Rep. Dave Camp makes remarks on cost containment at the White House health summit

Thursday, February 25, 2010; 12:42 PM

OBAMA: Mitch, is there somebody...

MCCONNELL: Yes, Mr. President, I'm going to yield to John here.

OBAMA: Oh, John?

BOEHNER: I'd like to yield to Dave Camp and continue this conversation about cost containment.


CAMP: Thank you, Leader Boehner.

And thank you, Mr. President, for the invitation today.

I think as we focus this part of the conversation on cost, a lot of Americans say to me, "If you're really interested in controlling costs, well, maybe you shouldn't be spending a trillion dollars on health care, as the Senate and House bills do."

Also, cutting Medicare benefits by a half-trillion dollars to fund this new entitlement is I think a step in the wrong direction, and many Americans do as well. The nonpartisan actuaries at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services say on page four of their letter on the Senate-passed bill that it would bend the cost curve in the wrong direction by about a quarter-trillion dollars. They specifically say the health expenditures under the Senate bill would increase by $222 billion.

A key way of reducing costs that's missing from the House and Senate bills is responsible lawsuit reform that guarantees injured parties, much like our two largest states have adopted -- Texas and California -- access to all economic damages such as future medical care. If they need nursing care in the future, they'll get it, lost wages, reasonable awards for punitive damages and pain and suffering.

On page four of its letter to Senator Hatch, CBO found that this common sense reform would reduce the federal deficit by more than $50 billion. Now, that's just on the government side, because as we know, CBO doesn't score the private side on this. And PriceWaterhouseCoopers has done a study that said savings could be as high as $239 billion if this reform were adopted.

There are two features in the House and Senate bills that move in the wrong direction. Both bills feature restrictions on health spending accounts where people can save tax-free for their health care, as well as FSAs -- flexible spending accounts. These changes are such as they ban the use of over-the-counter medications, out of both of these plans. There's a new cap on FSA contributions of $2,500. That text, that language is found on page 1,959 of the Senate bill. And that will hinder the growth of those plans, and -- which encourage Americans to consider quality and price when they purchase health care.

And let me just say under HSA plan, premiums increased just 1.3 percent for individuals in 2007 to 2008, and declined 5.4 percent for families in that same period. And when people switch from a PPO, a preferred provider organization, to a health savings account, their premiums declined by an average of $3,800.

Now, another concern I have in the Senate bill, which on page 982 creates an unelected board charged with recommending even more Medicare reductions. And if Congress doesn't accept these recommendations, they have to find other Medicare spending to cut instead. And that gives, I think, too much authority to unelected bureaucrats, rather than to elected representatives of the people, and the power to decide whether to cut Medicare and by how much.

Now, holding down health care costs for the government is important, but I think it's also important to hold down costs for families and employees.

OBAMA: 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, you know, 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.

So I don't want to try to cut you off, but please finish up, but I just want to kind of point out the...

CAMP: I'm almost done. I do want to say on this issue on -- on premiums, CBO in their letter on page four does say that the estimated average premium per person for non-group policies would increase by 10 percent to 13 percent.

OBAMA: This is -- this is the discussion that I just had about Lamar.

CAMP: Yes -- they do say that, and they do say that the value of the benefit is higher, and that is why it goes up. But the reason the value of the benefit is higher is because of the mandates contained in the legislation. And this is one of our big concerns with a lot of the issues that have been raised.

Yes, we have similarities, but when all of this is structured around a government-centered exchange that sets the standard for these policies, states can't get out of these requirements unless they seek a waiver from the secretary. That kind of approach raises costs.

And so both of your comments were correct that costs do go up and it's because they have a richer benefit, but the reason it's richer is because of the mandates contained in these very large bills.

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