From a debate at the National Press Club between former Health and Human Services secretary Mike Leavitt and former HHS secretary nominee Tom Daschle, Washington, D.C.:
I'm not very good at taking pictures. Left to right: McClellan, Leavitt, Daschle.
Tom Daschle says there is a “50-50” chance of passing a health reform bill this year.
You read me right, folks: Former Democratic Senator Tom Daschle, Tom ‘I’m-so-fancy,-I-wrote-the-book-on-health-reform…literally‘ Daschle, handpicked as HHS secretary by President Hope himself (before some tax issues forced Daschle to withdraw his nomination), has serious doubts about the passage of a comprehensive health reform bill in 2009. You could almost hear the collective “Oh No He Di-int!!” ringing in everyone’s thoughts as soon as he uttered the words: “50-50.”
Other than that, the meeting was ho-hum. Anybody who read my deathmatch post knows that I am seriously spoiling for a fight. (What can I say, I’m from Long Island.) And yesterday’s debate, moderated by the deliciously impish Mark McClellan, seemed like it was gonna be a doozie. I got to the Press Club an hour early, I was so excited. But just as the two heavy weights started to dance around the public plan issue, with Daschle insisting that a public plan offered yet another choice, and Leavitt maintaining that it would kill private options, McClellan intervened. Let ’em play, I say!
So: what do you think about this new hedge? And when am I gonna get to see some PUNCHES???
—Denise Napoli, on Twitter @denisenapoli, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the AcademyHealth/Health Affairs National Health Policy Conference, Washington, D.C.
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, is known for being a basically congenial kind of guy. But even he has his limits. The Senator delivered a 20-minute or so speech on what he deemed the rosy prospects for health reform in 2009, remarking that “it is nearly inevitable,” and that there was a growing recognition on both sides of the aisle that economic recovery is not possible without health reform. “I feel an unprecedented sense of urgency,” Sen. Baucus told the decidedly wonkish crowd of about 1,000 health services researchers gathered in the basement of the J.W. Marriott.
The mood was upbeat (this was hours before former Sen. Tom Daschle withdrew from consideration for Secretary of Health and Human Services). But there’s a spoiler in every crowd. An audience member demanded to know why a single-payer plan was not being discussed on Capitol Hill. “It’s not going to get to even first base,” said the Senator, who was only just getting started.
While applauding the need for universal coverage and the desire for both a private and a public insurance option for Americans, Sen. Baucus said that single-payer may work for other countries, but that America was a different animal.
Besides, he said, “I’m not going to waste my time pushing on something that’s not going to happen.”