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. John Z.

    In response to Champly -

    And thousands of Americans come to Canada every year to get their prescriptions filled because Canada doesn't allow the gouging that U.S. pharmaceutical companies engage in to happen there. If the overriding goal of a health care system is profit, you will get gouging. If the overriding goal is to provide health care for everyone (which can only be done through government involvement), then that will be the outcome.

    June 14, 2009 11:45 am at 11:45 am |
  2. pcs / North Carolina

    MomofFour wrote June 14th, 2009 11:37 am ET


    "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."

    EMS make $50 + an hour, not $ 6 an hour !! Know your facts before you type. This is what happens when you get brain washed after listning to too much "RUSH".

    June 14, 2009 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  3. Joseph

    How much do you want to bet that when we get affordable healthcare for everyone. The majority of people who do not have it now will not pay for it?? When it's free why bother...so how do you adjust for that?? I live in a state where we have loads of federal and state assistance for people. The majority do not pay for healthcare insurance but the mom's will have designer purses and clothes and send their kids to school in the winter in flip flops, shorts and no coat. When you ask them if they own warm clothes they will tell you they do not own a coat or boots. Then it kills me to see mommy or daddy pick them up in a huge suv. I think we have created a society that puts too much emphasis on what we wear, how we look, and what we drive. The priority is not on paying to take care of the family.

    June 14, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  4. John

    Iown a small business that struggles to provide heath care for its employees. Every year we have to renegotiate our contract with the insurance companies. Here is the certainty in that negotiation. Every year the price goes up more than 10-15 percent, and at the same time the total coverage goes down. Do the math. This is not sustainable. I seem to have two choices. Stick my employees with the entire bill, or just stop trying to do the right thing by providing health care insurance.so you don't think there is a crisis. Just try being in business then.

    June 14, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  5. Joanna

    There are crushing us. The cost will bankrupt us soon as well. Why are people fighting so hard for a failed system. We are ranked something like 38th out of all nations. Really? Even if you have insurance now, you better pray that you don't get sick. If you get sick, they will raise the costs so you are unable to keep your coverage.

    June 14, 2009 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  6. annie s

    Momoffour, I've also worked in health care for over 20 years. You're wrong. We do not have the best health care system in the world when 47 million Americans have no insurance, another 25 million are under-insured, 50% of all bankruptcies are caused by medical bills and private for-profit insurance companies are profitable only if they ration care – and believe me, they DO ration care. We spend 17% of our GDP on health care, more than any other country in the world, and yet we rank 29th in infant mortality rates and 50th in life expectancy. We need reform now and we need a public health option if we are ever going to bring down costs in the private sector.

    June 14, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  7. Carol Myers

    momof four I do not know what part of the health system you work in but I do not think any thing of the health system. Right now the insurance companies tell our doctors what they can or an not treat, how long we can stay in the hospital and a host of other rules that we must follow. I just spent 6 months without insurance because of my exiting conditions. I had colon cancer 3 years ago and for no amount of money could my husband and I get insurance when his Cobra ran out, which ,by the way cost us $1020 a month. My husband is on Medicare now and I will be in July and I am looking forward to it.

    June 14, 2009 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  8. ysidero

    @ momoffour

    i hate to even dignify that slander with a response, but i cant stop myself. if u know of such a thing actually happening (an ambulance on an emergency call stopping for a coke break) u should report it to the (yes) government oversight agency in ur area. none of my co-workers would think of delaying an emergency call to have a break, and if anyone did they would be jobless that same day. over the last 25 years i have worked for both public and private EMS responders, and i can tell u that the profit motive and medicine are at best in an uneasy alliance.

    June 14, 2009 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  9. catmom

    And by the way, ever looked at the fraud in our health care system perpetuated by Doctors and providers? Look at your hospital bill and see how much they charge you for an aspirin, a room, a splint.... Notice how much an x ray cost. Look at the bill and see how many people charge you for a simple x ray or other test. You will notice for every one test three people charge you, The reason for this, how else are they going to pay for the treatment of those that don't pay.

