Sen. Chris Dodd makes remarks on coverage at White House health summit

CQ Transcriptions
Thursday, February 25, 2010; 5:37 PM

DODD: Well, thank you, Mr. President. And I'll try and keep this brief and turn it over to Patty, so we'll take the time for one person and divide into two.

Let me -- let me, first of all, thank you, as well, and thank all of our colleagues who've done this. It's been tremendously helpful, I think, today.

And it's been said earlier, maybe it needs to be focused, as well. Like many of you, like all of you here, my state, there are 31 hospitals, and they're terrific people. And whether or not the quality of care is equal for everyone in this country is certainly questionable, but certainly the quality of the people who are our health care providers -- the nurses, the doctors, and others -- do an incredible job every single day.

And in a sense, I was struck when Congress was talking about the death penalty issue that was debated sometime ago in Illinois. I think most of us around this table here would agree today that every person, if they're confronted with a legal problem, has a right to a lawyer. That's something we've accepted as a country.

DODD: It's somewhat ironic, I suppose -- and history may judge us accordingly -- that while everyone is entitled to a lawyer, regardless of what you've been charged with, that you don't have a right to a doctor. And yet, at the same time, we acknowledge that we provide care: If you show up in an emergency room, we take care of you. And that's a great testimony about who we are as a people.

The problem is, of course, that the costs associated with that, I think there's a false assumption that that's one group of people, and they're out there, and they have no impact on what happens to those who have insurance today.

And somehow they should be taking better care of themselves. They should quit smoking. They should eat better. They should get a job. That somehow the responsibility rests with them.

If you can accept that, which I don't, the fact of the matter is, that -- that sector of our population affects everyone else. It costs us about $248 billion a year in lost productivity when you have increased numbers of uninsured people in the country.

At this very hour, there's a cost with every single insured person in this country of roughly $1,100 a year, to pay for that cost of that person showing up in that emergency room or getting that care. That's a hidden tax that Americans are paying today when people show up for that kind of -- kind of support.

There are -- today before this -- we wrap up and go back to our offices and go back to our homes this evening here in the District of Columbia, 14,000 of our fellow citizens will have lost their health care today. And every day that we're here debating and discussing this, 14,000 Americans lose their health care.

Roughly six to eight people will have lost their lives today as we gather around this table because they're uninsured. Based on a Harvard study and National Science Foundation study, that we lose that many people on a daily basis because we lack -- because they lack health insurance.

So there are tremendous costs associated with it. Henry said it well, Tom said it well, and, Mr. President, you certainly have capsulized it very well.

These are not segmented issues. And while incremental approaches are something I generally support and approach after 30 years here in dealing with major issues, but this issue defies incremental approach. You can't get from one point to the next incrementally unless you deal with it holistically.

That's what we are trying do. Now, you may disagree about whether or not we're doing too much in mandates or too much here and there, and that's a legitimate debate.

But you can't get to affordability, you can't get to quality, you can't deal with the major economic issues if you don't deal with coverage. You just can't. There's no way to do it. You've got to have broadening coverage if you're going to have any effort or any successful effort in reaching those questions.

Lastly, I'd just say this to you: A guy in my state, Kevin Galvin (ph), Kevin is -- he employs seven people. A maintenance operation in Hartford, Connecticut. He decided he wanted to provide health care.

And, like the stories you've all heard, he lost a fellow of 24 years because the guy had a health care issue. He finally had to take less pay, took another job, because of his health care provider.

But Kevin did more than just tell me a story about himself, Mr. President, what happened to his seven employees because he couldn't get health care. He went out in my state of Connecticut and organized 19,000 small businesses. And they changed the law in Connecticut regarding pooling of small businesses.

Because here was a small business guy who wanted to take care of his people and watched tragically day after day what happened to individuals because he could not provide it for them any longer.

And I think people like Kevin Galvin (ph) exist in every district, in every state who want to provide that health care, understand how valuable it is to them, their productivity and, of course, the importance to their employees.

But coverage is the critical issue. We know that in the next 10 years, factually, Mr. President, in the next 10 years, every state in this country will have a 10 percent increase in uninsured people. We know that in 30 states in our country in that same 10-year period, there'll be a 30 percent increase in the uninsured. And half the population under the age of 65 will at one point or another in the next 65 -- in the next 10 years, be without insurance.

So it's not some isolated group out there. This is the critical constituency that is this -- that are the linchpin that holds all of this together. So coverage is absolutely critical.

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