West Side congressman: Reforms won’t cut health care costs
April 8, 2010, appeared in Austin Weekly News
by Josh Lederman
CHICAGO — Health care costs are unlikely to decrease despite reforms passed by Congress last month, Chicago congressman Danny Davis told constituents Wednesday night.
“I must confess that I’m not expecting costs to go down any time soon. I just don’t,” Davis said in a town hall meeting in River Forest. “I have not seen the cost containment that we have heard or had conversations about.”
Listen to Rep. Danny Davis respond to a question about health costs.
Lowering the cost of health care was a central goal of the health reform effort as communicated by President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders on Capitol Hill. Obama used “bending the cost curve” as a political mantra of sorts throughout the presidential campaign and since taking office. Upon signing the bill, the president said costs would decrease for families, businesses and the government.
Davis voted for the health care bill, and has said he supports a single-payer plan that would have had all Americans receiving government insurance but was not included in the legislation. A statement he released March 22 on the bill’s impact stated it would extend coverage to 52,000 uninsured residents of the 7th Congressional District and improve coverage for 334,000 others. It did not claim that costs would decrease.
“This is a tricky position for progressive Democrats to be in right now because people want to support the president and want to support health reform,” said Margie Schaps, Executive Director of Health and Medicine Policy Research Group in Chicago. “That said, the bill has a lot of problems and probably won’t bend the cost curve.”
It also fuels conservatives who can point to Davis as proof even stalwart Democrats see through the supposed savings, Schaps said.
Despite the incongruity between the Democratic talking point and Davis’ assessment, constituents seemed unfazed.
“I don’t think any person of any intelligence believes that this is cost containable,” said Annette Grossi, a River Forest resident among the approximately 130 people attending the meeting Wednesday. More than half the questions Davis fielded related to health care.
While structural costs for purchasing insurance are unlikely to decrease, spending on health care should go down as investments in preventative health start to pay off, Davis clarified.
“What will go down I think is the amount of money we are spending because we are actually going to help people become healthier and if people are healthy, they don’t have to have surgery” or see specialists, Davis said in an interview after the meeting. “If you put emphasis on wellness care, on exercise, on lifestyle, then we’re going to save a lot of money.”