A funny thing happened on the way to the ACR Economic Update. For those not in the know, this afternoon's session by Maurine Dennis -- to be repeated again tomorrow at 2 p.m., which I'll definitely be attending so I can keep you all up to speed on their valuable intel -- was preempted by the arrival of surprise speaker Rep John Shadegg (R-Ariz), a longtime advocate for physicians and member of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, who delivered an update on what's happening with health care reform. There had been rumors that Rep Shadegg might make an appearance, and I was so delighted at the opportunity to bring you all inside the session with me that I took down his speech to the assembled group as close to verbatim as I could.
Depending on which side of the political divide you stand on, his remarks have an equal chance of inspiring you or enraging you. Either way, though, they represent a valuable inside look at the number-one policy issue facing America today. I also took notes on a few attendees' questions, as well as Shadegg's answers, all after the jump.
“Why health care?” Shadegg asked. “Health care has been an interest of mine since I got into congress. Health care is where our nation is closest to embracing socialism, and I don’t want that to happen. I first said that ten years ago, and here we are, very close to the first step in that direction.
“I know HR 3200 pretty darn well. I’ve read it multiple times flying back and forth to DC, and if you need to drift off to sleep after a long week, just pick up HR 3200. I think we have the best health care in the world. I think the problems with the delivery of health care are all created by government. If you look at what’s screwed up with health care in America, you’ll find that the government did it. If you don’t like your employer’s plan, buying your own plan is at least 30% more expensive. Making Americans buy health plans with after-tax dollars is outrageous. It just frustrates me. I personally believe the current structure goes a long way toward building barriers between patients and physicians. I think it’s not good to put employers and plans between patients and doctors. I don’t think it’s good that your industry has to come hat in hand to Washington year after year to try to influence a bunch of congressmen who don’t know squat about health care.
“The good news is that there is substantial agreement in this nation on two of the three issues in health care. Republicans and Democrats both agree that you shouldn’t be denied coverage or told you can’t get coverage if you have a preexisting condition. Whether it’s through high risk pools, risk readjustment or other issues, I think America is ready to resolve this, and we shouldn’t be fighting about it.
“The second issue is universal coverage. I argue a lot with my Republican friends that we are already supplying universal coverage because those without health insurance just go to the emergency room.
“The third issue is how do we control costs. With the Baucus plan, the other side has given up on controlling costs altogether. The Republican school is we need to connect patients with their primary care physicians again, enable them to pick their plans and that will control costs. They won’t buy a plan they can’t afford. The Democrats’ answer is, if we put the government in charge, they’ll control costs. I don’t mean to be partisan, but that’s putting the same group responsible for Hurricane Katrina in charge of health care costs. That’s the way I see it.
“Now let’s talk about the outrage. For those of you who spend a good part of your time interfacing with the government or supervising someone who does, the good news is, if this bill passes, there’s lots and lots and lots more of that to come. Mr. Baucus was extremely thrilled because the CBO [Congressional Budget Office] scored their bill and said only $829 billion, and it will cover more people. How many of you could make the financial side of whatever you do look really good to the people in charge by including ten years of revenue, but only seven years of expenditures? The taxes begin in 2010, but the expenditures begin in 2013. CBO scored from 2010 to 2030. I think it’s an outrage, and only in Washington would you get this kind of accounting.
“That’s what the bill does. It says we’re going to save a whole bunch of money on Medicare by doing away with Medicare Advantage. Well, it might, but you’re going to have a lot of people angry. The rest