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Rep. Joe Barton makes remarks on mandates at White House health summit

CQ Transcriptions
Thursday, February 25, 2010; 5:41 PM

BARTON (?): Thank you, Mr. President. I want to commend you for asking us to come here. And I will saying that never have so many members of the House and Senate behaved so well for so long before so many television cameras. So if we ever get to a conference committee, we may want you to be the moderator.

I do think, though, that there is a fundamental difference in the vision that you and your friends on the majority have put forward and the vision that myself and those of us in the minority have put forward. It's the pivotal (ph) role of the government.

We believe that we should use free markets to empower people and give them choices. And for the best of intentions, yourself and most of your allies in the Democratic Party seem to believe that the government, either through a mandate or through a regulatory requirement, knows better and will do better for health care for most Americans.

Now, whether you have a mandate or simply give the secretary of health and human services the ability by regulation to require something, that's a difference without -- that's a distinction without much of a difference.

So the six common-sense ideas that various Republicans have put out here is not incrementalism in the sense that it doesn't go together, but it does not radically change the basic health care system of America.

If you give the ability to sell insurance across state lines and prevent a state from precluding it if the insurance company can prove that it's solvent and that it will pay the benefit, health care costs will go down in that state and premiums will go down.

There's a study just out that in the state of California, health care premiums would go down 50 percent if Californians could buy insurance from Nevada or Oregon.

If you create a catastrophic high-risk pool and put the cap on it that Leader Boehner did on his alternative on the House floor and allow -- allow small businesses to create the kind of pools that we've talked about, you're going to be able to give those Americans who can't get insurance because of a preexisting condition and want it, the ability to get into those things.

And they -- their premiums will not go up catastrophically. They will not go up astronomically.

And one of the things that we seem to have agreement on, according to yourself and Mr. -- Senator Durbin, is medical malpractice. Now, your proposal and the House bill and the Senate bill paw lip service to medical malpractice. But they don't really do it.

Again, if you take the Boehner proposal that was put together and put up on the House floor, and it's based on what's happened in Texas, in Texas which put in medical malpractice reform in -- in 2003, premiums for medical malpractice have gone down 27 percent.

Texas has gained 18,000 doctors since this reform was put in. There are 55 rural counties in Texas that now have an obstetrician.

If that is extrapolated nationally, you're not going to save the $54 billion that Senator Durbin alluded to and that yourself alluded to, if you combine the direct savings with the indirect savings, because the price of practicing defensive medicine goes down, you probably save $150 billion a year. Now, that's real money.

So what we;re saying, Mr. President, we're not talking about incrementalism. We're talking about, as Leader Boehner said and Mr. McConnell -- Senator McConnell said, let's start over in the sense that we change the vision and work together to do the things that we agree upon, but do it in way that doesn't destroy the fundamental market system that's made the American health care system the best in the world. And if we do that, we can make a deal.

OBAMA: Well...

(CROSSTALK)

(UNKNOWN): Thank you, Leader Boehner.

OBAMA: Well, Joe, I'll respond to you right at the end, because I think that we should wrap it up. You're right. The proposal that John Boehner's put forward doesn't radically change the existing system. And that, I think that's why 3 million out of 30 million who don't have coverage, or 40 million, don't get coverage.

The proposal that's been put forward by the House and the Senate Democrats also doesn't radically change it in the sense that the vast majority of people who currently have health care will still get it, it's just they'll see it a little cheaper. People who do not have coverage will start getting it.

So that's -- it is not a -- neither of these proposals are radical. The question is which one works best for the American people, and that's what, you know, we'll see if we can determine.

We're running short on time. I know that some folks are going at some point start have to get going.

I'm going to reserve the prerogative of making sure that everybody who has not had a chance to speak is allowed to speak. And then I will wrap up. That means that we're probably going to go a little bit later than we had anticipated. But, as I said, by the standards of Washington, we're still in the ballpark here.

(LAUGHTER)

I'm going to call on Charlie Rangel first. We'll go to one of our Republican colleagues. Patty Murray is going to have an opportunity to speak.

Again, there may be some comments.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. Dingell.

OBAMA: There may be other Republicans who are interested in speaking. We'll go to -- we're going to actually go to Ron Wyden first. Then we're going to go to another Republican.

OBAMA: And we're going to end with John Dingell, who was mayor when the idea of everybody having health care was first introduced by his father many decades ago.

(UNKNOWN): Mr. President, why don't you just call on Republicans who haven't talked, because some of them have talked numerous times.

OBAMA: I agree, but I want to make sure that they may want to respond to whatever is -- is said.

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