June 14th, 2009
09:54 AM ET
13 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. Sniffit

    One thing people are missing is if everyone is on the gov insurance plan....EVERYONE pays for it. Maybe not in the form of a monthly bill, but we all have to pay for it somehow.

    Unless the gov just prints more money in which case we pay for EVERYTHING ELSE a bit more due to inflation

    June 14, 2009 10:57 am at 10:57 am |
  2. My brain got baked in Phoenix

    We will pass it with or without the rightwing Theocracy that is against it.

    June 14, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  3. Champly

    Seattle Sue – and you must be listening to Karl Marx and Barry Obama. Whats next – nationalized food production? That would make more sense that medical care. And clothing – why not nationalize and dictate the use. Michelle Obama has been seen wearning very extravagent and expense shoes, dresses, etc., while many people starve in the ghettos. Evey dime of that money should have gone to feeding the poor than adorning her socialist body.

    June 14, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  4. Champly

    Ed Knight – 40 million people are not without healthcare. That many may not have "insurance" but they can waltz into just about any medical facility in the country and get treatment. And they don't have to pay a dime.

    June 14, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  5. Champly

    Ed Knight – Cuba had to fly a bowel specialist in from Spain to treat your generalissmo Castro. Don't make a fool by comparing health care in socialist hell holes to the superior American care.

    June 14, 2009 11:05 am at 11:05 am |
  6. Lynn

    I do not presume to know how to fix our country's healthcare but it is clear that we are in a crisis.

    We spend more money on healthcare than ANY other country yet we don't get the results we should. Canadians have a lower infant mortality rate than Americans and they live longer. I for one, am tired of Americans dying as a result of the poor access to health care we have in this country. We have the best medicine and the worst record of people being able to take advantage of it of any industrialized nation.

    I am just happy that we have a President who is not afraid to tackle this difficult problem because he actually cares whether ALL, not just some live or die.

    When Congress and the Senate start turning in their benefits for life for the same ones the taxpayers have I will know we are there.

    June 14, 2009 11:07 am at 11:07 am |
  7. Canadian in the USA

    The Canadian healthcare system, while supported by the Federal Government with transfer payments, and regulated by the feds, the individual provinces run their own plans. Any province can cut funding to their healthcare programs to balance their budgets etc. Now, is the Canadian Health Care system perfect, no, it is fair, not always, but I will say, that a college student just graduating does not get immediately dropped from her parents plan, my mother has the bulk of drugs covered, including her diabetes test strips and machine. And even though when we were young, and my brother having had health problems as a child, was not turned away when he graduated college for having any "preexisiting" condition. When my father needed a heart transplant, he was on the top of the list, and unfortunately died waiting for one(but that happens here too). Had he received it, they would have paid for everything, and they would not have received the bill. When I left Canada, I as paying a little over $100 per month for health premiums and about $10 for prescriptions. Families pay more for the premium, around $250 per month. It is NOT a free system, there are premiums. But NO co-pays, or deductibles and they can't turn you away because you are not covered.

    Personally, I think the issue is for people is the idea that single payer health care supported by the government is taboo because people down here view it as socialism. And for all the brainiac repubs out there in the audience, do a little research. The US Governement ALREADY pays the highest percentage of GDP to healthcare costs than ANY other industrialized nation in the world. In Canada, France and England, it is all about 7-8% in the USA it runs a hefty 15 – 18% price tag. Mainly because we don't provide preventative care, and then things turn into emergencies and the government picks these costs up. HELLOOOOOOO, we already have socialized medicine, only it isn't organized. Preventative care in this country is disgusting. My husbands STELLAR healthcare plan, and for the most part is great, does NOT over colonoscopy when you turn 50....WHAT???? Only covers it if you have a problem. That should be standard on the lowest healthcare plans.

    Lets get into the 21st century, and and have a major paradigm shift. Single payer system needs to be implements NOW. It will cost huge dollars up front, but 10 years from now, the government will be saving trillions.

    June 14, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  8. Champly

    Lynn- If our president cared about who lives and dies he would not be an ardent supporter or partial birth abortion, that would be killing of the baby as it is being born. No doubt those procedures will be fully covered by a Obama/Democrat Party plan. Shame on them and shame on you.

    June 14, 2009 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  9. Lilarose in Bandon, Oregon

    Medicare is "socialist medicine." I have Medicare and a supplemental insurance program.

    These two programs pay nearly all of my medical needs, including surgeries. Without these programs I would probably not be alive.

    My kids live in Australia where everyone has "medicare." They love it. They don't have to worry about their or their kids' health care. They don't get financially wiped out due to medical costs.

    If Medicare for seniors is messed up here in the US, we are going to have hundreds of thousands of our seniors (your parents and grandparents) dying needlessly.

    We need to work on the cost of prescriptions. Even with prescription benefits, the costs are far more than I can afford. We could curb many medical problems (such as diabetes) if seniors could afford the meds that help regulate chronic diseases.

    The second seniors got the prescription benefits, the drug companies raised prices on meds, so we really gained nothing.

    June 14, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  10. Tennessee Libertarian

    Health care costs wouldn't be so excessive except for the scumbag lawyers who sue doctors for malpractice on behalf of their " I want something for nothing" and "you owe me" clients, all of which most likely voted for Obamaination, and for the politicians themselves, like Sebelius, who is a joke.

    June 14, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  11. Dawn in Pa


    I am not actually bitter, if you see I was making a joke... I just hope you read the whole blog....

    See ya....

    June 14, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  12. Champly

    Thousands of Canadians swarm into the U.S. every year to obtain medical treatment denied them in Canada. So where are American's going to go when the Democrats begin rationing here ? Cuba ; ) ?

    June 14, 2009 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  13. Ted Tartaglia

    Healthcare in the United States is broken and in dire need of reform. If you can afford to pay the insurance companies' exorbitant rates or if you are covered by an employer sponsored group plan you are OK, if not you are out of luck. As far as prescription benefits, we are all at the mercy of the drug companies.

    Many of the people on this post are expressing their positions on healthcare without having any idea of what is being proposed and what has a chance of being approved. Wild claims are made and many seem to be following the drivel spouted by the uneducated buffoon, Rush Limbaugh and other right wing bigots.

    Why not relax and see what develops before criticizing imagined proposals?

    June 14, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  14. Hank B

    Health care cost will never improve until we can do away with so mamy false claims, thanks to our so willing Lawyers. They and their successful claimers are the ones getting rich over this and the rest of us pay the out of control health care bills, through higher Ins. Premiums.

    June 14, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  15. ysidero

    @ champly, again

    when u have ur heart attack from getting all worked up over how *socialism* is taking over, u will no doubt be happy to call 911 and have the taxpayer supported paramedics come save ur ass. im not talking about sex changes, im talking about preventive care for diabetics, people with high blood pressure, things that can cause permanent disability and therefore HUGE taxpayer costs if they go untreated. i havent heard anyone suggest that cosmetic surgery is gonna be taxpayer supported, have u?

    June 14, 2009 11:18 am at 11:18 am |
  16. pcs / North Carolina

    Champly wrote June 14th, 2009 10:10 am ET

    "The Obamist would set up a federal insurance company to "compete" against private carriers. It would use our tax dollars to undercut the competition driving them out of business."

    In essential services like Health industry their should be a Government option, so that the private industry do not take the innocent citizens hostage.

    We have Government run US Postal Service, then you have the option of FEDEX ,UPS or DHL.
    We have Government run Police Department, but if you want private security guards you can have them also.
    We have Government run Military, and also can have private contractors like KBR, Haliburton, and Blackwater.

    Why not a Government option in Health Care ? You can not allow the Rethuglicans to shove the “Private Medical Insurance only” option while all the elected leaders in our nation benefit from the Government Health Care coverage. America is all about having choices and options, but not about greed and deregulation. Sound familiar. !!

    June 14, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  17. Bev

    Here we go again. When the Obama administration wants money the situation at hand is suddenly "a crisis". To even suggest that the government can run the health care industry for this country is ridiculous. Go to any government run health clinic...nursing home...VA Centers, etc. and you will see the future of government controlled healthcare. Go to the hospital in your area where patient's without insurance are sent that the government runs and tell me what you think of the quality of care. Government run healthcare is BAD. A very, very BAD idea. This is about money and taking over another part of the economy. This is about socialism. We CANNOT allow this to happen. There are many other ways of controlling healthcare costs and making sure uninsured people get help without the government taking over the entire system. The quality of life for all Americans WILL DECREASE if this is allowed to happen.

    June 14, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  18. Patsy

    I'm an HR/Benefits professional and I would like to see reform in the medical insurance process. To get affordable health care for our employees, we could not get the same rates by going directly to the insurance company that we got going through a broker who went through another broker. So where is all this money going, not to the doctors?

