Parsing Points Made At Health Care Summit

Guests

Scott Horsley, White House correspondent for NPR
Julie Rovner, health policy correspondent, NPR

President Obama made his case for a health care bill to a small group of Republicans and Democrats Thursday, on live television.

The meeting convened in the same week the president unveiled his own draft of a health care bill, the third attempt at crafting legislation.

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. Im Neal Conan in Washington.

Today, President Obama called Republican and Democratic leaders from Capitol Hill down to his end of Pennsylvania Avenue to try to work toward a bipartisan agreement on his number one domestic priority: health care.

Both the House and Senate have passed different versions of a bill, but no Republicans voted in favor, and they take recent election results as public support for their demand to scrap the Democratic bills and start from scratch.

On Monday, President Obama implicitly rejected that when he released his own draft, a blend of the House and Senate bills, but also said that he would be open to Republican proposals.

As one of 40 men and women seated around a rectangular table at Blair House this morning, President Obama pleaded for a substantial discussion, not what he called political theater.

President BARACK OBAMA: We all know this is urgent. And unfortunately, over the course of the year, despite all the hearings that took place and all the negotiations that took place and people on both sides of the aisle worked long and hard on this issue, and you know, this became a very ideological battle. It became a very partisan battle, and politics, I think, ended up trumping practical common sense.

CONAN: The first response came from Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who said there could be no progress unless Democrats agree to abandon any recourse to a procedure called reconciliation, which would allow them to pass most of the bill through the Senate on a simple majority vote, not the 60 votes needed to break a minority filibuster.

Senator LAMAR ALEXANDER (Republican, Tennessee): You and I and many other senators worked together on the America Competes Act. We know how to do that. We can do that on health care, as well. But to do that, we'll have to renounce jamming it through in a partisan way, and if we don't, then the rest of what we do today will not be relevant.

I mean, the only thing bipartisan will be the opposition to the bill. And we'll be saying to the American people, who have tried to tell us in every way they know how - town halls and elections and surveys - that they don't want this bill, that they would like for us to start over.

So if we can do that, start over, we can write a health care bill. It means putting aside jamming it through, it means working together the way General Marshall and Senator Vandenberg did. It means reducing health care costs and making that our goal for now and not focusing on the other goals. And it means going step by step together to re-earn the trust of the American people.

CONAN: Republican Lamar Alexander of Tennessee. Later in the program, we'll continue our look at this year's Oscar-nominated documentaries, but first, the health care summit.

Joining me in the studio are NPR health policy correspondent Julie Rovner and NPR White House correspondent Scott Horsley. Have you been watching? If so, what have you learned? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org.

And, well, Julie Rovner, let me begin with you. On the way in, both sides seemed to be downplaying the prospects of any breakthroughs or agreements of magnitude here. Is this living down to expectations?

JULIE ROVNER: Very much so, I'm afraid. You know, even if you're a policy wonk like I am, this is not very scintillating stuff. I think I teased on my Twitter feed going into the lunch break that I was wondering if there was some Olympic curling on this afternoon.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROVNER: This is really there's a reason why somebody said this was like watching a, you know, a congressional conference committee being televised. And I said, no, it's not like watching a congressional conference committee being televised. At a congressional conference committee, which is when two committees get together to actually write a bill, they do work. This really is just talking points.

These are the same talking points that we have heard over and over and over again. And of course, the president has tried several times to interrupt that, to say let's get beyond some of the talking points, find places of agreement. But really, you know, the Democrats came in to say we want to go ahead and do this, and the Republicans came in and said we don't like your bill, we want you to start over. And that's what we heard several hours of, basically.

CONAN: And Scott Horsley, the president said at one point, you know, I'm not sure that these gaps can be bridged. If not, at least we'll have better clarified our disagreements. Is this really sort of a last-ditch attempt to say: Here's our position, here's your position, if you guys won't come to us, we're going to go it alone?

HORSLEY: I think that's exactly right, and I think that's the White House goal here, is if they do proceed down the path of reconciliation and to pass this without Republican support, they want to be on record and on television as having given the Republicans an opportunity to make their case.

CONAN: The Republicans included, well, several of their doctors that they have in the House of Representatives and the United States Senate, among them Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, a senator and a medical doctor, an OB/GYN, who complained that Congress is practicing bad medicine.

