5 p.m. – Boehner passes on a final statement. Obama makes his, saying it will take 10 minutes. It took 20.
“This has been hard work,” the president said.
He listed areas of agreement and disagreement. We need insurance reforms but don’t agree on all of them, Obama said: capping out of pocket expenses, insuring coverage for people with preexisting conditions, and regulating the insurance market.
He said he has talked to too many people whose coverage did not cover everything they thought it did and they went bankrupt.
For people trapped in the individual market, Obama said that could be solved if they were allowed to be part of larger group. The idea of an exchange “is not a government takeover. It’s how the market works,” he said, acknowledging “some philosophical difference about minimum benefits in that exchange.”
As for buying insurance across state lines, he said, “the philosophical concern I have on that is that you get potentially what is referred to as a race to the bottom.” He talked about the credit card industry, when cross state purchasing was allowed. Every company went to state with worst consumer protection regulations and fees and gouging went up, he said.
“The question I’m going to have is is there a way for us to deal with the interstate purchase of health insurance, but in a way that provides, again, some baseline protections,” Obama said. “That’s not a big government takeover. That is a standard thing we do.”
On reform of medical malpractice, he said that while Democrats have traditionally resisted that, he would be “interested” in trying to get something done.
The president then laid out his bottom line.
“I’ve put forward then very substantive ideas that are embraced by republicans,” he said. “When it comes to the exchange, that is a market based approach, it’s not a government approach.”
“There were criticism about the public option,” he said, but “even after the public option wasn’t available … we have an argument about how much we should regulate the insurance industry.”
“With respect to the most contentious issue, I’m not sure we can bridge the gap … that’s the issue of how do we provide coverage not only or those who don’t have insurance now but also for those who have preexisting conditions.”
As for Republican insistence on an incremental approach, he said the problem is too complex and interrelated. “It turns out that baby steps don’t get you to the place where people need to go.”
“I’ve put on the table now some things that I didn’t come in here saying I supported,” Obama said. “I’d like the Republicans to do a little soul searching and find out, are there some things that you’d be willing to embrace that get to this core problem of 30 million people without health insurance.”
If they “can’t close that gap,” he said, there will be “a lot of arguments about procedures,” indicating that reconciliation would be used.
The president asked Republicans to see if they could reach a compromise with Democrats ” in a month’s time or a few week’s time or six weeks time.”
“If we can’t then I think we’ve got to go ahead and make some decisions, and that’s what elections are for.”
The meeting wrapped up at 5:22 p.m.
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4:55 p.m. – Pelosi begins closing remarks by stressing how much Democrats have given up, starting with the public option.
“We’ve come a long way to agreeing to a Republican idea: exchanges,” she said.
Pelosi, gesturing attacked insurance companies, saying they have acted “shamefully.”
“We have lived on their playing field all this time. it’s time for the insurance companies to exist on the playing field of the American people,” she said.
Pelosi addressed Boehner: “There is no public funding of abortion in these bills.” [Republicans pushed back hard on this afterward on their blog.]
She addressed Camp’s assertion that the Democrats cut benefits for seniors: “They do not.”
4:49 p.m. – Rep. John Dingell: “Any Republican that says you should start from scratch, that’s bogus talk, and that’s partisan talk.”
Dingell becomes the third Democrat of the day to talk about people coming to them with tears in their eyes asking for help.
Dingell said the “last perfect legislation” was the 10 Commandments.
I believe Rep. Charlie Rangel just uttered the following words: “We are so close to national health insurance.” That would seem to contradict Democrats claims that they don’t want government-run health care.
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4:34 p.m. – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said HSA’s are “not exactly for rich people,” that the median income of HSA users is $69,000 a year.
McConnell then launched into one of the main Republican talking point.
“We know from the polling that’s been done in this country how the American people feel,” he said. “This is not a close call.”
“We know the American people oppose this bill on an average of 55 to 37 percent,” McConnell said.
He also said that Gallup polled on whether Americans favored the use of reconciliation and found 52 percent opposition and 39 percent support.
“This has been a fabulous discussion .. but i think it’s really important, since we represent the American people, that we not ignore their opinion on this,” McConnell said.
“They have followed this debate like no other. And they have rendered a judgment about what we have attempted to do so far. The solution to that is to put that on a shelf and start over with a blank piece of paper.”
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Obama repeated what Democrats have said consistently since the summer, when poll numbers began their steep decline.
“There’s been a lot of comments from Republicans about the polls,” Obama said. “I hear from constituents in every one of your districts, and every one of your states.”
“Whats interesting is that when you poll people about the individual elements of these bills, they’re all for them.”
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Coburn, a few minutes later, said there needs to be a reconnection of the mechanism of payment with purchase.
“We ought to have another talk like this … because we all want the same thing, but how we get there, whether we’re in charge of it or the individual patient is in charge of it,” he said, was the key.