I spent a whole day on the Hill today sitting in on hearings. I attended my first of two at the Senate. I was excited. I like traveling to learn.
The Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety, and Insurance (part of the Committee for Commerce, Science, and Transportation) held a hearing about what the practices interrupting competition in the health care industry today mean for health care reform. Present were Senator Pryor (AK), Senator Nelson (FL), Senator Rockefeller (Chair, WV), Senator Wicker (MS), and others. Wow, our nation’s Senators right before my eyes. Based on the testimony of the panelists (see below), I sensed that there was frustration about the lack of aggressiveness of the Federal Trade Commission to protect consumers in the health care market. Anti-competitive mergers, collusion (secret agreements), and manipulative-price fixing were also mentioned as contributors to the soaring costs of health care. Ms. Turner said that perhaps one of the best things to do if the public plan for health insurance does not work is to have a safety plan. Turn to state-run employee health insurance plans. With all the suspicion about the outcomes of a government run universal health insurance plan, one witness added to “phase it over a few years” to give the market room to adjust and people to get accustomed to a public health insurance plan. If not and it’s a disaster, then–gee, what a blow that’ll be to our president’s record–turn to state-run employee health insurance plans, which already exists in many states. Those are novel ideas if I ever heard two–allow room for adjustment and have a back up plan. Now, the question is what the potential outcomes of requiring state-run employee health insurance plan would be right now.
Here is the Chair’s statements and witnesses’ testimonies from the hearing: