WASHINGTON, DC – House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn participated in a bipartisan day-long meeting on health reform hosted by President Barack Obama at The Blair House yesterday. Below is a transcript of his remarks at the meeting:
“Thank you very much, Mr. President.
“Mr. President, leaders and Members of the Congress, there are two cost containment issues that I think have not been sufficiently vetted here today.
“Let me set this up by sharing with you a conversation I had yesterday with the administrators of the Dillon McLeod Health Care Center in Dillon, South Carolina, a little town, Mr. President, you’ve become quite familiar with.
“They told me that their emergency room activities have doubled over the past several years. And they were looking for some assistance to expand the size of that emergency room.
“When I began to question them as to why, in this small county-not in my district-they had had such a doubling, it turns out, they told me, that 31 percent of the people that they treat in the emergency room are not there for emergencies. They are there for primary care.
“Now, they said to me that some of these people do not have health insurance. But many of them do have health insurance. But they cannot afford the $1,500 to $2,000 deductibles that they would have to pay if they were to go to a private primary care provider.
“So they’re now treating people who have employer-based health care that they cannot use. They’re holding out for some catastrophic event. But they need some assistance.
“I think that, no matter what kind of plan we develop, there will be many people left uncovered, and we need a safety net for those people.
“I believe that the one way to provide that safety net and to take care of all of those people who may be uncovered and those people who have $2,000 deductibles with primary care is for a significant expansion of community health centers.
“We have not spoken about that here today, but I know that your proposal, Mr. President — I know that both the House and Senate plans have that in them, and I do believe that that is very, very important. We have more than a 40-year experience with these health care centers, and I do believe that, no matter what we do, there ought to be a significant expansion of those health care centers.
“Secondly, Mr. President, a lot of other things have been said about what I have on this paper, but one other thing I would like to mention, and it has to do with people who really cannot navigate the system, people who work very hard; they know what they need for themselves, but I was reminded of that when we talked about putting together restaurant owners who will design plans for their members.
“I would hope that, when we start designing plans for the members of small businesses, let’s keep in mind that the employees of those small businesses are not negotiating these plans. They are at the mercy of the small-business owners. And the question is whether or not the plans are sufficient that they will not fall into the same category that these people with $1,500 to $2,000 deductibles.
“Finally, Mr. President, this morning I was doing one of these call-in shows on C-SPAN. A gentleman called in, and he was very, very emotional. He said to me that he was getting ready to have transplant surgery, but he was told by the hospital that, because he’s on Medicare, that his post-operative treatment was going to be limited to three years. After that, he’ll have to find some way to pay.
“This man was very emotional today. What we’re doing here fixes that, and I do believe that we ought to really be honest with the American people. We talk about what we are doing with Medicare. We’re trying to make sure that Medicare is there for that man and so many others who will find themselves in his position.
“With that, I yield back, Mr. President.”