Senator TOM COBURN (Republican, Oklahoma): The first thing I would do is put out a caution to us because what I see the Congress doing, and what I saw this last year, is us actually performing bad medicine, and that is that we get stuck in the idea of treating the symptom rather than treating the disease.

And whether you go to Harvard or whether you go to Thomson Reuters, there's some facts we know about health care in America. And the facts we know is one out of every three dollars that gets spent doesn't help anybody get well and doesn't prevent anybody from getting sick.

The second thing we know is, from the Congressional Research Service, that most of the mal-drivers(ph) today in health care come from government rules and regulations.

The government now directs over 60 percent of the health care in this country. And if throwing money at it and creating new government programs could solve it, we wouldn't be sitting here today because we've done all that. It hasn't worked.

So what I thought we ought to do is maybe talk about, why does it cost so much? Because the thing that keeps people from getting access to care in our country is cost.

You mentioned Malia and Sasha. The fact is, is with young kids going to the ER whether they have meningitis or asthma, they're going to get treated in this country, but they may get labeled with a pre-existing illness after that. And that's another thing I'll be happy to talk about at a later time. But the fact is, is we know how to treat acute asthma. What we don't do a good job of it preventing children from getting acute asthma.

CONAN: And I'm corrected. Dr.�Coburn, Dr.�Senator Coburn, is a primary care physician, though he does deliver a lot of babies. And Julie Rovner, much of the morning session taken up on this question of containing costs and which party's ideas would do that more effectively than the other.

ROVNER: Absolutely, and this is and a lot of throwing around of facts that were sort of taken selectively, if you will, from the various estimates made by the Congressional Budget Office, one of the big ones talking about, you know, whose plan would raise premiums and whose plan would lower premiums.

CONAN: And indeed, there seem to be at some point, everybody conceded, well, fundamental, philosophical differences on this point.

ROVNER: Oh yes, very much so, and I think that's, you know, the biggest problem. There are a lot of things that Democrats and Republicans do agree on going forward, but the bottom line is they disagree on the role of government, and that's the hardest part of this.

The Democrats think government has a fairly large role to play in the health care system, and the Republicans don't.

CONAN: Well, let's see if we can get some callers in on the conversation, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. Jay's(ph) calling us from Durham, North Carolina.

JAY (Caller): Yeah, hi. My question was: Do you think that this is a culmination of Obama's game plan or strategy, that he gave Congress the chance? He lost popularity, I think, because he did that, and now that he's going to take the reins and push it through.

CONAN: Well, let's put that Scott Horsley, and again, this is informed by the Clinton administration's experience with health care, when the task force headed by Hillary Clinton came out with their proposal, and Congress proceeded to pick it to death, and then it went nowhere. This time around, the president said: Congress, you take the lead. House of the Representatives, the United States Senate, you write the bill.

HORSLEY: That's right, and I don't think this is so much the culmination of the president's strategy as what he's sort of been forced to do as the leaving it up to the legislature has not worked for him. So it sort of, as a desperation move, he has now said okay, I will step in, I will put my stamp on that, something he has tried very hard not to do, not only with health care but with other bills moving through Congress throughout the last year.

CONAN: So he's trying to say all right, if this is where we are, this is the last chance.

HORSLEY: Yes.

CONAN: Julie Rovner, this blend of President Obama's, of the House and Senate packages, is this pretty much the Democratic bill?

ROVNER: Well, yeah, this is where that bill was going anyway. Remember, this is essentially a lot of the things in this proposal are things that the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate had either already agreed to or were on their way to agreeing to. The problem with this bill, of course, is that in order to get this through, even if they use the reconciliation, the budget reconciliation process, the House will probably have to pass the Senate bill first.

There's a lot of distrust right now between the House and the Senate. I'm just talking about Democrats. I'm not even talking about Republicans. Pretty much in order to use the budget reconciliation process, the House is going to have to pass the Senate-passed bill, and they're still not really there yet. So...

CONAN: Jay, I wonder if you're still listening with us in Durham?

JAY: Yes, I am.

CONAN: Have you been watching this?

