Most of the healthcare-centered discussion consisted of familiar exchanges between the Democrats calling for overhauling the country's healthcare system so it rewards quality and Republicans worrying about the cost of subsidizing coverage to millions of Americans.
Barrasso suggested Democrats were selling Americans a bill of goods because their Independent Payment Advisory Board would ration care while expanding Medicaid to millions of people wouldn't matter if no doctor will see them because reimbursements are too low. The former orthopedic surgeon recalled seeing Canadian patients who hypothetically had free care in their home country.
"It's like giving somebody a bus ticket when no bus is coming," he said of Medicaid
Dean said he didn't much like the IPAB provision either. The former physician prefers capitated payments to force providers to make more efficient healthcare choices.
Daschle answered that ideas put forward by Barrasso and other Republicans - selling insurance across state lines, tort reform - would get America to 5 in terms of access and affordability on a scale of 1 to 100.
Dean, meanwhile, wondered why the GOP was so opposed to a healthcare law that has "very little substantive difference" with presidential candidate Mitt Romney's reforms in Massachusetts.
Predictably, the panelists disagreed on the law's impact on the 2010 elections.
Rove said that while the economy was the biggest factor in Democrats' midterm defeat, "the thing that popped [independents] over the top was the [Affordable Care Act]." He said it's the first major piece of legislation that's grown more unpopular one year after passage.
Dean offered a different take. He said voters in 2008 voted for "change we can believe in" but the process for passing the bill "was so transparent you could see all the deals being made."
And Daschle pointed out that people like individual parts of the bill.
The panel also addressed news that the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the law is constitutional. Dean said the individual mandate would probably get struck down by the Supreme Court, 5-4, but that this wouldn't really matter.
The panel also delved into 2012 politics.
Rove batted away a question about the Republican candidates — he said the primary field wouldn't be settled for eight to 12 months — but said the real news was polling that shows President Obama trailing a generic GOP candidate.
Dean thought Democrats would keep the White House and regain the House, but would probably lose the Senate, where 23 of the 33 seats up for reelection are held by Democrats.