OBAMA PAYS A HOUSE CALL: The big news today is President Obama's speech to the annual convention of the American Medical Association. Although the AMA is not the monolithic giant it once was--more on that here, and perhaps to come later today--it's still important symbolically. As Marc Ambinder reported last week, the administration wants physicians as validators of its reform efforts. That means keeping the AMA from going ballistic or, better still, winning its endorsement.
But don't expect Obama to avoid potential areas of disagreement in his remarks. The background briefing for reporters indicated that he would talk about the public plan--something the AMA has suggested it doesn't like--with some degree of detail. This would be in keeping with Obama's style; he likes to confront his audience.
On the other hand, don't be surprised if he reaches out to the AMA on a few points. As discussed previously, the medical profession is extremely interested both in fixing the annually scheduled cut in Medicare payments and doing something about liability reform. And there have been ongoing discussions about how to tie the latter idea, at least, into incentives for improved quality.
SEBELIUS MAKES THE ROUNDS: Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made what was, I think, her first official round of Sunday show visits over the weekend. An Associated Press report suggested she signaled a willingness to compromise on the public plan controversy, setting off some alarm bells on the left. I only saw one of her appearances--on ABC's "This Week--but I didn't hear it that way. My take was that she was being vague and non-committal, more or less in keeping with the administration's stance to date. That's not to say I don't think Obama might compromise on a public plan; I suspect he would. But I don't expect it to happen right away. He and his advisers know better than to negotiate with themselves. At least, I think they do.
MITT ROMNEY REDISCOVERS MITT ROMNEY: Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was also on "This Week." And he was there simultaneously to trash the Obama administration, for trying to have government take over health care, and to tout the reforms he passed in Massachusetts. Although the two reforms actually share a great deal in common, it's not quite as hypocritical as it sounds. The lack of a public plan is one of several key differences. On the other hand, there is something hypocritical about Romney suddenly gushing about the plan that he tried so hard to downplay during the Republican primaries--a strategy I never understood, since it was actually an important policy accomplishment for which Romney deserves some credit.