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Kline calls health plan with public option a 'recipe for disaster'

Rep. John Kline
Rep. John Kline

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Rep. John Kline and other Republicans spoke out fiercely today against the inclusion of a public option in any health-care reform legislation, saying that it could drive private insurers out of business and would essentially create a single-payer system — something they contend would lead to limited care and a bureaucratic mess.

"If Democrats are serious about including a so-called government-run 'option' in their plan — and if a government-run 'option' is designed to crowd out the private sector — then the reality is that we are only a few steps away from a single payer system," said Kline at a House Education Subcommittee hearing today on the benefits and risks of a single-payer health-care option.


Kline, who is ranking member of the Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions, added that "creating a one-size-fits-all health care system modeled on Medicare is a recipe for disaster."

His comments came on the heels of recently unveiled health-care reform proposals in the House and Senate, which include public options, and criticism from single-payer proponents that their plan has not been fully considered.

"There is some notion that a universal single-payer plan is off the table," said Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., a leading supporter of a single-payer system who testified today before the subcommittee. "Well that raises a very important question. If you take the most popular health care reform measure and take it off the table, heaven knows what you are left with?"

One ABCNews/Wasthingon Post poll showed that Americans would prefer a universal health insurance program over the current employer-based system by 62 to 32 percent. A May survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & Press found that 86 percent of Americans agree that "government needs to do more to make healthcare affordable and accessible." The same study, however, found that nearly half of Americans, or 46 percent, "say they are concerned about government becoming too involved in health care."

"Attempting to reconcile the dual imperatives of universal coverage and cost control through alternative methods besides single payer is an exercise in futility," said panelist Dr. Walter Tsou, a national board advisor for the Physicians for a National Health Program. "Single-payer is the only reform that can control health care costs. It does so by cutting insurance firms' profits, streamlining the massive administrative apparatus, negotiating fee schedules with physicians, and putting hospitals on predictable global budgets."

'Government wears it'
But panelist Dr. David Gratzer, a senior fellow at the conservative Manhattan Institute, pointed to potential problems that he had witnessed in Canada's single-payer model, which strives to cover everyone and is less expensive than the U.S. system.

"The limits of a single-payer insurance are a consequence of a common political reality," Gratzer said in a prepared statement. "If government funds it, government wears it."

Gratzer mentioned the potential for longer waiting periods and reduced access to cutting-edge medicines and technology as possible pitfalls.

That said, Democratic leaders, including President Obama, have indicated that a single-payer system is not in the cards right now. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., who chairs the Finance Committee, recently said that he was not open to the idea.

Meanwhile, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said this week on C-SPAN that Baucus wouldn't be open to a single-payer plan "in a million years."

In the House, the Blue Dog Coalition has said that they want strict limits on any government-run insurance option. After Tuesday's unveiling, leaders of the group said they still had many questions.

"I'm against the single payer plan," said Blue Dog Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat, on Wednesday. "There's no chance that it's going to pass."

The proposals in both chambers are broadly similar and are aimed at expanding coverage to about 46 million uninsured Americans, reducing costs and giving patients the option to choose between private plans and a public option. The House version (PDF) is a four-page outline, while the Senate version is a full 615-page bill. (PDF)

While it is difficult to compare the two versions because the House version is so incomplete, both plans seek to provide low-income subsidy programs, expand Medicare and limit factors that insurance companies can use to restrict availability, such as pre-existing conditions. The Senate is expected to markup versions of its bill this month. The House is not expected to take up its version until July.

Rep. Michele Bachmann
Rep. Michele Bachmann

Bachmann bill
Still, Republicans like Kline and Rep. Michele Bachmann remained unconvinced Wednesday that the public option proposals were anything more than a short stop on the way to a single-payer system.

"I don't like that [the public plan] at all," said Kline. "Because the way I look at it is down the road it will push us very quickly into a single-payer plan."

Bachmann has introduced her own health-care bill, which would essentially provide tax deductibility for individuals' medical expenses.

"They're trying to sell the illusion that the public plan will simply compete with private insurers," said Bachmann in a statement. "But when they say public-option, they are sowing the seeds for what will ultimately become a fully government-run program."

Cynthia Dizikes covers Minnesota's congressional delegation and reports on issues and developments in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at cdizikes[at]minnpost[dot]com.

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Comments (26)

For Kline, Bachmann and all their wealthy friends who profit mightily off a healthcare system which costs the most and produces the worst results in the entire industrialized Western world...

More and more of your fellow Americans are already facing, fearing, or experiencing disaster as the result of the medical system currently in place - the one by which your own friends and acquaintances (i.e. your campaign contributors) are growing richer day by day.

