Bredesen, Cooper say health care reform will come at a cost

Tuesday, October 13, 2009 at 3:42pm
Gov. Phil Bredesen and U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper

There are solutions to the health care problems facing this country, but we can’t achieve those solutions without somebody getting the short end of the stick.

That’s one of the points made by MedSolutions President and CEO Curt Thorne in framing a discussion on health care reform Tuesday at Belmont University that included keynote speeches from Congressman Jim Cooper and Gov. Phil Bredesen.

“Realizing the benefits of meaningful solutions requires that we tell the truth, that there will be losers, and we need to get that out on the front burner,” said Thorne, who was joined on the panel by SHOUTAmerica Executive Director Landon Gibbs and health policy researcher Dr. Wilhelmina Leigh.

One of the potential losers in reform is the state of Tennessee, Bredesen argued. Echoing some of his recent comments, Bredesen said the bill expected to be voted out of the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday, which would expand coverage to Americans through the Medicaid program, could cost the state about $750 million.

Given that Tennessee’s revenue is not expected to return to 2008 levels until 2013, it will be difficult to shoulder those additional costs when the state has depleted reserves, a battered pension system, and has been unable to provide raises to state employees for five years.

“Almost any version (of reform) which ultimately passes is going to include a substantial expansion of Medicaid as a part of it,” Bredesen said. “I’m glad they’re trying to (achieve reform) without increasing the federal deficit… but to turn around and increase the states’ deficits as a way of handling it, that does not seem like an appropriate way of handling it.”

Cooper — who is optimistic to the point of being 60 percent to 70 percent sure a reform bill will pass late this year or early next — pointed out that the possibility that providers could be losers in reform is spurring additional debate about a public option.

The Senate’s reluctance to include a firm individual mandate in legislation may mean covering fewer than a previously estimated 40 million Americans who don’t have insurance — not what doctors, hospitals, and insurance companies had hoped for in negotiations. This has created “further talk of the so-called public option,” of which Cooper is in favor if properly drafted.

In keeping with the event’s somewhat broader discussion of reform issues, Cooper also explored nine key points about the reform debate, including that doing nothing on health care in 2009 is “very risky,” Congress’s slowness on controversial topics may drag the debate out for months, and that contrary to what some people say, there is no Obama bill, only legislation that Congress has drafted.
“It’s not about authorship, it should be about craftsmanship — whether it’s a good bill or not,” he said. “We need a good health care reform bill this year.”
From Bredesen’s perspective, the current proposals focus only on expanding coverage and not mitigating the rising costs of health care in this country, which make them less than ideal.

“Perhaps the incremental approach to this is the way it has to happen with something as big as government and health care,” he said. “But I really had hoped for something more.”


9 Comments on this post:

By: shinestx on 10/14/09 at 5:47

Why are Cooper and Bredesen complaining about the cost? Isn't this exactly what Democrats promised us in the 2008 election? People need to realize that all these social programs come at a cost, and require a trade-off with dollars allocated for other purposes. There is only so much money available, and the Democrats tend to want to put as much as possible into social programs that really are short-term solutions (at best) and a sop to more long-term investments like roads, infrastructure, schools. Anyone who has paid attention to the US Congress' healthcare debate can only conclude that "reform" has very little (if anything) to do with health. If it did, there's no way the bill would look like what the Senate passed out of committee yesterday.

By: Kosh III on 10/14/09 at 6:42

If it were up to Bresesen, he'd close Medicare, Medicaid and SCHIP. If someone can't afford to jet off to the Mayo Clinic; well too bad you made bad choices in life.

By: girliegirl on 10/14/09 at 7:55

The primary answer to "basic health care needs" is state-sponsored health care clinics. Nashville already has a few, and the folks are lined up in the morning and remain until the lights are turned out. What isn't being divulged: even WITH all this "public option" outcry, the government program is still going to have to deny some coverage. Think about it this way: every single patient that receives a transplant organ has to take anti-rejection drugs for the rest of their lives. Those drugs will cost the State of TN $10,000 each per month per patient. At some point here, we're going to go broke~ And that's not including HIV patients, long term illness patients who require severely expensive cancer treatment therapies. Not ONE of these goofballs in office has suggested a way to curb the COST of medical treatment itself.

By: Tull on 10/14/09 at 7:58

"People need to realize that all these social programs come at a cost, and require a trade-off with dollars allocated for other purposes. "
The problem is Congress won't cut spending to pay for this and the cost which will be twice what they estimate will be laid at the feet of taxpayers at the federal and state level.

By: TharonChandler on 10/14/09 at 8:54

TharonChandler10/14/2009 7:37:55 AM

I'm Very proud of Senator Maria Cantwell and Dr Howard Dean for 'stickin to they guns' about this Bill, or about their percieved 'deficiencies' involved (No 'public option', not focused upon 'healthcare delivery'), {even just to get it 'out of Committee'}. The bill pertains Not to 'healthcare reform' but in fact to 'insurance reform'. We each need to insure 'Health' rather than merely insurance 'coverage' and/ or 'affordability'. Peace

Read more:

By: pswindle on 10/14/09 at 9:28

When the government tries to take care of all the people, the GOP and some conservative democrats will scream the loudest. I read when SS and Medicare was passed, all heck broke out among the GOP. But, those two programs have saved quality of life for millions. We have to get the health-care out of the hands of the insurance companies. Speaking for myself. I'm getting less care and more out of pocket money. Of course, the insurance companies want it to stay as it is. Who has the highest paid CEO, and the biggest buildings, and the largest profit?

By: Kosh III on 10/14/09 at 10:59

You mean aside from Drug Limbaugh and his hundreds of millions in annual salary?

By: sidneyames on 10/14/09 at 2:27

GG said: Not ONE of these goofballs in office has suggested a way to curb the COST of medical treatment itself. I agree with this statement, however, will add that medical research is costly; we have come a long way from not even knowing what cancer was (about the 50's) to now curing some types of cancer and beating others. I'm not sure what we want. Low cost will probably mean that some people will stop their research. Also, swindle, I pay a lot of my own health care because I have Cigna PPO. But I can truly say that my doctors are awesome and when I suggest a test or some type of treatment, they usually let me stay in the driver's seat with my own body. I don't want the gov-ment in my health care. As for the insurance industry, it's a high risk business; I don't blame them for charging a lot. So many people are not making personal healthy decisions, so somebody's got to pay for them.

By: courier37027 on 10/15/09 at 2:38

I thought Bredesen made his wealth starting a healthcare company. Anyway, I am reminded of the Tenncare bumper stickers of long ago: "Tenncare, Who Would Jesus Cut?"