Three members of Congress framed the healthcare reform debate for attendees at the Federation of American Hospitals annual meeting in Washington this morning.
Rep. Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, advocated for President Barack Obamas healthcare proposals. The president intends to build on the current system by expanding federal programs and making private health plans more affordable, Waxman said. That mix of public and private insurance, including a government health plan that consumers can purchase, will ensure a creative tension of competition in healthcare.
Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) said a government-run health plan that competes with commercial health insurance would eventually put the private plans out of business. Blunt, who leads a House Republican task force on healthcare policy, said the role of government is to organize the system by setting rules, but not to run the system. He contended that Obamas plan to fund research into comparative effectiveness of treatments was a step toward rationing care.
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) billed himself as the bipartisan radical centrist speaker. Warner said spending more federal money toward the goal of universal coverage must be put in the context of the $2.4 trillion the CMS estimates was spent on healthcare in the U.S. in 2008. Providers must be prepared for the three Is of healthcare reform, Warner said. Those are infrastructure (healthcare IT investment, in particular), information (using those systems to determine what works clinically and to measure it) and incentives. Warner also said he supports medical liability relief based on providers who follow proven clinical standards and a national debate on end-of-life care.