Spitzer: GOP Wrong to Fight Health Reform

(CBS)
The White House released the president's plan for health care reform just days before a bipartisan healthcare summit.

CBS News senior White House correspondent Bill Plante says one proposal that is sure to ignite Republican outrage would give the federal government new power to block what it sees as excessive increases in insurance premiums, like a recent 39% jump by Anthem Blue Cross for nearly 700,000 consumers in California.

It would also include an additional series of measures proposed by Republicans to eliminate waste, fraud and abuse; and would do away with "special arrangements" (such as the controversial "special deal" for Nebraska, $100 million in assistance for that state's Medicaid program wrangled by Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson) that were previously negotiated.

In advance of this week's summit at the White House, A White House official told CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller that Mr. Obama "believes the bipartisan discussion on Thursday will be the most productive if Democrats come to the table with a consolidated proposal — what he's releasing today — and he hopes the Republicans will follow suit and come with their own unified proposal. He'll be open to Republican ideas, and he hopes they'll be open to ours."

Appearing on CBS' "The Early Show" this morning, Republican campaign strategist Ed Rollins, said he believes that Republicans will not go for the limits on insurance premiums.

"They're definitely not going to go for that," he told anchor Harry Smith. "Twenty-five states already have some sort of regulation, obviously you ought to expand that. California is the state with the problem, they ought to basically have its own entity. But the bottom line here is we don't know what this bill will be &30151; it looks like the president will add $200 billion more to the cost." (Watch the video at left)

Also appearing on "The Early Show," Democrat Eliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York and a columnist for Slate Magazine, said he does not believe Thursday's summit will be terribly useful, even if Republicans do show up, providing little more than political posturing. "But here's what's fundamentally different: the Democratic Party and the president know they must get something done. The internal discipline within the Democratic Party will be what makes this is a success," said Spitzer.

"And I agree, I think Ed's right: the Republican Party will say 'no' to this. But it's a wonderful idea. He's right about the Republican response; he's wrong on the substance. This is critically needed because the insurance industry is out of control right now."

"The bottom line is, this is a Democrat proposal, and they have enough votes — if they want to get together and pass it, they can pass it," said Rollins. "If they don't, and if they can't get together, then we're not going to have health care."

"Ed and I agree, this is a Democratic bill," Spitzer said. "They should pass it, they should claim it. It will be a huge success. The Republican Party's been the 'Party of No,' the party of nihilism. The president should stand up and say, 'Here's what's good for America.'"

"So is this then the real test for the president to say, 'I have control of the people in my party and it will benefit the American people,' and in the end push back to everything that's been pushing up against him?" asked anchor Harry Smith.

"This is the litmus test," Spitzer said. "This is the moment where either he says 'We are leaders, we will get it done,' or if they fail this time, then it really is a debacle for the Democratic Party."

But despite Democrats' internal dissention about how far to go on reform, and Republicans' disinterest in doing anything that might offer an advantage to the president, Americans do expect an answer to their anxiety caused by rising premiums and lost coverage.

"At the end of the day, someone has to pay for health care," Rollins said. "And by adding burdens to governors, adding more burdens on Medicaid where every state is almost bankrupt, is not a good formula. Somehow to bring it down you have to bring lawyers to the table, you have to have malpractice reform, competition by letting it go across state lines and insurance companies compete. And there has not been a willingness to do that yet."

"I think what's interesting is, the Democratic proposals do encompass a great deal of that, and they should and will," Spitzer said. "But the president needs to stand up and say, 'Here it is, we've got the votes, we've got to pass it.' And that's the only way you will then provide insurance and drive costs down. It can be done. It going to be tough politically, but this is the moment of truth."

As to whether Thursday's summit will be substance or theater, Rollins opined, "Right now, it's theater."
  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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