But "disaster" for you and yours is likely to bring major improvements for the rest of us.

Any plan that does not shift incentives and massively redesign how, where, and how much profit is produced by medical care (all of which you and yours may find to have a severe negative impact on your undeserved massive bank balances), will mean continued disaster for the general public.

No matter how loudly you beat your drums on weasel news and the MSM, no matter how much you whine and snivel and keen to the heavens in your attempts to get us to buy your B.S., it's likely the American Public will ignore Harry and Louise or your marauding bulldozers (or is that B.S. dozers) and finally choose and force their elected politicians to choose their own well being over your own.

Way to go Mr. Kline! You love it that only 75% of employers offer health care. You love it that many employees (60%) cannot afford it. You love it that costs have doubled and that co-pays have gone gone up 30%. Congrats. Here's to victory.

The question the article fails to ask is this: why should remote parties -- not the doctors and nurses and technicians performing the health care; not the makers of machines used in delivering health care services; not the makers producing pills and substances used in health care treatment, but insurance company executives and shareholders -- benefit from those in need of health care treatment?

It's one thing to say it would be disastrous for government to deliver health care services. It would be difficult to imagine doctors working as government employees treating patients. It's quite another thing to say that it will be disastrous for the government (which runs Medicare successfully) to act as the insurer. Anyone who has ever read a health care bill -- the one that comes from the physician and the one that comes from the insurer -- knows that there are more efficient ways to run a health care system. The insurer is just a for-profit layer within the system.

It would be interesting to see if the government could provide the medical reimbursement in a more competitive way than the current insurance system. My hunch is that the government would be able to run a better health care reimbursement program than the for-profit providers can. I may be wrong, but health care, today, works in a very inefficient manner, with the administrative apparatus negotiating reimbursement rates with clinics all over the country. It would seem the Medicare syle (or a plan that resembles this one) would keep costs lower than the for-profit insurance plan.

Oops I meant to write that over 40% cannot afford private insurance.

Amen, Greg.

I find it very interesting that the ones who fight the hardest against health care reform for the masses are the same ones who receive massive political contributions from the health insurance industry and/or Big Pharma. They are also the ones who receive top of the line, SINGLE-PAYER health care through the Government.

I have an idea! Why don't these same Representatives and Senators drop the health care they receive at taxpayer expense and go out on the open market and find coverage on their own? Pre-existing condition? Sorry. How about a mini-med plan like what I currently 'enjoy'? Maximum benefit per year is $8000. That's going to go a long way if I need to be hospitalized.

What...don't like 'socialized' medicine? We already have it. Anyone over a certain age has it--it's called Medicare.

All I want is what they already enjoy--the knowledge that one major health incident won't mean bankuptcy and foreclosure. They have neglected this issue long enough. NOW is the time to act.

The government already pays faster and often better on a clean claim( I am a pathologist)than insurance companies. We spend hours filing claims with insurance companies that are turned down for wrong reasons. The patients are told misinformation by the insurers. The patients then call to blame my office for the mistake. Then we call the insurance companies who now say that the person the patient spoke to was weong. The insurance companies cut rates and only release full fee schedules online when the rates go into effect. If you want to talk to your provider representative, you send emails and phone for six to eight months before you get a response. Then,if the fees are changed, it takes at least one more montH to load the new fee schedule into the system. The insurance system is either broken or more probably is set up to discourage providers from ever trying to get paid. Doctors are fleeing medicine because they cannot stand insurance companies!

I don't get it.

We don't have to guess what socialized medicine means, or how it works...or more precisely, how it doesn't.

Thanks to Algore, we have the internets; we can read news papers and official publications from countries that have socialized their medical professions.

Read about three month waits for routine procedures in Canada. Read about 40% of every dollar collected (with a 49% marginal tax rate) being "not enough". Read about the re-emergence of the private medical profession.

Or, if Canada isn't your cup o' tea, check into the mess the Germans, the French and the English have gotten themselves into.

If, after reading the facts, you can still claim to be a true believer in socialist health care.....you are a unrepentant socialist and not worth listening to.

Period. End of story.

The Supreme Court has consistently found that giving money to political campaigns is a form of protected speech. With hundreds of billions of dollars at stake, it’s amazing to me how LITTLE money the health care industry has to give to get their puppets to speak out in defense of their profits.

