Sen. Chuck Schumer makes remarks on Medicare, Medicaid at White House health summit

CQ Transcriptions
Thursday, February 25, 2010; 1:04 PM

SCHUMER: Thank you, Mr. President. And I thank you. I think this has been a constructive dialogue.

I was glad to hear my friend Tom Coburn's remarks. I think we agree with most of them, and particularly the point that about a third of all of the spending that's done in Medicare and Medicaid, I would imagine a lot of it's in the private sector as well, doesn't go to really good health care, goes to other things.

And the real nub of this is how do we wring that waste out, that fraud, abuse, duplication, without interfering with the good care that we want every person on Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance to get?

The average citizen knows this happens. How many times, when you look at your medical bill, you've undergone a minor procedure, and you see Dr. Smith, $4,000, and you sort of vaguely remember he just waved and poked his head in the door?

Or how about -- probably it's happening right now -- there's some salesman talking to some doctor and saying, "Hey, my company will finance a machine for you for a million dollars. So you don't have to pay for it. You can gradually pay it. We'll show you how to fill it up all the time and you'll increase your income by $200,000." And there's another machine three blocks away that's already working and available.

So these are the things we have to go after.

And, Tom, I thought your suggestion of undercover patients -- I tried to check here -- I don't think we do it now -- is a great idea. And it's one that we can come together on.

I think there are other things that we can come together on. Senator Cantwell put a provision in the Senate bill that said we ought to reward doctors for doing quality, not quantity so that doctor -- and there's a small number of doctors (inaudible) study showed (inaudible) in the New Yorker that I think we've all read -- that a small number of people who are just trying to maximize their income throw the whole system off. It through the whole city of McAllen, Texas, off while El Paso had much lower rates.

Maria Cantwell has a provision in there which I would think you folks could agree on that says that we ought to reward doctors for the quality, not the quantity. Not the number of times they put someone through a machine, but how good the care is.

There's a provision in there Senator Rockefeller authored, it comes in the insurance part, that says 80 percent to 85 percent of what insurance companies put forward should go to the -- get money in for should go to the patient.

So I think we can do all of these things, but it does -- but if we're going to eliminate the waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare it does mean we're going to cut some of that out.

SCHUMER: And when I hear my friend Dave Camp say you cannot cut money out of Medicare, well, we don't want to cut the good stuff that you point out or not -- prevent -- add the prevention.

But if we're going to -- if one-third -- if what Senator Coburn says, that one-third of Medicare doesn't go to patient care, you can't just get up there and say we don't want to cut anything out of Medicare. We want to cut the bad stuff and keep the good stuff.

And I think that's where we can find common ground on some of the things you've mentioned, some of the things that in our bill. And I hope at least in this area we can move forward that way.

Because, frankly, the Republican Party has always stood for getting rid of the waste, fraud and abuse in the system. In '97, it was the centerpiece of your program. And all of a sudden this year we're hearing, don't -- don't do any of that. That's something that I think we can come together on. I thank you.

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