Senator: Is there enough money on planet to subsidize healthcare?

October 22, 2009

All the government subsidies in the world will not be enough to make health insurance premiums affordable for Americans without more cost control and competition in the proposed sweeping reform backed by President Barack Obama, one Senator says.

No that’s not a Republican talking, it’s a Democrat.

USA/As congressional Democrats work to narrow their differences over healthcare reform some are worried that people will be unable to afford the premiums on the medical coverage they will be required to buy.

Legislation being considered in the Senate and House of Representatives include substantial subsidies, but will that be enough to make insurance affordable? Democratic Senator Ron Wyden does not think so.

“My own theory is there will not be enough subsidy money on the planet to get the kind of affordability if that is the only approach you use,” Wyden said.

“The approach that is going to get more cost containment more quickly for more people is competition and choice,” he said.

Democrats are focusing on creating a new government health plan to compete with private insurers as one way to provide more competition. Republicans are opposed to what the Democrats are proposing.

Democratic Senator Thomas Carper said lawmakers are discussing ways to give states “plenty of options” to provide “competition and choice that works to the advantage of consumers, not insurance companies.”

Beyond a government run insurance plan and nonprofit cooperatives, some ideas being considered include states standing up their own public plans, and allowing states to create compacts to allow plans to be sold across state lines.

Click here for more Reuters political coverage

Photo credit: Reuters/Natalie Behring (Protesters at an HMO in New York in October)

19 comments

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While we may or may not be able to afford public option now really isn’t the main issue. The main issue is the preservation and quality of life for everyone. That is a basic right we have as human beings. To refuse life saving treatment to anyone because of insurance concerns is unconscionable. We do not have the right to decide who lives and who dies depending on whether or not they have insurance. Funding is secondary to life. All the people who claim to be “pro life” should do it and prove it by supporting the public health option.

Posted by mom | Report as abusive

Mandatory insurance without an alternative option is just another way to guarantee insurance companies’ revenue. I don’t see what exactly will be the incentive for insurance providers to actually decrease their premiums.

If the government goes that way, which is the Republicans incline, than at some point the government will need to directly regulate the private insurance business with pricing, acceptable level of profit, etc…what is actually exactly opposite to free market. If not regulated, the cost will bubble, similarly to the housing market, because there will be guaranteed demand – mandatory premiums.

It seems to me, that having the public option and leaving the private insurances free to compete in their niches is the best way to keep the health business less regulated. It may eventually free household disposable income as a boost for the economy too.

Posted by Ananke | Report as abusive

healthcare is very well needed its only selfish republicans who cant be there brothers keeper its not for those who are rich its for the less fortunate people who are of the lower income everybody cant be on top and the people who are on top will have a hard fall look at the bailout they say it takes a village to raise a family well i think that about a nation and if we cant watch for are own people than the people wont watch out for you but you bet your bottom dollar if this country doesnt get healthcare itll be more bailouts needede and how are yo doin

I cannot see the logic of Obama attacking the insurance companies when they gave considerable more support to Obama and the democrats than the republicans .As an example Blue Shield donations democrats 60% conservatives 40%.And these figures are typical of most insurance health carriers.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

Republicans keep saying that a public option will hurt the private section and run insurance companies out of business….BULL…what they are concerned about is that they won’t have insurance companies giving them million dollar donations from the premium dollars insurance company death panels steal from customers by denying coverage when they get a serious illness. I guess it doesn’t bother Republicans that they are taking premium dollar blood money from insurance CEOs who live in million dollar homes paid for by denying coverage to sick and dying Americans after years of paying their premiums. Republican’s are hypocrites with a capital H.

Posted by steve | Report as abusive

There is not a thing in any of the bills to keep insurance premiums down.

this is a two trillion dollar bill.
The CBO estimate was based on faulty information. as the democrats didn’t include the reimbursement for doctors in that bill. The numbers just don’t add up.
So the only way this is getting paid for is increased taxes.

This is in the end just a way to get “the camels nose under the tent” for universal health care.

Maine has public option health care and it is bankrupt and still doesn’t cover who it is supposed to.

All in all after reading the comments on here, one can only assume that (like our elected officials) people haven’t bothered to read these bills.

Posted by don | Report as abusive

is there enough money to fund trillion dollar wars?
apparently, that would be a yes according to our govt.

Posted by broad | Report as abusive

We cannot afford another goverment program of any kind. I am sick and tired of my money going for social justice and/or diversity programs. NOT ONE MORE DAMNED PENNY IN TAXES FOR HEALTHCARE, THE ENVIROMENT, OR ANY OTHER WORTHLESS LIBERAL GARBAGE.

Posted by mike | Report as abusive

There is an elephant in the room! And the elephant is an elephant sized impediment. But extraordinarily all the pundits, politicians, media and voters in the room are tiptoeing around the elephant and pretending that it isn’t there.