Here are some figures culled from OpenSecrets.org as to how much money has been given (since 1989) by health care PACs to the people mentioned in this article as opponents of single payer. Download their spreadsheet showing the specific total donations per Senator and Congressperson at:

http://www.opensecrets.org/news/Health%20Insurance_to_111th.xls…

$ 655,899 to Max Baucus
$ 99,400 to John Kline
$ 45,250 to Collin Peterson
$ 45,950 to Michelle Bachmann

Now, here's an industry that knows how to "speak" and get things done !! Where else can you get this kind of Return On Investment ??

Single payer or some variation of it, will be the impetus that will force the health care insurers to trim their overhead.

As it is, there is no serious competition among the insurers to allow the insurers to rethink their business model. As far as they are concerned, theirs is a perfect business model.

One of the above comments sounds vaguely like the insurance industry's talking points.

Socialized medicine, leftist this, leftist that. Sounds as if you miss ole Joe McCarthy.

Between ratification of a sane Universal Health Care System and putting a stopper on fraudulent Cap-and-Trade the money at issue is staggering!!!

WHAT???!!! Universal Health Care has been implemented by ALL other developed countries!!!

WHAT???!!! Under Cap-and-Trade the Energy Industry simply passes on Higher Costs directly to the consumer—with NO decrease in emissions!!!

Here Read:

+ Canadian Health Insurance: Lessons for the United States / Government Accountability Office (GAO):

--“If the universal coverage and single-payer features of the Canadian system were applied in the United States, the savings in administrative cost alone would be more than enough to finance insurance coverage for the millions of Americans who are currently uninsured.”

+ Single-Payer Protests Challenge Democrats / Washington Post, 06/06/09:

--“The White House and Democratic leaders have made clear there is no chance that Congress will adopt a single-payer approach -- named for the idea that a single government-backed insurance plan would pay for all Americans' medical costs -- because it is too radical a change.”

+ The Truth About Drug Companies / Mother Jones:

“… Angell attacks major pharmaceutical industry -- whose top ten companies make more in profits than the rest of the Fortune 500 COMBINED -- for using “free market” rhetoric while opposing competition at all costs.”

Why not Universal Health Care with a $25 deductible after the first annual visit?

+ The Case Against Carbon Trading / Transnational Institute:

–”…Citigroup’s Peter Atherton confessed that the European Union’s Emission Trading Scheme had ‘done nothing to curb emissions.’ He admitted, ‘Prices up, emissions up, profits up …’ Who wins and loses? Coal and nuclear-based generators–biggest winners. Hedge funds and energy traders–even bigger winners. Losers … Consumers!”

Why not institute a simple Cap system, with 0-interest Govt. loans when necessary…

Based on my experience with health insurance companies, it would be a good thing to put them all out of business. My experience with government run Social Security and Medicare have been near perfect....

Republicans apparently think people want insurance.

People want health care, not insurance.

The comments of Representatives Kline and Bachmann show how deeply divided Americans are. So some insurance companies will have to shrink and others will be annihilated. This is a bad thing? They have prospered to the immense cost of the American people: lower life expectancy and higher infant mortality than in Europe with double the health care costs; 40% of the population not covered; and half of all personal bankruptcies caused by medical expenses. No nation may have a flawless system, but what shortcomings are as bad as ours in the healthcare systems of Canada, the UK, Germany, France? And yet Kline and Bachmann expect us to be concerned that these bloodsuckers might go out of business? The part of every intelligent American is to ignore the dying screams of these companies, not to mention shrug off their desperate arguments for being allowed to continue in operation. Oh yes, and ignore their legislative lapdogs as well.

"If, after reading the facts, you can still claim to be a true believer in socialist health care.....you are a unrepentant socialist and not worth listening to."

I have four questions for the conservatives who consistently spread this message.

1) All of these other countries are democracies. If the people there don't like their systems, why don't they change them?

2) All of these other countries spend considerably less than we do. Is it not conceivable that we continue to spend more than they do and improve on their systems?

3) Does the fact that in just about every measure the U.S. has health statistics that look like those of a third-world country? How are these numbers not more valuable than your dubious anecdotes?

4) How do you instead propose to deal with the fact that our current system is clearly broken?

I've heard the Thomas Swifts spout off their same horror stories a million times but have never seen an answer to any of these questions.

We have 45 million folks who do not have health insurance. Nearly twice as many that are uninsured over some period of time due to losing their employer provided insurance.

When anyone of these individuals or their family members goes to the emergency room to receive care. Who do you think pays for it? If you answered you and me, you would be correct.

The question that most are asking, is there a way in which we can create an entire system, where everyone is paying a bit.

Obviously there will be those that will be unable to pay any or perhaps only a little bit.

The goal is so that we are able to control costs and share the costs more broadly. To move back to a more community orientation with regard to health care access.

By arguing to protect the status quo does nothing to reduce costs, or to provide health care insurance to the uninsured and to share the costs more broadly. The road that we are currently traveling with health care is clearly unsustainable. Specifically with regard to the impact on long term debt in our country.

My friend, Anton Chaitkin, whose father led the boycott movement against Hitler's Germany during the 1930's, spoke at the Obama hearings.

The Federal Coordinating Council Comparative Effectiveness Research held a meeting, televised live on the WEB, known as a "listening session" for public comments on their proposals for setting funding priorities for CER.

He said, "President Obama has put in place a reform apparatus reviving the euthanasia of Hitler Germany in 1939, that began the genocide there. The apparatus here, is to deny medical care to elderly, chronically-ill and poor people, and thus save, as the President said, 2-3 trillion dollars, by taking lives considered "not worthy to be lived," as the Nazi doctors said.

Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel and other avowed cost-cutters on this panel also lead a propaganda movement for euthanasia headquartered at the Hastings Center, of which Dr. Emanuel is a Fellow. They shape public opinion and the medical profession to accept a death culture, such as the Washington State law passed in November to let physicians help kill patients whose medical care is now rapidly being withdrawn in the universal health-care disaster. Dr. Emanuel's movement for Bio-ethics and euthanasia, and this Council's purpose, directly continue the eugenics movement that organized Hitler's killing of patients, and then other costly and supposedly unworthy people.

Dr. Emanuel wrote last October 12 that a crisis, war, and financial collapse would get the frightened public to accept the program. Hitler told Dr. Brandt in 1935 that the euthanasia program would have to wait until the war began, to get the public to go along.

Dr. Emanuel wrote last year that the Hippocratic oath should be junked; doctors should no longer just serve the needs of the patient. Hoche and Bindlings — the German eugenicists — exactly said said the same thing, to start the killing.

You on the Council are drawing up the procedure list to be used to deny care, which will kill millions if it goes ahead in the present world crash. You think, perhaps, that the backing of powerful men — financiers — will shield you from accountability. But you are now in the spotlight. Disband this Council, and reverse the whole course of this Nazi revival — now."

Insurance companies in the country have double and triple the administrative costs (all passed on in the form of higher deductibles, and premiums) than plans elsewhere in the world. Most of those administrative costs are about denying coverage. They take your money, to pay for your health care, and they spend 60 cents on the dollar (or more) trying to avoid paying for your health care. What's fiscally conservative about that?

Health care costs are not outrageously high in America because of insurance companies. Health care costs are out of control because of overutilization.

Simply put: if you build a hospital, doctors will fill every single bed. If you build an MRI machine, you will be able to run people through it 24 horus a day.

Study after study indicates that if you supply health care, doctors will create the demand.

This is not an insurance problem -- it is a utilization problem.

I wonder how many people are aware that virtually every major health insurance company in this country is in full support of universal health care. Single payer is not the only way to provide humane health care to all.

Yesterday the Uptake had audio of John Kline in action on this. It was hilarious. He mentioned how he's used to 40 below temps, being a Minnesotan. What year did he move here from Texas? He's no Minnesotan. He also questioned some health care expert on the subject of Canadians coming to Minnesota for health care. The guy said, yes, people come from all over the world to Minnesota for the fine health care, for example the King of Jordan goes to the Mayo Clinic. Lots of Hollywood stars go to Hazelden, too. So we should be happy we have such fine health care! After all, every Minnesotan has as much money as a king or a movie star.

John Kline needs to go back where he came from, and take Bachmann with him. These people are NOT on the side of the average Minnesotan.

Minnpost reports:
"If Democrats are serious about including a so-called government-run 'option' in their plan — and if a government-run 'option' is designed to crowd out the private sector — then the reality is that we are only a few steps away from a single payer system," said Kline

While I share Rep Kline's concerns about a gov't option turning into single-payer, what I don't see is a viable alternative coming from Rep Kline (or Rep Bachmann, for that matter).

The crux of the issue is that the current system is failing our needs. The 'market' is leaving millions of Americans unserved, or receiving substandard care, which costs us all more in the end, when unpaid emergency room visits are absorbed into hospital budgets that get paid for by the rest of us.

So, the challenge for Reps Kline, Bachmann, et al is to find a way to get the market to solve the problems it is not addressing now. If the market can be made to deliver cost-effective healthcare, then the gov't won't have to step in. If the market continues to fail to deliver, don't be surprised when voters turn to their government to find a solution. Its really quite simple.

RE: Anton Chaitkin's delusions that Obama spearheads a return to Hitlerian eugenics and genocide, and that Ezekiel Emanuel promotes euthanasia...

