Monday, February 1, 2010

Quote of the Day from Health Care Action

January 29, 2010

Remarks by the President at GOP House Issues Conference

Congressman Price (Dr. Tom Price from Georgia): Mr. President, multiple times, from your administration, there have come statements that Republicans have no ideas and no solutions. In spite of the fact that we've offered, as demonstrated today, positive solutions to all of the challenges we face, including energy and the economy and health care, specifically in the area of health care -- this bill, H.R.3400, that has more co-sponsors than any health care bill in the House, is a bill that would provide health coverage for all Americans; would correct the significant insurance challenges of affordability and preexisting; would solve the lawsuit abuse issue, which isn't addressed significantly in the other proposals that went through the House and the Senate; would write into law that medical decisions are made between patients and families and doctors; and does all of that without raising taxes by a penny.

But my specific question is, what should we tell our constituents who know that Republicans have offered positive solutions to the challenges that Americans face and yet continue to hear out of the administration that we've offered nothing?

The President: It's not enough if you say, for example, that we've offered a health care plan and I look up -- this is just under the section that you've just provided me, or the book that you just provided me -- summary of GOP health care reform bill: "The GOP plan will lower health care premiums for American families and small businesses, addressing America's number-one priority for health reform." I mean, that's an idea that we all embrace. But specifically it's got to work. I mean, there's got to be a mechanism in these plans that I can go to an independent health care expert and say, is this something that will actually work, or is it boilerplate?

If I'm told, for example, that the solution to dealing with health care costs is tort reform, something that I've said I am willing to work with you on, but the CBO or other experts say to me, at best, this could reduce health care costs relative to where they're growing by a couple of percentage points, or save $5 billion a year, that's what we can score it at, and it will not bend the cost curve long term or reduce premiums significantly -- then you can't make the claim that that's the only thing that we have to do. If we're going to do multi-state insurance so that people can go across state lines, I've got to be able to go to an independent health care expert, Republican or Democrat, who can tell me that this won't result in cherry-picking of the healthiest going to some and the least healthy being worse off.

So I am absolutely committed to working with you on these issues, but it can't just be political assertions that aren't substantiated when it comes to the actual details of policy. Because otherwise, we're going to be selling the American people a bill of goods. I mean, the easiest thing for me to do on the health care debate would have been to tell people that what you're going to get is guaranteed health insurance, lower your costs, all the insurance reforms; we're going to lower the costs of Medicare and Medicaid and it won't cost anybody anything. That's great politics, it's just not true.

So there's got to be some test of realism in any of these proposals, mine included. I've got to hold myself accountable, and guaranteed the American people will hold themselves -- will hold me accountable if what I'm selling doesn't actually deliver.

Comment: The President enters the Republicans' den, and politics broke out. At least that's the impression you might have from the media coverage of the President's appearance at the GOP House Issues Conference. But this was not simply an exchange of partisan political rhetoric; it was a plea by President Obama to set aside rhetorical grandstanding and to join together in a fair, credible, and objective discussion of the impact of the actual policies under consideration.

Did that happen? It is puzzling how Congressman Tom Price, a physician, could state directly to the President that their Republican bill "would provide health coverage for all Americans." That goes beyond political grandstanding for the benefit of the television cameras. That is shameless, arrogant lying to the President of the United States and to the American people. It is impossible to have a constructive dialogue with liars.

President Obama is right when he states that these proposals must pass the test of realism, while at the same time holding himself accountable. But realism alone isn't enough. The policies must be effective and efficient. Yet the President and Congress abandoned those health care reform policies that pass the tests with the highest scores, and accepted flawed, lower-scoring policies that were believed to comply better with the political tests, though that political support is waning.

When objectivity and realism demonstrate that the Democratic proposal falls far short, and when better, proven policies would bring affordable care to everyone, we should hold the President and Congress accountable. But we should also support them politically when they throw the liars out so they can get on with the reform that we need.

One more lie. Congressman Price said that H.R.3400 "has more co-sponsors than any health care bill in the House." It has 52 cosponsors. Congressman John Conyers' H.R. 676, "United States National Health Care Act or the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act," has 87 cosponsors.

More importantly, Conyers' bill is based on sound health policy that would actually work, whereas Price's bill is based on feeble policies that will have almost no impact on the problems we face in health care. But their bill does provide them with rhetoric they can use for political grandstanding, even if based on lies (e.g., "provides health coverage for all Americans").

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