    I was uninsured and had to go to the emergency room for what I was told was a sprained knee. I spent three hours there had an x-ray and was given a knee brace and told to see an orthopedist. It cost $1500.00. They told me they would cut the cost in half if I paid the bill ASAP. I put the cost on a credit card. However, when trying to get follow up treatment with the Orthopedic doctor, I was told I had to have $700.00 just to see the doctor and that would just cover the initial appointment and no treatment. Needless to say I couldn't afford it , luckily I have the brace to use when the knee goes out as it continues to do.

    June 14, 2009 11:57 am at 11:57 am |
  10. Champly

    John Z – there must be profit in everything or the person providing the service will not provide the service. PROFIT is not an evil word. The Democrat Party is intent on slashing payments to everyone, healthcare givers and healthcare receivers.

    The problem with nationalizing healthcare in the U.S. is that we have a level of corruption unseen in most other industrialized countries. The Party will get its pound flesh by managing the money flow to buy votes. They calculate that "profit" into every other issue they have their fingers in. Trading votes for healthcare is the biggest evil of all.

    June 14, 2009 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  11. Joanna

    Joseph: when you say it kills you that these people pick there kids up with designer purses and big suv's, have you ever thought that those hand bags were knock offs? I here all these republican complain about paying for other people, so they can sit at home and do nothing, but collect a check? Do these poor people live at the four seasons? They live like crap! They may get a check, but it surely isn't a whole lot. You can quite work too, and get your tiny check, but it will not be fun, i am sure about that. You act like these people are rolling in government cash.

    June 14, 2009 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  12. Champly

    So what all of you Obamists are saying is that you want the best health care in the world and you want someone other than yourself to pay for it ? Is that what you are saying ?

    June 14, 2009 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  13. pcs / North Carolina

    Champly wrote June 14th, 2009 11:17 am ET

    "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 ; ) ?"

    That is what "RUSH" has been telling you all. !!
    Fact: Tens of thousand U.S citizens go to Canada for "prescription shopping". Some even go to the extent of getting a "Canadian Health Card" from a friend across the boarder to go to a Canadian clinic to get preventive care.

    Fact: Go to the Canadian boarder cities like Port Huron, MI, Detroit / Windsor and witness it for your self. Do not let "RUSH", and the other clowns brainwash you all.
    Do not allow the “Red Party” = The GOP communists, who works only for the filthy rich to hijack our country.

    June 14, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  14. catmom

    Joseph, do you really see that or are you relying on what Republicans tell you? It was the same with the welfare mom driving the Cadillac and buying steak using her food stamps. Get a clue. You do have abuse of the system by people but you also have just as much abuse by doctors and other providers.

    June 14, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  15. Champly

    To my dearest ysidero, once again – So you would support socializing food production ? Wouldn't that make sense with so many people in this country going to bed hungry at night ? I would think that food ranks higher than medical care. You make little sense.

    June 14, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  16. Just Say No to Socialism

    Throwing around 47million as uninsured is false. 20 million of those are illegal immigrants and another 15 million have access to healthcare but choose not to purchase it. Get you numbers right. Choice and competition are you kdding me. They are for choice and competition as long as its run by the government. Wake up America, we did in time with the immigration debacle but didnt in time for the bailouts, we have to on this healthcare debacle

    June 14, 2009 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  17. Champly

    pcs/North Carolina – An EMS may be paid $50 an hour now (which sounds obscene) but will be paid about $6 an hour under Obamacare.

    June 14, 2009 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  18. Mike O'Brien

    I am filing for 'bankruptcy' this week.., because my medical bills and the cost of medical insurance. Right now.., I have 'no' medical insurance or coverage by anyone. I make just barely enough to where I "don't" qualify for medical coverage or assistance. I still can not believe that I make by their qualifications $30.00 over the limit per month to where I can 'not' get medical insurance coverage or assistance from the state or federal government. So, I am left with nothing. It 'pays' not to get sick. Thank you, Senator Max Baucus for all your help and assistance.., 'None !'. Mike in Butte, Montana

    June 14, 2009 12:24 pm at 12:24 pm |
  19. mk

    IF "health care cost's are crushing us" then maybe one ought to look at the profits of insurance companies for the answer. Do we really want lower cost doctors? If we do then we deserve the second class care they would provide. I for one want a doctor who is well educated and has the support of the hospital to keep furthering his/her education to stay informed on the latest and best available health care. Insurance companies run the health care fiels. They say who can have what medication and they say what they will pay for it, who can have what test and where they can have it at, all in a effort to pay their top people big bonuses and salaries. WAKE UP PEOPLE!!!!

    June 14, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  20. Paul C

    It is amazing to me that Canada, Australia, Germany, France, England, as well as every other industrialized country, is able to provide health care for their citizens without all the hand wring and moaning. No one in those countries ever went bankrupt paying their medical bills and they get better care than we get without fighting the insurance companies or begging Medicaid.
    Maybe one of our elected genius' could take a look at these countries and pick up some hints.
    Of course, they are not spending $10 billion a month in Iraq, spending hundreds of millions looking for water on Mars, studying the Big Bang, operating multibillion dollar aircraft carriers, $220 million airplanes etc.
    The waste (no bid contracts, i.e. Blackwater ) in government go a long ways towards paying for health care.
    The government has enough money but too often spends it on foolishness and the rest of the world looks at us and snickers.

    June 14, 2009 12:31 pm at 12:31 pm |
  21. Champly

    Well I appear to be getting the answer to my question. Most of you Obamists do indeed want me to pay for your healthcare. Ain't going to do it though. I will quit my well paying job, sit on my ass, and let YOU pay for mine first.

    June 14, 2009 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  22. annie s

    Champly, it is incredible how little you actually know. My background is 20 years as a medical practice administrator. Want to hear about the American I know who had to go to Canada to get a life saving operation because her American insurance wouldn't pay for it? Or the hard working American I know who got cancer and exhausted her insurance benefits, then had to sell her house so she could afford to pay for the $5000 per month in medicines that keep her alive? My husband and I pay $14000 per year for insurance that comes with a $5000 deductible per person – a public health option would give us and many other hard working people a chance to secure care at a reasonable cost. Keep your plan if you're happy with it, but don't be so incredibly selfish that you would deny the rest of us affordable, accessible health care.

    June 14, 2009 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  23. Steve in Denver

    Dear MomOfFour:

    Having retired as a firefighter/emt in a large government fire rescue department, what an insult you have made to the men and women who work so hard for your safety. Ranks right up there with Reagan's "government is not the solution to your problem, government is the problem."

    Throughout my career, we lived and breathed better service to our citizens, even the ungrateful dolts like you. 24 hours a day, every third day, we were ready and eager to help everyone in our path. Even when Aids was just becoming a problem and no one knew how it spread, our teams were rushing with red lights and sirens to help people, even people we knew had aids. Three of the people I worked with are unable to work now because of contracting Hepatitis C.

    And the private sector you worship? Our ambulances always had two paramedics who, at a minimum, had an additional six months of intense training, during which time they had to work with a seasoned officer, and then pass a very demanding test before they could work without an officer. Sunstar (run by AMR) across the bay? Ambulances had one paramedic, who could be just out of paramedic school, and one emt, who could have just gotten certified. And, the sunstar system was the most expensive in the state. If you are having a heart attack, which would you prefer, the private paramedic and emt with as little as no experience, or the government team where the medical director required collecitvely years of experience on each unit?

    Your insults to the men and women who work around the clock to protect you are putrid.
    We'd stop at a 7-11 for a coke break? Get a clue.

    June 14, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  24. Susan

    My husband and I are retired military.... We get "socialized" medicine from those the Gov't contracts with because that's what they promised to give us as a retirement benefit after we served our country... The problem is, none of the doctors in our living area seems to want to accept the program! Amazing isn't it????

    June 14, 2009 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  25. pcs / North Carolina

    Champly wrote June 14th, 2009 12:10 pm ET

    "pcs/North Carolina – An EMS may be paid $50 an hour now (which sounds obscene) but will be paid about $6 an hour under Obamacare."

    "An EMS may be paid $50 an hour now (which sounds obscene) " – that is not obscene !! they work hard day and night and deserves every dime what they get paid.

    "but will be paid about $6 an hour under Obamacare." - EMS is already run by the Government, and paid by the government. Sure, they will get paid $6 if EMS becomes a Private "Capitalist EMS". You loose abstract thinking, judgment and becomes brainwashed., when you listen to "Lord Rush" , the rhetoric from the "RupubliKKKan party", the no "Shame Zone" of O'Reilly. You become a RUSHBOT.

    June 14, 2009 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
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