Mr. Mesaros forgot to point out 2 things:

1. Mr. Chaitkin is one of the acolytes of Lyndon Larouche, that strangest of strange men.

2. At the same hearing, the understandably miffed Dr. Emanuel corrected Chaitkin's misleading diatribe, stating:

"I think I do have a very long record of writing against the legalization of euthanasia." He protested that "the association of me and that, seems a little strange given 25-30 years of writing on the topic against legalization. so just to clarify the record for everyone in the room."

The LaRouche organization is a fountainhead of misinformation, paranoia, and the near-incoherent, comical ramblings of LaRouche himself. Its adherents push their campaign with a single-minded mania, whether LaRouche is in or out of prison. The readers of this site deserve a little warning.

//Health care costs are not outrageously high in America because of insurance companies. Health care costs are out of control because of overutilization.

Sorry dude, this is another one those republican myths. Americans do not "use" more health care than the Germans or French. In fact, per capita our use of medical services is less. So why is their health care cheaper?

This idea that we have too much health care, or that we're insulated from our health care costs simply flies in the face of reality. We pay more for less, it's that simple. The idea that private systems are more efficient is likewise a myth. When you break down the figures, the difference our expensive system and the less expensive systems is not quality of care, it's not consumption, the largest single factor is we pay far more for administration, and drugs. Since the vast majority of our administration takes place in the private sector logic dictates that our private sector is less efficient than the public sector at delivering affordable health care. Their making a ton of money, but we're not health care out of the deal.

It isn't that Americans are "using" more health care. It's that doctors have an incentive to overprovide, order unnecessary and expensive tests, admit patients into hospitals who don't necessarily need it, etc. -- because they make more money that way. Not hard to talk yourself into ordering a test you're not sure a patient needs if you're going to get paid more for ordering it.

If you have a better explanation for why health care utilization -- and therefore costs -- vary markedly in different geographic areas, despite similar demographics and overall health, I'd be happy to listen.

This isn't a Republican myth -- Obama believes it, for one, and I'm pretty sure he's not a Republican.

Ah, if it only would lead to single-payer. If, that is, it survives in any form useful to Americans to actually be voted on.

The public's preference for single payer health care survives despite the propaganda that it (1) removes "choice." The truth is, that like Medicare, patients would have 100% free choice of doctors and other providers. Under the current system, the only "choice" we have is which insurance company we want to allow to tell us which doctors to see, which care they will pay for, and how much their premiums will rise each year.

And (2), the myth that Canadians are unhappy with their system. The truth about long waiting periods is that they occasionally happen to folks planning elective surgery. Anyone needing care now gets care right now.

Another widely circulated myth: Single-payer is "socialized medicine."

Socialized medicine is like the Veterans Administration health service. The government, in the person of the VA, owns all its own hospitals and clinics, employs all its doctors and nurses and other health care workers, and is financed with tax dollars.

Single payer means only that the government is the ONLY insurance company and, as such, sets the amounts it will pay for services and drugs -- as does Medicare. Medicare for the most part employs only administrators and record keepers, which is why its administrative costs are about 2% versus the 20-plus % needed by private insurance to maintain itself. Also, as in Medicare, patients pay modest premiums that reduce the number of taxpayer dollars required.

// It's that doctors have an incentive to overprovide, order unnecessary and expensive tests, admit patients into hospitals who don't necessarily need it, etc. -- because they make more money that way. Not hard to talk yourself into ordering a test you're not sure a patient needs if you're going to get paid more for ordering it.

Again, we're getting less for more, Dr's are NOT overproviding, that's a myth, it may be a myth Obama believes in but it's a still a myth. Again, Insurance companies spend billions of dollars a years denying all these tests, and procedures. The reason Dr's and hospitals charge so much is because their reimbersment rates are low, and their administrative costs associated with billing different payees is very high. We're paying the insurance companies, they're NOT paying the Dr's and Hospitals. Dr's spend hours clearing procedures with insurance companies. And by the way, Dr's only get paid for the procedures they perform, they don't get paid for referrals, and they don't get paid for lab tests etc. that someone else does. At any rate, I repeat, we don't perform any more tests and procedures per capita than other countries with less expensive health care systems.

We have one Dartmouth study claiming that geographical disparities are the result of overutilization. The reality is that there can be a variety of explanations for geographical variations. For instance, Florida is high cost state. Let's say they make more referrals, hospitalize more, etc. They also have a huge senior population that typically requires more health care than a younger population. The fact that they have more hospitlizations doesn't mean they are over hospitalizing.