Health Care Summit: Breaking Updates, Latest News

Health Care Summit: Breaking Updates, Latest News Updates

President Barack Obama kicked off a six-hour summit meeting with members of Congress on Thursday by expressing his hope that the partisan divide over health care can be bridged. "We all know that this is urgent," he said. But that divide was obvious as soon as Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander called on Obama to scrap the entire Democratic plan and start from scratch. Obama's attempts to persuade Republicans that his plan already answers most of their ostensible concerns does not appear to be working. Check here for health care summit details throughout the day. You can see live video and twitter reaction and read expert analysis.

11:40 PM ET -- Healthy interest: Judging by White House web traffic, public interest in the summit far surpassed that for President Obama's State of the Union address in January.

According to White House New Media Director Macon Phillips, there were more than 3.9 million streams of the White House's live webcast today. Phillips said that's more than triple the amount of traffic the White House tallied for its live webcast of the president's SOTU address, when 1.3 million watched the president speak via the White House's webcast.

Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall reported that his site saw a big bump in traffic:

It's certainly not a perfect measure. But over the years I've gotten a pretty good feel for how different kinds of political events bump traffic on TPM. And there was a much bigger bump than I would have expected for an event like this.

5:40 PM ET -- The GOP line: Summit was 'fabulous' and 'Useful.' Our Ryan Grim wraps up the reaction of Republican leaders to today's events:

For Mitch McConnell, it was a "a fabulous discussion." For John Boehner, "a useful discussion."

The Republican leaders in Congress wrapped up the health care summit with the president and his congressional allies full of praise for the gathering.

"Mr. President, I'm going to say thank you for having us here. I think it's been a useful conversation and as I listened to you open up this meeting, I thought to myself, I don't disagree with anything that you said," Boehner, the Republican minority leader, offered to Obama.

"The American families are struggling with health care. We all know it. The American people want us to address this in a responsible way. So I really do say thanks for having us all here."

Read the full story.

5:21 PM ET -- And that's a wrap. Obama officially closes out the summit after a nearly seven-hour session (interrupted only by a short lunch break). Be sure to check out the Huffington Post's roundtable of health care experts for their ongoing analysis of the day's discussions.

5:20 PM ET -- Laugh track. As Obama began his closing argument by saying he planned to talk for ten more minutes, the Senate press gallery burst into spontaneous laughter.

It was the biggest laugh the health care summit had drawn since the camera panned to John Boehner looking ever-so-pained to be listening to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was busy dissecting each Republican argument that had been trotted out during the more than seven our event.

Watch the Boehner-Pelosi moment:


5:15 PM ET -- Dingell: Health Care Is Not And Will Never Be The Ten Commandments. Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.), who as the longest serving member of the Congress also holds the distinction of having spent the most time working on health-care legislation, closed Thursday's summit by acknowledging that the bill being considered did not meet the standards of perfection set forth by the Ten Commandments.

But no legislation did, the Michigan Democrat announced. And for the sake of solving crises in the both insurance industry and the overall health care system, lawmakers would and should settle for bills that weren't crafted by the hand of God.

"We have before us a hideous challenge," Dingell said. "The last perfect legislation that was presented to mankind was delivered to the Israelis at the base of Mt. Sinai. It was on stone tablets, written in fingers of God. Nothing like that has been presented to mankind since. What we are going to do is not perfect. But it sure will be better and it's going to ease a huge amount of pain and suffering at a cost, which we can afford, which has been questioned out by the office of management and budget and the congressional budget office say it's budget-neutral. It in fact reduces the budget. I beg you, let us go forward on this great task."

Watch Dingell's remarks:


4:55 PM ET -- Obama Shuts Down Waxman.
Henry Waxman, chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee and a reliable partisan grappler, took the mic toward the end of the health care summit and didn't disappoint.

He keyed in on Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.) Medicare reform plan that would give seniors vouchers to buy coverage, instead of the coverage itself. That's all well and good, until premiums increase - which premiums have a habit of doing.

Waxman, a Democrat from California, brought up Anthem BlueCross's recently-proposed 39 percent increases.

"Could you imagine, seniors, if you have to go shopping with your vouchers, and by the way this private policy that you're going to have to buy just went up 39 percent? And the way to save the federal government money is to shift it onto the seniors, that's where we're headed if we don't do anything," Waxman said.

He continued along those lines for another six minutes, urging the president to push forward with comprehensive reform.

