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.
REPRESENTATIVE CANTOR: …when you start to mandate that everyone in this country…
SENATOR ENZI: Senator Kennedy and I…Medicare…health care exchanges…insurance reforms……mandates…
SENATOR HARKIN: Mr. President, thank you again for bringing us together today. I think if anything of what I’ve learned here so far is that quite frankly we may be closer together than people really think in actually getting agreement that we can move forward on. I hope that’s the case.
REPRESENTATIVE CAMP: …individual mandate…scrap and start over on…we have to really begin again…high risk pool…
THE PRESIDENT: But given the amount of money that you have allocated for that pool, it’s just not going to be a very useful tool for the vast majority of people who’ve got preexisting conditions; just because there’s just not enough money that you guys put into it to be able to cover all the people with preexisting conditions, which is why other states have high-risk pools, as 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 preexisting conditions, it is very, very expensive.
REPRESENTATIVE CAMP: the real problem becomes this — the mandate…
SENATOR ROCKEFELLER: Thanks, Mr. President. One of the — we really haven’t discussed I think what is at the basis of the frustration about this whole business of preexisting conditions and lifetime limits, all the rest of it, and that is, the way and the nature of the health insurance industry for the most part. They are, among all industries I’ve ever encountered — and in the Commerce Committee we have spent a year analyzing and bringing out some of their sins and ills — they’re terrible. They’re in it for the money.
A nice lady who runs Wellpoint said, we will not sacrifice profitability for membership — money first, people second. They — we had a fellow named Wendell Potter (phonetic) who worked for CIGNA for 20 years as a high executive. He came before us on his own, volunteered, and described the way health insurance companies operate. They are looking for reasons to kick you out. They are looking for reasons, if you already have the health insurance, for doing the rescissions. Yes, we’re going to ban those, but not unless we pass a bill.
And, in fact, often employees are incentivized financially to find reasons to kick people off of the insurance which they’re paying for…
They so dominate the market, as the Secretary pointed out, that there really isn’t any real competition. They can do what they want, and they do. And it’s money. It’s money. And it makes me sick. It shouldn’t happen in America. People say, well, government run, you’re going to do this or put that restriction on them. If you don’t put the restriction on them, they’re going to go on doing this. And so the public option was — I like that a lot, but that’s not going to probably be possible. So you have to go at them, to clip their wings in every way that you can.
REPRESENTATIVE BLACKBURN: …start over in this issue…
THE PRESIDENT: Well — and I’ll — because my theory was, you know what, the reason they don’t have health insurance isn’t because somebody is not telling them to get it, but because they just can’t afford it, and that if we lowered costs enough then everybody would be able to get it. So I was dragged, kicking and screaming to the conclusion that I arrived at, which is, is that it makes sense for us to have everybody purchase insurance. And I have to say this is not a Democratic idea. I mean, there are a number of Republicans sitting around this table who have previously supported the idea of an individual mandate, responsibility.
The reason I came to this conclusion is twofold. One is cost-shifting, which is a fancy term for saying everybody here who has health insurance is one way or another paying for those who don’t. Every time somebody goes into the emergency room — if Jay’s son got hit by a bus and his dad wasn’t Jay Rockefeller, and he ends up in the emergency room, we’d give him emergency treatment, and we’d all pick up the tab. And the calculation — not our calculation, but independent economists — is that each family with health insurance right now is picking up $1,000 to $1,100 worth of costs for people who don’t have health insurance.
So when Tom Coburn earlier said, you know, if a kid comes to the emergency room, they’re going to get treated — yes, they will get treated. Who’s paying for it? Well, we’re paying for it. Every American family who’s got health insurance is paying for it. Every employer who is covering their employees is paying for it.
So we’re already putting the money in. It’s just in a very inefficient way. And so the notion that somehow if we don’t ask people to carry their responsibilities, that we’re saving money — no, we’re not saving money; it’s just we don’t see it. It’s called uncompensated care, and we all get charged an extra thousand bucks. So that’s part of the reason.
SENATOR BARRASSO: …taken away from those who depend upon Medicare for their health care…TORT…I do believe we have the best health care system in the world…Canada…fearful of the consequences of this large bill…
THE PRESIDENT: Would you feel the same way if you were making $40,000, or you had — that was your income? Because that’s the reality for a lot of folks. I mean, it is very important for us –when you say, to listen — to listen to that farmer that Tom mentioned in Iowa; to listen to the folks that we get letters from — because the truth of the matter, John, is they’re not premiers of anyplace, they’re not sultans from wherever. They don’t fly into Mayo and suddenly decide they’re going to spend a couple million dollars on the absolute, best health care. They’re folks who are left out.
