June 14th, 2009
09:54 AM ET
14 years ago

Health care costs are 'crushing us,' says Sebelius

WASHINGTON (CNN) – A day before President Obama is set to make the case for health care reform before the American Medical Association, Obama’s health and human services secretary said the young administration is open to considering a number of options to meet its goals of containing costs and extending coverage in the nation’s health care system.

“The costs are crushing us,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “It’s hurting families. Our businesses are less competitive. We can’t continue on this pathway,” the Obama Cabinet member added.

To achieve Obama’s health care reform agenda, the administration is considering several different approaches including a public insurance option, Sebelius said Sunday.

A public option would be similar to the existing Medicare and Medicaid programs and, by competing with plans offered by private insurers, the White House hopes it would help to lower the cost of coverage throughout the market.

“Competition is a good thing . . . Choice and competition is what we want,” Sebelius told CNN Chief National Correspondent John King Sunday.

“The president does not want to dismantle privately owned plans. He doesn’t want the 180 million people who have employer coverage to lose that coverage. He wants to strengthen the marketplace.”

Asked about the idea of forming health insurance co-operatives – privately owned, non-profit co-ops that would provide coverage - as a way to reform the system, Sebelius suggested the White House might be open to that approach.

“Having the ideas on the table is exactly where we need to be right now,” said Sebelius. “There is no one-size-fits-all idea.”

Sebelius also defended use of comparative effectiveness research which is used to identify which tests and treatments provide the best outcomes.

“Higher cost does not translate to higher quality,” the HHS Secretary said.

soundoff (94 Responses)
  1. Steve in Denver

    @Champly: If you quit your job, become indigent, and have no insurance, we will pay for your health care. When you get sick, you don't go to the doctor. You wait until it is catastrophic, then go to the ER where costs are significantly higher, and you get admitted to the hospital. The hospital can't refuse to provide medically necessary services to you, and you can't pay, so you get free (although minimal) health care. The hospital then has to build the expense from you and many like you (that 47 million we keep talkint about) into the fees they charge those with insurance and those who private pay. Therefore, your case of the flu, that could have been medicated with a small cost visit to a clinic and possibly antibiotics, if you had access to health care, is now a $50k hospital stay that you aren't paying for, but the other insureds who use that hospital are paying for.

    Those 47 million without health insurance aren't just suffering poor health care, they are costing us, the people who do buy insurance, as well as our employers, a significant percentage of our costs.

    You are paing for it now, if you have health insurance, and you'll pay for it under a government run system. However, if we make it possible for that indigent person (or minimum wage worker, etc), then they get that immediate treatment and their disease doesn't get to the $50k hospital visit.

    June 14, 2009 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  2. DL

    My advice is for the administration not to listen to the fear mongering and to tear it apart and fix it, those that are adamantly defending a failed system either are the lucky few who still have good coverage or are afraid they will lose some personal stake. Facts people, look at how much costs have gone up the past 5 years alone, if you can still afford it I'm happy for you, but every rate increase, it becomes more out of reach and unattainable for a large segment of our society, and just because you are happy with your coverage now just remember tomorrow you may be on the other side of the fence with the people who can't get coverage and wind up losing everything they own when they do get sick. You are at the mercy of a profit machine, when theres no profit to be made from you, you will see how long your healthcare lasts.

    June 14, 2009 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  3. Stormee in Georgia

    I have talked to a number of people in countries that have health care provided for them who now live here, England, Canada, the Netherlands, and they loved it in those countries. They have plenty of doctors to choose from and they don't have to wait forever to get in to see one and the care is actually getting much better than it is in the U.S. They said yes, they had to pay higher taxes, but they also say it still costs far more in the US when you factor in both insurance and paying deductibles that it does paying the extra taxes. They also care more about preventative medicine, too. If their governments can do it then why can't ours, aren't we always bragging about how we are the greatest country in history and can do anything? Face it, it's not being done because one political party in this country would rather protect massive profits of the corporations who own hospitals and the pharmaceutical companies than make sure that their fellow man is taken care of. Also always strikes me as funny that this party is the one who always claims they are more Christian influenced than the other side. Can someone please explain to me how placing more importance on corporate greed than the care of the ill is a Christian attitude? Is there hidden something in the Bible about that? (Maybe Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity write a new Bible I don't know about)

    June 14, 2009 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  4. Steve in Denver

    Wow, Champly, what a hoot!

    So you were listening to Rush the other day when he said that it wasn't obesity and lack of exercise that was hurting us and driving up health care costs, it was exercise fanatics.

    Fit people who occasionally get banged up in exercise, but stay fit and don't get diabetes, early onset of heart disease, strokes, cancer, and other very expensive ailments cost us more than the limbaughs of the world?

    Really, isn't there some reality check that would click on? Fit people with bumps and bruises from exercise (and the occasional knee operation) cost us more than inactive, overweight people with all the aliments they get?

    Anything there? Any kind of bs detector? Nah, couldn't be. Otherwise, you wouldn't rant against drug abusers while listening to someone who sent his housekeeper to get him oxycontin.

    You probably also bought the argument that smokers save us money because they don't live long enough to get heart disease. Really, turn off rush and get a clue.

