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Health Care Summit Live Blog

5:25 p.m. ET: …and we're done: The much-heralded televised bipartisan health care summit has drawn to a close, without any obvious breakthroughs. In nearly seven and a half hours, both sides largely stuck to their guns, and it still seems unlikely that the meeting will result in the parties unifying around a reform bill.

Of course that wasn't necessarily the point, and now questions turn to whether the summit improved the overall chances of a reform bill becoming law. Will House Democrats be more likely to back a bill they appear to have cooled to since they passed it back in November? Will Senate Democrats be more comfortable using the controversial budget reconciliation maneuver to avoid a Republican filibuster? Or will something new and unexpected happen on Capitol Hill?

And then there's this simple question: Who won? Were Republicans able to improve upon their showing when President Obama spoke to the House Republican conference in Baltimore? Were Mr. Obama and Democrats finally able to make a clear case to Americans that their bill is worthwhile? Let us know what you thought in the poll below and in comments.
- Brian Montopoli

5:20 p.m. ET: President Obama concluded the health care summit with an acknowledgement that "politically speaking, there may not be any reason for Republicans" to work with Democrats on health care reform.

The president said he knew Republican voters did not favor a plan and it would "be very hard for you politically to do this."

But he said he put on the table a number of Republican ideas that he would consider supporting and that he was urging Republicans to do "a little soul searching" to try to find Democratic proposals they could embrace.

Read more on Mr. Obama's closing remarks>

- Brian Montopoli

4:59 p.m. ET: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a last pitch for the public option, denouncing the health insurance industry for fighting so hard against the proposal. She also called out Republicans for propagating misconceptions today about the Democrats' health care bills.

The public option, Pelosi said, would save $120 billion, keep the insurance companies honest and increase competition. Despite the way Republicans have characterized it, the public option and other Democratic proposals are market-oriented initiatives, she said.

Insurance companies opposed the public option, Pelosi said, because "they couldn't take the competition."

"I think the insurance industry left to its own devices has behaved shamefully, and we must act on behalf of the American people," she said. "It's time for the insurance companies to exist on the playing field of the American people."

Pelosi also called out Republicans for suggesting today that the Democrats' bills provide public funding for abortions and cut benefits for seniors; they do not, she said.

Passing this legislation "will take courage to do," she said, "but we will get it done."
- Stephanie Condon

4:30 p.m. ET: Check out today's "Washington Unplugged" to watch analysis and reaction to the summit.

4:20 p.m. ET: Republican Sen. John Barrasso (Wyo.) said that consumers who can only afford catastrophic coverage are some of "the best consumers of health care," a claim that President Obama incredulously questioned.

Mr. Obama pointed out that consumers with catastrophic coverage don't have the luxuries members of Congress can afford. "Would you be satisfied if every member of Congress just had catastrophic coverage?" Mr. Obama asked.

Barrasso said yes, because they would have more "skin in the game." He said people with affordability problems often "eat too much" or do not exercise enough.

"Would you feel the same way if you were just making $40,000?" Mr. Obama pressed. "The notion that somehow for them the system is working and if they just ate a little better and were better consumers, they could manage, is just not the case."

Read more on the exchange here>

- Stephanie Condon

Update 3:54 p.m. ET: Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin just fought back on the Republican push for tort reform, noting that such reform would only have a relatively small impact on health care costs and pointing out that claims and payouts have decreased over the past two decades.

He also said the people in the room discussing health care were a privileged few with access to the best health care in the world.

If they think the sort of health care they get amounts to a "socialist plot," he said, then lawmakers should "drop out of the federal employees health benefit program."
- Brian Montopoli

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Update 3:40 p.m. ET: After House Republican leader John Boehner aggressively criticized the Democrats' health care reform plan, President Obama told him that Democrats would "profoundly disagree with" many of the things he said, adding that based on his analysis, Boehner's claims "just aren't true."

Boehner echoed what he and other Republicans have been saying about the health care reform effort, claiming "this 2,700 page bill will bankrupt our country."

He said "the American people want us to scrap this bill," calling it a "dangerous experiment" with the world's best health care system and again casting it as a "government takeover."

A seemingly frustrated Mr. Obama responded by saying that his challenge at the meeting is to keep momentum going when people "go back to the standard talking points that Democrats and Republicans have had for the past year."

"There are so many things that you've said that [Democrats] would profoundly disagree with, and that based on my analysis just aren't true," said Mr. Obama.

Read more on the exchange>

- Brian Montopoli

3:30 p.m. ET: Democrats intend to pay for their health care plan by instituting some reforms in Medicare, like making cuts to Medicare Advantage and cutting out fraud and abuse. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, however, said he was skeptical that the proposed cuts would be implemented.