The room is the health care debate and the elephant is a collective known as life style related diseases. These are the familiar diseases such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular illnesses, AIDS and the consequences of smoking and obesity. All are largely and directly a consequence of the choices that we Americans make on how we conduct our lives. These are diseases that now swallow up at least 75% of our health care expenditures. These are also diseases that almost entirely preventable on the cheap. Prevention doesn’t require high cost drugs, or extensive therapy or expensive surgical procedures. It requires simple behavioral changes – changes in our lifestyles.

So back to the elephant that strangely no one in the room is talking about. The elephant that is epidemiologically, demographically and economically the major issue in health care. Why such a silence?

I suggest two reasons. The first is that the “treatment” portion of our health care system is hugely profitable. The hospital corporations, the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurers are all recording huge profits and see a long and growing revenue stream from America’s self-induced non-wellness culture. Sick pays. Treatment pays. Healthy doesn’t pay.

The other reason is the political consequence of our national character. Americans are profligate in the aggregate. We want to be self-indulgent and then be able to boohoo our way to the physician or hospital to dodge the consequences. Politicians with the temerity to offer up a dose of reality by suggesting a change are likely to be ill received at the voting booths.

So we can (and have) had lots of noise about choice and competition, private vs government, opting in and opting out. But however well intentioned and efficacious the proposals and discussion may be, they still avoid the elephant in the room.

Posted by b. butler | Report as abusive

It’s real easy to give away other people’s earnings. Folks that want to support a cause (e.g., health care/health care insurance): please send your money to the gov’t program of your choice. I’m sure they won’t refuse it. Just don’t force your neighbor to give their earnings to your cause.

Elected officials: VOTE NO to REQUIRED HEALTH CARE INSURANCE & NO TO NEW TAXES/FEES. We are NOT your piggy bank. We will vote you out if you don’t listen.

Posted by Observero0 | Report as abusive

Our nation can not thrive until its people are healthy. Today the people are sick from years of stress with no let up. Most of us haven’t had a vacation in years. It costs too much to travel or take time off. We live too close to the edge. I have never bought a new car in my life. I have had 3 vacations in my life, 1 to visit national parks and 2 to visit relatives inside the U.S. I will never get to see other nations, so I visit them with my computer. I live within my means except for health care, which is half my budget and has been for over a decade. Health care premiums and costs are killing me. We can’t opt out because my husband is going for heart surgery next week and we are glad we’re covered right now because it means we can keep our house. We are both 60 and it’s been a hard, unrewarding life here in America. We are both technical workers, in communications and computers. Our jobs were sent to India or elsewhere, with no thought to the welfare of our own nation.

We will not get better as a country until we quit spending trillions on banking investments and commodities theft from other nations in the form of endless wars for profit. We will not get well until we go back to natural farming instead of letting Dow Chemical design our crops. We will not get well until we reject processed foods in our grocery stores and go back to healthy eating.

It would go a long way toward ending the nightmare of national illness if the Obama Adm. would jettison the jerks at the FDA and get some professionals in there.

We the workers have been squeezed far too long, the rich have killed the goose that laid their golden egg. The people are angry and the anger is making them more sick. There are no jobs. There are no investments going into America. Even the windmills going in to green energy projects are made overseas.

There is a time and a place for everything and right now it’s time to take care of the injured American Workers and help them heal and become healthy. We need nationalized health care to do that because we are too broke to afford anything else. If that means quitting the wars for profit? OH WELL. G.E. and Haliburton will have to wait. Killing off all the Americans and importing more slaves simply is unAmerican, although we realize that means nothing to monsters without souls.

Posted by Worked 40 years | Report as abusive

Some times I think… let the Reid, Pelosi, Schumer, Dodd, Snow and Frank have their way, spend money we don’t have and conscript you, me and future generations to pay for their folly. Then watch as the Tea Baggers rise up and throw them out of office. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think the Republicans are much different than the Dems… the IMF, WorldBankers, Global Corporations and the G20 have made a deal with the devil… the goal being to wipe out the middle class. Just watch what happens when congress and our new sharp young inexperienced president keep usurping the will of the people.

Posted by B Trask | Report as abusive

What needs to be MANDATED is calisthenics. It would cost next to nothing to do and National Health would increase by the day if ALL would comply. Get off your TV watching hides and do something America.

Posted by Michael | Report as abusive

Senator: Is there enough money on planet to subsidize healthcare?

Senator: Would there be enough money if we cut inneficiencies out of the medical industry by say 50%; create an efficient medical information data reservoir to quarry to accurately access costs vs allowing doctors, hospitals, drug and insurance companies to utilize fragmented information to distort the truth; would it help to pay if withdrew our troops from Europe, Iraq and Iran?

Idiots

Posted by csodak | Report as abusive

I am tired of the constant bashing of Republicans and Dems, of Liberals and Conservatives, of Pro-Life and Pro-Choice. Stop pointing fingers of blame, already! I do not believe health care is a RIGHT but it certainly is the right thing to do and the compassionate thing to do. Is guaranteed health care in the Bill of Rights?

I lost a close relative to liver failure when they were just 52. They had no health care and so, was allowed to die. But a liver would not have helped because it was due to alcohol. If health care would have provided a new liver, it would have been destroyed like the first, most likely. That is a tough situation. Sometimes bad decisions result in tough consequences. What should have happened?

