My favorite exchange from yesterday’s healthcare summit was between President Obama and Sen. John Barrasso, M.D. (R-WY).
BARRASSO: Sometimes the people with catastrophic plans are the people that are best consumers of healthcare, in using — the way they use their healthcare dollars. Because a lot of people come in and say, you know, my knee hurts; maybe I should get an MRI. They say — and then they say, “Will my insurance cover it?” That’s the first question. And if I say yes, then they say, “OK, let’s do it.” If I say no, then they say, “Well, what is it going to cost?” And “What’s it cost?” ought to be the first question. And that’s why, sometimes, people with catastrophic — catastrophic health plans ask the best questions, shop around, are the best consumers of healthcare….
I do believe we have the best healthcare system in the world. That’s why the premier of one of the Canadian provinces came here just last week to have his heart operated on. He said it’s my heart; it’s my life; I want to go where it’s the best, and he came to the United States. It’s where a member of parliament, a Canadian member of parliament with cancer, came to the United States for their care. They all have coverage there, but they want is care. So coverage does not equal care….
Half of all the money we spend in this country on healthcare is on just 5% of the people. Those are people, for the most part, that eat too much, exercise too little and smoke….
OBAMA: I just am curious. Would you be satisfied if every member of Congress just had catastrophic care? Do you think we’d be better healthcare purchasers? I mean, do you think — is that a change that we should make?
BARRASSO: Yes, I think — I think, actually, we would. We’d really focus on it. You’d have more, as you’d say, skin in the game…
BARRASSO: … and especially if they had a savings account…They could put their money into that and they’d be spending the money out of that.
OBAMA: Would you feel the same way if you were making $40,000 or you had — that was your income? Because that’s the reality for a lot of folks. I mean, it is very important…to listen to the folks that we get letters from. Because the truth of the matter, John, is they’re not premiers of any place. They’re not sultans from wherever. They don’t fly in to Mayo and suddenly, you know, decide they’re going to spend a couple million on the absolute best healthcare. They’re folks who are left out….
And this notion somehow that for them the system was working and that if they just ate a little better and were better healthcare consumers they could manage is just not the case. The vast majority of these 27 million or 30 million people that we’re talking about, they work, every day. Some of them work two jobs. But if they’re working for a small business they can’t get healthcare. If they are self-employed, they can’t get healthcare.