Duelling TV as health care debate heats up
One of Washington’s permanent rituals, duelling policy statements on Sunday TV, took place again as Obama administration officials and supporters made multiple showings on the talk shows while health care reform proponents and opponents alike launched a record advertising blitz. The Obama administration is gearing up for negotiations in Congress on health care and is trying to dampen feelings the public option (a proposed government plan to compete with private plans) is a “must do”. As White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel said on two different programmes, “it's not the defining piece of health care”, while more liberal senators like Chris Dodd said, “I haven't given up on this”. Democrats, as ever, united. Now as health care reform crawls closer to becoming law, Obama’s allies and the insurance industry have grown increasingly hostile. The health-care battle gets an early test as Democrats push to set aside nearly $250 billion over the next decade for higher Medicare payments to physicians. In between all the talk shows the American Medical Association weighed in with its own ads, “For seniors, a doctor can mean everything -- independence, hope, security -- and Medicare makes it possible. We need a permanent solution to protect Medicare and ensure seniors get the security and stability they've earned.” Curiously, Medicare is a government programme and a model for the government health care option which the Republicans oppose.