JAY: Oh, yeah. Yeah, I've been following the whole I didn't see today's summit, but I've followed the whole debate, and I couldn't reconcile in my mind how someone as smart as Obama would allow the Congress to take over in the fights, and he just lost control, it seemed like. But I'm just wondering if maybe he's just slyer than we all...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: I'm sure he would like to think so. Well, maybe not. I don't know about that. Well, President Obama, Scott Horsley, kept setting deadlines. He wanted both houses to pass a bill by the end of August, before Labor Day, before the Labor Day break. These deadlines kept slipping and slipping and slipping. A lot of political prognosticators said wait a minute, if this goes on too long, past the first of the year, then you're in an election year, and who knows what can happen then.

HORSLEY: He gave Congress an enormous amount of rope, and they tried to hang themselves with it and him as well.

CONAN: And indeed, after the first of the year, the most unlikely thing happened. Ted Kennedy's seat in Massachusetts came open. There was a special election for it, and much to the Democrats' surprise and chagrin, Scott Brown, a Republican, was elected, and there goes your 60-seat majority.

HORSLEY: And Julie was talking about the negotiations that have been going on with the House and Senate leadership. I mean, the week before the Tuesday election when the Democrats lost their majority, the president was up until 1 o'clock in the morning, sitting there with House and Senate negotiators, trying to hammer out a compromise, all for naught the following Tuesday, when they lost their filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

CONAN: Julie Rovner?

ROVNER: But, you know, it's important to remember he's the president and not the prime minister. I mean, we do not have, you know, a parliamentary system. The president - and boy is he discovering this the hard way - does not control the Congress. The Congress controls the Congress. And you know, he can beg, he can cajole, he can lead, but he can't make the Congress do what the Congress isn't ready to do.

HORSLEY: And we're getting sort of a parliamentary glimpse today, when we actually do have the president sitting down with the lawmakers. This was sort of modeled on what he did with the House Republican caucus a few weeks ago, which the White House thought worked very well for him. He looked good in that setting, and so they've decided to try it again.

CONAN: Interesting. In that setting, he was sort of, though, at a podium, set apart. Here, he's at a table, one of 40, and well, he's presiding then again he is the president. Nevertheless, one of 40 people, though he gets the microphone, I noticed, whenever he asks for it.

CONAN: We're going to continue with Julie Rovner and with Scott Horsley and more of your calls, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. The health care summit continues. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington. A remarkable, made-for-TV political event today. President Obama, Vice President Biden, select members of both parties from the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate continue to meet at Blair House, across the street from the White House, to try to compromise on a health care bill or make political points, depending on your point of view.

Some 40 lawmakers seated in a square just across from the White House. Despite the high profile of the summit, expectations are low. Few, if any, expect a major agreement on much of anything by the end of the day.

The event is going on live. President Obama is speaking. Let's listen in.

President OBAMA: ...very useful tool for the vast majority of people who've got pre-existing conditions. Just because there's just not enough money that you guys put into it to be able to cover all the people with pre-existing conditions, which is why other states have high-risk pools, Kathleen mentioned.

There are I don't know how many states, but let's say 20, 21 states currently have high-risk pools. Out of all those 21 states, about 200,000 people use the high-risk pool. And the reason is because by just dealing with older, less healthy individuals separately or people with pre-existing conditions, it is very, very expensive.

Tom's point was if everybody's in it because presumably none of us know at any given moment who's going to end up being healthy and who's not, we don't know whether our kids are going to be suffering some sort of disease that we don't anticipate yet, or, you know, our spouses get ill, that if everybody's in it, then that drives prices down cheaper for everybody.

So it's not that I think that the high-risk pool idea is a bad one. As I said, the House, the Senate bill, the bill the proposal that I put forward, all use the high-risk pool as a stopgap measure to get to a broader pool, but the goal has to be to get everybody in in a place where those risks are spread more broadly.

Representative DAVE CAMP (Republican, Michigan): And if I just might say, we support high-risk pools and reinsurance with $25 billion in funding. The House and Senate versions are $5 billion in funding, and because of that robust support, CBO says this will work.

The fundamental difference after that is that the Health and Human Services secretary, in that four-year period when they're somewhat similar, has the authority to raise the premiums. All of that is brought to Washington.

We leave that authority in the states so that they can manage their state pools. And then after the bill becomes effective in 2014, the real problem becomes this the mandate and the costs, the forcing of the purchase of insurance, which many Americans find objectionable, and that you can avoid that mandate if you continue to design this as we do in the beginning.