"Mr. President, you're not going to be able to do this piecemeal," he said. "I have doubts about whether the Republicans are going to help you, because I haven't heard a lot of willingness to come to work with you now or a year ago. I hope I'm wrong."

Obama interrupted him. "I'm going to be equal opportunity here and say we're not making campaign speeches right now," he scolded.

Watch the exchange:

4:50 PM ET -- Rangel Reality Check. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) offered this during his remarks in the waning minutes of the summit: "I don't really think somebody sick in the emergency room is concerned about the size of the bill."

4:15 PM ET -- Professor Obama strikes back. From HuffPost's Sam Stein: Earlier today, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) criticized President Obama for acting, during the day's health care summit, like he was a professor in front of a classroom of petulant Republican schoolchildren.

The analogy seemed a bit harsh -- until Minority Leader John Boehner got the microphone roughly an hour later to play the part of unruly school kid to a tee.

During a segment of the meeting devoted to cost control and federal entitlements, Boehner instead trotted out just about every single GOP scare story about the bill - insisting it was a government takeover, calling it a massive bureaucratic mess, and even remarking about the number of pages in the legislation.

Obama's reply: "John, you know, the challenge I have here, and it happens periodically, is every so often we have a pretty good conversation trying to get on some specifics, and then we go back to, you know, the standard talking points that the Democrats and Republicans have had for the last year. And that doesn't drive us to an agreement on issues."

Read the full story.

4:00 PM ET -- John Barasso's stethoscope. He's a doctor and a senator and President Obama got an earful from Sen. John Barasso (R-Wyoming) on Thursday. Barasso even called to mind the moment in medical school when he received his stethoscope.

"This is to listen," Barrasso said, recalling the words of one of this professors.

"I have great concern that people around this table are not listening to the American people," he added. Echoing one of the GOP's main talking points, Barrasso said that the entire health care reform process should "start over."


3:40 PM ET -- The reconciliation debate.
President Obama and Sen. John McCain aired their differences on the issue of reconciliation for the health care bill. McCain told Obama that he did not think reconciliation should be used for a bill of this magnitude, adding that he thought it "could harm the future of our country" (and of the Senate).

Obama responded that he did not think the American people cared all that much about the procedures of Congress and were more focused on getting a reform bill passed.

Democratic operative Donna Brazile offered her take on the exchange on her Twitter feed: "Sen McCain just raised the issue of reconciliation," Brazile wrote. "Pardon me. This is part of the legislative process. Dems must not fear using it."


3:30 PM ET -- Get the whole story.
Click here for an updated transcript of the health care summit proceedings so far today.

3:25 PM ET -- The public option push.
When Congresswomen Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey arrived at the Blair House with a stack of letters backing the public option to hand out Thursday morning before the health care summit, they ran into a thick wall of security.

"Are you on the list?" they were asked, Woolsey (D-Calif.) recounted to HuffPost. "Well, no," she said.

She still managed to get a copy of a document to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), titled "Put the Public Option on the Table Today," and printed on Congressional Progressive Caucus letterhead. Lee (D-Calif.) was on hand to deliver a letter from the Congressional Black Caucus.

Hoyer was glad to raise the issue, he told HuffPost in the Capitol during a break in the summit proceedings. "The public option is still a serious issue for us. We understand there are people that don't agree with that. Republicans talk about competition. We believe that enhances competition."

The GOP didn't take the bait.

"Nobody responded specifically to that," he said.

3:15 PM ET -- McCain And Obama Agree: Backroom Deal For Florida Stinks. After a lengthy explanation as to why Republicans are wrong to characterize the budget cuts that health care legislation makes with regards to Medicare Advantage as cuts to Medicare overall, President Barack Obama found agreement with his 2008 presidential opponent. The backroom deal exempting Floridians from those MA cuts basically sucks.

"I just make one comment," Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) interjected. "Why in the world then would we carve out 800,000 people in Florida who would not have their Medicare advantage cut? I proposed an amendment on the floor to say everybody would be treated the same. Now, Mr. President, why should we carve out 800,000 people because they live in Florida to keep the Medicare Advantage Program?"

This, of course, is the trouble with the backroom deals that were added to the legislation during the final stretch of negotiations. They undermine the seriousness of the actual reforms. And so, while Obama is right to point out that a huge amount of money is wasted in the Medicare Advantage program (money he wants to use for closing the prescription drug doughnut hole and on other reforms), there is simply nothing to say about the Florida exemption. And, indeed, he didn't say much.

