Live blog on health care summit

President Barack Obama hosting a bipartisan meeting on healthcare legislation at Blair House, across the street from the White House, with a few dozen members of Congress. {Photo by Saul Loeb / AFP / Getty Images) 

My thoughts: Where was the call to action? Where are specific ideas for follow-up? Is someone going to draft a bill that includes the ideas that they agreed upon, or at least come close to agreement? I'd say that it's up to the Republicans to come up with a bill that would lay out the specifics, and then it will be up to the Democrats to allow the debate on the bill to progress.
If anything, the summit demonstrated that Republicans do have ideas, ones that could have a quick impact. Democrats kept saying that they couldn't agree to any of those ideas because they had to have a "comprehensive" plan. In other words---everything. This isn't how legislation is done. 
4:15 p.m. Obama is summing up, and finding things to agree on. "I suspect that if the Democrats and the administration were willing to start over and then adopt John Boehner's bill, we'd get a whole lot of Republican votes..The concern that a lot of the colleagues (Democrats) that after five decades of dealing with this issue, starting over, I suspect they mean not doing much....
Obama said he put on the table some of the things that he would seriously consider. Is there anything the Republicans can put on the table that would address the 30 million Americans without health care. 

3:58 p.m. Nancy Pelosi is scolding Republicans like a constipated schoolmarm.  There is no public funding of abortion in the bill. Okay, then why not put in a provision that explicitly prohibits it. It ain't there, Nancy. Jeez, what a pain.
3:48 p.m. Incremental reform or comprehensive reform?  Rep. Charlie Rangel (D) asks why can't we agree on the 50 or 60 percent of the things we agree on? Indeed. The problem is that his party is the one that wants to do it all at once.
3:06 p.m. Much of the argument is over the size of the "pool" of people who are insured. "We have to bring everyone into the system," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D). Many of the uninsured actually are healthy and don't want to pay for health insurance, so they don't get it. The actual number of such people is hard to nail down. So, Democrats argue, we have to force all these people to be covered, in effect paying premiums for services they don't need. 
2:38 p..m. John McCain is talking about medical malpractice, and the savings that Texas has maintained. (The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled state malpractice reform unconstitutional.) Obama responds: Medical malpractice is only a small part of the health cost problem, but he still cares about the issue. He wants to "get going" on the issue.
2:12 p.m.: Both sides are accusing the other side of talking about process and not substance.
1:36 p.m.: Obama said he's in favor of allowing Americans to buy insurance across state lines, a key GOP point. Might be a way of bridging a philosophical difference. Once a national change with some minimum standards, could have a national marketplace. We want competition, we just want some minimum standards. 
1:12: p.m. Sen. Tom Hark says there are about 10 ideas from Republicans in the Democratic bill. So, put them in a separate package and pass it tomorrow.
   
1 p.m.: They're back. And so am, but I don't know why.
11:22 a.m. They're about to break for lunch. Despite all the talk about finding areas of agreement, the gap still seems too wide to bridge. This was an exercise in the kind of pretty thinking that dominates the popular mindset: If we can only sit down and talk, we can come to a "consensus." No we can't, at least not always. And this is the way a democracy: Call for the vote.
Sometimes further talk just doesn't move us toward agreement. That's the time to take the vote.
I'm out of here. 
EARLIER: Obama lists areas of agreement as he sees it: extending coverage for young people, no annual or lifetime limits, end philosophically and ending pre-existing conditions.
Nobody says: Hey, great! Let's draft the legislation now and do that.
10:58 a.m. Sen. John Kyle (R) gets right to the point after more rhetoric flows from each side: He agrees with Obama that a philosophical argument is going on, namely how effectively can a single, central agency or government run the entire health care system. That's why he and other Republicans are looking at chewing the meal in smaller bites, instead of trying to swallow the whole thing whole. (My words, not his.) 
Sen. Tom Coburn (R), a physician.We don't do a good job of prevention, which is one reason that costs are so high. 20 percent of the cost of government-run healthcare is fraud, according to a Harvard study. Another factor: risk-averse health care providers. Could save 15 percent on health care tomorrow just by addressing those two areas.  
9:53 a.m. Obama tries to bring back to substance. Says everyone so far has mentioned cost. Let's focus on cost. Asks GOP to suggest ideas in the Democratic bill that they like.
9:51 a.m. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid also blows off the Republican reach-out. Also doesn't address the six points. Actually insults the Republicans: "You're entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts." Tries to pretend that the Democrats would not use the reconciliation device to pass
9:28: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi gave a campaign speech. She doesn't address Alexander's points.

9:26 a.m. (CST) Lamar Alexander takes up: He agrees with Obama to agree on what we can agree on. Often he's asked:  Where's the comprehensive GOP bill? Government doesn't do comprehensive well. He lists the comprehensive failures, including immigration reform. We said 172 times on the Senate, our step-by-step plan. He lays out six ideas.  Alexander is talking directly to the president, not to the cameras.

ORIGINAL: From the Blair House. It's what we feared it would become, already, just a few minutes into it: Obama is using it to give a speech. Lecturing people who already know what he's talking about. It's directed at the public
At least he's acknowledging that the Republicans have plans.   

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    Chicago Tribune contributing op-ed columnist and author of forthcoming historical novel, "Madness: The War of 1812." Reporter, editor and columnist for Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Daily News. Freelance writer and editor.

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