Today, the Senate HELP committee held confirmation hearings for Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D-KS) to head the Department of Health and Human Services. Sebelius sparred with Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) — who proposed the administration adopt his hackneyed campaign health care plan — and pushed back against Republican concerns that comparative effectiveness research would tie doctors’ hands:
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Sebelius stressed that as insurance commissioner in Kansas, she fought private insurer efforts to ration care:
I can’t tell you that I’m not concerned, ultimately, not with comparative effectiveness research but ultimately reaching a point where in order to control costs there is some effort to ration health care. I frankly, as insurance commissioner where I served for eight years saw it on a regular basis by private insures, who often made decisions overruling suggestions that doctors would make for their patients that they weren’t going to be covered. And a lot of what we did in the office of the Kansas Insurance Department was to go to bat for those patients to make sure that the benefits they had actually paid for were ones that were delivered.
Six months ago, a diverse group of stakeholders — Families USA, NFIB, Business Roundable, America’s Health Insurance Plans, PhRMA, among others — began holding a series of Health Reform Dialogues to, as they put it, “create a forum outside of the political arena for exchanging views on tough policy issues.”
Last week, the group released a document spelling out “a number of policy approaches where they reached consensus” and pledged to work with lawmakers and each other to support the enactment of comprehensive reform this year.
Yesterday, in a wide ranging discussion about health care reform, ThinkProgress asked Families USA President and CEO Ron Pollack to respond to critics who question the value of broad-based coalitions:
I don’t think this is designed to say, ‘Hey, you gave this, you gave that.’ What is at the heart of the process is to try to figure out where is there common ground that is clearly going to be part of the debate.…in the process, it I think we found that unlike past debates where you didn’t even have these conversations and you couldn’t even identify where you actually agreed, that there was this assumption one group was totally for good stuff, or another group is totally in favor of bad stuff, and there’s nothing in between. If the ultimate question is where did I hammer [AHIP President and CEO] Karen Ignagni over the head and get her to yell, ‘I give up! I give up!’ that’s not what happened.
Pollack argued that the group’s pledge to expand access to coverage by subsidizing coverage for poor Americans and expanding access to Medicaid could cover up-to 90 percent of the uninsured, and pushed back against critics who argue that the group’s recommendations are a boon to insurance industry profits. “I think having AHIP engage in a way that is designed to enable insurance market reform to take place in a way that fits their business model, but yet helps people who are currently shut out of the healtchare system — I think that’s a step in the right direction,” Pollack explained.
Pollack predicted an 80% success rate and suggested that the major stakeholders would not oppose the whole of health care reform (but may run ads criticizing certain aspects of the proposal). Ultimately, everyone will have to come to the table to achieve bipartisan reform, Pollack said. “The first attempt will be made to try to do this in a bipartisan fashion. But it takes two to tango. And we saw with the economic recovery legislation, we didn’t have two folks tangoing. You had one doing a tango and the other doing a break-dance, and so that didn’t quite work,” Pollack explained.