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Weekly remarks: Tom Price, Obama on healthcare, of course

August 22, 2009 |  3:00 am

Capitol Hill at Night

Well, you'll never guess what the Democratic and Republican weekly remarks concern this week: Healthcare.

For a change.

Not.

With Congress in recess, the president out of town on a 10-day vacation and Vice President Joe Biden taking another weekend off, through the magic of technology we bring you the two parties' weekly statements anyway.

It won't surprise many that the Republican Rep. Tom Price, an M.D., argues for reform but against the president's one-size-fits-all plan. Price says Washington is incapable of addressing the individual, personalized needs best handled between patient and doctor. He calls the president's plan a "1,000 page expression... that Washington knows best when it comes to your family's healthcare."

Price also warns that despite the president's oft-stated claims, there are no guarantees under some of the reforms that people can keep their private insurance if desired.

Surprisingly, as he did in Thursday's radio interview as chronicled on The Ticket, the president chooses again to play defense, attempting to debunk what he says is misinformation and myths abroad in the land on his incomplete plans.

He says, for instance, there are no "death panels," no change in federal funding of abortions, and he tries to explain the so-called public option -- a government insurance plan -- that the president's declining poll numbers (also detailed here) show is scaring off so many seniors and political independents.

And he warns that inaction is unacceptable and will bring more of the same.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Weekly Republican Remarks by Rep. Tom Price of Georgia provided by the Republican National Committee

Hello, I’m Congressman Tom Price. And I have the privilege of representing the Sixth District of Georgia. (Just north of Atlanta)  Before coming to Congress I was a physician, taking care of patients on the north side of Atlanta for more than 20 years.

Right now, Americans from coast to coast are debating the monumental task of reforming our health system.  Folks of every political persuasion understand the imperative of reform. But they want reform that....

...keeps what’s good with our current system – and fixes what’s not working – without destroying our quality of care.

The status quo in American health care is clearly unacceptable. Rising costs, shrinking access, and third-party decision making are driving patients away from their doctors and the desired care that they seek.  The challenge, however, is providing Americans more accessible and affordable care without impairing the quality, innovation, and choices that define American medicine. And this is simply impossible with the one-size-fits-all approach taken by the President and Democrats in charge of Congress.

Experience tells me that as a doctor, no two patients are exactly alike. While the same diagnosis can be reached for two people, the proper treatment for each may be completely different, based on a countless number of factors that only a patient, their family and a caring and compassionate physician truly understand. 

Having navigated federal health care programs for two decades, I can tell you that Washington is incapable of processing the personal and unique circumstances that patients and doctors face each and every day.  That is why a positive solution will put power in the hands of patients, not insurance companies or the government.

Republican Representative Tom Price of Georgia a medical doctor Unfortunately, the plan being promoted by the White House would give Washington the power to make highly personal medical decisions on behalf of patients – on behalf of you.

Now whether it’s the government choosing what should be in your family’s health care plan, or a bureaucratic board deciding what treatments are appropriate and who should receive them, the President’s plan is a 1,000-page expression supporting the notion that Washington knows best when it comes to your family’s health care.  And that’s simply not true.

As opposition to the Democrats’ government-run health plan is mounting, the President has said he’d like to stamp out some of the disinformation floating around out there.

On the stump, the President regularly tells Americans that ‘if you like your plan, you can keep your plan.’  But if you read the bill, that just isn’t so. For starters, within five years, every health care plan will have to meet a new federal definition for coverage – one that your current plan might not match, even if you like it.

What’s more, experts agree that under the House bill, millions of Americans will be forced off their personal, private coverage and shuffled onto the government plan.

Now the President has also said that he thinks the government should compete with your current health care plan.  But we all know that when the government is setting the rules and is backed by tax dollars, it will destroy – not compete with – the private sector. The reality is, whether or not you get to keep your plan, or your doctor, is very much in question under the President’s proposal.

But perhaps the most striking misinformation the President has put forth is that there are only two options out there for America – that it’s his way or the highway. That it’s either the government running the show – or insurance companies. The truth is there is a third way – a better way, a patient-centered way to reform health care. 

Rather than allowing insurance companies or the government to call the shots, Republicans want to put patients in charge of their family’s health care. We have plans to increase coverage and lower costs without putting a bureaucrat between you and your doctor. We believe that what’s good for patients is good for American health care.

If anything has been learned from the debate in August, it’s that the American people think that we can do better. They seek reform, but they reject a government-centered approach. With people on the left, and the right, and everywhere in between dissatisfied with the process, it’s time that we start over to create a truly bipartisan solution that puts patients in charge. 

