Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Health Care: The TV Show

Big breakthrough for bipartisanship: The table for the health summit has been changed from U-shaped to O, allowing more Republican face time for TV cameras.

Such symbolism typifies an encounter in which the White House will try to put back together a bill that was blown apart last fall by hand grenades from monolithically opposed Republicans and nakedly greedy Democratic swing Senators.

In the rubble of public disgust and Tea Party rage, the effort to start over is being dismissed as "political theater" by GOP legislators while being promoted as significant by the President's Congressional supporters.

Max Baucus, who kept making backdoor deals with "moderate" Senate Democrats, is now an outspoken believer in "the disinfectant of the sunshine. The more we have got questions on both sides, gradually the American people are going to see more and more and more that we really do need health care reform.”

Maybe so, but behind the scenes of a dog-and-pony show to placate highly vexed voters, the President is reportedly picking up pieces of the demolished reform to settle for covering half of 30 million uninsured Americans at one-quarter of the cost.

This would be accomplished by requiring that insurers let people up to 26 to stay on parents' health plans and by expanding Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, rather than a broader effort with an estimated price tag of $950 billion over 10 years.

As the talkathon starts, the President's hopes for progress, already compromised by dropping the public option and limiting real controls over greedy insurers, providers more oriented to bill than cure and patients who consume health care like a free lunch, keep receding.

But the sound bites will be as abundant as drug manufacturers' samples and other goodies for doctors' offices.

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