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= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/04/29/avlon.john.art.jpg 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.