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Wednesday, Feb 24, 2010, 8:05 am

Weekly Pulse: Obama To Promote Health Plan at Summit

By Lindsay Beyerstein

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By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

Image courtesy of Flickr user Mad African!: (Broken Sword), via Creative Commons License

On Monday, the White House released its plan for health care reform, which resembles the Senate bill with additional concessions for liberals and labor unions. Tomorrow, President Obama will hold a televised health care summit. Obama is billing the summit as a last-ditch attempt to solicit Republican ideas for health care reform. In fact, he's hoping to give the GOP enough rope to hang itself.

It takes two...

As Katrina vanden Huevel argues in the Nation, bipartisanship takes two parties, but the Republicans have refused to negotiate unless health care reform starts over from scratch. That's not bipartisanship, that's showboating. President Obama is giving the Republicans one last chance to waste the entire country's time so that he can point to the sorry spectacle and say, "Look, what they made us do."

In other words, the White House has finally accepted what progressives have been saying for months: There's no way to pass an acceptable health care reform without using the budget reconciliation process to circumvent the filibuster.

What's in the White House plan?

What does the White House want for health reform? Kevin Drum of Mother Jones summarizes some highlights of the Obama plan: Increasing premium subsidies for working families; delaying the so-called "Cadillac" tax on expensive health plans and increasing the threshold at which plans are subject to tax; and empowering the Department of Health and Human Services to crack down on exploitative premium hikes, like the 39% increase recently announced by Anthem of California.

In AlterNet, Byard Duncan points to a lesser-known but important facet of the president's plan, reviving the Indian Health Care Improvement Act—which would modernize the Indian health care system, which serves 1.9 million Native Americans and indigenous Alaskans, and not a moment too soon. American Indians are 3 times more likely to die of diabetes, 5 times more likely to die of alcoholism, and 6 times more likely to die of tuberculosis than any other ethnic group. If Obama's plan is approved, the Indian Health Service (IHS) will get a 13% budget increase to address these and other pressing issues.

Stupak, stopped?

Abortion continues to cast a shadow over health reform. As Nick Baumann explains in Mother Jones, the original House health care bill only passed by 5 votes. Then Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) resigned and Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) died. Rep. Joseph Cao (R-LA) only voted for the House bill because he liked the Stupak abortion funding ban, which is no longer operative. Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) and his coalition of anti-choice Democrats supported health reform last time around in exchange for their notorious amendment. Nobody knows how many of them Speaker Nancy Pelosi can keep in the fold. At this point, she has the counter-intuitive advantage of having nothing to offer them.

The Senate's abortion language can't be modified through reconciliation for procedural reasons. The Stupack Pack's bluff has been called: Either they'll kill health reform out of spite, or they'll fall into line. They could go either way.

Speaking of abortion, Jodi Jacobson of RH Reality Check reports that "Amelia", a young pregnant woman in Nicaragua is being denied chemotherapy because it might hurt her fetus. Amelia's doctors say she needs an abortion, but all abortion is illegal in Nicaragua. Nicaraguan women's groups are urging people to write to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and Nicaraguan government officials to protest.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The Nation, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times' City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (, a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.

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