Leaders mull health summit ultimatums

U.S. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) speaks to the media after President Obama's health care reform summit while Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-AZ) looks on.


Steve Chiotakis: As the day breaks in our nation's capital, President Obama and congressional leaders are mulling ultimatums in the health care reform debate. That's after a marathon session yesterday with no agreement and lots of frayed nerves and uneasy smiles. Marketplace's Gregory Warner reports.

Gregory Warner: Health care was the subject and cost was the context of yesterday's summit. President Obama made the case for reform:

President Obama: It's absolutely critical for us to begin now moving on what is one of the biggest drags on our economy and represents one of the biggest hardships that families face.

The president defended the Democratic legislation, which would create a new marketplace for insurance. That plus an expansion of Medicaid would cover 31 million more people.

Republicans called for a do-over on the Democratic effort. Senator Tom Coburn, speaking for his party, said the Democratic proposal did not fix the misincentives in the health care system.

Tom Coburn: One out of every $3 that gets spent doesn't help anybody get well and doesn't prevent anybody from gettin sick.

Beyond the position statements, the president expressed new support for malpractice reform, which many doctors and Republicans support. But he told Repubicans he'll move forward with a bill without them.

The president's challenge will be getting Democrats on the same page. Democrats said they'd like to reconcile their House and Senate bills before March.

In Philadelphia, I'm Gregory Warner for Marketplace.

About the author

Gregory Warner is a senior reporter covering the economics and business of healthcare for the entire Marketplace portfolio.
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Voters see mandatory health insurance for what it is (a deal with the devil). Lawmakers, you're gonna get burned.
I am lucky enough to have a job. But because we get health insurance through our employer, our wages are shrinking. By an inverse logic, (the old workers subsidizing the young) we should get car insurance from our employers too. Really, the only thing employers should provide is a wage; preferably a fair one!
Medicare cannot survive if only costly seniors are eligible. Young and healthy citizens are willing to pay into it, SO LET THEM!

“Beyond the position statements, the president expressed new support for malpractice reform, which many doctors and Republicans support, which many doctors and Republicans support.”

Does Obama mean reducing malpractice, reducing malpractice awards or malpractice insurance premiums? If docs and Republicans support it then I assume he means the latter and probably awards as well. But awards for malpractice have averaged about two percent of aggregate health care costs for decades. Second, they reflect malpractice in a broad way: where hospitals and medical boards are especially lax about policing malpractice there are more malpractice suits, all other things being equal.

The fundamental problem is the profession’s condoning malpractice and wrong doing itself. Far better to allow a fellow doc to continue harming / killing patients than break ranks and fink on him / her. These are the values of the Mafia. “First do no harm to the profession or one’s brothers in practice” is their overriding principle. Unfortunately, tort action is the only institutional mechanism for impeding a slide into greater patient abuse. It’s inefficient because malpractice suits and awards do not correlate well with actual harm, plaintiffs often must be able to afford an attorney, and then the attorney rips off the victim again through outrageously high fees. Lawyers are a class of socio-economic parasite, but they play a useful role in the current medical care ecology.

In the 1970s many more people died in the OR because of anesthesia malpractice. An engineer spent time in the OR studying the machines and procedures. He found, for example, that turning the dial on one anesthetic machine increased anesthesia whereas it reduced in on another. People died. His recommended standardizing how all the machines functioned. Eventually that was done, deaths decreased and so did malpractice suits and awards.

The problem Obama is trying to solve through his pandering and demagoguery is to coop a Republican issue and get garner campaign money from the medical profession, the AMA and other professional medical unions that would rather fight and reform themselves.

What pisses me off about current health care legislation is people trying to micromanage stuff like Flexible Spending Accounts. If I had to limit mine from 3k to 1k I don't know how I'd get any type of health care for my juvenile diabetes. Even though the money is mine my company puts it there all at once and it's great for stuff like root canals or other big expenses.

Congress needs to learn how to fix the system without trying to micromanage it. It's their micromanagement of Medicare that has helped create the problem with our pay per procedure system.

We have have medical tort reform in Texas and it did NOT lower insurance premiums or health care costs to the consumer. It did result in hospitals saying insurance companies should cover the cost of their mistakes, and insurance companies saying that hospitals should cover the cost of their mistakes, and patients being left with the bill for the mistakes.

A friend of mine had surgery and got a blood clot from it. And got a staph infection from fixing the clot. Even she has full insurance, she now owes $150,000 out of pocket.

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