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tv   [untitled]  CSPAN  June 4, 2009 10:00pm-10:30pm EDT

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exact number, but i think it's overwhelming that people think that the government needs to be a player here in providing health care. ms. woolsey: keith, when one in every three americans under the age of 65 was uninsured at some point in 2007 and 2008, imagine every one of those people knows that they weren't being taken care of, that they needed something that was not available to them. ms. schakowsky: what's the answer? how many? mr. ellsworth: which comes closer to your -- mr. ellison: which ones comes closer to your view, 33% said no. not one person in this body who wouldn't feel pretty good about those numbers. 65% is pretty good for anything, overwhelming as you said.
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that leads me to a question that i want to offer to all three of you. do america cans want the change we're talking about or is this some sort of like a lefty, far out-there view point? do you have any points of view on this? . ms. hirono: i think when the public finds out what we're talking about with the public option, they'll like it, it's choice. when the american public receives accurate information instead of being scared to death, i think they know what the appropriate answers are. that's what we're doing tonight to talk about these options that we have to talk about, what kind of focus we should have in terms of how we're going to use our health care dollar, are we going to use it for prevention, for primary
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care, are we going to make those kinds of decisions with regard to how we spend $2 trillion every year, we hope we can reduce that but with accurate information, i think the american public is perfectly able to make the correct decisions, the appropriate decisions for us. ms. schakowsky: i was on fox news not long ago, they said, how do you know that the government is going to be able to really provide health care and it's not going to be just another big, expensive bureaucracy. i said we don't have to guess about it. we can take a look at the record of the provision of health care and it's not just the low overhead cost, you go into a room of older americans, 65 and older, and i'm proud now to have my medicare card, just got it last week, and you say, republicans or democrats, you
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know, do you think we should just get rid of medicare and send you out into the private market? actually, that's what we did with the prescription drug program. and there isn't going to be a person in that room who would support that kind of idea. people are longing to get old enough, hoping to make it, until they get on medicare because it really is a very effective program. could it be bet her it could be better. we could have a medicare prescription drug plan. that would be a whole lot better than a private plan, of course. ms. hirono: will the gentlewoman yield? ms. schakowsky: of course. ms. hirono: when you talk about the people who are getting to medicare, our country is a rapidly aging country. hawaii has one of the fastest-aging populations in the entire country. so the issue of health care
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coverage and how we're going to do it is very much on people's minds. when you talk about, you know, how are people supposed to take care of their long-term care needs? that is a huge, huge concern in our country. and so, what we should be also talking about is, how are we going to help our elders age in place as opposed to having to be institutionalized where the costs are so much greater? so there are so many choices that we can be making that truly enables the people of our clint to sleep soundly at night knowing their needs will be cared for. ms. woozesee: one of the things we're going to -- ms. woolsey: one thing we'll hear is we can't make the insurance companies compete with a public plan. it won't be fair to the insurance companies. excuse me, the insurance
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companies have a huge marketing budget. they have overhead that's so much more than the public medicare program. ms. schakowsky: i've heard their c.e.o.'s get paid pretty well. ms. woolsey: and their c.e.o.'s get paid so much. if they can't compete with the public plan, too bad. they'll either, you know, plus up and get better and pay their c.e.o.'s so much, or more people will go on the public plan. if we have a good public plan, over the years, and i don't know how long it will be, it can lead to a single, universal coverage. ms. schakowsky: what we're going to have is an exchange that will allow for all these different choices for americans, but let's face it, even the private companies now are going to have to play by different rules. for example, preexisting conditions are not going to be
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a reason to execute anyone, public or private plan, any longer. there will be some defined benefits that have to be covered. so you don't find out when you get sick that uh oh, this isn't covered and we thought it was. you talked, congresswoman hirono, about transparency and all of this, this whole business, industry, of health care, which it really is in this country now, is going to be much more family friendly. people friendly. where you can understand, actually, what you're getting and then you can decide what you want. mr. ellison: can i just ask a question here? what is wrong, i think as progressive we was to address this question. what's wrong with having a single payer? let me say, 2,275 people wanted to know that and that was from www.progressivecongress.org.
