Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

THE INTERVIEW

Simon Serfaty, US foreign policy specialist

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'It's a War, Stupid!'

Read more

BUSINESS DAILY

French PM calls on ECB to go further to help economy

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

'I love the Socialists'

Read more

WEB NEWS

Ukraine: Web users call for international assistance

Read more

WEB NEWS

France: Fighting political corruption with transparency

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

No strategy and a beige suit

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

South Africa: Four men found guilty of shooting Rwandan exile

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - August 29th, 2014

Read more

  • Ukrainian forces retreat from Luhansk airport after clashes

    Read more

  • Iraqi forces free Armeli in biggest victory over IS militants since June

    Read more

  • Teddy Riner, France’s unstoppable judo champion

    Read more

  • Monaco’s Falcao set for Man Utd loan on transfer deadline day

    Read more

  • Spain orders custody for parents of ill British boy

    Read more

  • Anti-government protesters storm Pakistan's state TV

    Read more

  • Putin calls for talks on 'statehood' for east Ukraine

    Read more

  • Poland marks 75 years since German invasion of WWII

    Read more

  • Israel appropriates large tracts of West Bank land

    Read more

  • Rescue efforts under way after French apartment block blast

    Read more

  • Web doc on French self-immolation protests takes top prize

    Read more

  • PSG trounce Saint-Etienne 5-0 with Ibrahimovic hat trick

    Read more

  • Tension rises in Hong Kong as Beijing rejects open elections

    Read more

  • French police stop 'teenage jihadist' from flying to Syria

    Read more

  • Kidnapped Yazidi women 'sold to Islamists' in Syria

    Read more

  • Confusion reigns after Lesotho 'coup'

    Read more

Americas

Obama's televised healthcare summit ends without a deal

Video by Kathryn STAPLEY

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2010-02-26

US President Barack Obama’s day-long televised summit wrapped up Thursday with no consensus between Democrats and Republicans on how to overhaul the US healthcare system as the two parties failed to overcome fundamental differences.

REUTERS - President Barack Obama and Republicans clashed frequently on Thursday at a summit on his stalled healthcare overhaul, battling over the size and cost of the proposal and moving no closer to a compromise agreement.

Obama told about 40 congressional leaders his comprehensive overhaul was "absolutely critical" to a sustained economic recovery, but Republicans said he should scrap the current plans and start over with a smaller approach.

"There are some fundamental differences between us that we cannot paper over," Jon Kyl, the No. 2 Senate Republican, told Obama, adding his plan gave Washington too much power over the health system and took it away from patients and doctors.

"We do not agree about the fundamental question of who should be in charge," Kyl said.

Obama hoped the day-long summit at Blair House, the presidential guest house across the street from the White House, would revive momentum in Congress for his faltering attempt to make healthcare more affordable and extend coverage to tens of millions of uninsured Americans.

He admitted it might not be possible to bridge the differences with Republicans but said "I thought it was worthwhile for us to make this effort."

Afterward, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell said he was "discouraged" by the summit's outcome and thought it was clear Democrats planned to ram through a version of the Senate-passed healthcare plan.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid seemed to reinforce that view, telling reporters: "It is time to do something and we are going to do it."

Obama had urged lawmakers to go beyond political theater and partisan finger pointing during the summit, but the polite tone was interrupted several times by tense exchanges with Republicans, including his 2008 presidential foe John McCain.

'The election is over'

When McCain questioned whether Obama had delivered on the political change he promised, Obama curtly reminded him: "We're not campaigning anymore. The election is over." McCain responded with a laugh: "I'm reminded of that every day."

Republican Senator Lamar Alexander and Obama also clashed on whether Democratic plans would raise insurance premiums, with each interrupting the other to make their points.

Health insurer stocks closed slightly higher on Thursday, performing better than the broader U.S. market as investor concerns waned about a sweeping healthcare reform that would hurt profits. Analysts said they expected a much more diluted version of the plan would eventually be adopted.

Shares in WellPoint rose 2.2 percent, Aetna gained 1.4 percent and Humana rose 0.5 percent. The Morgan Stanley Healthcare Payor Index was nearly unchanged.

"I think that investors recognize that all the bad news about how reform might affect insurance companies is already behind us," said Dave Shove, analyst for BMO Capital Markets.

The summit debate broke no new ground in the healthcare debate, with Republicans calling the bills too costly and saying they would mean more taxes, more regulations and higher premiums for consumers.

"This 2,700-page bill will bankrupt our country," said House Republican leader John Boehner. The Congressional Budget Office has said the bills would reduce the budget deficit by about $100 billion over the next 10 years.

Obama dominated the speaking time at the 7-hour summit, rebutting many of the Republican charges and sometimes chiding Republican critics for reverting to "talking points" in their comments.

"He actually consumed more time than all the Republicans combined and Democrats combined," Republican Kyl said. "It wasn't a matter of just inviting us down and listening to our ideas, he wanted to argue with us."

Republicans promoted their own scaled-back approach to boost competition across state lines, create high-risk insurance pools and curtail medical malpractice lawsuits. They stacked the Democratic bill on their table to show its size and said their opposition represented the view of most Americans.

"We have to start by taking the current bill and putting it on the shelf and starting from a clean sheet of paper," Alexander said. "This is a car that can't be recalled and fixed."

Obama and his fellow Democrats made it clear they have no intention of starting over, but Obama hopes to win over wavering Democratic lawmakers and rally support among voters who have lost enthusiasm for the effort to reshape the $2.5 trillion U.S. healthcare industry.

The bills passed by the Democratic-controlled House and Senate late last year were designed to rein in costs, regulate insurers and expand coverage to more than 30 million more Americans.

But efforts to merge them and send a final version to Obama collapsed in January after Democrats lost their crucial 60th Senate vote in a special election in Massachusetts amid broad public dissatisfaction with the healthcare drive.

Democrats are considering trying to ram a bill through Congress using a procedure called reconciliation that would bypass the need for Republican support. Republicans denounced the idea.

"You can say that this process has been used before, and that would be right. But it's never been used for anything like this," Alexander said, quoting Democratic Senator Robert Byrd's description of the process as ramming the bill through like "a freight train."

Reid defended the procedure and noted Republicans had used it before "for major things" like tax cuts and reform of Medicare, the federal health program for the elderly.

The White House also has a scaled-back alternative plan it could push if a more comprehensive approach fails. It would extend coverage to about 15 million Americans rather than the 31 million envisioned by the larger plan.

Asked as he entered the summit if he had a Plan B, Obama replied: "I've always got plans."

Date created : 2010-02-26

  • USA

    Obama spars with critics in TV healthcare debate

    Read more

  • USA

    Obama presents new proposals to revive stalled health plan

    Read more

  • USA

    Obama admits 'mistake' after losing Massachusetts to Republicans

    Read more

COMMENT(S)