As Obama Unveils Health Reform Plan, GOP Cries Foul

Media coverage of President Obama’s healthcare proposal (which included reports on all three network newscasts) generally gives it little chance of becoming law. The plan was swiftly confronted with GOP charges that it amounts to a “government takeover” that “slashes Medicare for our seniors,” while Democrats are described in a front-page New York Times (2/23, A1, Stolberg, Herszenhorn) story as taking “a wait-and-see attitude.” Obama, the AP (2/23, Alonso-Zaldivar, Werner) reports, “knows his chances aren’t looking…promising,” and “realistically, he’s just hoping to win a big enough slice to silence the talk of a failing presidency.” The AP adds that “privately, a senior White House official sought to lower expectations” for Obama’s comprehensive plan, “saying a solid single is better than striking out swinging for the fences.” Publicly, meanwhile, David Axelrod, a senior adviser to Obama, “said the president had no intention of scaling back his vision — unless forced.”

While the Wall Street Journal (2/23, Meckler, subscription required) reports that the plan would add about $75 billion to the cost of the measure passed by the Senate, the CBS Evening News (2/22, lead story, 1:30, Couric), which led with the story, reported that “this plan is $200 billion more than the existing Senate version,” and that it “will not be an easy sell.” CBS (Reid) added that “the White House claims they’re going to pay for that $200 billion mostly with increases in taxes on the wealthy. But it will be a tough sell and that’s not the only hurdle in the President’s new plan. He’s also proposing a brand new federal board called the Health Insurance Rate Authority and he wants to give the Federal government the power to block insurance companies from unreasonable rate increases.”

USA Today (2/23, Fritze) reports that the plan “includes several changes Obama hopes will ease friction among Democrats that has slowed progress on the effort for weeks.” On its front page, the Washington Post (2/23, A1, MacGillis, Goldstein) says that “Obama’s proposal takes the more modest Senate bill as his basic framework. But, in what is perhaps his proposal’s most notable feature, he scales back the Senate bill’s main revenue source, a tax on high-cost insurance that he has strongly supported. Instead, he would impose a new tax on the unearned income of the wealthy.” Obama “would expand subsidies to help working-class and middle-class families afford coverage. To win over some of the bill’s strongest skeptics — seniors and state officials — he would expand the Medicare drug benefit for seniors and Medicaid assistance for budget-strapped states.”

The Los Angeles Times (2/23, Levey) reports that the plan does “not include a government insurance plan — or public option.” The measure’s cost “would be around $950 billion over the next decade, offset by a mix of new taxes and cuts in federal Medicare spending. … Additionally, the president would give the government new authority to regulate the premiums charged by private insurers, a new proposal the White House made in response to steep rate hikes in California and elsewhere in recent months.”

Politico (2/23, Brown, O’Connor), the Washington Times (2/23, Haberkorn), Bloomberg News (2/23, Donmoyer, Gaouette), The Hill (2/23, Romm, subscription required), and McClatchy (2/23, Lightman, Thomma) also cover the story.

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