Obama on health care law: Where he and Michele Bachmann may agree

When speaking to a liberal health-care advocacy group, President Obama highlighted areas where he agrees with Republicans – and poked fun at opponents who call the law 'granny-threatening.'

J. Scott Applewhite / AP
President Obama smiles as he is welcomed to address the Families USA 16th Annual Health Action Conference in Washington, Jan. 28. Families USA is a liberal-leaning consumer advocacy health-care organization, and Obama wasn't afraid to poke some fun at opposition to his landmark health-care law.

President Obama defended his health care reform law on Friday by making fun of the people who want to repeal it. He told a crowd at the annual conference of the liberal Families USA health care advocacy group that his opponents are portraying the law as a “job-crushing, granny-threatening, budget-busting monstrosity.”

“And that just doesn’t match up to the reality,” said Mr. Obama.

The president then went on to make clear that while he’s said he’s open to ideas from anybody, Republican or Democrat, about improving the law, those ideas had better be no more than tweaks.

“I’m not open to efforts that will take this law apart without considering the lives and the livelihoods that hang in the balance,” said Obama.

The president also said that he’s not willing to “refight the battles of the last two years.” Well, he might not want to, but plenty of Republicans do. So he may have no choice.

The GOP-controlled House has already voted to repeal the entire bill. Whether that measure gets much discussion in the Senate or not, the House for months to come will consider legislation aimed at defunding parts of the bill, hobbling others, and replacing it with Republican-designed health care reforms. One side on this debate will be fighting, at least.

Obama did mention areas, touched on during the State of the Union, where he thought both parties could agree to make changes. He reiterated support for changing a small business tax-reporting requirement that all lawmakers now agree is onerous. That’s likely to get done.

He also said once again that he’ll consider ideas dealing with medical malpractice reform.

Did anyone notice that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) of Minnesota, the tea party favorite who gave a parallel GOP response to the State of the Union, also mentioned the need for medical malpractice reform? It’s another area where in theory the Democratic chief executive and the firebrand conservative might meet in the middle.

Where that middle might be is the question. What Obama means when he talks about medical malpractice reform – or at least, what he’s meant in the past – is small federal pilot programs to see if there are ways to avoid the big malpractice lawsuits that can end up costing lots of money. What Bachmann might mean is more far-reaching – hard caps on the amount of money that malpractice litigation can bring in.

Still, it’s a start, isn’t it? At least they’re talking about the same general thing.

Meanwhile, Obama went on to list things that might get taken away if health care reform is repealed. This year seniors whose prescription drug expenses put them in the so-called “doughnut hole” began getting $250 checks to help out, for instance.

“I can report that Granny is safe,” Obama assured listeners.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.