CONAN: And that second voice there, Dave Camp, a Republican congressman from Michigan, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. And Julie Rovner, let's get a little translation of what they were talking about: the high-risk pools, we're talking about pre-existing conditions here?

ROVNER: That's right. This was something that Senator McCain, in fact, when he was running for president last year proposed. This was one of the centerpieces of his health care proposal. Indeed as Congressman Camp was mentioning, many states have these. They actually don't work so well. As the president pointed out, only about 200,000 people who have pre-existing conditions are enrolled in them. That's because they are very, very expensive, and a lot of them actually have waiting periods of their own.

So if you get diagnosed with cancer, you won't be able to buy insurance, and they'll say you're eligible for the state's high-risk pool, but then they may say you have to wait a year. So obviously, if you have cancer, it's a problem to then wait a year to get covered in the state's high-risk pool. And once you get in, the premiums, because they are only for people who are very sick, even though they are subsidized by the states, they're actually usually subsidized by the insurance companies. A portion of premiums that are paid go to help fund the high-risk pools. But the premiums are still very, very high, again because they're they tend to be underfunded.

So the idea here is that while it will take several years before this bill, assuming it was passed, were to take effect, they would have high-risk pools for people with pre-existing conditions in the interim, and there would be a considerably larger amount of money to help fund them.

HORSLEY: The Democratic plan is to use the high-risk pool as a means to get from here to there, until the ban on insurance companies using pre-existing conditions to exclude people...

CONAN: Kicks in in 2014.

HORSLEY: For the Republicans, this is the plan. This is what you would have forever.

CONAN: In perpetuity. And when we hear a Republican like Dave Camp say mandates, he's saying Washington will require you to buy insurance.

HORSLEY: This is the quandary because there's an agreement on both sides of the aisle that you don't want to have people excluded from having insurance because they have a pre-existing condition. But if you tell insurance companies you have to cover everybody, then people would naturally not buy insurance until they got sick, and of course, that would defeat the purpose.

So the Democratic answer to that is, well, so you have a mandate. You require everyone to get insurance.

CONAN: Everybody buys insurance.

HORSLEY: And you subsidize those who couldn't afford it on their own.

CONAN: And then you get into escalating cost, which is, well, there's another part of the controversy that we're talking today and the fundamental differences, which are apparently not being bridged as we listen.

Barbara's(ph) on the line, calling from Greenwich, Connecticut.

BARBARA (Caller): Hi, yes. I actually can hear the president coming through with some facts and not just talking points and actually calling out when various members are only doing talking points and really finding places where there are there is agreement, and that things can go forward. I just wonder if the media will ever acknowledge that there actually are some facts coming forward here, and it isn't just a fait accompli.

CONAN: Julie Rovner?

ROVNER: Well, the president is trying, I will say. His goal is to try to find places where there are areas of agreement. And indeed, I think in the proposal the president put forward on Monday, he you know, there was a whole sheet that they put out. You know, here are all the places that Republicans had proposed ideas that we have put into this bill.

But as I mentioned a few minutes ago, the fundamental problem is that there's a - such a big difference in philosophy between what the Democrats want and what the Republicans want when it comes to the role of government. That even if you take a lot of these Republican ideas and put them in the bill, if the bill is so heavily weighted towards a big government role in health care, the Republicans still aren't going to want to vote for the bill, even if you take all their ideas and put it in them. If it's overlaid with all this government, it's still not going to be a bill that the Republicans are going to be able to support.

HORSLEY: If we're talking about the Republicans in Congress in 2010.

ROVNER: That's right.

HORSLEY: I mean, this is the Democratic plan is very similar to the plan that the Republican governor, Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, endorsed. It's similar to a plan that Republicans like Chuck Grassley had endorsed years ago, but where the Republican Party in Congress is today, this is a bridge too far.

ROVNER: In fact, the individual mandate that they're talking about now was originally was dreamed up by Republicans for Republicans back in the early 1990s to counter originally it was to counter the employer mandate that was being pushed in the 1988 election but also then to was introduced in Congress to counter the Clinton plan.

CONAN: And Barbara, your point on, well, chiding Republicans about talking points, let's listen to an exchange he has, the president has here, with Eric Cantor, a Republican of Virginia, the deputy whip, I think, from the House of Representatives. And he as Representative Cantor begins to speak, there's a huge stack of documents in front of him.

