Rep. Paul Ryan makes remarks on insurance regulation at White House health summit

CQ Transcriptions
Thursday, February 25, 2010; 12:55 PM

OBAMA: I think we're just trying to go back and forth, but that's OK.

Paul, I was about to call on you, if that's all right. Go ahead.

RYAN: All right. Rob, here's basically what we're looking at. The difference is this. We don't think all the answers lie in Washington regulating all of this. So the problem with the approach we are seeing that you're offering, which I do believe, Senator, is very different than what we're saying, is we don't want to sit in Washington and mandate all of these things.

So what you're (inaudible) is you're defining exactly what kind of health insurance people can have, you're mandating them to buy this kind of health insurance.

And so we simply say, look, if the National Restaurant Association or the National Federation of Independent Business on behalf of their members wants to set up an association health plan, we think they'll probably do a good job on behalf of their members. Let them decide to do that instead of restricting insurance competition.

By federalizing the regulation of insurance and by mandating exactly how it will work, you make it more expensive and you reduce the competition among insurers for people's business.

We want to decentralize the system, give more power to small businesses, more power to individuals, and make insurers compete more. But if you federalize it and standardize it and mandate it, you do not achieve that.

That's the big difference we have.

ANDREWS: Paul, Paul, would you yield?

Mr. President, may I ask him to yield?

OBAMA: We're not in a formal hearing here. So the -- go ahead.

ANDREWS: Paul, I read your -- I read your (inaudible) and I thought one of the things that you said is that there should be some minimum consumer protections in the exchanges that you proposed. Did I get that wrong?

RYAN: And there are in every state. And so what we're simply saying is, look, lots of us have offered lots of different ideas. We've got dozens of Republican ideas offered in the House in bills, in the Senate, and many of us look at the point of the fact that the states -- you know, do we distrust our governors? do we distrust our state legislatures? Do we distrust all the state insurance -- OK, some of you may do that.


ANDREWS: Depends on who it is.

RYAN: (inaudible) should we regulate all this? Should people in Washington decide exactly how this works and what you can and cannot buy?


OBAMA: Paul...

RYAN: It's just a difference in philosophy. (CROSSTALK)

OBAMA: No, no, no. Look (inaudible) this is an important point. We've got a couple other people who want to speak. We've gone about (inaudible) minutes on this section. We're running over because we went long on the opening statements.

And you're right, there was an imbalance on the opening statements because I'm the president and so I made...


I didn't -- I didn't count my time in terms of dividing it evenly.

In this section, Mitch, we've gone back and forth.

REID: Senator Schumer...


OBAMA: I know -- I know Senator Schumer wants to speak and I know that Jim Clyburn wants to say (inaudible) very quickly.

MCCONNELL: And Jon Kyl would like to.

OBAMA: And Jon.

What I want to -- what I want to do, though, is just focus in on this philosophical debate. This is a legitimate debate. And it actually speaks to the point that Congressman Camp was making earlier about what's happening in the exchanges.

You know, when I was -- when I was young, just got out of college, I had to buy auto insurance. I had a beat-up old car. And I won't name the name of the insurance company, but there was a company, let's call it Acme Insurance in -- in Illinois. And I was paying my premiums every month. After about six months I got rear-ended, and I called up Acme and said, "You know, I'd like to see if I can get my car repaired." And they laughed at me over the phone.

Because really, this was set up not to actually provide insurance, what it was set up was to meet the legal requirements. But it really wasn't serious insurance.

Now, it's one thing if you got an old beat-up car that you can't get fixed. It's another thing if your kid is sick or you've got breast cancer.

So the general idea has been here that we should set up some minimum standards within the exchange, that a plan that people are buying into, whether it's a small business or an individual, should be at least solid enough that if your kid got sick, they're actually going to be treated, that if something happened that you weren't left with a huge bunch of out-of-pocket costs. It is true that you can always get cheaper insurance if it has really high deductibles or really high copayments or doesn't cover as many things. And so there has to be a balance that's struck there.

I just want to point out, though, that the principle of pooling is at the center of both the Senate and the House bill. And the reason I'm pointing this out is because there was a lot of talk about government takeover of health care. And the implication, I think, was that everybody was going to have to sign up for a government health care plan.

Now, that's not the issue. What the issue here, which we've had an honest disagreement about, is how much should government set a baseline versus just letting people decide that, you know, I can't really get decent insurance, but, you know, maybe this is better than nothing?

And that's a legitimate argument. I don't disagree with that. But I just want to point out that when we start talking about how much government involvement we're -- 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 is 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.

Chuck, go ahead.

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