"I don't see any future Congress having any more guts than we do," he said.

Congress has indeed always been averse to making cuts to Medicare. President Obama, however, said that if "we can't make hard decisions about how entitlements work... then we're in big trouble."

"I hope that we've got the courage to make some of these changes," he said, adding that cutting Medicare Advantage would achieve savings from "a program in which insurance companies are making a lot of money but seniors are not better off."
- Stephanie Condon

3:08 p.m. ET: John McCain and Barack Obama just had something of a moment of healing following their contentious exchange earlier in the health care summit.

McCain, appearing frustrated, interjected while President Obama was discussing Medicare Advantage, which allows seniors to spend government money on private plans as opposed to opting into the Medicare plan.

McCain again complained about a deal to give seniors in Florida seniors extra protections on their Medicare Advantage payments, asking why 800,000 people should be "carved out" from the rest of the country.

President Obama paused -- and then said that McCain had a point. The comment seemed to take McCain by surprise, who, after a beat, said, "I thank you for it."
- Brian Montopoli

2:55 p.m. ET: Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) said her constituents want Congress to "start over" on the issue of allowing individuals to buy insurance across state lines.

Democrats incorporated that proposal into their health care bills, but Blackburn said Republicans would prefer to allow for cross-state purchasing "without putting a federal bureaucracy in charge of it." The Democrats' Senate bill would require states to form compacts among themselves to sell insurance across their borders and get federal approval. Furthermore, Blackburn said, the compacts would not be put in place until 2016.

"Care delayed and access delayed is care and access denied," Blackburn said.

She said that if consumers in California had been given the chance to purchase health care from other states, they may have been able to avoid the high rate hikes Anthem Blue Cross will implement in a few months.

President Obama said, "I support the idea of purchasing across state lines."

He said, however, that in California, there were not a "whole bunch of insurance companies from other states clamoring to get into California... there weren't."

"It's not as if they're giving out great deals in Iowa," he said. "These are structural problems that exist in every state."

He said, however, that Republicans and Democrats should be able to resolve their differences on the issue, if they set up a federal exchange.

"Once there was a national exchange, with some minimum standards, then potentially you could just have a national marketplace and anybody could sell into the exchange," he said.
- Stephanie Condon

2:43 p.m. ET: Democratic Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia angrily criticized the health insurance industry at the bipartisan health care summit Thursday afternoon, saying, "they're terrible. They're in it for the money."

Rockefeller said the companies are looking for reasons to kick people out of their coverage and that they put "money first, people second."

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

He said the industry had "no oversight" and pointed out they are not subject to antitrust rules. "They can do what they want," he said.

"This is a rapacious industry that does what it wants," added Rockefeller, deeming the industry "unknown in their behavior to the people of America, except on an individual basis."

"It makes me sick, it shouldn't happen in America," said Rockefeller.

He stressed the importance of an individual mandate, saying it is essential to have a large pool of people that can band together to negotiate with the industry.

Rockefeller also addressed the so-called "medical loss ratio," which is the percent of revenues insurance companies have to use for actual medical costs, not profits or administrative costs.

"You stop that by having a law, which is a good law, saying that you have to spend between 80 and 85 percent of everything you take in in revenue on your patients, and if you don't, we will know about it, because we will be tracking it," he said.
- Brian Montopoli

2:35 p.m. ET: The Democrats' proposed mandate for all Americans to acquire health insurance is a fundamental policy issue that needs to be completely rethought, Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said.

Americans, he said, "don't want to be forced to buy health insurance they don't want and they can't afford."

"That's why you're seeing state legislatures across the country passing resolutions saying, 'our citizens are going to have a choice.'"

States began passing resolutions to exempt their citizens from certain federal mandates as long ago as last summer.

Democrats insist the mandate is necessary to ensure that there is a large enough risk pool to keep costs down.

During the Clinton administration health care debate, Republicans favored the mandate.
- Stephanie Condon

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
2:30 p.m. ET: Here's the menu that was offered up during the lunch break at the Blair House, courtesy of CBS News producer Robert Hendin.

Hot Food: Chicken with vegetables and spinach, Grilled Salmon, Rice, Seasonal Vegetables

Cold Food: Salads, Smoked Turkey, Grilled Tenderloin

But it should be noted that not many of the members of Congress ate at the Blair House, as they had to return to the Capitol for a vote or had other commitments.

2:20 p.m. ET: Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin invoked segregation in discussing the need to reform health care.

