Lobbying on health care increases and, despite differences, drug makers and consumer groups unite to push for their version of health care reform. The Seattle Times reports on a multimillion-dollar campaign including mailings and television ads produced by PhRMA and Families USA: "Yes, Democrats and Republicans in Congress appear irreconcilably divided on the key tenets of a health-care overhaul. But two strange bedfellows - the pharmaceutical industry and a left-leaning national consumer-advocacy group - have united to promote a consensus health-care bill in Washington and 10 other key states." "The two organizations don't make for natural political allies.
Limiting medical malpractice lawsuits and changing the doctor payment system are being debated as possible ways to make health care more cost-effective. One of the "gang of six" Senate Finance Committee negotiators, Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., recently listed changing tort law as a "common sense reform" to reduce health care costs. He said America needs "to reform our flawed medical liability system and eliminate junk lawsuits against doctors and hospitals, " NPR reports. "Democrats, who get significant backing from trial lawyers, have generally resisted efforts to curb lawsuits." And "former Democratic Senator Bill Bradley suggests a grand bipartisan trade-off: Give the GOP the relief from lawsuits they want in exchange for the universal health insurance that Democrats want.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports that a majority of small business owners in California support health reform. "A solid majority - 61 percent of 700 California small businesses that participated in a survey released Tuesday - said health care reform is needed now to get the economy on track. Of the 55 percent of businesses in the random poll that said they do not provide health coverage, 86 percent cited high cost as the reason." Nationwide, small businesses "pay an average of 18 percent more for the same health coverage as large firms. Even in California, where state law requires the insurer to charge small firms a rate that is within 10 percent of that charged all small groups, businesses with relatively few employees have been hit with dramatic premium increases in recent years.
The leader of the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat coalition said Tuesday that she still thinks a health care reform deal can get done with a majority of Blue Dogs supporting it, The New York Times reports. Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a South Dakota Democrat, "said she still believed that she - and perhaps a majority of the more than 50 Blue Dogs - could ultimately get behind a health care package if it was reasonable and represented a consensus Democratic view. â The political temperature of the Blue Dogs - and their ideological counterparts in the Senate - after the five-week recess is crucial. As representatives of some of the nation's most conservative territory represented by Democrats, they potentially have the most to lose if a Democratic bill spurs a backlash.
The Wall Street Journal reports that defensive medicine is a significant yet small portion of overall health care spending in America. "Calculating how much defensive medicine actually costs is extremely difficult, because medical professionals often have many motivations for ordering tests and other procedures. The U.S. spends a higher percentage of its gross domestic product on health care than any other nation in the industrialized world. Legal expenses contribute to the bill." "Even so, health-care experts say the direct costs of medical malpractice -- the insurance premiums, claims paid and legal fees -- amount to a very small portion of overall health-care spending.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said President Obama's address on health care will not change many minds, Sen. Chuck Grassley fires back at the White House over comments and Sen. John Kerry says he'll take up Sen. Edward Kennedy's health reform hopes. Roll Call : "McConnell (R-Ky.) signaled that Republicans will not fall into line behind President Barack Obama's plan for a health care bill even after he addresses a joint session of Congress next week" (Palmer, 9/2). Politico : "McConnell said today that stripping the public option from the bill would be a 'step in the right direction' for the administration, but he said Republicans needed to see additional changes.