Ultimately, we want to help but is there really enough money to help everyone? Maybe we don’t eat right or exercise…after all, isn’t our country plagued with obesity? Maybe health care should start there?

And isn’t the legal profession, who helps people make millions on bogus malpractice lawsuits, a little responsible? And aren’t our represntative mostly lawyers? SHouldn’t there be legal reform so this stops escalating? That could be why insurance costs skyrocket. Couldn’t they do that NOW, without healthcare reform and see how that helps? Are the lawyers attacking the doctors? I don’t know.

Posted by JerryG | Report as abusive

Since when is it compassionate to give away someone elses property? The U.S. is broke we are running massive deficits. I keeps seeing the argument that if we can afford (fill in the blank-ie.War in Iraq or TARP)
then we can afford health care. We can not afford either. We are on an unsustainable path toward financial destruction. Please understand that when you run deficits funded by bonds, future generations pay for your current spending. Why should our children have to pay for our current spending? How anyone can be so irresponsible and reckless as to look at your children and ask them to pay your bills. This type of inter-generational abuse is banned in many countries. The CBO is controlled by the party that has the majority in congress, they cooked the books to make it appear as though the health care bills are deficit neutral. The various bills are built on one false premise after the next. Even the state opt out provisions are ridiculous.
Any state that opts out is going to see a massive transfer of wealth out of their state to the participating states.

Posted by glenview dan | Report as abusive

Health insurance is so expensive because healthcare is so expensive. There are a multitude of factors contributing to the ever rising medical inflation costs that cause premiums to rise. An aging population, advances in medical technology, shortages in pay from Medicare/Medicaid being passed onto the private sector, the threat of malpractice lawsuits that lead to unneccessary testing, price gouging from the medical community, no transparency with pricing and the American lifestyle that causes such a burden on the system. Insurance companies turn on average a 4% to 6% profit margin on a block of health insurance business. That’s far less than many other industries. The only way to reduce health insurance premiums, make it affordadable and attainable for everyone without pre-existing condigtion limitations or underwriting qualifications is to address the factors causing healthcare costs to rise so rampantly. Each of these factors must be addressed individually and strategies must be put in place to reverse the rising costs. This takes time and careful consideration with limited gov’t and political involvement. It’s comical hearing politicians accuse insurance companies and doctors/hospitals of being inefficient, greedy for profit waste mongers. Medicare is defrauded billions of dollars a year by bogus companies that buy a list of individuals information on Medicare and file claims for services that were never received. Medicare pays a claim within 15 days like a slot machine without ever verifying that the claim was legitimate before paying it. I was reading where a gentleman on Medicare received an explanation of benefits showing Medicare had paid for two prosthetic arms for several thousand dollars. The guy has both arms he was born with!! The gov’t simply does not have the resources to chase down all of these fraudulent crooks. However, it’s their own policies that make it so easy to be defrauded and their answer is to simply pay less to providers? Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security are going broke. Address the issues that are causing healthcare costs to rise, put in action a way to reverse them and you have reform. The gov’t cannot reform healthcare.

Posted by dvm | Report as abusive

Now the FEDS want to get into the insurance biz; Now all they will be is another bunch of BOOKIES hopeing you will suddendly die while you have paid a tax– called a premium. When you do not use it; Who benefits. Because some will be making the decision on weather they will pay out or not. In the IMMORTAL WORDS of bugs bunny ” What a maroon”

Posted by DAVID | Report as abusive

Let the compassion come from the people, not the government. I agree people need a good quality of life, but not from the government. We have a huge demand a low supply of medical staff. Flood the supply side and the prices will fall. Lets reduce the time it takes to become a Doctor, allow tax breaks for seeing patients for less than the normal cost of a visit, but why would we allow the government to create a “Public Option”? Isnt this the same government that has a broken system called the Post Office, cant seem to make money with Fannie and Freddie, the same government that robbed social security for pet projects?

They are acting like salesmen in Washington. We have the president telling us how a smart grid will create over 10,000 jobs, and at the same time, save us lots of money? This is no different. The same old “We will fix this, we promise. We are different”? Then once we give in, we end up with “Well.. Now you got us, so you better like what we give you.”.

And furthermore, this whole “State Opt Out” thing is a scam. Its like TARP, once you opt in, you will not be getting out (well unless they let you that is). And dont forget, their are strings attached, well more like a metal chain in this case. Republicans and Democrats can agree on one thing, we need better and cheaper healthcare. Lets get better or cheaper healthcare, but why would we allow the government to do this? This isnt compassion or tearing down the “Big Insurance” companies or even “Leveling the playing field”, its far from it.

At this point, the wisest thing to do is wait in my opinion. Let us see if he can truly save the economy, reduce the debt, fix our energy usage and reduce unemployment before we take the leap into a public option. Please understand, my opposition is not to reform, it is the lack of experience of those who wish to bring it.

Posted by Mike | Report as abusive