"I think you make a legitimate point," Obama replied. "I think you do."

2:50 PM ET -- Obama's come-to-Jesus moment.
In one of the more interesting moments of Thursday's summit, President Barack Obama reconciled a fairly bold and largely under-reported evolution in his approach to health care policy: his come-to-Jesus moment with the individual mandate.

Talking directly to Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) -- but also to the larger audience of Republican and Democratic critics of mandatory coverage -- Obama acknowledged that during the primary campaign he was a staunch opponent of the provision.

"Bless you," an attendee appeared to remark.

The president went on to explain why he came around to the idea.

"My theory was if we lowered cost enough then everybody would be able to get it," he said. "So I was dragged kicking and screaming to the conclusion" that it makes sense for everyone to purchase insurance.

"And I have to say," Obama continued, "this is not a Democratic idea, there are Republicans sitting around this table who supported it."

The president cited two specific concerns that drew him toward the individual mandate. The first was "cost shifting" -- the idea that, currently, there are essentially freeloaders in the medical system who get emergency coverage without having to pay for it. The second was that, if you were to require insurance companies to stop discriminating against pre-existing conditions, you had to make sure that enough people were buying insurance so that premiums wouldn't skyrocket.


2:40 PM ET -- The shark tank.
Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) ripped into the insurance industry at the health care summit when it was his chance to say a few words. Studying its "sins and ills" over the past year, he said, had convinced him that "they're only in it for the money."

Rockefeller went right to the point. "They're terrible."

"The health insurance industry is the shark swimming just below the water and you don't see that shark until you feel the teeth of that shark," he said.

Rockefeller also said that one of the most effective ways to tame that shark would be to include a public option to compete against them. But, he said, he didn't think it was possible that it could make it through the Senate, repeating an assessment that had earlier slowed the momentum of a renewed push for a public plan.


2:25 PM ET -- Tom Harkin's 50 foot metaphor. Last night, the Wall Street Journal had a splashy story about how the White House was preparing a pared down, Plan B option for health care reform if, in fact, they couldn't get their first piece of legislation passed.

White House aides immediately pushed back against the idea. But they weren't denying that they had put together a more piecemeal, emergency proposal. They were just stressing that they weren't considering it.

On Thursday, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), made the case for why the piecemeal approach shouldn't have been put together in the first place. In remarks that came shortly after the bipartisan health care summit reconvened after lunch, the Iowa Democrat spoke to how integrally tied together all of the reform proposals in the bill truly are. Take one out (the individual mandate) and the entire enterprise collapses (you can no longer simply stop discrimination of pre-existing conditions). That's why the bill is over 2,000 pages.

"An incremental approach is like throwing a drowning man 50 foot out a 10 foot rope," said Harkin.


2:00 PM ET -- Here we go again... Obama calls the summit back into order. "All right everybody, let's get started," the president said.

But there appears to be impatience in the room. One lawmaker interjects, asking the president: "Mr. President, what time do you expect to end the meeting?"

"4:15," is Obama's reply.

1:30 PM ET-- Reason for optimism? Obama thinks so.
President Obama spoke briefly to reporters as he walked to the White House for the lunch break. He said the summit had already revealed "some areas of real agreement" between Democrats and Republicans.

"I don't know if it's interesting watching it on TV," Obama said, according to a pool report. "But it's interesting being a part of it.

"I think we're establishing that there are actually some areas of real agreement," he said, stopping for a minute outside the gates. "And we're starting to focus on what the real disagreements are. If you look at the issue of how much government should be involved, the argument that the Republicans are making really isn't that this is a government takeover of health care but rather that we're ensuring the -- we're regulating the insurance market too much. And that's a legitimate philosophical disagreement. We'll hopefully be able to explore it a little more in the afternoon."

1:20 PM ET -- GOP Spin Zone.
There are still several hours before the health care summit is over and Republican leadership has already labeled the event an abject failure and accused the president of treating them like a "petulant group of students."

Appearing on MSNBC mid-day Thursday, Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) made it abundantly clear that the White House has not made any inroads with the GOP, despite the high-profile bipartisan outreach.

"He didn't rule out reconciliation," Pence said. "Harry Reid oddly denied that he was talking about reconciliation, that certainly would be news to most of the reporters here in Washington; that's almost all they've been talking about... forcing the Senate bill or some version of Obamacare 2.0 through a simple majority. The president said he has an open mind. I haven't seen any evidence of that. What I think the American people have seen is almost a professor with a petulant group of students. He has repeatedly interrupting republicans. He has repeatedly jumped in and felt the need to answer every time republicans outline our desire to allow Americans to purchase health insurance across state lines, allow businesses to have small business association plans, pass tort reform.

