in the past. In his prime time press conference marking his first 100 days in office, he even indicated one substantive area of bipartisan cooperation he had discussed with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – putting medical malpractice reform in any healthcare package to reduce costs.

The devil will, of course, be in the details – but some kind of a public-private partnership to address the 47 million uninsured Americans seems in the cards for Obama’s ambitious opening year.

Filed under: Health • Politics
soundoff (6 Responses)




    May 14, 2009 at 8:56 am |
  2. jane

    Just how many people did Chip Kahn help to murder about his fraudulent and absurd advertiising against socialized medicine?
    Insurance companies have continually denied Americans proper care, HMO's equally disgusting.
    My friend Cindy, had two mammagrams done. They never told her that she even had cancer. Why? Because hospitals, and doctors in this country only treat people with insurance.– Maybe. Two years later, she was stablized due raging headaches, 6 times, as she went to emergency room. The 7th time writhing from the pain, she fell off the gurney and went into a coma, where she was sent to another hospital where they discovered her breast cancer had gone to her brain with over 100 tumors. She died a few months later.
    My other friend has HMO, where he had to have permission to go to emergency room. With blood sugar over 395, fhey stated this was not an emergency. The hospital when i called told me he was lucky not to be in a coma. HMO finally agreed and later denied payment as they said was not an emergency. 40 years in public business I have personally watched people die from absurd medical rejection and treatments here in the U.S.
    My son lives in Austria, twice they have saved his life, once a tumor on his neck which envolved carotid artery and other vital organs. Calling Mayo clinic they wanted $250,000 up front as we had no insurance. In Austria this operation was done successfully and absolutely free. They not only provided ten years of affordable education, but, saved his life twice. No long lines, free medication, free dental, free foot care and absolute expertise.
    Mr. kahn is in the pocket of the insurance companies that have corrupted the health industries of the U.S. American dream has become a joke here in America. And, a nightmare. All about corporate greed of hospitals and insurance corruption, that care more about money than they do humanity.

    May 14, 2009 at 8:08 am |
  3. Jon F

    Sorry, but I frankly do not buy your argument that President Obama is cultivating a broader coalition than past presidents. Of course these people will come to talk – and thats all we will get from them. These are the very same people that have caused and continue to cause this problem to be a major one in this country today. These are the very people that should be sat down and given the 3rd degree by our government – and finally slapped with major regulatory actions. Our government currently does very little to regulate these people. Of course they will sit down with the president – anything to avoid regulation.

    As far as cost effectiveness goes – well – improvements in health care over the years cost more. If we want lifesaving procedures and extended lifespans – it will cost more. What no one appears to notice is that the President seems to want to control costs as far as health care goes – all the while spending far more on other items in his "agenda". What could be more important than the health of our citizens? So we get at best an unsubstantiated agreement to reduce costs by $1.2 trillion over 10 years. The president wants to spend that much in the next year alone for "other" projects. Its a matter of priorities – and it would seem that President Obama's priorities are with his other agenda items. It just makes no sense – none of it. You can't spread out healthcare over a larger group of people and expect the quality to increase. The president's pet project of computerized medical records has a poor track record and has been widely criticized by skeptical industry analysts. To date, health care automation has done nothing but to increase errors – not reduce them. This isn't progress, it is a mindless attempt for a quick fix. It won't work – and neither will rounding up the people who made the system so corrupt in the first place. It would be like asking Osama bin Laden to help with the war on terrorism.

    May 14, 2009 at 5:59 am |
  4. richard

    our country is in a world of hurt already,lets try reforming our health care just like all the other countries,and put small bussinesses out of bussiness, put pharmacutical companies in a position to where they also will leave the country and cause millions more in unemployment, and also may I add the worst medical attention you will ever experience, if you want a third world health care system this is what we are going to get,and another thing we can add is an additional "1.5 TRILLION DOLLARS OF DEBT" I dont know about you but I dont see anything wrong with the inssurance I have infact I believe its the "BEST" in the world, if it wasn't why do we have people comming from all over the world for our health care !

    May 13, 2009 at 9:15 pm |
  5. Purple Spider

    There are many in the this country who work and are not provided Health coverage. This government plan, if effective, could help the uninsured. However, those who are covered with a medical plan, at the work place and/or retired, should not have to go through change.
    Retired and the elderly are on specific medications, and the government needs to leave these kind of people alone, unless Obama wants a big fight on his hands!

    May 13, 2009 at 7:06 am |