Health Summit 2010

Rep. John Dingell makes case for health reform at White House health summit

CQ Transcriptions
Thursday, February 25, 2010; 6:02 PM

DINGELL: Mr. President, thank you. And God bless you for your leadership in this matter. The country desperately needs you and desperately needs this legislation.

I saw a cartoon. Two people are sitting down and one of them says, "Terrible news. Our health care rates are going to go up 40 percent." The other guy says, "Don't worry. Good news is you're not concerned because you have preexisting conditions." This solves both problems, the bill. And, Mr. President, again, we desperately need your lead.

Now, having said that, when my dad started out on this years ago, Harry Truman, "You know the reason people don't have health care in this country? They can't afford it." And he was right, and it's still the case today.

I saw this morning a statement that was made with regard to starting over. This comes from a respected Republican leader, Governor Schwarzenegger of California, February 23rd, 2010. "I think any Republican that says you should start from scratch, I think that's bogus talk and that's partisan talk."

I think we need to buckle down and get to the business of solving the biggest problem that this country has coming down the road at us. In 2025, the cost of a family's health insurance is going to double, $25,000. I don't know anybody can afford that. You can argue about Cadillac plans and other nonsense. That's not going to be important.

And in 2080 the cost of all of our health care is going to equal the gross domestic product.

It's a recipe for disaster.

We have much in common, I want you to know, and I hope and pray you'll take a look. We cover young adults under their parents' -- under their parents' insurance.

DINGELL: That's the Republicans' offer. We prohibit dropping insurance coverage when -- when the patient gets sick. But we don't -- and the Republicans do, too. But they don't cover preexisting conditions.

Both of us prohibit annual and lifetime limits. High-risk pools, we have and they have. But high-risk pools carry with them some risk, because i constitutes an incentive for a race to the bottom, whereby people will -- will move their insurance companies to the place where they have the least regulation and the least protection for the consumers.

And it also includes, amongst the other 14 items, where we're agreed on, is the availability of health savings accounts. There are a lot of other things here that we have and we -- we need.

I would say that I've seen some of my friends who I knew before they were virgins (ph). They were -- they were pushing, for example, use of the-- of the -- of the extraordinary budgetary mechanism. And I -- as to get -- get this decided by 51 votes.

Seemed like a great idea if -- and I'm curious, why in the name of common sense are we being so fussy about having the decisions in the people's House and the people's Senate decided on the basis of a simple majority -- 51 votes?

And if there's something wrong with that, I wish somebody would tell me why we ought not give the people that kind of representation.

I would note that also mandatory coverage mandates, that was in a -- a bill that introduced by my good friend Bill Thomas, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and 20 members in the U.S. Senate. They said -- and -- they were not fussy about that.

And I think we ought to look to see, here we have a chance to serve the people. I have people coming to my office with tears in their eyes. They can't get coverage. They have preexisting conditions. A young dental surgeon I knew couldn't get health care. Why? Because she had breast cancer years before. She couldn't get care. And I've seen a lot of other cases like that.

People who would have drive-through pregnancies or drive-through vasectomies. All manner of high-handed abuse by the insurance companies.

I'm surprised -- I'm always surprised when I confront somebody that's -- that's defending the insurance companies after the things that they do to the ordinary people in this country.

They could cancel your insurance policy while you're on the gurney headed into the operating room. Somebody would -- if somebody would explain that to me, I would be deeply grateful.

But the fact of the matter is, we have a chance to do something that -- that Dan Webster one time observed, I thought it was -- I thought it was a very useful thing. And he said, and I think that we ought to say -- he said, "Let us see whether we also in our day and generation may not perform something worthy to be remembered."

It's on -- Madam Speaker, as you well know, it's on the wall of the House of Representatives. It's there for us in the House, and my colleagues in the Senate will know it, those few who I see again and who've served with us will recognize it as something.

We have before us a hideous challenge. The last perfect legislation that was presented to mankind was delivered to the Israelis at the base of Mt. Sinai. It was on -- it was on stone tablets written in the fingers of God. Nothing like that has been presented to mankind since.

What we're going to do is not perfect. But it sure will make it better and it's going to ease a huge amount of pain and suffering at a cost which we can afford, which has been costed out by the Office of Management -- by the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office, saying it's budget neutral. It, in fact, reduces the budget.

I beg you, my friends, let us go forward on this great task.

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