Dems, GOP Divided on Health Care Costs

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., on Face the Nation, Feb. 28, 2010
Democrats and Republicans squared off on "Face the Nation" Sunday over how to tame escalating health care costs in the United States.

Republicans, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), and Democrats, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Sen. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), all agreed that the cost of health care was one of the biggest issues facing Americans.

They disagreed on how to drive down those costs.

"The disease is cost," said Coburn. "And until we put in the incentives to change the dynamics, the market dynamics, the fraud dynamics, the defensive medicine - that's $250 billion a year in defensive medicine costs.

"What we need is not more government," he said. "We need more market-oriented, patient-centered health care rather than government-centered health care." Special Report: Health Care

Conrad countered that several of the proposals suggested by Coburn were already in the Senate's health care bill, and he took issue with Coburn's suggestion that the bill contained measures to increase the role of government.

"This is a market-oriented approach," he said. "The government doesn't run health care. This is not single-payer where the government would run it. This is based on private insurance delivered through state exchanges - which was originally a Republican idea."

A way to drive down health care costs, said Blackburn, is to let Americans purchase insurance in other states. "In my state of Tennessee, the bulk of my constituents live within 15 miles of the state line," she said. "When we checked our border states today, before we insert competition, they could generally save about $1,000 from being able to get past that stop sign at the state line."

Hoyer said that at Thursday's health care summit, President Obama agreed that letting Americans buy health insurance across state lines was an appealing idea. But it had "some complications," said Hoyer.

He added, "Whether you compete across state lines or within the state, you're paying about $1,100 for people who aren't in the system because they're getting uncompensated care."

Costs could be lowered up to 16% by changing tort reform and eliminating fraud, said Coburn. Conrad said those two changes were good, but not enough.

"Reforming the tort system would help," said Conrad. "But the Congressional Budget Office tells us it's pretty modest - $50 billion over 10 years - when we're going to be spending $30 trillion over that period of time."

He added, "The experts told us the thing that would really matter is reforming the delivery system, instead of paying for procedures, to pay for quality outcomes. And in the Senate bill, we begin that very approach."

More from Face the Nation:

Steny Hoyer: Health Care Will Move Forward
Is Reconciliation a "Minor" Issue?
Bob Schieffer: The Strange Obsession With Curling
Full Transcript