Representative ERIC CANTOR (Republican, Virginia): Mr. President, thank you again very much for having us and for staying with us for the six hours, appreciate that. I don't know if you will after the six hours or not, but...

Pres. OBAMA: I gather let me just guess. That's the 2,400-page health care bill. Is that right?

Rep. CANTOR: Well, actually, Mr. President, this is the Senate bill, along with the...

Pres. OBAMA: Okay.

Rep. CANTOR: ...11-page proposal that you put up online that really I think is the basis for the discussion here. So but I do want to go back to your suggestion as to why we're here, and you suggested that maybe we are here to find some points of agreement, to bridge the gap in our differences.

And I do like to go back to basics. We're here because we Republicans care about health care, just as the Democrats in this room. And when the speaker cites her letters from the folks in Michigan, and the leader talks about the letters he's received, Mr. Andrews(ph) his, all of us share the concerns when people are allegedly wronged in our health care system. I mean, I think that is sort of a given.

CONAN: And Mr. Cantor there, the congressman from Virginia, Julie, making the point that yes, all right, maybe I'm using a political prop with this stack of documents and showing how big the bill is. Democrats keep reading letters from constituents saying how wronged they have been, pulling at the emotional heartstrings, and that's political theater, too.

ROVNER: That's right, it is. And that's back to the point that I was making originally, that this is definitely a made-for-TV event. This is not it's very difficult. This goes back, I think the origin of part of the origin of today's event is that the president perhaps not very helpfully promised that the negotiations when he was on the campaign trail, promised that all negotiations on the health bill would be televised on C-SPAN.

So here we are with this being televised on C-SPAN. But it's very hard to do serious negotiations on C-SPAN because you end up with a lot of, you know, playing to the cameras, and today is an awful lot of playing to the cameras.

CONAN: It was a point that Senator John McCain, his opponent in the last election, John McCain of course Republican of Arizona, made in his remarks when he addressed the health care summit earlier this morning, and this is what President Obama had to say in response.

Pres. OBAMA: Let me just make this point, John, because we're not campaigning anymore. The election's over. The...

Senator JOHN McCAIN (Republican, Arizona): I'm reminded of that every day.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Pres. OBAMA: ...well, I - yeah. So the - we can spend the remainder of the time with our respective talking points going back and forth. We were supposed to be talking about insurance. You know, obviously, I'm sure that Harry Reid and Chris Dodd and others who went through an exhaustive process through the both the House and the Senate with the most hearings, the most debates on the floor, the longest markup in 22 years on each and every one these bills, would have a response for you.

My concern is is that if we do that, then we're essentially back on Fox News or MSNBC on the split screen just arguing back and forth. So my hope would be that we can just focus on the issues of how we actually get a bill done. And this is probably a good time to turn it over to Secretary Sebelius, who...

Sen. McCAIN: Could I just say, Mr. President, the American people care about what we did and how we did it.

Pres. OBAMA: Well, they absolutely...

Sen. McCAIN: And I think we ought - and that's a subject that I think we should discuss now. Thank you.

Pres. OBAMA: They absolutely do care about it, John. And I think that the way you characterized it, obviously, would get some strong objections from the other side. We can have a debate about process, or we can have a debate about how we're actually going to help the American people at this point.

CONAN: And Scott Horsley, when Senator McCain referred to process, he was talking about the special deal for Florida, the special deal for Louisiana, the special deal for Nebraska, which was in, and then out. But, anyway, he said this is terribly unseemly. We need to go back and start - and special interest deals, as well - start from scratch and treat everybody equally.

HORSLEY: And I think it is unseemly, and it is a big part of what the American people turned against as this process dragged on and on. And I - more so than Eric Cantor, more so than Senator Alexander, I think John McCain got under the president's skin a little bit. You heard a little bit of testiness from President Obama there. And I think the - I think he feels uncomfortable having to defend the process, which, I'm sure, he doesn't like any better than anyone else does.

CONAN: Were talking with Scott Horsley, NPR White House correspondent, and with Julie Rovner, our health policy correspondent about the health care summit that's underway at Blair House across the street from the White House. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

And let's go next to Martine(ph), Martine with us from Portland.

MARTINE (Caller): Yeah, hi. I guess my point that - is that - as I told your screener, I'm married to a Republican. I'm a Democrat. I would say we're both moderates.

