Healthcare Hogwash at Blair House

After seven long hours at Blair House, the only thing clear is that a government system of healthcare costs about 14% more than a private system. 

Democrats made it clear yesterday that they are going to stick with their highly-unpopular “comprehensive” approach and attempt to shove through the government takeover of health care using reconciliation.  The over seven and a half hour staged press event was designed to provide political cover in the form of an appearance of outreach to Republicans.  A resolution of issues was never intended. 

I spoke with Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), top Republican on the House Ways & Means Committee, after the confab about the difference in approach between competing philosophies.

“What we were trying to get across today is their whole approach is bring it to Washington, let’s regulate it and mandate it,” Camp told HUMAN EVENTS. “We’re trying to unleash individuals to make health care decisions to choose their health insurance from a variety of plans.  Take it across state lines, bring in lawsuit reform and health savings accounts rather than restrict them as they do in their bill — those are the kinds of things that will bring the cost of health insurance down, make it more affordable and give people what they want.”

Camp was abruptly cut off by the President as he hammered Democrat plans to create and empower unelected boards to control healthcare in America and the lack of cost containment in their approach.  You can see the entire exchange here. 

A succinct example of the fundamental difference in approach was put before the group by Sen. Tom Coburn, M.D. (R-Okla.) when he referenced the report on health care waste and fraud in government compiled by the highly-respected Thompson Reuters information professionals.

“If you look at Thomson Reuters, when they look at all of this, they say at least 15 percent of government-run health care is fraud,” Coburn said.  “When you look at the total amount of health care that’s government run, you know, you’re talking $150 billion a year.”

There is an estimated $15 billion in Medicaid fraud every year in New York City alone.

“When you compare the private sector fraud rates, it’s 1 percent compared to [15 percent in] Medicare and Medicaid,” Coburn added.

Rep. Tom Price, M.D. (R-Ga.), orthopedic surgeon and chairman of the Republican Study Committee, spoke with HUMAN EVENTS about the impact on cost.

“The federal government is loathe to act on virtually everything in an expeditious and nimble manner and that’s why the fraud rate is so much greater than in the private sector, along with the incentive in the private sector obviously to pare down costs and increase margins,” Price said.  “We would see that translated into whatever version of expansion of government program that would occur and that is a less effective use of resources than in the private sector.”

“It’s not in large part physicians or providers that are overbilling, it’s somebody stealing Social Security numbers from patients and billing the federal government at huge rates until the federal government catches them, then they just shut down that storefront and go to another one,” Price said.  “And that usually takes months and millions of dollars.”

In another of the best moments of the day Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), top Republican on the House Budget Committee, “unpacked” the CBO score pointing out budgeting tricks in the Democrat bills that manipulate the scoring process. 

“First a little bit about CBO: I work with them every single day; very good people; great professionals,” Ryan said.  “They do their jobs well.  But their job is to score what is placed in front of them.  And what has been placed in front of them is a bill that is full of gimmicks and smoke and mirrors.”

“The bill has ten years of tax increases and ten years of Medicare cuts to pay for six years of spending,” Ryan said.  “The true ten year cost when subsidies kick-in?  $2.3 trillion.”

Ryan then proceeds to expose budget gimmicks one by one.  The video at the link is well worth watching. 

Rep. Charles Boustany, M.D. (R-La.), representing at the meeting the 17 Republican doctors in the House, urged Democrats to scrap the massive bill and start over on the elements where they agree.

“Most Democrats, independents and Republicans do agree on 80 percent of the solutions to bring down health care costs, but these bills focus where we disagree,” said Boustany.  “Rather, we should scrap these bills, like the American people want us to, and focus on bringing down health costs.”

A recent CNN poll found that 73 percent of Americans want Congress to either start over on health care reform or drop the issue completely.

Out of the gate the President refused to scrap the unpopular bill or even take the budget reconciliation gimmick off of the table — rendering the entire notion of bi-partisan solutions moot.  By the end of the day, he signaled to Congressional Democrats they’re expendable come November at the altar of his health care agenda. 

Below is a straight transcription of Obama’s Chicago-style closing — the most telling remarks of the day. 

PRES. BARACK OBAMA:  I’ve put on the table some things that I didn’t come in here saying I supported but that I was willing to work with potential Republican sponsors on.  I’d like the Republicans to do a little soul searching and find out are there some things that you’d be willing to embrace that get to this core problem of 30 million people without health insurance and dealing seriously with the pre-existing condition issue.

I don’t know frankly whether we can close that gap.  And if we can’t close that gap then I suspect Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner are going to have a lot of arguments about procedures in Congress about moving forward. …

Politically speaking there may not be a reason for Republicans to want to do anything.  We can debate what our various constituencies think.  I don’t need a poll to know that most Republican voters are opposed to this bill and the kind of compromise we could craft.  It’d be very hard politically for you to do this. …

What I do know is this:  If we saw movement, significant movement not just gestures, then you wouldn’t need to start over because essentially everybody here knows what the issues are.  Procedurally it could get done fairly quickly.  We cannot have another year long debate about this.  So the question 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 need 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 until November.

There you have it, America.  It’s up to the people to stop the Obama/Reid/Pelosi agenda at the ballot box in November.  They’re not into this representative government thing.  They know what’s best for you.