Here’s a look at yesterday’s Health Care Summit (kudo’s to The Huffington Post for publishing a full transcript of the summit) I’ve highlighted Republican talking points and constructive dialogue in Red, Democrats in Blue:
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. Welcome. Thank you so much for participating today. I am very grateful to all of you because I know how busy you are.
THE PRESIDENT: …it’s for that reason that last year, around this time, actually, I hosted in the White House a health care summit and indicated to Congress that it was absolutely critical for us to begin now moving on what is one of the biggest drags on our economy and represents one of the biggest hardships that families face.
SEN ALEXANDER: …clean sheet of paper
SEN ALEXANDER: …start over
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you, Lamar.
SPEAKER PELOSI: It was almost a year ago, March 5th of last year, when you brought us together in a bipartisan way to set us on a path to lower cost, improved quality — expand access to quality health care for all Americans. In the course of that time in our committees in the House and the Senate, we’ve had lively discussions. Here we are today.
SENATOR REID: Mr. President, my friends in the House and in the Senate, I want to spend a few minutes talking about Nevada, about our country, and not what’s going on here in Washington. I want to start by talking about a young man by the name of Jesus Gutierrez. He works hard. He has a restaurant in Reno, Nevada. He had everything that he wanted, except a baby. He had health insurance. He had employees that liked him. But he was fortunate — they were going to have a baby and it was going to be a little girl. And the baby was born, and in just a few minutes after the birth of that baby, he was told that the baby had a cleft pallet. “But that’s okay,” he was told. “We can take care of that.” And they did. They did some surgery on the baby; he was happy — that is, Jesus was happy — until he got his mail four months later, opened the envelope, and the insurance company said, “We didn’t realize that your baby had a preexisting disability. We’re not covering the $90,000 in hospital and doctor bills you’ve already run up.” So he’s trying to pay that off. The baby needs a couple more surgeries. This shouldn’t happen to anyone in America. He had health insurance. He paid his premiums.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much, Harry… just want to address very quickly, Lamar, the issue of process that you raised at the beginning and then we’ll move on and start talking about the specifics. As I listened to your description of the House/Senate bill, as well as the proposal that I put on our Web site, obviously there were some disagreements about how you would characterize the legislation.
On the other hand, when I listened to some of the steps that you thought Republicans would be open to, I thought, well, a bunch of these things are things that we’d like to do, and in fact are in the legislative proposals.
SEN ALEXANDER: Well, may I — may I — You’ve made some interesting points…
SENATOR McCONNELL: …some liberties have been taken here…
SENATOR COBURN: …with young kids going to the ER, whether they have meningitis or asthma, they’re going to get treated in this country…
THE PRESIDENT: Well, Tom, I appreciate what you said. I think we’re going to have Steny Hoyer go next. I just want to make this quick point. Every good idea that we’ve heard about reducing fraud and abuse in the Medicare and Medicaid system, we’ve adopted in our legislation. So that’s an example of where we agree — we want to eliminate fraud and abuse within the government systems.
You mentioned the idea of buying across state lines, insurance. That’s something that I’ve put in my proposal that’s actually in the Senate proposal.
CONGRESSMAN HOYER: Mr. President, thank you very much. A quote I will use is, we should have available and affordable health care to every American citizen, to every family. I suppose there are a whole lot of every Americans and American families listening to us today and watching us, and they’re hoping that we’re all sitting around here talking about them, not about us.
THE PRESIDENT: Before you go, Max, I just want to ask, whether it’s you, Tom, or anybody else on the Republican side, and maybe some of the House members might be interested — Senator Coburn mentioned some cost containment issues where it sounds like we agree: fraud and abuse. We agree. It sounds like you have maybe one other idea that you don’t think is in our proposal, but the idea of undercover patients, but that’s something that I’d be very interested in exploring. I don’t think conceptually that would be a problem.
CONGRESSMAN KLINE: …we’re looking at thousands of pages of legislation…
SENATOR BAUCUS: Sure. Absolutely, though I’d first like to say something that just strikes me just in spades. Frankly, we all have studied this issue a lot — health care reform. We basically know what the problems are, all of us. We basically know that the current system is unsustainable. We are actually quite close.
CONGRESSMAN CAMP: …maybe you shouldn’t be spending a trillion dollars on health care…
THE PRESIDENT: Dave, I don’t mean to interrupt. But the — we’re going to have the whole section talking about deficits. And we can talk about the changes in Medicare. We were trying to focus on costs related to lowering families’. And the only concern I’ve got is — look, if every speaker at least on one side is going through every provision and saying what they don’t like, it’s going to be hard for us to see if we can arrive at some agreements on things that we all agree on.
