COLUMBIA — Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle told a crowd of hundreds of health care professionals that per person health care spending has risen 40 percent in the last decade and that if costs are not contained, the average family in Missouri will pay roughly $25,616 in 2016.
"It is imperative that we get something done," he said. "And we are hopeful this is the year we do it."
Daschle was the keynote speaker at the Seventh Annual Missouri Health Policy Summit on Friday at the Hilton Garden Inn conference center. Among the roughly 250 people in attendance were doctors from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MU Health Care, Biological Services, MU's School of Medicine and the Center for Health Policy.
Daschle was President Obama's first choice nominee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, but he withdrew after disclosing that he failed to pay $140,000 in taxes and interest.
Between work at a private sector law firm and a couple of political think tanks, Daschle has been flying around the country and speaking to "groups like this one," he said, about the urgency of reforming the U.S. health care system.
According to a report by Democratic Policy Committee that cited the Kaiser Family Foundation, premiums for employer-sponsored insurance have more than doubled over the last nine years, which is a growth rate four times faster than cumulative wage increases.
In 1997, the average family's costs were $4,872 in Missouri. In 2006, the report said, employer-sponsored insurance costs in the state rose to about $11,171.
"When Starbucks spends more on health care than coffee ... we know there's a problem," Daschle said.
Daschle said that though health care reform has been attempted many times in the past 100 years, he thinks health care reform has more momentum now than ever.
"This is by far the farthest this process has gone," he said.
The House unveiled its health care reform bill Thursday: the Affordable Health Care for America Act, or House Resolution 3962, which is a blend of two bills. Daschle told the crowd said he expects the Senate to unveil a health reform bill in the next week and for debate to begin soon thereafter.
If the Senate can get the 60 votes before Thanksgiving, Daschle said, the House and Senate will hold conferences and might have a bill on President Obama's desk before Christmas Day. If they can't get the votes, he said, the proposed bill goes to the budget track.
"That remains as the legislative part B," Daschle said.
When asked how he felt about Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., reviving the public option in his proposed bill, Daschle said he supported it.
"I applaud Sen. Reid for his extraordinary leadership on this issue," he said. "The public option, in my view, is critical to the process and ultimately to our efforts at reform."
Daschle said Reid's proposed legislation will enjoy a majority of support in the Senate and that he was not concerned about Sen. Olympia Snowe's withdrawal of support.
"I'm a big admirer of Olympia Snowe," he said. "I think Sen. Snowe wants to get to yes, and I think she is going to persist in her efforts to fashion a bill through amendments and through negotiations that she will support at the end of the day."
Daschle concluded that he believes the greatest obstacle to achieving health reform in the U.S. is ideological, centered on the proper role of government.
"Virtually every other country in the world has resolved it in favor of more — not less — government role, much like education or transportation."
The conference continued through most of the day.