Rep. Boustany on costs of health-reform for medical practices at White House health summit

Thursday, February 25, 2010; 1:24 PM

BOEHNER: Mr. President, I'd like to yield to Dr. Boustany to (inaudible) this conversation about insurance reform.

BOUSTANY: (inaudible) Leader Boehner.

And thank you, Mr. President.

I come at this as a physician, a cardiovascular surgeon, with over 20 years of practice doing open-heart surgery, dealing with patients who have come to me with very, very challenging cases at very difficult times in their lives.

And along with my colleagues Dr. Coburn and Dr. Barrasso, we bring a wealth of experience in dealing with insurance companies and all these everyday problems that so many American families face.

We all agree -- we all agree -- that we need insurance reform. There's no question about it. The question is how do we do it.

Now, we've all been through a long year -- town hall meetings, telephone calls, e-mails, it goes on and on. And one thing that has become very clear, the American people have spoken out very loudly and very clearly, they want us to take a step back and go step by step with a common-sense plan that really brings the cost down for American families and small-business owners. They want insurance companies to treat them just like they treat big labor unions and large companies. It's been a resounding message we've heard over and over.

So how can we achieve all this? Well, we've talked about some of it. I think one of the things we ought to really look at is how do you simplify, streamline and standardize all the paperwork that's involved? Because I can tell you, as a doctor, and my two colleagues who are physicians will know that it takes you away from patient care. It interferes with the doctor-patient relationship. It runs up cost in medical practices. And it's a real issue.

So, I believe -- I think we can all agree on that. We need to -- we need to address that issue.

A second area is, how do you really promote choice and competition? We've all talked about it, and I think we've had a lot of discussion already on those issues.

We put forth a plan earlier in the year, during the debate, that actually the Congressional Budget Office showed that it brings down the cost of premiums up to about 10 percent. And, actually, for individuals seeking -- and families seeking insurance in the individual market, those cost savings could even be higher.

As opposed to the bill we have here, where we've had some discussion already, and Mr. Camp has already outlined, as well as Mr. Kyl, that this bill would actually raise premium cost.

We -- we've talked about small-business health plans. You know, again, I ran a small business. It was a medical practice. And when I wanted insurance, when those premiums were going up in double digits every year, I'd call an insurance agent. They would come in. And we had very limited choice. Very limited. And the costs kept going up.

Small-business health plans is one way to really deal with this and allow for pooling. And where our big disagreement is, frankly, it's with how you do it. And if you create a plan with exchanges that are overly restrictive, it really doesn't -- it defeats the purpose.

And I believe we can have faith in the American public to figure out, if it's transparent enough, what's their best deal. What's the best deal for a small-business owner or a family in this sort of arrangement.

The same goes for purchasing insurance across state lines. I think -- I'm glad to hear our Democratic colleagues agree that this is an approach that needs to be taken to promote choice and competition.

But, again, we feel that this bill restricts those options too much. And we think we can do it in a responsible way. I believe we probably could come together on this, but I think the existing proposals restrict it far too much.

Health savings accounts. These are very, very popular among small-business owners and families. And I think the one impediment today is the inability to save enough in these. And I think there are ways that we could promote these health savings accounts and promote real savings that will actually make a difference. It won't solve all the problems, but it's an important insurance reform that I think small businesses will really, really jump on, if we could expand those savings opportunities.

The current bill, as has been stated, adds some restrictions and some additional tax provisions on these which make them less palatable.

We all agree on prohibiting insurance companies from arbitrarily canceling insurance policies. That's a no-brainer. There's strong agreement on both sides of the aisle there.

Now, with regard to preexisting conditions, this is an issue that is very difficult, and many of us and our families may have been faced with. I could tell you I faced it when I closed my medical practice, because I had a health condition, an arthritis condition. And I went to the same insurance carrier that covered my small medical practice for 14 years and got the big red no, "Can't insure you or your family."

Now, that's -- that's, frankly, unacceptable.

Now, what we propose is using risk pools, expanding these risk pools, and reinsurance. It's an affordable way to do it. It creates certainly for a family that's faced with this very difficult set of circumstances.

Certainty is important. And our plan would not raise premium cost extravagantly, whereas the proposal here would raise those costs, and it doesn't really create the kind of certainty a family needs because (inaudible) and that proposal is only temporary to something else that we don't know what it's going to be.

The other thing we do is we create a way for small-business owners to actually shop and compare apples to apples, transparency. And this is critical. Our plan does this without creating the kinds of restrictions that we see with the exchange process.

And we agree that we have to eliminate annual and lifetime caps, so we have broad agreement there.

So, again, I think it's clear that the American people have rejected the bills that have gone through so far because they see increases in premiums for families, they see that it raises taxes significantly on families and raids Medicare to create a new entitlement. This doesn't really bring down the cost. This is really not the answer.

What American families want is a common step -- a common-sense, step-by-step approach that will really lower the cost for families and small business.

I believe -- I believe we have a duty to reform health care, but we have an obligation to get it right.

OBAMA: OK. Thanks, Charles.

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