SENATOR BARRASSO: …high-deductible plan and a health savings account…
THE PRESIDENT: John — John, members of Congress are in the top income brackets of the country. And health savings accounts I think can be a useful tool, but every study has shown that the people who use them are folks who’ve got a lot of disposable income. And the people that we’re talking about don’t.
REPRESENTATIVE WAXMAN: Mr. President, I just wonder if some of our Republican friends would like to have seniors on Medicare have catastrophic coverage only. I’d say to the seniors in this country, and we’ve heard mention of them being the people who are worried about this Medicare — this health care bill — they ought to worry if we don’t do something. Because not only will we hear ideas of putting them on catastrophic coverage only, because that will save a lot of
money — Paul Ryan has a proposal right now to say that Medicare recipients in the future ought to have just a little voucher, and then they can shop for their own insurance. They could be prudent shoppers.
Well, yesterday I had a hearing with some people who were supposed to be prudent shoppers. They were people from California who were told by Anthem Wellpoint that their insurance was going to go up 30 percent — 39 percent. And could you imagine, seniors, if you have to go shopping with your voucher and then you’re told, oh, by the way, this private policy that you’re going to have to buy just went up 39 percent? And the way to save the federal government money is to shift it on to the seniors. That’s where we’re going if we don’t do anything.
Now, what do we do that makes sense?
…the Republican proposal is to adopt the California law. Well, the California law is in effect. It’s been in effect since the 1970s. And Californians are faced with a 39 percent increase, so it isn’t holding down their health care costs.
Now, I hear people all day say, Mr. President, the public doesn’t want your plan. Well, if I heard the kind of rhetoric over and over again that I’ve heard from some of the Republicans, I wouldn’t want your plan either. A federal takeover of health care? That’s not what’s being proposed. Somebody said that people ought to be able to buy a policy that suits their needs. Well, how many people are going to come forward and say, I don’t want certain things covered — and then find out that they’re sick and they need that coverage.
We need to have a market like the federal government employees, like members of Congress. We know what we can choose. If somebody wants to choose a health savings account, that means because they want to put some of their money away because it’s tax-free and it’s a really great deal if you got a lot of money. But most people want to know they’re going to have necessary medical coverage for the doctors and the hospitals when they need it. And you have something that’s basic to everybody. Well, they ought to have that for people who are buying private insurance as well.
This bill is good for people on Medicare and if we don’t get this passed they’re going to get squeezed like crazy. This bill is good for the American working people. This bill is good for our health care system. And for us to take the Republican proposal — we cover instead of 30 million people, 3 million; we wouldn’t hold down the deficit a bit; we would still have all those preexisting conditions that would keep people from getting their insurance coverage.
But not only are we covering more people, we’re doing innovative ways to deliver the care that will make it less costly. And as we develop innovative ways to deliver care, especially with chronic care, that will hold down the costs of care and those ideas would be picked up by the private sector. They always follow what Medicare does and then they adopt it because they want to hold down costs.
…you can’t solve any problem — insurance reform, holding down costs, protecting Medicare, dealing with the deficit — unless you deal with it all. And Mr. President, you’re not going to be able to do this piecemeal and I have doubts about whether the Republicans are going to help you because I haven’t heard a lot of willingness to come and work with you now or did I hear it a year ago — I hope I’m wrong.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m going to be equal opportunity here and say we’re not making campaign speeches right now. And I think your points I agree with, but I still think that there’s a lot of areas of agreement that we’ve discussed so far. This is an area, though, that — in which we do have some philosophical disagreements. And so what I — I think it’s — I want to go to a Republican.
The question I would ask to my colleagues, my friends on the Republican side, would be, are there areas of coverage for people who don’t have health care that you would embrace and agree with beyond what has been presented in Republican Leader Boehner’s bill. There may not be. I mean, that may be sort of the threshold at which all of you think we can afford to provide help to people who don’t have
coverage, but there may be some other ideas that haven’t already been presented or aren’t embodied in your legislation, John, that I’d be happy to hear about.
REPRESENTATIVE ROSKAM: What I sense is happening today is, “what is it going to take for you Republicans to vote for our bill?”
…Medicaid, welfare…actually…that health care reform is entitlement reform…entitlement expansion…Medicaid is a house of cards. Medicaid is not something that is serving the public very well.