"Time and time again, the president is stepping up and essentially rebutting each of those," he added. "I don't see much evidence of an open mind here. What I see is a lot of political posturing, a lot of sentimental statements by Democrats around the table that all seem designed to get us to a point where they can throw their hands up in the air and say to the American public, 'you know what, we tried but now we're just going to have to ram through that government takeover of health care that these republicans aren't willing to help us with.'"

The spin wars have begun.


1:10 PM ET -- Summit stopwatch.
Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) apparently is not the only one who is keeping track of the time allotted to each speaker at Thursday's health care summit. A White House official sends over the count that they have been keeping over the last two-plus hours of debate and discussion.

Here is the breakdown:

From 10:10 to 12:30:

POTUS: 41 minutes

DEMS: 51 minutes

GOPers: 46 minutes


1:00 PM ET -- Lunch break. The summit is in recess for a lunch break. From White House pool reporter Peter Urban of Gannett News Service:

As to lunch, the president is expected to walk back across Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. The invited guests will be provided lunch in another room. White House staff did not know the menu but pledged to find out what was being served.

12:30 PM ET -- The Obama-McCain spat.
HuffPost's Sam Stein reports on the exchange between Sen. John McCain and President Obama:

After listening to a litany of complaints from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) about the lack of transparency and backroom dealing in the health care reform process, a noticeably displeased President Obama hit back with a chilly response.

Obama accused McCain of remaining in campaign mode and urged him to take the debate more seriously

"Let me just make this point, John, because we are not campaigning anymore," Obama said.

"I'm reminded of that every day," McCain shot back.

Read the full story and watch the video:

12:20 PM ET -- George Miller's TMI moment.
While making a larger point about health care reform at today's summit, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) disclosed a personal health issue: the northern California Democrat has a kidney stone. Too much information?

12:20 ET -- For the record.
The White House has released President Obama's complete opening statement from earlier this morning. Read it here.

12:15 PM ET -- White House tweets.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, who recently joined Twitter and became an overnight must-follow, has been tweeting a few items about today's summit. He offers this tweet on the discussion about health care premiums:

Just to be clear - the CBO found that premiums go DOWN under health care reform #hcr

12:00 PM ET -- What do the experts think?
Check out the HuffPost's live blog of expert reaction and analysis to today's health care summit. Here's an excerpt from a recent post by Jay Bhattacharya, Associate Professor of Medicine at Stanford University:

If there's one area where both Pres. Obama and the Republicans seem to agree is that one key route to reducing health care costs is to increase the amount of disease prevention. It is true that there are many worthwhile preventative care interventions that ought to be applied more widely (both among children and adults). The unfortunate fact is that, according to the health economics literature, even if we expanded prevention substantially and according to the best available evidence, total health care expenditures would not decrease and in many cases would increase.

11:58 AM ET -- McConnell complains
. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) was a bit steamed an hour-and-a-half into Thursday's summit over what he felt was an imbalance of speaking time being given to Democrats.

"Mr. President," the Kentucky Republican said, "can I just interject one quick point here. Just in terms of trying to keep everything fair, which I know you want to do, to this point, the Republicans have had 24 minutes, the democrats, 52 minutes. Let's try to have as much balance as we can."

This suggests, quite clearly, that McConnell has assigned a staffer today to actually time the length of each person's speech. Which is a bit bizarre, though perhaps necessary. Even President Obama acknowledged that McConnell had a point - though he did so unapologetically.

"You're right," said Obama. "There as an imbalance on the opening statements because... I'm the president and I didn't count my time equally."

Watch the video:



11:45 AM ET -- Is Boehner out smoking?
C-SPAN repeatedly showed the empty chair that belongs to Minority Leader John Boehner while Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) held court. He has since returned. Out smoking? A Boehner spokesman responded via email: "(shrug)"


11:00 AM ET -- Fact-checking Lamar.
President Obama and the morning's lead Republican talker, Lamar Alexander, got into a spirited verbal brawl over whether the Democratic legislation would increase premiums for people without employer-based coverage.

The tussle between Obama and Alexander at the summit was a rehash of an argument that was litigated several months ago when the Congressional Budget Office reported that premiums in the individual market - which is about a tenth of the total market - would go up slightly.