Honoring the transparency promised the American people, and the principles of quality care we all hold dear, we can create a patient-centered proposal that all may support. We look forward to working with the President, and on behalf of the American people, to make patient-centered health reform a reality. I’m Congressman Tom Price. Thanks so much for listening.   ###

Barack Obama's White House at Dawn

Weekly Remarks by Democrat President Obama as provided by the White House

Each and every day in this country, Americans are grappling with health care premiums that are growing three times the rate of wages and insurance company policies that limit coverage and raise out-of-pocket costs. Thousands are losing their insurance coverage each day.

Without real reform, the burdens on America’s families and businesses will continue to multiply. We’ve had a vigorous debate about health insurance reform, and rightly so. This is an issue of vital concern to every American, and I’m glad that so many are engaged.

But it also should be an honest debate, not one dominated by willful misrepresentations and outright distortions, spread by the very folks who would benefit the most by keeping things exactly as they are.

So today, I want to spend a few minutes debunking some of the more outrageous myths circulating on the internet, on cable TV, and repeated at some town halls across this country.

Let’s start with the false claim that illegal immigrants will get health insurance under reform. That’s not true.  Illegal immigrants would not be covered. That idea has never even been on the table. Some are also saying that coverage for abortions would be mandated under reform. Also false.

When it comes to the current ban on using tax dollars for abortions, nothing will change under reform. And as every credible person who has looked into it has said, there are no so-called “death panels” – an offensive notion to me and to the American people. These are phony claims meant to divide us.

And we’ve all heard the charge that reform will somehow bring about a government takeover of health care. I know that sounds scary to many folks. It sounds scary to me, too. But here’s the thing: it’s not true. I no sooner want government to get between you and your doctor than I want insurance companies to make arbitrary decisions about what medical care is best for you, as they do today. As I’ve said from the beginning, under the reform we seek, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your private health insurance plan, you can keep your plan. Period.

Now, the source of a lot of these fears about government-run health care is confusion over what’s called the public option. This is one idea among many to provide more competition and choice, especially in the many places around the country where just one insurer thoroughly dominates the marketplace. This alternative would have to operate as any other insurer, on the basis of the premiums it collects. And let me repeat – it would be just an option; those who prefer their private insurer would be under no obligation to shift to a public plan.

The insurance companies and their allies don’t like this idea, or any that would promote greater competition.  I get that.  And I expect there will be a lot of discussion about it when Congress returns.

But this one aspect of the health care debate shouldn’t overshadow the other important steps we can and must take to reduce the increasing burdens families and businesses face.

So let me stress them again: If you don’t have insurance, you will finally have access to quality coverage you can afford. If you do have coverage, you will benefit from more security and more stability when it comes to your insurance. If you move, lose your job, or change jobs, you will not have to worry about losing health coverage. And we will set up tough consumer protections that will hold insurance companies accountable and stop them from exploiting you with unfair practices.

We’ll prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage because of a person’s medical history. They will not be able to drop your coverage if you get sick. They will not be able to water down your coverage when you need it most.  They will no longer be able to place some arbitrary cap on the amount of coverage you can receive in a given year or a lifetime. We’ll place a limit on how much you can be charged for out-of-pocket expenses, because no one in America should go broke because they get sick.

And we will require insurance companies to cover routine checkups and preventive care, like mammograms and colonoscopies. There’s no reason we shouldn’t be catching diseases like breast cancer and colon cancer on the front end. That makes sense, it saves lives, and it will also save money over the long-run.  Taken together, the reforms we’re seeking will help bring down skyrocketing costs, which will mean real savings for families, businesses, and government.

We know what a failure to act would bring: More of the same. More of the same exploding costs. More of the same diminished coverage. If we fail to act, the crisis will grow. More families will go without coverage. More businesses will be forced to drop or water down their plans.

So we can push off the day of reckoning and fail to deal with the flaws in the system, just as Washington has done, year after year, decade after decade. Or we can take steps that will provide every American family and business a measure of security and stability they lack today.

It has never been easy, moving this nation forward. There are always those who oppose it, and those who use fear to block change. But what has always distinguished America is that when all the arguments have been heard, and all the concerns have been voiced, and the time comes to do what must be done, we rise above our differences, grasp each others’ hands, and march forward as one nation and one people, some of us Democrats, some of us Republicans, all of us Americans.

This is our chance to march forward. I cannot promise you that the reforms we seek will be perfect or make a difference overnight. But I can promise you this: if we pass health insurance reform, we will look back many years from now and say, this was the moment we summoned what’s best in each of us to make life better for all of us.

This was the moment when we built a health care system worthy of the nation and the people we love. This was the moment we earned our place alongside the greatest generations. And that is what our generation of Americans is called to do right now.   ###


Photo credits: From top, Associated Press; Office of Rep. Tom Price; Ron Edmonds / Associated Press

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