CONGRESSMAN CAMP: …mandates…
CONGRESSMAN ANDREWS: Thank you, Mr. President. I want to thank my friend Tom Coburn, and John Kline, for the spirit of conversation which they offered and try to carry that forward a little bit. The President asked at the beginning of this what ideas do we share about cutting costs. And Tom, I think you had some very good ones. Fraud, that the President has a proposal that says we should have a database, if you’ve committed fraud against Medicare once, you can’t make a contract again. Wellness, there’s a lot of good ideas in the bills. Junk lawsuits, I think that there’s — what Secretary Sebelius is doing is very important in curtailing that.
CONGRESSMAN KLINE:…I don’t hear people complaining about the insurance policies that they’re getting from their big companies.
CONGRESSMAN ANDREWS: But, John, would you favor a standard that says they have to do something like that or would you just leave it up to the insurance company?
SENATOR McCONNELL: Mr. President, could I just interject one quick point here very quick, just in terms of trying to keep everything fair, which I know you want to do. To this point, the Republicans have used 24 minutes, the Democrats 52 minutes.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m the President and so I made — (laughter) — I didn’t count my time in terms of dividing it evenly. In this section, Mitch, we’ve gone back and forth pretty well.
THE PRESIDENT: But I just wanted to point out that when we start talking about how much government involvement is at issue here, it’s not because the House or the Senate bills are a government takeover of health care; it is that the House and the Senate bills put in place some regulations that restrict how insurance companies operate, and if there’s an exchange or a pool that’s set up, that there’s a baseline sort of minimum requirements that were expected. And I understand that there may be some philosophical differences on the other side of the aisle about that issue.
SENATOR KYL: federal government would mandate it under your legislation
THE PRESIDENT: Okay, Jon. I’m going to go to you, Jim, but I — since as has tended to happen here, we end up talking about criticisms of the existing bill as opposed to where we might find agreement
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. I think this has actually been a very useful conversation. What I’m going to do is move on to the next topic, but maybe after we break for lunch and come back, I want to go through some areas where we decided we agreed and I know that abuse is a good example; some areas where we still disagree.
SENATOR KYL: …employers would drop you from their coverage…
REPRESENTATIVE BOUSTANY: …take a step back, and go step by step…
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Thanks, Charles. We’re going to go to George Miller — and if you want to respond to some specific things that Charles raised or make some more general points. We’ll then go back to a Republican. At some point in this discussion — and we’re going to have to be a little more disciplined in our time in order to stay on schedule on this section — at some point I’d like Secretary Sebelius, who is not only a former governor but also an insurance commissioner, to address some of the issues that have been coming up around insurance and minimum payment.
SENATOR McCAIN: …the 2,400 pages…unsavory…deal-making…people are angry…special interests…PhRMA
THE PRESIDENT: John, can I just say —
SENATOR McCAIN: Can I just finish, please?
…back to the beginning
THE PRESIDENT: Let me just make this point, John, because we’re not campaigning anymore. The election is over.
SENATOR McCAIN: I’m reminded of that every day. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: Yes. So 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.
SENATOR McCAIN: Could I just say, Mr. President, the American people care about what we did and how we did it. And I think it’s a subject that we should discuss. And I thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: 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. And I think that’s — the latter debate is the one that they care about a little bit more.
REPRESENTATIVE CANTOR: Mr. President, thank you again very much for having us and for staying with us for the six hours. I appreciate that. I don’t know if you will after the six hours or not. But I want to — (Places stack of papers on table…)
THE PRESIDENT: Let me just guess — that that’s the 2,400-page health care bill. Is that right?
REPRESENTATIVE CANTOR: We don’t care for this bill…there are plenty of taxes additional taxes mandate…
THE PRESIDENT: Well, let me — since you asked me a question, let me respond. The 8 to 9 million people that you refer to that might have to change their coverage — keep in mind out of the 300 million Americans that we’re talking about — would be folks who the CBO, the Congressional Budget Office, estimates would find the deal in the exchange better. It would be a better deal. So, yes, they would change coverage, because they’ve got more choice and competition. So let’s just be clear about that, point number one.
Point number two, when we do props like this — stack it up and you repeat 2,400 pages, et cetera — you know, the truth of the matter is that health care is very complicated.
And we can try to pretend that it’s not, but it is. Every single item that we’ve talked about on the Republican side, if we wanted to exhaustively deal with fraud and abuse, would generate a bunch of pages. So I point that out, just because these are the kind of political things we do that prevent us from actually having a conversation.
Now, let me respond to your question. We could set up a system where food was probably cheaper than it is right now if we just eliminated meat inspectors and we eliminated any regulations in terms of how food is distributed and how it’s stored. I’ll bet in terms of drug prices, we would definitely reduce prescription drug prices if we didn’t have a drug administration that makes sure that we test the drugs so that they don’t kill us.