Now, Medicaid is a system that isn’t working…let’s start over, let’s do incremental things…
THE PRESIDENT: I want to make sure that everybody gets an opportunity to speak. But I just want to caution everybody, it’s now 4:15 p.m. There are a number of folks who haven’t had a chance to speak. The question I had was, were there ideas about expansion beyond the 3 million that that was in Leader Boehner’s bill, and I didn’t get an answer on it — so in addition to, and it may be that
the answer is that’s all we can do.
I should point out this one issue about Medicaid that I think that’s important. Most of the people we’d like to be in the exchange and giving them subsidies. And I think over time (inaudible) see as an evolution, if you created a large enough pool, where people could purchase it through an exchange the same way that members of Congress do.
The problem we’ve got right now is that very poor people, they’ve got coverage through Medicaid. And it’s somewhat flawed. There are problems with doctor reimbursements, there are problems long-term in terms of solvency both for the state and the federal level, so all those things need to be fixed. But the fact of the matter is if their kid gets sick, they can go to a doctor.
The people who are really left in the cold are working families who make too much for Medicaid and don’t have anywhere to go. That’s the group that right now is getting the worst deal. They’re paying taxes, they’re working, but they’ve got nowhere to go.
Now, for those 15 million people who’ve got nothing, I promise you they would say to themselves having some coverage through Medicaid is a pretty good deal. I’d prefer to have them in an exchange where over time we’ve got everybody in a pool, similar to the pool that members of Congress enjoyed. But that’s not the situation that we have right now. I just want to remind everybody though that the group
that is being left out, because you threw out the word “welfare,” which is, you know, one that obviously most American people — they don’t want to be part of welfare — the fact of the matter is, is that very poor people right now have coverage that is superior to what a lot of folks who make a little more money, are working very hard
trying to support their families, do not.
REPRESENTATIVE BARTON: …fundamental role of government…yourself and most of your allies in the Democratic Party seem to believe that the government, either through a mandate or through a regulatory requirement, knows better and will do better for health care for most Americans…
…So the six commonsense ideas that various Republicans have put out here is not incrementalism in the sense that it doesn’t go together, but it does not radically change the basic health care system of America…House bill and the Senate bill pay lip service to medical malpractice…
…as Leader Boehner said and Mr. McConnell — Senator McConnell said, let’s start over…
THE PRESIDENT: Joe, I’ll respond to you right (inaudible) because I think we should wrap it up.
You’re right, the proposal that John Boehner has put forward doesn’t radically change the existing system. And that I think is why 3 million out of the 30 million who don’t have coverage, or 40 million, don’t get coverage…
REPRESENTATIVE WAXMAN: Mr. President, why don’t you just call on Republicans who haven’t talked, because some of them have talked numerous times?
THE PRESIDENT: I agree, but I want to make sure that they may want to respond to whatever is said. Go ahead, Ron.
SENATOR McCONNELL: …2700 page-bill…reconciliation…The solution to that is to put that on the shelf and to start over with a blank piece of paper and go step by step…
THE PRESIDENT: I’m just going to make this remark, and then I’m going to call on Patty Murray — I’m going to save the two lions of the House here for the end — because there’s been a lot of comments from every Republican about the polls and what they’re hearing from their constituents. And, as I said, I hear from constituents in every one of your districts and every one of your states. And what’s
interesting is actually when you poll people about the individual elements in each of these bills, they’re all for them. So you ask them, do you want to prohibit preexisting conditions? Yes, I’m for that. Do you want to make sure that everybody can get basic coverage that’s affordable? Yes, I’m for that. Do you want to make sure that insurance companies can’t take advantage of you and that you’ve got the ability, as Ron said, to fire an insurance company that’s notdoing a good job and hire one that is, but also, that you’ve got somebasic consumer protections? Yes, we like that.
So polls I think are important in taking a temperature of the public. If you polled people and asked them, is the system working right now and should we move forward with health reform, they’d also say yes to that. And my hope had been, and continues to be, that based on this conversation there might be enough areas of overlap that we could realistically think about moving forward without — without a
situation in which everybody just goes to their respective corners and this ends up being a political fight, because this is something that really has to be solved.
REPRESENTATIVE RANGEL: I had really hoped that when we came here that we were really going to push over the top. We are so close to national health insurance, we are so close to allowing people that go to work every day and don’t know what can happen to them when they lose their job and lose their health insurance. I know that they call the Senate the upper house, but I was amazed how it seems as though
they believe the American people only listen to those from Wyoming and Kentucky. But having said that, for my New Yorkers, even though we have more self confidence than we need, I would want them to know that they are Americans and that we do listen to them and that the states that oppose this great plan, doesn’t speak for all of America.
