On February 22nd, President Obama unveiled a health reform proposal that draws from both the Senate and House-passed health reform bills and also incorporates ideas that have been proposed by Republicans in Congress. The public health and prevention provisions that were part of the Senate bill are included in the President's proposal. Included in the President's health reform proposal was language that would benefit myeloma patients such as ending discrimination against Americans with pre-existing conditions and closing the Medicare prescription drug "donut hole" coverage gap.
White House Hosts Health Reform Summit
On February 25th, President Obama hosted key Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders for a bipartisan meeting to discuss health reform legislation, including the president's new proposal, and to hear ideas from both Republicans and Democrats in Congress. After seven hours of discussion, the President summarized areas of consensus for health reform.
Those areas include:
- Allowing small businesses and individuals to be part of a large group to purchase insurance;
- Preventing waste, fraud and abuse
- Promoting prevention and wellness
- Purchasing insurance across state lines;
- Allowing young people to stay on their parents' insurance through their 25th or 26th birthdays;
- Banning annual caps and lifetime caps on insurance coverage;
- Continuing the use of Health Savings Accounts;
- Focusing on quality of care, not quantity of service.
However, many disagreements remain and the President made it clear that unless compromises were made over the next 6 weeks, the Democrats would press ahead with his proposal. Should this happen, the most viable path would be to attach revisions to the health care bill to a budget reconciliation measure, which the Senate could adopt by a simple majority. Passing health reform using the budget reconciliation process would require mustering the support of centrist Democrats in the House and the Senate who have expressed apprehensions about both the health care bill and the reconciliation process. The Republicans have also portrayed the reconciliation process as an unfair parliamentary tactic to skirt the normal rules.