Critical Condition

Cain Shows He’s Savvy on Health-Care Policy

Herman Cain spoke with passion and conviction today before a Capitol Hill audience about the essential importance of repealing Obamacare and replacing it with “market-driven, patient-centered reform.”

He spoke at a forum organized by the Congressional Health Care Caucus, chaired by Texas Rep. Michael Burgess, M.D., that was inundated with dozens of reporters and televisions cameras. They got a big dose of health reform when what they really wanted was to ask him about the National Restaurant Association sexual-harassment controversy. He didn’t take those questions.

Instead, he talked about the destructive impact of Obamacare, which is driving up costs and forcing at least 1,500 companies to seek waivers just to keep offering health insurance to their workers. “The problem with health costs in America goes back to 1943,” he explained, which set the foundation for the employer-based health insurance system that insulates people from the costs of health care and puts employers in charge of choices. 

As for medical care, “We have the best health care system in the world,” he said, as he recounted his own experience in 2006 with stage four cancer of the liver and colon, saying he is alive today because of the immediate, high-quality care he received. “I was finished with two rounds of chemotherapy and two surgeries in nine months — less than the time it would take to get a CT scan in countries with socialized health care systems,” he said.

He then took questions from members of Congress: Rep. Andy Harris (R., Md.), a physician, asked him how to help people understand the critical importance of reforming Medicare. “I would paint a clear picture of the disastrous path we are on if we don’t act,” Cain said. He also said he wants to work with states, hospitals, and doctors to push decisions closer to the people who are using medical services and would block grant Medicaid for the same reason.

House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Joe Pitts (R., Pa.) asked about the Independent Payment Advisory Board “whose decisions can’t be appealed and that takes a 2/3 vote of Congress to overrule.” Cain said he encourages members to do everything they can to “educate the public about how this takes away freedom.” He urged members to push for repeal now and to help the American people see why the whole law must be repealed.

Cain said he wants to sign a repeal bill on March 23, 2013 — the third anniversary of passage of Obamacare.

Rep. Glenn Thompson (R., Pa.) asked about medical malpractice reform, and Cain said he strongly supports medical liability reform to cut down on “frivolous lawsuits.”

Rep. Billy Long (R., Mo.) asked what Cain would do about preexisting conditions and interstate competition for health insurance. Cain said he strongly supports cross-state purchasing of health insurance, and he said he believes it is a proper role for government to provide a safety-net, with both state and national contributions. “We don’t want to leave anybody out of getting health insurance coverage,” he said.

As a good “starting point for reform,” Cain says he supports HR 3400, introduced by Rep. Tom Price, a physician and chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee. (The measure was re-introduced as HR 3000 in this Congress.)

Cain spoke without notes and clearly had ownership of the business of health care, the powerful impact of the tax treatment of health insurance in shaping the American health sector, and the crucial importance of repealing Obamacare to provide a path to change that put doctors and patients in charge of choices.

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