Having said that, some people have called those who oppose us as being the “party of no.” I don’t think so, notwithstanding the fact we got five Republicans from the Ways and Means Committee here at your summit. Now, we spent hundreds of hours in three committees and Ways and Means and there wasn’t one bill before us. And I would think that instead of taking the President’s time, that this is where the House and the Senate would take care of legislative business, especially if we agree on 70 percent. For God’s sake, then, for the 10 or 20 percent, why do you say scrap what we got unless it ends up with that you have made up your mind that we’re not going to have a health bill?
And then I would say that most all of America would find it not more difficult to understand why the bill is so big, or why we use reconciliation. I think one of the big problems America would have is, why does it take 60 to get a majority? And I have to explain, well, that’s the Senate and they’re different than most Americans in
So what I would hope would happen is that we leave here not thinking that we’re going to start all over. We can’t get back those times. This is the last year for a whole lot of people in the House of Representatives who we believe we represent the people, too. Why can’t we take what we’ve agreed to? I mean, sick people, scared people, are not Republican and Democrats. They’re Americans.
And I don’t care what your color is, I don’t care what your party is, that if you’re sick you’re sick, and you don’t check out the doctor. And they’re not going to check out whether or not you’re Republican or Democrat.
REPRESENTATIVE DINGELL: I saw this morning a statement that was made with regard to starting over. This comes from a respected Republican leader, Governor Schwarzenegger of California, February 23, 2010: “I think any Republican who says you should start from scratch, I think that’s bogus talk and that’s partisan talk.”
I think we need to buckle down and get to the business of solving the biggest problem that this country has coming down the road at us.
SPEAKER PELOSI: Thank you very much, Mr. President. As one who has abided by the three and a half minute, I’m going to take a few seconds more now in closing to extend thanks to you, Mr. President, for bringing us together, for your great leadership, and without it, we would not be so very close to affordability, accountability for the insurance companies, and accessibility for so many more Americans to improve their health care, to lower their cost.
I believe I have news for some of my colleagues, because we have very much more in common. Senator Coburn, you had so many positive suggestions, which I didn’t hear much else of, but from you we did. And I think you’d be pleased to know that after much debate in our House, we came up with value not volume; others have called it quality not quantity in terms of utilization, over-utilization. Senator McCain, when you talk about Florida, we’re talking about addressing the regional disparities in terms of compensation and health care.
So we have addressed many of these issues in the bill. I think it’s really important to note, though, and I want the record to show — because two statements were made here that are not factual in relationship to these bills. My colleague, Mr. — Leader Boehner, the law of the land is there is no public funding of abortion and there is no public funding of abortion in these bills. And I don’t want our listeners or viewers to get the wrong impression from what you said.
Mr. Camp — Mr. Camp, you said that the Medicare cuts in this bill cut benefits for seniors; they do not. They do not.
So I want the record to show, just in those two cases, where we may have differences of opinion and of approach and evaluation of the value of different things, but certain things are facts about our bills that I cannot let the opposite view stand when they are stated.
Mr. President, I harken back to that meeting a year ago. At that time, Senator Grassley said — questioned you about the public option. And you said, “The public option is one way to keep the insurance companies honest and to increase competition. If you have a better way, put it on the table.”
Well, I bring that up because we come such a long way. We’re talking about how close we are on this, how far apart we are here. But as a representative of the House of Representatives, I want you to know that we were there that day in support of a public option, which would save $120 billion, keep the insurance companies honest, and increase competition.
So this will take courage to do. Social Security was hard. Medicare was hard. Health care reform for all Americans — insurance reform is hard. But we will get it done.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, listen, this has been hard work. And I want to, first of all, thank everybody for being here and conducting themselves in an extraordinarily civil tone. And as I said, given the number of folks that were around this table, the fact that we’re only an hour late is — beats my prediction. (Laughter.)
THE PRESIDENT: So the question that I’m going to ask myself and I ask of all of
you is, is there enough serious effort that in a month’s time or a few weeks’ time or six weeks’ time, we could actually resolve something. And if we can’t, then I think we’ve got to go ahead and make some decisions and then that’s what elections are for. We have honest disagreements about the vision for the country and we’ll go ahead and test those out over the next several months till November.
All right? But I very much appreciate everybody being here. Thank you for being so thoughtful. And hopefully we’ll all keep our constituents in mind as we move forward. Thank you, everybody.