"We don't allow segregation in our country on the basis of race, creed, color, national origin, etc," he said, adding disability to that list as well. "And yet we still allow segregation in America today on the basis of your health. Why should we? Why should we allow that to happen?"

"The health insurance industry in this country is based on a flaw," he said. "And the flaw is their ratings are based on segregating people on the basis of their health."

"I think it's time to end that," said Harkin, a former insurance agent.
- Brian Montopoli

2:00 p.m. ET: We're back: After about an hour break for lunch and a House vote, the health care summit is about to reconvene.

During the break, President Obama reflected on the first half of the session, calling it "interesting."

"I mean, I don't know if it's interesting watching it on TV, but it's interesting being part of it," he said.

He was then asked if he was making progress.

"I think we're establishing that there are actually some areas of real agreement and we're starting to focus on what the real disagreements are," he said.

"If you look at the issue of how much government should be involved -- the argument that Republicans are making really isn't that this is a government takeover of health care, but rather that we're insuring the -- or we're regulating the insurance market too much," continued Mr. Obama. "And that's a legitimate philosophical disagreement. We'll hopefully be able to explore it a little more in the afternoon."
- Brian Montopoli

1:00 p.m. ET: The health care summit has now taken a break for lunch, as House members have to return to the Capitol for a vote. The summit will resume around 1:45.

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
12:50 p.m. ET: Health care reform is very much an issue of women's rights.

Language regarding abortion coverage remains one of the divisive issues in Washington's legislative debate.

At today's summit, numerous legislators have used examples of health care problems unique, or mostly unique, to women as examples of problems that need to be solved -- getting coverage for breast cancer, letting insurance companies versus doctors decide for how long a woman may stay at the hospital after giving birth, or ensuring that women do not have to pay more for insurance than men.

Looking around the table today, however, women are vastly underrepresented. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is heading up the congressional delegation. She is joined by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), as well as Reps. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius is at the meeting as well.

That's five women out of more than 40 attendees.
- Stephanie Condon

12:40 p.m. ET: President Obama sparred with his 2008 presidential opponent Sen. John McCain at the health care summit, telling the Arizona Republican "we're not campaigning anymore. The election's over."

The president was responding to McCain's comments in which he complained that the health care bill was not produced in the open, but "behind closed doors."

McCain complained of "unsavory" dealmaking to get the bill passed in the Senate, including promises to give special deals to residents of Louisiana, Nebraska and Florida.

At one point, Mr. Obama tried to interject. "Can I just finish, please," McCain said, cutting off the president.

Read more on the exchange here>

- Brian Montopoli

12:25 p.m. ET: We now have a photo gallery up of some photos of the day so far -- check it out here.

12:15 p.m. ET: Both Democrats and Republicans agree that small businesses should be able to pool together to negotiate for health care coverage, in order to reduce their costs. They can't agree on how to pool those groups together, however.

Democratic Rep. Rob Andrews (N.J.) said the Republican proposal and the Democratic proposal comes down to a "semantic difference." Does it really?

Republicans put forward in their legislation (PDF) a plan to allow for the creation of "association health plans." Groups like trade industries could create pools to purchase insurance for their employees. They would not have to meet any government-mandated, minimum benefit requirements -- associations would be able to determine which benefits they are willing to pay for.

By contrast, Democrats want to set up government-based "exchanges" in which small companies can pool together. The House passed a bill that included a federal exchange, while the Senate bill would set up state-based exchanges. Insurers offering plans in the exchanges would have to offer a package meeting minimum standards.

"You're defining exactly what kind of insurance people can have," Republican Rep. Paul Ryan (Wisc.) said. "It's just a difference in philosophy."

President Obama said, "We should set up minimum standards... at least solid enough that if your kid got sick, they're actually going to be treated.

"The issue here is... how much should government set a baseline versus just letting people decide, 'I can't really get decent insurance, but maybe this is better than nothing," he added.
- Stephanie Condon

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
12:10 p.m. ET: Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell is apparently timing how many minutes each party is getting to speak at the bipartisan health care summit.

About an hour and a half into the event, McConnell complained there had been an imbalance in speaking time, with Democrats having gotten about twice as much as Republicans. McConnell said Republicans had used 24 minutes while Democrats had used 52 minutes.

"Let's try to have as much balance as we can," McConnell said.

President Obama replied that he's "just going back and forth here, Mitch." He agreed, however, that there had been an imbalance, attributing it to the fact that a Democrat occupies the Oval Office.

"There was an imbalance in the opening statements, because I'm the president." Mr. Obama said, seemingly referencing the fact that he made an opening statement at the event before turning to both parties' Congressional leadership.