In that sense, Alexander was right. But in the broader sense, he was wildly off.

The reason the premiums would go up is that people would have subsidies to purchase better coverage. In other words, they'd be paying more for a better plan than they pay now for a lousy plan. (This post from Ezra Klein in December lays it out clearly.)

But there's this crucial fact: the out-of-pocket cost for the premium would plummet, the CBO found, because of the subsidies. So people would in fact be paying much, much less for much better coverage, according to the CBO.

Decision: Obama.

Watch the video of the exchange between Obama and Alexander:

10:50 AM ET -- More on Lamar.
Per HuffPost's Sam Stein: The Republican Party's (surprise) opening speaker, Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) used his allotted time to make a strong -- and largely misleading -- case against the use of reconciliation to pass health care legislation. In response, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) scoffed at his rendering of history. President Barack Obama, meanwhile, refused to answer whether he would rule out using the parliamentary procedure as a way to get health care legislation to an up-or-down vote.

Speaking shortly after Obama's opening remarks, the Tennessee Republican offered a "suggestion" for Democrats about how to make the summit a "bipartisan and truly productive session":

"Renounce this idea of going back to the Congress and jamming [it] through on a partisan vote through a little-used process we call reconciliation," he said. "It's not appropriate to use [reconciliation] for 17 percent of the economy."

This is a bit misleading. Democrats are not proposing the use of reconciliation to pass the entire health care package. Rather, they seem poised to pass the Senate's version of reform through regular order (with the House voting on the exact bill) and then resorting to reconciliation to pass amendments to the legislation. This certainly would not encompass 17 percent of the economy. And it will only deal with budget and tax issues (which reconciliation is specifically designed to do).

But Alexander wasn't done there. After insisting that Democrats were trying to run the health care bill through the Senate like a "freight train," he recalled that, just a few years ago, the Democratic Party objected to Republican efforts to get an up-or-down vote for George W. Bush's judicial nominees.

Read the full story.

10:50 AM ET -- Lamar Alexander makes the GOP argument. The Republican line of argument, pressed by a very reasonable-sounding Lamar Alexander, seems to be that reconciliation is a radical step. But as Media Matters has documented, it's anything but that. From media matters:

The "nuclear option" was a term coined by Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) in reference to his proposed change to Senate rules that would have banned use of the filibuster for judicial nominations.

Reconciliation, on the other hand, requires no change to Senate rules since it has been used repeatedly over the years to pass major legislation -- notably to pass major pieces of health care reform legislation. Republicans themselves weren't quite so uncomfortable with the supposedly "dirty" process when they used it to pass President Bush's tax cuts -- multiple times.

10:36 AM ET -- Sen. Sanders weighs in. Here are his remarks from earlier this morning: "I think the president is wrong' on the public option. The Vermont Senator appeared on MSNBC this morning to deliver sharp criticism on Obama's failure to address the need for a public option in his own plan for health care reform. "I think it is a public mistake. I think the people, for all the right reasons, distrust private insurance companies. I think they want to look to a Medicare-type public option. I think they should have that choice."

Read the full story.

10:35 AM ET -- More from Obama's Opener. President Obama, in his opening remarks at the health care summit, played up the fact that the legislation being considered by Democrats in Congress actually has some overlap with Republican ideas and
proposals. But the main thrust of his speech was urging lawmakers not to use Thursday's forum as an opportunity to preen before the cameras and resort to the usual talking points (a rather tall order for those in attendance).

Here is a chunk of the president's remarks:

"[W]hat I'm going to do is I'm going to start off by saying, 'Here's some things we agree on,' and then let's talk about some areas where we disagree and see if we can bridge those gaps. I don't know that those gaps can be bridged, and it may be that at the end of the day we come out of here and everybody says, 'Well, we have some honest disagreements. People are sincere in wanting to help but they have got different ideas about how to do it and we can't bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans on this.'

But I'd like to make sure that this discussion is actually a discussion and not just us trading talking points. I hope that this isn't political fear, where we're just playing to the cameras and criticizing each other but instead are actually trying to solve the problem. That's what the American people are looking for. As controversial as the efforts to reform health care have been thus far, when you ask people should we move forward and try to reform the system, people still say yes. They still want to see change. And it strikes me that if we've got an open mind, if we're listening to each other, if we're not engaging in the tit for tat and trying to score political points during the next several hours, then we might be able to make some progress. And if not, then at least we will have better clarified for the American people what the debate is about."

