In a blogger conference call, Republican Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming (who is also a physician) batted down the Washington Post story that appeared this morning suggesting a deal on health care was imminent in the Senate Finance Committee. His Wyoming colleague Mike Enzi, who is one of six senators negotiating a deal, put out a statement to the effect that an agreement is not imminent. According to Barrasso, Enzi was “the most upset person in Washington D.C.” when the article came out. I asked about the notion of a “co-op” plan that Sen. Kent Conrad favored as a way of getting through a public-option concept (without including a two-tiered system actually called a “public option”).
He cautioned that there is no bill and no CBO scoring on whatever is being discussed and that whatever comes out will have to be meshed with the House, the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee, and eventually put into conference committee. He summed up: “We are a long way away from anything that will address the problems we face in health care.”
I asked him about the deals the administration had supposedly cut with the drug companies promising not to fix prices, a “deal” apparently not incorporated into the House plan. He warned that it is expensive to bring new drugs to market and that “they might not be able to do that in the future” if the government sets prices. He then made an interesting point on the general subject of “these deals that have been set.” The hospital administrators, for example, pledged to knock hundreds of millions out of their budgets. But Barrasso says, “I haven’t spoken to one hospital administrator who says, ‘Oh yeah, you can take that out of our hospital.'” The same is true, he says, of the AMA. He related that the doctors he speaks with are all opposed to the current bills. “So how does that work? I am not sure who they are speaking for,” Barrasso commented.
Well, it will be an interesting summer. Barrasso suggests that interested citizens should go to town halls and start asking tough questions. He suggests two: How are you going to pay for it? How are they going to get $500 billion in savings from Medicare? Both good queries.