CONAN: Do your dinner conversations sound like what we've been hearing all day at Blair House?

(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTINE: Well, my husband - when we start to talk politics, you know, we definitely try to avoid certain things. But...

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Like foreign and domestic policy.

MARTINE: Exactly. You've got it. But one thing, I think, you know, as I'm hearing this, and one conversation that we have had is that, you know, I'm from Oregon. It's a fairly liberal state. But my husband, being a moderate Republican, we have friends that are moderate Republicans. We all want something to happen. We all need the process to move forward. And I always say to my husband, you know, if you're - if you don't feel your voice was being heard as a Republican, you should stand up and say that.

It's like where is the Republican Party as far as the moderate Republican? I know they want a change, you know? It happens in every -many other countries. There's successful health care, you know, without screaming socialism. It can be done, you know? And I, as far as being Democrat, have been frustrated with my own party for not, you know, getting on message and getting it aligned. I mean...

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Well, let's see if we can get a response to that from Julie Rovner. If the political risk to the president is - well, the American people seem to be opposed to this kind of legislation, and the process that Scott Horsley was talking about just a moment ago, the danger for the Republicans is they're seen as the party of, well, we just want to kill health care and, no, we don't care about a bill.

ROVNER: You know, there's a lot of different sort of factions. You know, if you just look at it as the Democrats versus the Republicans, that really is not a good snapshot. You've got liberals who are furious that their - you know, for - not just the people who support single-payer, who have been furious for a year...

CONAN: They're outside demonstrating.

ROVNER: Yeah. That's right. The people who want a public option, that's not on the table anymore. Then within the Republican Party, you've got -as this caller points out - a lot of Republican moderates who would really like to do something. Remember, this bill looks an awful lot like the Republican moderate bill from 1993, of which there are four senators still in Congress who supported that bill: Chuck Grassley, Orrin Hatch, Kit Bond, Bob Bennett - so four Republican senators who were cosponsors of the bill that looks an awful lot like this who are now are saying they don't want any part of it. Olympia Snowe, who - from Maine, who voted for the bill in the Finance Committee, but now has - at first she said, well, she wanted more time. But she's obviously had a considerable amount of time and...

CONAN: And time to see the results for Massachusetts, perhaps.

ROVNER: Yeah. So - yeah. There's a lot of - there's some moderate Republicans still around. And Susan Collins, who - also from Maine who does often what Olympia Snowe does. So it's hard to know where the, sort of, moderate Republicans are on this.

CONAN: Well, let's - we just have a couple of minutes left. And let's see where we think it's going to go if we don't emerge with any grand agreement at the end of the day from Blair House. Scott Horsley, the president says he wants a bill by the end of March. Is this - it's an active prospect at this point?

HORSLEY: It is. It's certainly a possibility that they could force this through, through reconciliation. You know, that - we've got these conflicting polls where people don't like this bill, but they dont want Congress to give up. And I guess they're maybe hoping that they would do something like the Republicans are suggesting, which is start over. Well, that's not going to happen. So it's either going to be this bill, or they give up. And that's going to be a choice.

CONAN: And Julie, is there a prospect - not just the political prospect of getting it through the Senate, through that very controversial reconciliation procedure if they have to do that, and that limits the kind of bill they can have. But nevertheless, are there votes for this kind of a bill in the House of Representatives?

ROVNER: Well, I think, they're going to, you know, have to be cajoled. But the other interesting thing about the polls is, yes, if you look at the polls, they don't like this bill. But if you then poll on the individual elements that are in the bill, the public likes those it very much.

(Soundbite of laughter)

ROVNER: So the Republicans have done a really good job at pillaring the bill. But the things that make up the bill still remain very popular.

CONAN: Julie Rovner, NPR health policy correspondent, we're going to let you get back to looking for women's curling on TV. And our White House correspondent...

ROVNER: Or men.

CONAN: Or men's, anyway you go. And Scott, our White House correspondent, Scott Horsley, here with us in Studio 3A. Thank you both very much. And, well, I expect we're going to be back on this before the next six weeks are out. Thanks very much for being with us.

Coming up, the Oscar-nominated documentary that follows migrant children on a very dangerous trip from Central America through Mexico, to the United States: "Which Way Home."

Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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