At one point, when a lawmaker asked if a colleague would "yield," the president noted, despite the highly-structured nature of the event, "we're not in a formal hearing here."
- Brian Montopoli

11:55 a.m. ET: In case you missed it, here are some videos we have from the opening statements.

Obama Says He Doesn't Want "Political Theater"
Lamar Alexander: GOP Wants Reconciliation Renounced
Pelosi and Reid: Health Care Can't Wait For Do-Over

11:45 a.m.: Just a reminder, if you want to watch the summit, you can check it out live here on

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
11:31 a.m. ET: President Obama pressed Republicans on why they oppose allowing individuals to pool together in order to have more negotiating power with health insurance companies.

Minnesota Republican Rep. John Kline, seen at left with Mr. Obama, responded that Republicans want to allow small businesses to pool together, calling it "a far better way to get these economies of scale."

Montana Sen. Max Baucus, arguing Republicans and Democrats are "actually quite close" on health care reform issues, then discussed Republican calls for people to be able to buy and sell insurance across state lines.

Baucus, the architect of the Senate version of the bill, noted the Democratic bill included provisions to do just that, though he acknowledged that the details differed. He ticked off a list of Republican proposals included in the Democratic proposal and provisions to help small businesses, including tax credits.

"The point is, we're not that far apart," he said.
- Brian Montopoli

11:21 a.m. ET: Republican Sen. Tom Coburn complained that "we do not, we absolutely do not incentivize prevention" in the current health care system during Thursday's health care summit.

He called for a change in the school lunch program and the food stamp program, which he said are the most significant creators of diabetes in the country.

Coburn, a doctor, also pressed for tort reform and the elimination of fraud and abuse in the government health care systems.

"How do we come together and actually achieve a reduction in the extortion that goes on in this country in terms of medical malpractice?" he asked.

Like the previous speakers from both sides of the aisle, Coburn spoke for a number of minutes, eventually prompting Harry Reid to interject.

"I'm not an expert on much, but I am on filibusters, and we've got 40 members of Congress here," Reid said, a not-so-subtle call for Coburn to wrap up his comments.
- Brian Montopoli

(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
11:17 a.m. ET: Before the day is done, President Obama wants to set the facts straight on whether the Senate health care bill would reduce or raise premiums.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) charged that "premiums will rise in the individual market as a result of the Senate bill."

President Obama rebutted that claim, saying that the Congressional Budget Office said that under the Senate bill, premiums would actually go down 14 to 20 percent but that families would decide to purchase higher quality, slightly more expensive plans.

"Because now they've got a better deal, because policies are cheaper, they may choose to buy better coverage and that may be 10 to 13 percent more expensive," Mr. Obama said. "I promise you I've gone through this carefully with the Congressional Budget Office."

"I'm pretty certain I'm not wrong," he added. "I promise you we'll get this settled before the day's end."

Here's what the Hotsheet wrote about the CBO report back in November: "Without taking into account subsidies, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's reform package would raise premiums on non-group insurance policies by an average of 10 percent to 13 percent by 2016, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. About 57 percent of consumers in the non-group market are expected to receive subsidies, however, and for those people, average premiums would drop by as much as 59 percent... [The White House pointed out] the CBO concludes that average premiums will rise in some cases because people will have more options and therefore choose to buy better insurance."
- Stephanie Condon

11:00 a.m. ET: President Obama right off the bat said he hopes this health care summit amounts to more than just political theater, but he and every other speaker so far has devoted part of their speaking time to anecdotes that seemingly would do little do advance any policy points. (Watch the statement here.)

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shared a story about Jesus, a restaurant owner in Reno, Nevada.

"He had everything he wanted except a baby," Reid said. Finally, the honorable worker from Reid's state had a baby with his wife. Unfortunately, the baby was born with a cleft palate, but the condition was improved with a few surgeries.

"Jesus was happy until he got his mail four months later," Reid said. "The insurance company said, 'we didn't realize your baby had a pre-existing disability."

No one should be subject to that kind of treatment from insurance companies, Reid said.

Similarly, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke of suffering families struggling with health care costs. As lawmakers talk around their table,

"We should be mindful of what they do when they sit around their kitchen table," she said.

The anecdotes are compelling, but it is hard to believe they would be shared around this table if today's summit were not televised.

Mr. Obama noted that all of the speakers so far have gone over their alloted speaking times, "not surprising with a room full of elected officials," he said. "We're going to have to be more disciplined if we want to cover every item."
- Stephanie Condon

10:50 a.m. ET: Senate majority leader Harry Reid, echoing Barack Obama's channeling of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, responded to Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander's opening statement by saying, "You're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts." He went on to repeat the statement.