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ms. woolsey: i was actually in 1993 the freshman, my freshman, first month, sworn into this house of representatives, i was the first one, first freshman to sign on to the single payer bill. it was then jim mcdermott was the author. and i have been a single payer supporter. i would be so happy if we could move into single payer. the arguments i hear make some sense that we couldn't -- by disrupting everything right now at once would be more harmful than putting together a plan that can get to the single payer. but i can tell you in my district, i represent marin and sonoma counties. when i say what i just said a that we're not pushing for single payer because, although
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the great majority -- 90% of the progressive caucus would vote for a single payer right now, today. that's not 90% of the house and senate. but when i tell my constituents that, i'm telling you, they look like they could cry. they are so disappointed in me. i mean, it's like, what? you? ms. schakowsky: when you ask the american people if you want either private or public or a choice of the two, the overwhelming response is that people want to have the choice of a private or a public. and that we -- so what we're doing now is building on what people feel comfortable with. we certainly don't want to have people worrying that they're going to lose something that they feel pretty good about
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right now. i think that the notion of having this competition between the two is the kind of plan that can move us forward to get everyone covered in the united states of america. we'll see how this multiplicity of choices evolves or turns out or maybe it'll be the thing that can last and be successful in providing all americans with health insurance. we just want to make -- we're not in the business of scaring people that they're going to lose something that they find really works for them, but we're instead in the business of giving people rational, good choices. mr. ellison: i will not vote for any health care that does not include a public option. i will not do it. that's a guaranteed no vote.
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ky not be dissuaded from that. i will say i am a dedicated single payer advocate. i'll continue to raise this issue, i have before. but the fact is, politics is the art of the possible. we do have the limitation as the gentlelady from california mentioned of not having 100% of all the congress yet being progressives. so we have to do what we have to do. i have absolute faith that with a public option along the lines of medicaid, medicare, or the v.a., that it will out-compete what these other guys are doing and you know, if they can't out-compete them, that's fine, but the fact is, i believe they will. let me yield to the gentlelady. do you want to respond to this question that 2,275 people ask from www.progressivecongress.org, do you want to ask that question, what's wrong with single pay her merchandise hirono: i don't
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think there's anything wrong with the single payer, but we're dealing with a lot of interest and -- interests and ideas and as president obama said, this is a time when all of the perspectives ought to be given consideration and due respect. i think that moving this discussion to a consideration of a public insurance option is a pretty large step in my view. if you add that in addition to the promoting of the use of informational technology for medical records and other things we can do to move the ball. quality medical care for more people and visit affordable, and what we're talking about right now with the options, moves in that direction.
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mr. ellison: we've got a progressive america out there, they have certain things they want answered. another question is, why do insurance companies have so much input into the health care reform debate? that's 1,704 people asked that question. why do insurance companies have so much input into the health care reform debate. do any of you want to grab that one? ms. woolsey: i'll make a stab at it. they are organized. they have associations. they have a lot of money and they'll spend that money on advertising, they'll spend that money on helping members of congress get elected and i'm not saying that every member of congress that takes donations from anybody or any industry votes with them. but i'm saying they -- mr. ellison: it sure helps. ms. woolsey: this particular industry has wielded a lot of money and a lot of power around
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this congress and -- but it's mostly that they've been able to choke off the information at the -- that the grass roots has -- was not able to receive the first time around. that is not going to happen again. we are not going to let that happen. all the money in the world is not going to be able to close down our voices, the thousands of people that are emailing us on our congress.org and they know we're with them and we're going to keep this. the democrats are with them for the most part. we are going to make it happen. the president is with them. mr. ellison: if the gentlelady will yield back, i want to remind everybody by saying that
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president obama did say if we were starting a health care system from scratch, he would be pushing single payer, but we're not. you have people who have vested interests, who have settled expectations, and so, you know, if people aren't committed to the plan they have, there are people who want to do that. under no circumstances can they deny people for preexisting conditions and things like that. do you want to take another question? here is an important question people have, why can't the public have the same insurance that members of congress have? 953 people wanted to know that. ms. schakowsky: that's what we're talking about, making sure everybody has a plan at least as good as the members of congress. it can be even better. you know, our federal employee benefit plan, we have a choice
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of only private insurance companies that we can pick from. i think maybe people think that we have, and i'm certainly not complaining. we can pick a good plan. but you know, it's not like cadillac insurance. we pick among a number of different insurance policies, some better, some that provide less coverage, depending on how much you want to spend. and -- but what we'll give people is something as good as congress gets and i think better if there is this choice of a public option. . ms. woolsey: i echo congresswoman schakowsky. so i won't take up your time. so you can ask another question.