10:30 AM ET -- Obama: 'I hope this isn't political theater.' The president ends his opening remarks at the health care summit.

9:59 AM ET -- Pool report: places, everyone. Pool reporter Peter Urban of Gannett News Service reports from the Garden Room of the Blair House:

Although it is the largest room in the Blair House, the assembled guests will be seated tightly elbow to elbow around a square of tables approximately 25 by 25 feet around. There is a distinctive chandelier suspended in the middle of the room. The president will be seated in front of a fireplace. The wall is decorated with a fresco painting in muted colors of an outdoor scene.

It is a small room with vaulted ceiling, distinctive chandelier. Windows were shuttered.

Name tags laid out for all the dignitaries, seated very closely to each other along tables formed into a square about 25 by 25 feet. Note pads and pencils provided to each, as well as a glass of water.

President will be seated in front of a fireplace.

Guests began arriving shortly after 9:30 a.m. with Reps. Henry Waxman and John Dingell among the first to take a seat. By 9:50 a.m. most had been seated. All the men wearing dark suits.

8:45 AM PM -- Boehner To White House: Start Over. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) took to AOL News on the eve of the health care summit calling on Obama to "start over." Boehner wrote:

Americans want Washington to scrap this job-killing government takeover of health care and start over with a step-by-step approach that will lower health care costs.

That's not the "Republican" view. It's is the view of the American people. They know the bill that is set to be rammed through Congress will cause their health care premiums to go up and the quality of their health care to go down. They're asking their elected leaders in Washington to stop and start over on reforms that reflect the realities families and small businesses face today.

Republicans have offered a commonsense plan squarely focused on lowering costs. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has confirmed that it will lower premiums for families and small businesses by as much as 10 percent. All the details are available at

For his part, President Obama comes to the table with the same massive government takeover of health care that the American people have already rejected. In effect, the president's proposal actually takes the 2,733-page bill that the Senate passed on Christmas Eve and manages to make it worse. Even more Medicare cuts. Even more tax hikes. Plenty of special-interest deals still in place. A trillion-dollar price tag.


8:30 AM ET -- What 'Tort Reform' would really mean.
The HuffPost's Shriram Harid takes a closer look at the implications of tort reform -- a proposal President Obama plans to float at Thursday's summit -- for the medical profession:

In a letter addressed to President Obama on Tuesday, the American Medical Association (AMA) maintained that tort reform would lower health care costs directly --by lowering insurance premiums, jury awards and administrative costs not covered by insurance-- and indirectly, by curbing the use of unwarranted tests and medical procedures to guard against lawsuits. Citing the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the AMA added that tort reform "would reduce federal budget deficits by about $54 billion during the 2010-2019 period."

What the association left out, however, was an earlier statement by the Congressional Budget Office putting that amount in context: Limiting malpractice payouts "would reduce total national health care spending by about 0.5 percent (about $11 billion in 2009)," :the office concluded in a letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah).

Read the full story.

8:00 AM ET -- White House denies 'Plan B' report.
The White House has pushed back against a report in the Wall Street Journal that President Obama is considering a scaled-back health care reform bill. According to the HuffPost's Sam Stein:

The Journal reported that "no final decisions had been made" with regards to the Plan B approach. But one administration official who spoke to HuffPost insisted that while a fallback option had been developed, it is not even on the administration's radar.

"This proposal was developed because the president wanted to know what the impact would be if he had to go small post-Massachusetts [Senate race]. It's not where we are," the official said.

"As you can tell from covering the news this week," the official added, "this is not the proposal we're pursuing."

Read the full story.

Wednesday Updates

1:45 PM ET -- White House weighs in. Nancy-Ann DeParle, Director of the White House Office of Health Reform took part in a live online discussion about Obama's health care proposal.

Though support for passing the public option through reconciliation has been growing in Congress, Obama's proposed plan gave it no mention. The White House has maintained that they aren't confident that such a measure would receive enough votes to pass through Congress.

Tuesday Updates

7:19 PM ET -- Expectation setting. Sam Stein reports on the importance and expectations of the upcoming bipartisan health care summit. Thursday's meeting may well prove a telling moment for the immediate future of health care reform.

The hope is that Obama can pull off a masterful performance that inspires his fellow Democrats. But no one -- not even the president's own press secretary -- is entirely sure if he has enough capital to work with.

5:18 PM ET -- The details. Sam Stein provides advance summit details released by the White House. Click here for a full breakdown of Thursday's bipartisan health care meeting.

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