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Did Obama's presidency really hang on one speech?

ON THE MEDIA

September 11, 2009|JAMES RAINEY

Obama's unwillingness to reveal his bottom line (in order to maintain maximum flexibility in negotiations) has freed the opposition -- both on Capitol Hill and in the media -- to pick apart this fuzzy notion of "government healthcare."

That's not to say that the plans on the table don't raise serious questions. When the president suggests that ridding healthcare of waste and inefficiency will, by itself, save enough money to insure millions more Americans without any new taxes, that strains credulity.

The consolidation of records online and elimination of duplicate care promise to save billions of dollars over time, to be sure. But the full savings would take years to realize, and the exact dollar value remains impossible to measure.

Even loyal liberal foot soldier Barney Frank conceded to CNN's Larry King after Wednesday's speech that he was "not convinced that we will find all of the savings that we want."

The Massachusetts congressman suggested that the Medicare Advantage plan (which offers premium services, sometimes including services such as transportation to medical appointments) might be one area to cut. He also conceded that the government might have to look elsewhere in the federal budget -- as Obama suggested -- to find additional savings to expand healthcare.

The ground rules for those kinds of discussions and the true cost of health reform won't be easy to agree on. Something close to a solution will come, if at all, after painstaking weeks of negotiation.

Don't expect a cable TV crawl or a countdown clock to tell you when it's coming, if it's coming at all.

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james.rainey@latimes.com

Follow Rainey on Twitter at latimesrainey.

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