    June 14, 2009 01:09 pm at 1:09 pm |
  5. Steve in Denver

    @champly again:

    We DO subsidize food production. Did you ever hear of agriculture subsidies, crop subsidies, etc? While well intentioned in the beginning to help family farms make better decisions, it now mostly goes to corporate farming operations and no longer has any benefit to us. It is just a mechanism to drive up corporate profits.

    Where are you "anti-socialists" on this one? One of GWB's first acts in 2001 was to sign the largest farm subsidy bill to date. Where were you then?

    June 14, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  6. Cnn please post my thoughts! 1 love!

    I support universal health care if it only takes care of Americans and not illegal aliens! You must be legal and pay taxes to enjoy Healthcare benefits! 15 million illegals should not get this benefit!

    June 14, 2009 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  7. The Independent

    Without taking sides on this issue, I'm just curious as to why Healthcare is so expensive in this country. A friend of mine developped a high fever, and was hospitalized. Various tests were taken, and specialists looked at him as they try to figure out what was causing the fever. The fever disappeared as suddenly as it came after ten days, and my friend was released from the hospital. Bills started to flow from the hospital and the specialists, amounting to a grand total of $ 248,000 ! My friend has good insurance that paid 90% of it, but he was stuck with almost $25,000. Can anyone with mastery of the facts enlighten me as to why a ten day hospital stay would cost a quarter of a million dollars ? Can anyone break this down for me ? I'm just curious.

    June 14, 2009 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
  8. Champly

    pcs/North Carolina- when you resort to name calling rather than discussing the issues you demean yourself and the honest people who post here.

    June 14, 2009 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  9. Champly

    And so annies – what you are saying is that you want ME to pay for YOUR healthcare. Is that what you are saying ?

    June 14, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  10. yuri

    Tell us about it secy. We opine that RL, and NG, should also be involved in healthcare reform discussions at full throttle, rather than badmouthin' their foes.

    June 14, 2009 01:26 pm at 1:26 pm |
  11. Champly

    Steve in Denver – help me here. You seem to oppose socialized food production but favor socialized medicine ? Why ?

    June 14, 2009 01:27 pm at 1:27 pm |
  12. JonDie

    Health care costs are crushing us, but that's just what the AMA, the insurance companies, the hospital corporations, the medical supply companies and the Republican Party wants. What can the Obama administration do realistically?

    June 14, 2009 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  13. Rev. Wright here

    I see all my leaches are out today in full force, get a LIFE.....

    June 14, 2009 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  14. skyhawkdriver

    If you want something funny to laugh at google the names of some of the big insurance companies..then go to board of directors..the names you see will shock you..or maybe not..mrs chris dodd is on four of them..senator judd gregg is named..the kennedy family...somehow I get the feeling we are having the wool pulled over our eyes..do you really think that the people who have their fingers in the insurance and medical industries are going to put up with losing money??you can say what you want..but these companies are all on the internet,and the names of their board of directors are all there..and lo and behold many are either politicans or their spouses..yes indeed..change we can all believe in

    June 14, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  15. Maggie

    Do you and obama really believe ALL the people are that stupid.
    You're as big a liar as he is.

    June 14, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  16. Larry from RI

    Meanwhile, the scum bag CEO's on Wall St. are making a fortune off of us by rationing and denying medical care

    Imagine that – corporate bean counters telling doctors what is "best for their patients" (us)!

    June 14, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  17. Fla.

    Sebelius is correct, especially considering HUGE medical bills have become the biggest cause of bankruptcy in America. These costs are falling back on the taxpayers!

    We need more competition in the market through an optional public plan, in order to help reduce these costs and extend compassionate coverage.

    Reform health care now for ALL Americans!

    June 14, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  18. Marc

    Bev June 14th, 2009 11:24 am ET – Here we go again... says I! Again with the 'socialism' fear tactic? Again with the projection of a grim future if we allow the government to do what he was elected to? Your guy lost and was very elegant in his acceptance of the fact, so get over it.
    If I go to... say... Canada and find that there are problems in the public health system of a town or a whole area what I will find also? A whole lot of Canadians demanding that the problem is fixed ASAP! Not a whole lot of Canadians wanting to not have public health, but a whole lot of Canadians wanting to have BETTER public health. Because once they learned that their health was not a business matter but a public right, do you really thought that they would trade it for a system like the one the USA has if some problem (caused by sheer incompetence for example) made the quality of the service drop badly?

    June 14, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  19. Sad

    re: Champly

    what are you talking about?? I live in Canada, and I've NEVER had to run to the U.S. to get healthcare that I couldnt' get here..nor have I ever heard of anyone else that I know doing that. Our healthcare system here is great! I personally have 3 family doctors that I can make an appointment with at anytime I choose. My doctor even gives me free cough medicine, birth control and anything that I need. i also have health benefits from my work that cover 80 to 90% of all dental, eye and prescription drugs. But our healthcare covers the basics so even if I didnt have that, I know that I would still be covered.
    So to the misinformed individual who wrote this..you need to do your own research..dont know where you are getting your info from but its completely wrong and extremely inaccurate. I think what Obama is doing would be great for all Americans in the long run and its a right, not a priviledge for ALL Americans to have access to good and timely healthcare.

    June 14, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
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