President Barack Obama extended a bipartisan olive branch to GOP leaders in the health care debate Tuesday, stating in a letter that he is willing to consider several of their ideas in a compromise plan.That the GOP is unhappy with the concessions should not be mistaken for a commentary that the concessions are merely sops to bipartisanship. These are material proposals, and some of them are garbage. For example, the "high-deductible health plans" being referred to are Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), and Obama's willingness to "help to encourage more people to take advantage of HSAs" is not a good thing.
Specifically, the president said he may be willing to:
– commit $50 million to fund state initiatives designed to reduce medical malpractice costs;
– allow undercover investigations of health care providers receiving Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs;
– boost Medicaid reimbursements to doctors in certain states; and
– include language in the final bill ensuring certain high-deductible health plans can be offered in the health exchange.
The president said his decision to consider the GOP ideas was a result of last week's health care summit.
"The meeting was a good opportunity to move past the usual rhetoric and sound-bites that have come to characterize this debate and identify areas on which we agree and disagree," he wrote. I "left convinced that the Republican and Democratic approaches to health care have more in common than most people think."
GOP leaders were unsatisfied with Obama's concessions. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said the president's ideas were little more than a few items "inadequately addressed in a 2,700-page bill."
Bush was pushing HSAs for years, under that old conservative canard about having more control over one's own money, but the truth about HSAs is that they will inevitably result in more exposure to financial ruin at a vulnerable point in one's life. Ezra Klein has written extensively about the various problems with HSAs, and this Hilzoy piece is a good primer, too.