Right before the Super Bowl, President Barack Obama spoke about health care reform with CBS News' Katie Couric: "I want to come back and have a large meeting, Republicans and Democrats, to go through systematically all the best ideas that are out there and move it forward."
According to aides, the President envisions a half-day meeting on February 25th held in Blair House (a building across the street from the White House) presumably televised by C-SPAN. President Obama's conciliatory rhetoric aside, everyone knows this publicity stunt has nothing to do with actually considering conservative health care reform ideas and everything to do with the appearance of transparency and bipartisanship. The New York Times reports: "In making the gesture on Sunday, Mr. Obama is in effect calling the hand of Republicans who had chastised him for not honoring a campaign pledge to hold health care deliberations in the open, broadcast by C-Span, and for not allowing Republicans at the bargaining table."
And the reality is that Democrats have no intention of including conservative ideas this late in the game. The Washington Post reports that White House officials "said the president will come to the health-care summit armed with a merged version of the two bills that Democrats strong-armed through the two chambers with almost no GOP backing." And The Post adds that Congressional Democrats show no signs of intending to listen to new ideas either: "In separate statements Sunday, Democratic leaders praised the president for calling the bipartisan summit but made clear they are not prepared to give up on the progress they made last year."
The White House continues to operate on the assumption that the American people would support their plan, but that President Obama just has not explained it well enough to the American people. The exact opposite is true. The American people have a very good idea of what is in President Obama's health care plan, and they do not like it. The President's plan takes the worst part of the status quo - a slow-motion federal government takeover of health care - and makes the problem much, much worse. Tacking-on one or two conservative ideas will not change the fundamental direction Obamacare would take our country.
Take for example the President's insistence that his plan includes the conservative idea to allow individuals to purchase health insurance cross state lines. The problem is the President's plan also gives czar-like powers to unaccountable federal bureaucrats to decide what does and does not qualify as health insurance for the entire country. These regulations would squeeze-out any real competition among private health plans anywhere, making competition across state lines useless.
If the President were really interested in bipartisan reform, he should have reached-out to conservatives months ago. Even before the President was sworn into office, our conservative health care analysts here at The Heritage Foundation have been reaching-out with common sense, free-market-friendly ideas that can ensure access to affordable health insurance. But for more than a year, the President chose not to listen. If the President truly is interested in bipartisan health reform, he needs to step back and start over. His six-hour February 25th Hail Mary pass just isn't going to cut it.