Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Howard Dean and Chris Van Hollen on the Public Option

Howard Dean guest hosted for Keith Olbermann. Dean described the Max Baucus compromise bill as "watered down." DCCC Chair Chris Van Hollen discussed the public option with Dean.

DEAN: Chris, I know the House is doing a great job on this. But why haven’t we seen — why haven’t we seen Democrats in the Senate take a stronger bargaining position with the Republicans? Why give away something as fundamental as health care reform as the public option?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, you’re absolutely right, Howard. We’ve got to have a public option in the plan that we send to the president’s desk. We’re all still hoping that the Senate Finance Committee bill will have a public option.

If they don’t, we’re going to press hard. This has got to be in the bill that we send to the president’s desk. We’ve got to create more choice for consumers and more competition for the insurance companies.

I don’t think anyone was surprised to learn that the insurance companies are fighting this. These are the same companies that have seen their profits go through the roof over the last seven years. In fact, if you look at just the top 10 insurance companies, their profits have gone up about 430 percent over the last seven years, while everyone’s income stayed flat and while their premiums were going through the roof.

So, we’ve got to have a public option to create that competition and to give Americans more choice.

DEAN: Some Democrats are saying that there needs to be compromise on the public option in order to get the bill passed. But 72 percent of Americans say they want the choice of a public option. Does that mean that what the American people want is already dead in the Senate?

VAN HOLLEN: No. I certainly hope not. It’s certainly not dead with respect to the bill that we’ll send to the president’s desk.

The American people are exactly right. If you want more choice, you want to bring down premiums, you need that competition. There are parts of the country where the private insurance companies have huge monopoly lock over the markets. We need to provide that competition. As the president said, we need to start keeping these insurance companies honest.

You know you’re getting somewhere when you get a lot of resistance. And as you get closer to making this happen, you get more and more fight from the insurance companies, and we have to stick up for the consumers. And it’s pretty clear that the Republicans support the status quo, and there’s a good reason for that, which is their allies, the insurance industry, that has provided huge amounts of campaign contributions, supports the status quo, with respect to not providing for a public option.

Republicans had 8 years and did nothing to reform health care. The Congressional Budget Office found current entitlement spending is unsustainable.

A CBO letter to Republican Rep. David Camp estimated only 9 million people would switch from private health care to the so-called public option.

In 2016, nearly 3 million people who would be covered under an employment-based plan under current law—and who could be covered by that plan under the proposal—would choose instead to obtain coverage in the exchanges because the employer’s offer would
be deemed unaffordable and they would therefore be eligible to receive subsidies through the exchanges. In addition, some part-time employees, who could receive subsidies via an exchange even though they had an employer’s offer of coverage, would choose to do so. All told, we estimate that, in 2016, about 9 million people who would otherwise have had employer coverage would not be enrolled in an employment-based plan under the proposal.

The CBO estmates public health insurance will 10 percent lower than private insurance. What isn't making news is the letter notes hospitals spent $35 billion for uninsured care. The uninsured won't seek medical care until they need to visit an emergency room. From a humanitarian perspective: this is horrible policy. The cost factor will increase with more uninsured people. Hospitals will be forced to pass on the expenses to patients with health insurance. The status quo is increased cost and more uninsured people. Excuse me if private insurance companies aren't my first concern.

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