Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama Healthcare Summit Opens: Bipartisanship Scarce, So Far

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama Healthcare Summit Opens: Bipartisanship Scarce, So Far

Article excerpt

Obama began Thursday's healthcare summit by asking lawmakers to 'focus on where we agree.' But some tense exchanges, including with former campaign opponent John McCain, showed limited success on the bipartisan front.

President Obama opened his highly anticipated bipartisan healthcare summit Thursday with a plea to drop the usual talking points and focus instead on areas of agreement.

Halfway through, it appears the president isn't getting very far. He scolded some Republicans, including his adversary in the 2008 campaign, who did not hesitate to fire back. His own team, Democratic members of Congress, also stuck to a fairly predictable script, recounting healthcare horror stories that they say demonstrate the need for major reform. (For more on the healthcare proposal that Obama put forward this week, click here.)

"What I'm hoping to accomplish today is for everybody to focus not just on where we differ, but focus on where we agree, because there actually is some significant agreement on a host of issues," Mr. Obama said as he opened the session, adding that he has looked "very carefully" at various Republican plans.

Obama also sought to shoot down some of the standard Republican rhetoric, such as the repeated claim that Obama and the Democrats seek to enact a federal takeover of the American healthcare system.

"You're defining exactly what kind of insurance people can have," said Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin. "It's just a difference in philosophy."

Obama replied: "We should set up minimum standards ... at least solid enough that if your kid got sick, they're actually going to get treated."

Obama persisted in pushing his point that there are areas of agreement between Republicans and Democrats on healthcare reform.

His list included: allowing parents to keep insuring their adult children until the age of 25 or 26; banning "recission," in which insurance companies drop customers when they get sick; barring insurers from denying coverage to people with preexisting conditions; and getting rid of annual and lifetime ceilings on coverage. …

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