Reid said Alexander's claims about the use of reconciliation rang hollow because Alexander cast it "as if it's something that has never been done before." Reid noted that Republicans used reconciliation to pass much of the Contract for America and Medicare reform.

"It's as if there's as if different set of facts than the reality," Reid said. The majority leader also said the bills in Congress had "significant input from the Republicans," despite GOP claims.
- Brian Montopoli

10:46 a.m. ET: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lamented the fact that the current health care system leaves Americans "job locked" and asked those attending the health care summit to imagine an economy with the "dynamism" to allow them to move forward without worrying about losing health care for their families.

"We want them to take those risks, and yet we lock them down," Pelosi said.

The House Speaker also said the Democratic health care plan "will create almost 400,000 jobs immediately."
- Brian Montopoli

10:38 a.m. ET: In his opening statement, Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee called on Democrats to "renounce" the use of budget reconciliation to pass the health care bill in the Senate. The use of reconciliation would allow Democrats to pass the bill with 51 votes as opposed to the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster. (Watch the statement here)

Alexander said that while reconciliation has been used, it has "never been used for anything like this." He said use of the maneuver, which Republicans used to pass the Bush tax cuts and other legislation, is "not appropriate to use to write the rules for 17 percent of the economy."

Alexander said major legislation should pass in a bipartisan fashion and invoked West Virginia Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd's comment that the use of reconciliation to pass health care reform is "an outrage that must be resisted."
- Brian Montopoli

10:35 a.m. ET: President Obama's latest health care proposal is fairly comprehensive in nature, but Sen. Lamar Alexander said on behalf of Republicans, "We've come to the conclusion we don't do comprehensive well."

"It doesn't work very well in our big complicated country," he said. He pointed to the lawmakers around the table and the various professions they held before becoming legislators -- everything from shoe store owners to doctors.

"We've got people who are used to solving problems step by step," he said.
- Stephanie Condon

10:25 a.m. ET: President Obama turned personal in discussing the health care reform effort at the outset of the health care reform summit, saying he didn't know what would happen to his daughters Sasha and Malia had his family not had stable health insurance.

"All of you as House and Senate members have good health care," he said. "But remember maybe when you were younger, when you were first starting off, I can certainly remember Malia coming into the kitchen one day and saying, 'I can't breathe, Daddy,' and us having to rush her to the emergency room because she had asthma. Or Sasha when she was a baby getting meningitis and having to get a spinal tap and being on antibiotics for three days, and us not knowing whether or not she was going to emerge OK."

"In each of those instances, I remember thinking while sitting in the emergency room, what would have happened if I didn't have reliable health care?," continued Mr. Obama. "My mother, who was self-employed, didn't have reliable health care, and she died of ovarian cancer. And there's probably nothing that modern medicine could have done about that."

"It was caught late and that's a hard cancer to diagnose, but I do remember the last six months of her life, insurance companies threatening that they would not reimburse her for her costs and her having to be on the phone in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies when what she should have been doing is spending time with her family," said the president. "I do remember that."

He went on to say that "everybody here has those same stories somewhere in their lives" in arguing for reform.
- Brian Montopoli

10:20 a.m. ET: "I hope this isn't political theater," President Obama said.

Republicans have expressed a great deal of skepticism that Democrats would accept any of their ideas today, but Mr. Obama said with respect to the Democrats' plans that "there are corresponding ideas on the Republican side we should be able to bridge."

"I'd like to make sure this discussion is actually a discussion on not just talking points."
- Stephanie Condon

10:12 a.m. ET: President Obama clearly intends to frame his argument for health care reform in the context of the economy.

He said in his opening remarks that along with taking measures to directly stimulate the economy, "it's absolutely critical we also look at some fundamental structural problems in our economy."

Health care is one of the "biggest drags on our economy and represents one of the biggest hardships families face," he said.
- Stephanie Condon

10:07 a.m. ET: President Obama has started the health care summit.

The convened legislators rose to their feet for the president's entrance, and Mr. Obama went down the table to shake everyone's hand. Will they continue to play nice for six hours? Everything is on camera!
- Stephanie Condon

9:55 a.m. ET: Convening today's six-hour summit may be President Obama's last best hope at pushing a health care bill through Congress and winning back public support for the issue.

The Hotsheet will keep tabs on the key policy points made and the political shots taken today in this live blog of the proceedings.
- Stephanie Condon

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