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mr. ellison: what is going to take -- excuse me. what is it going to take for you , i think they mean us -- to wake up and smell the catastrophe that profit health care is? ms. schakowsky: let me say something, first of all, i don't know what a catastrophe smells like, but i think a lot of people out there are getting the whiff of what a wreckage the current so-called -- we don't have a health care system. it's a hodge-podge. talking about even our federal plan, between 2007 and 2008, 14 different insurance plans dropped out of the federal employees' plan. and so thousands of federal employees, a plan like we do, had to look for new coverage.
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and so when you've got a public option, it's going to be there. it's not going to go out of business and have you have to search around for something to replace it. ms. woolsey: for senior care, h.p.o.'s took on senior kay, medicare advantage, et cetera, i went to one of my providers in my district, and they were telling me about this wonderful plan that was very good and i say, what are you going to do when people start using it? and they looked at me. and guess what? in 2 1/2 years when seniors started using the plan they purchased, this group went out of business. and those seniors had to find someplace else in the district because people were using the plan. mr. ellison: if the gentlelady yields back, it's easy to make
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money after you have collected the money than when you have to pay it out. ms. schakowsky: there are a lot of people who feel as if the health insurance is for the healthy. if you get sick, forget it, it's not always there for you. we all know that. mr. ellison: if the gentlelady would yield back. many insurance companies, i think the whole industry identifies when a person goes to a doctor and needs to use that coverage, they call that a medical loss. they see that as a loss to them thates messing with their money when somebody says, hey, i actually need to use this coverage that i'm paying an arm and a leg for. that's why these companies are going out of business. it's not designed to do that. we talk about medical and how medical expenses cost families tremendously and also ends up
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people declaring bankruptcy. that's one side of the coin. the other side of the coin is the overwhelming amount of profit that the industry makes. and i just want to point out that in an industry where you have c.e.o.'s making $1.6 billion like the united health group made, how can you get that kind of money unless a whole lot of people are not getting something, the health care they should get? how can you have these profits that people are turning over and still cover everybody? you can't do it. you either have to cut people out of coverage, deny claims and pay profits or you have to run a decent system that extends coverage, but in that case, you don't have people making gobs of money. so you have to make a basic and essential choice. ms. hirono: as i had mentioned,
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that is generally the states of regulated companies. most states do not have the kind of resources or even the laws that allow them to look at what the health care insurance companies are doing, how they're basing their cost increases or their premium increases. so there really is a lack of transparency and accountability. and when you don't have the ability to look at the relationship between the rates they're charging and what the claimsr how can you even begin to say that peoples' needs are actually being met or that cost containment is actually occurring? you can't. mr. ellison: cost containment, remember any time i charge you and you pay me, i now have made some money, right? this is america. and we have a free enterprise
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system. but there is such thing as abuse. profits at 10 of the country's largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428% -- i would say that's pretty good -- from 2000 to 2007. in 2007 alone, the chef executive officers at these companies collected a combined total compensation of $118 million, an average of $11.9 million each. if it's an average, some made more, some made less. and the fact is there is 468 times more than the $25,000 a year that an average american worker makes in a year. these folks are making 468 times more than the average wage of an average worker in the united
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states. and we're wondering why we've got problems. no wonder why we have problems. that's why we need a universal single-payer system. if we can't get it now, let's get a system where you keep your insurance and have a public option. ms. schakowsky: we have heard horror stories for years about how insurance companies hire people who are essentially told, at least on the first day, just to deny the procedure, to just say no. and there was -- i remember a very brave doctor who ended up working for an insurance company and denying a procedure for somebody who actually died. and she came to cleanse her soul to essentially apologize, left that company with enormous amount of guilt and said that that's how the business
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operated. and what we're trying to create is a health system, a health care system, not one that is designed to make anybody a profit. it's to keep people healthy. and that's what i said to an insurance company. how are we going to compete? i said look, the object of this policy discussion is to figure out how are we going to provide health care to americans. if companies can make money doing that and working within the system that we prescribe, god bless them. that's what we're heading toward right now. but the goal is not to figure out how to maintain their high profits when it's done at the expense of the health care of millions and millions of americans. that's the bottom line. ms. woolsey: if the gentlewoman would yield, insurers have
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increased premiums 87% over the last six years. and the premiums have doubled in the last nine years, increasing four times faster than wages. so, what for? to pay the high salaries of the c.e.o.'s and hire more bean counters? mr. ellison: let's get -- we have 30 seconds to go. and congresswoman hirono is going to be the last word. this is the congressional progressive caucus. ms. hirono: health care is a right and not a privilege and everyone in our country deserves quality, affordable health care with choice. mr. ellison: that pretty much does it. this has been the progressive caucus with the progressive message. and we'll see you next week. and i yield back. the speaker pro tempore: the gentleman's time has expired.
