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Health Care Summit: Expanding Health Insurance Coverage

It sounds like something everybody wants, but expanding health insurance coverage is arguably just as divisive as any other issue when it comes to health care reform. The country is already experiencing a shortage of doctors and nurses, and while you don’t necessarily need health insurance coverage to receive medical treatment, an influx of tens of millions of people will undoubtedly put a greater strain on our health care resources.

On the other hand, expanding health insurance coverage would largely eliminate the hidden tax of uncompensated emergency room treatment and the generally wasteful practice of going to the emergency room for non-emergency treatment due to a lack of health insurance. Expanding health insurance coverage without exploding health care costs is the primary reason why health care reform defies the incremental approach so frequently favored by Congress.

Health Care Summit Blog: Expanding Health Insurance Coverage

3:50PM. Pres. Obama. Introduces expanding health insurance coverage. Points out that the Republican bill gets 3 million more people health insurance, Democrats bill gets 30 million more people coverage.

3:55PM. Sen. John Barrasso. Claims that most people believe that reform will increase their premiums, raise health care costs overall, and cause the quality of care to go down. Says that people with only catastrophic coverage are often the best consumers of health care and health insurance because they can gauge whether a specific treatment is worth the out-of-pocket costs. Declares that U.S. has best health care system in the world.

(Pres. Obama says that someone making $40,000 a year can’t survive on only catastrophic coverage.)

4:00PM. Rep. Henry Waxman. Denies the idea that Medicare vouchers would create sufficient coverage, no matter how responsible consumers are. Claims that health care reform is unpopular because it’s been distorted. Talks about one woman whose insurance will cost the same as her mortgage. Claims piecemeal reform won’t work and Republicans aren’t willing to work with Democrats.

(Pres. Obama calls Waxman out for his display of partisanship.)

4:10PM. Rep. Peter Roskam. Says people in his district have become increasingly dissatisfied with the reform process, compares it to popping it into the microwave. Says that health insurance reform isn’t entitlement reform, it’s entitlement expansion. Claims that reform makes Medicaid, already a government failure, inflexible.

(Pres. Obama suggests that many people in Medicaid could enter into the exchange with subsidies, reducing the size and costs of the program.)

4:20PM. Sen. Chris Dodd. Claims that people have a similar right to a doctor as they do a lawyer. Reminds that the uninsured costs the country economic productivity as well as a hidden tax for non-reimbursed emergency care. Claims that if you don’t deal with a lack of coverage, no other reform goals are possible.

4:25PM. Rep. Joe Barton. Denies that federal government using mandates and/or regulation can create the free market controls needed for health care reform. Says that allowing companies to sell insurance across state lines could reduce premiums by as much as 50% in some states. Wants health care reform to pay more than “lip service” to medical malpractice reform.

4:30PM. Sen. Ron Wyden. Says that Republicans want incremental reform and Democrats want comprehensive reform, but independent sources say that incremental reform costs more and does less. Wants everybody to have the option of firing their insurance company.

4:35PM. Sen. Mitch McConnell. Says people in Congress haven’t been listening very closely to the American people, who, according to polls, oppose reform and have followed this debate more closely than any other. Repeats call to start over.

(Pres. Obama says if you poll individual measures in the bill, reform is popular, but people oppose reform because they don’t realize what’s in the bill.)

4:40PM. Sen. Patty Murray. Talks about single mom who lost job, then lost health insurance, and ended up dying. Says too many people have no choices and nowhere to go. Claims reform can give people choices, a way out of a hopeless situation.

4:40PM. Sen. Tom Coburn. Says goal must be to reconnect payment with purchase and that this is possible without government intrusion. Says we don’t need to spend more money, we just need to spend it better.

4:45PM. Rep. Charles Rangel. Says we’re so close to national health insurance, close to real change in health system. Says that states that don’t support reform don’t speak for the whole country. Says Congress should be able to enact reform without taking up Pres.’s time. Questions why we need 60 votes to get reform. Claims it’s too late to start over. Says people don’t care how Congress produces reform, they care what reform produces.

4:50PM. Rep. John Dingell. Says the reason people don’t have health coverage is because they can’t afford it. Calls the rising cost of health insurance the single biggest problem America faces. Reiterates there is nothing wrong with passing health care reform with 51 votes.

4:55PM. Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Argues that a public option will keep insurance companies honest and reduce costs, but that left to their own devices, insurance companies have acted shamefully. Wants it known that House bill has addressed many Republican concerns brought up during the Summit and that reform doesn’t create taxpayer-funded abortion and doesn’t cut benefits to seniors.

5:00PM. Pres. Obama’s Closing Remarks. Areas of agreement: insurance market reform, capping out of pocket expenses, no pre-existing conditions, small businesses and individuals should be able to pool their purchasing power. Areas of disagreement: baseline coverage to guarantee minimum insurance standards, details surrounding how companies can sell insurance across state lines, importance and details of medical malpractice reform.

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