Welcome to the Blair House project, presented as a bipartisan health reform meeting scheduled Thursday but meant to tender to the public audience a group of Republicans who are viewed as obstructionists to providing health care to millions of uninsured Americans.
During an interview with CBS News Katie Couric, President Barack Obama said he wants to "look at the Republican ideas that are out there, and I want to be very specific ... How do you guys want to lower costs? How do you guys intend to reform the insurance market so that people with pre-existing conditions, for example, can get health care? How do you want to make sure that the 30 million people who don't have health insurance can get it? What are your ideas specifically?"
These comments exude the flippant attitude that's become a trademark of Obama, the overly self-assured politician. It's a big disappointment that a man of such intellect should continue to embrace the same partisan tactics that have grated on the sensibilities of American voters for nearly a decade, starting with former President George Bush.
In response to Obama's supposed attempt to reach a bipartisan agreement, House Republican leader John Boehner commented, "The best way to start on real, bipartisan reform would be to scrap those bills and focus on the kind of step-by-step improvements that will lower health care costs and expand access."
Of the same discourse, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said, " ... we know there are a number of issues with bipartisan support that we can start with when the 2,700-page bill is put on the shelf."
Obama chides Republicans for refusing to buy into his master plan of making universal health care reform a reality, which leads me to believe the scheduled debate was already over and done before the invitations were sent, and his sole intent is to cast Republicans as being cold-hearted and uncaring of those who lack insurance coverage.
As if by some prearranged queue, the sins of health insurance companies were exposed when Anthem Blue Cross of California, an affiliate of WellPoint, announced a planned increase in premiums of up to 39 percent to some 800,000 individual policyholders and that further adjustments may come "more frequently."
According to its Web site, WellPoint is "the leading health plan in the U.S. with approximately 35 million medical members" providing one in nine Americans medical coverage in 14 states. Although WellPoint lost nearly 4 percent of its customers in 2009, its profits totaled $2.7 billion in the last quarter alone.
Other California health insurers, including Blue Shield of California and PacifiCare, had already announced similar rate increases. In many cases, small business owners have seen their premiums go up by 15 to 20 percent in the past year. California, like a number of other states, does not regulate rate increases.
In response to willy-nilly rate increases, Obama's newest proposal includes the regulation of insurance premium increases. A 2.5 percent penalty on income would be imposed on those who refuse to participate in the plan, alienating the young who view it unnecessary to carry health insurance, the act of which may have adverse effects on the mid-term elections and the 2012 presidential election. Insurance plans valued at more than $27,000 would face a 40 percent tax in 2018.
Employers with 50 or more employees would be fined up to $2,000 per worker if they fail to offer coverage. This does not fit well toward fulfilling the demands of job creation.
Out of necessity, a growing number of states have either passed legislation, begun debate on the issue or are considering voter referendums as a preemptive strike against any federally mandated coverage, thus nullifying participation. States' rights may be in question.
With fears that health care reform will mandate an expansion of Medicaid, the National Governors Association has raised concerns that, as states' tax revenues continue to dwindle and once federal stimulus funds have been exhausted, fiscal outlooks are starkly bleak as they would be on the hook for $25 billion over the next 10 years. Former chairman of the NGA, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, cautioned, "Either the state income tax or the state sales tax or both would have to rise. We would add 30,000 people to the Medicaid rolls. It's about a 50 percent increase."
To sum it up, the summit is a waste of time and effort. The president has disregarded the concerns of American taxpayers, Republicans and Independents, thus polarizing a large segment of the voting public.
Now that the president has directly involved himself in the final drafting of health care legislation, the die has been cast and it is officially called "ObamaCare."
I imagine Hillary is jealous.