- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 2, 2010

President Obama on Tuesday listed four areas in which he said Republicans made good points at last week’s bipartisan summit, saying some of their concerns already have been taken care of and others will be addressed as he prepares to lay out his way forward on health care.

In a letter to congressional leaders, Mr. Obama said he is open to an “interesting suggestion” from Sen. Tom Coburn, Oklahoma Republican, that called for undercover investigations of health-care providers as a way to combat waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid.

He expressed support for adding $50 million more to a grant program to states that find alternative ways of resolving medical malpractice lawsuits and for expanding “health savings accounts,” which he said would be used in conjunction with high-deductible plans that could be offered through the exchanges under his proposal.

Mr. Obama also said he shared the concern of Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican, that doctor reimbursements must be increased if Medicaid is expanded to cover more people, as the Democrats propose doing.

Mr. Obama said he is “open to” the Republican policy ideas, though it is not expected that his final health care overhaul plan will win GOP votes in Congress.

Though he made good on his promise to consider GOP proposals, Mr. Obama also took a swipe at Republicans by dismissing their call for a more incremental approach to health-care reform, saying that is not the best way to reduce premiums and end discrimination based on pre-existing conditions.

He stressed that his proposal — outlined last week as 11 pages of tweaks to the Senate’s already-passed health care bill — eliminated backroom deals such as the much-derided “Cornhusker kickback” that gave Nebraska more money than other states to pay for Medicaid, a shared state and federal priority. Mr. Obama noted that his proposal also got rid of the special treatment for Medicare Advantage in Florida, a provision that was secured by Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson.

Mr. Obama’s proposal left in the $300 million secured for Louisiana by Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, however.

The letter offered Democratic leaders no instructions or suggestions on the legislative endgame. Democrats are striving to win the public relations war over a parliamentary tactic that would allow them to push a bill through with a simple majority and circumvent a Republican filibuster in the Senate. Pointing out that the GOP has used budget reconciliation in the past, leaders have argued that Republicans’ unwillingness to cooperate on their terms gives them no other choice.

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