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under the speaker's announced policy of january 6, 2009, the gentlewoman from from wyoming, mrs. lummis is recognized for 60 minutes as the designee of the minority leader. mrs. lummis: i'm a member of congress from wyoming. i'm a freshman and a republican. this is the first time that the freshman republicans have engaged in a special order and it's my privilege to be joined by members of the republican freshman. this is our opportunity to share with you our perspective on these first five months in congress that we have shared together as freshmen, to tell you about ourselves and about our views about this process, about where we have been in the last five months and as fiscal
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conservatives the nation should be going instead. and i'm pleased to be joined, first of all, but one of my freshmen colleagues who has a very interesting background. glenn thompson from pennsylvania is, in addition to his professional career, a volunteer firefighter and has volunteered for the boy scouts for 30 years. i yield to him to talk to you about why he chose to run for congress and what he is accomplishing here and how he feels that if this congress could work together more closely on fiscal conservativism, how this nation would currently be better off and on the road to recovery. i yield to mr. thompson. mr. thompson: i thank the gentlewoman from wyoming and it's a pleasure to be with you tonight here and sharing our reflections on these first five
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months as members of the 111th congress. it's an honor to serve in congress. in health care, my background was health care and i had one boss and today i have 660,000 very smart people that i work for in pennsylvania's 5th congressional district and it's an honor to serve those individuals and this great nation. and i'm proud to be part of this freshman republican class. we come with diverse backgrounds, as you began to talk about. but we have a common characteristic of being real change to congress and it's change that the american citizens deserve and need to have. it's a vision of fiscal accountability, preserving individual freedom and liberty and returning america to the values that this country was built upon. and you have touched -- the gentlelady has really touched off with the first one for this evening's discussion, fiscal
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responsibility and i would put in fiscal accountability and transparency, in terms of how the taxpayers' dollars are spent. we are trusted and we have a responsibility to make sure that the -- those dollars that the american citizens worked hard for, that they are spent wisely in washington and only on those things that should be spent on and spend in ways that it's accountable. washington, d.c. doesn't have a revenue problem but a spending problem. we hear time and time again with the legislation be proposed, well, under the last administration, we had a spending problem. as a freshman class, we recognize that and we agree with it. that's one of the reasons we came to washington because we knew there was out of control spending here and the american people did he serve better -- deserve better. and they experience that in their household budgets every
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day. american families make tough decisions. they don't -- they don't go out and do deficit spending and fill up their credit cards and take out loans where they have no idea who is going to lend them the money. but the federal government has been doing that. the republican freshmen came here to restore fiscal accountability and responsibility. that's why we are united in imposing the wasteful stimulus or stuless bill. before i came to congress, i had no idea how many zeros were in a trillion and i didn't think it was physically possible to spend $2 trillion in three months. but my friends and colleagues, democratic colleagues proved me wrong with that. and in the president's first 100 days, it's estimated he spent

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