    June 14, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  19. David

    Chambly, your comments are an absolute disgrace and embarrassment. Your hate and ignorance is undeniable. What does Michelle's wardrobe have to do with "starving peopel in the ghetto"? Are you currently wearing sackcloth? I doubt it. Please, get off of equating the health care debate with " Boob jobs and abortion". You are way off base. Also, NO, the US does not have the best health care in the world. We strive to, but what good is it if it is unattainable for the majority of Americans? And btw........ are you capable of coming up with an intelligent solution, or will you continue to shoot down those who are making an attempt of coming up with some sort of reform for the good of the country?

    June 14, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  20. MomofFour

    The thought of the government running health care is a not only frightening...it's terrifying. We have the best health care industry in the world. I've worked in the medical field for 25 years. I cannot think of anything worse than the government taking over health care. There are so many alternatives to providing health care to those who can't afford it and alternatives to bring down costs, it is not necessary for the government to take it over. The government would totally ruin our quality of life. It would be a HUGE MESS. We are turning the clock back and making people poor and dependent on the government all over again. President Clinton did so much to dismantle that leech of a system...and Obama is bringing it right back. Government is not the answer. I trust the private industry to advance medicine and provide quality of care to myself and family. I do not trust the government.

    June 14, 2009 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  21. catmom

    Champly, you really don't know what you are talking about. Republicans love to tell you that you can walk into any emergency room and be treated without paying a dime, not true. You may be treated but you will get a bill. If you don't pay that bill you will be turned over to a collections agency and harassed until you either pay up or declare bankruptcy. Some people have to put a certain amount of money down to receive the treatment they need before anything is done. Homeless people are given enough treatment to stabilize them then dumped at a charity hospital or on the street. This is true in a lot of urban areas. When they go to a charity hospital or if you don't pay a bill, you and I pay for it, thus the reason for such high cost of medical care. Get a clue

    June 14, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  22. MomofFour


    When YOU have a heart attack and call 911 and the government run ambulance stops at 7-11 to take a coke break because they make $6. and hour and don't give a crap.......you'll remember what quality health care was.

    June 14, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  23. Champly

    David – yes Champly wears almost what the Obama's would consider sack cloth. I work hard for what I have, scrimp, save, make tough decisions about my life. Obamaist don't want to do that. They want it all, they want it now, and they want someone like me to pay for it.

    June 14, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  24. pcs / North Carolina

    We spend 17% of GDP on health care, and have 47 million citizens uninsured. All other G9 countries spend 7% of their GDP on HC and have universal coverage.

    Here are soem possible solutions:

    1) Everybody can keep their current insurance plan and the doctor if they like it.

    2) A low cost Government run Health Insurance Program (GHIP), parallel to compete with private insurance companies (PIC). This will allow people who can not afford or who lost their jobs to get health care coverage. Lack of medical insurance is the most important reason for bankruptcy filling. Tax payers are paying for the uninsured anyway when they file for bankruptcy.

    3) Patients enrolled in GHIP should sign a waiver to curb frivolous malpractice lawsuits.

    4) Expand Primary Care Providers (PCP) network – Better training and incentives to PCPs. All patient enrolled in GHIP should have a designated PCP. GHIP patients should have a referral from the PCP to see a specialists, but there is no mandate for private insurance.

    5) All major procedures and interventions should be entered into a central database ect; cardiac catheterization. This will prevent duplicating and repeating procedures, which is quite common in present day medical practice.

    6) Mandate installing electronic medical records (EMR) in all hospitals and doctors officers. The EMR should have the capability of “talking” to other EMR, just like the “Vista World” system in VA hospitals. This will prevent duplicative investigations, blood work ect. This will also enable physicians to have better assess to medical records, rather than waiting for days to get a medical record faxed while patents stays in the hospital incurring higher expenses.

    7) standardize the medical health insurance industry. Clarify rules on co-pay, deductibles, out of network jargon. Limit executive pay. You can not allow a CEO of a Health insurance company to make $ 25 million , while denying coverage for million others. Private Medical Insurance companies make profits by denying coverage, escalating premiums and delaying payments to doctors and hospitals (as much as 6 – 8months !!).

    . According to WHO, we rank 34th in the world on morbidity, infant mortality, and life expectancy statistics, just barely making it above Cuba. !! Yes, with the “Capitalist Medicine” after spending 17% of the GDP on healthcare , and bankrupting many innocent families due to no fault of their own, we sure can not boast about the results of our “Capitalist Health Care “ experiment

    June 14, 2009 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  25. Jane

    Hey Kathleen what kind of health care do youhave?? Are you under the federal employees care or do you have your own?? Just wondering.

    June 14, 2009 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
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