“We need transparency in health care where people know exactly what something’s going to cost and whether they’re willing to pay for that or not,” U.S. Representative Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) told The Tennessee Star in an exclusive interview on Monday about the American Health Care Act, recently passed by the House of Representatives and now under consideration in the U.S. Senate.
“If they are, they can take that health savings card, like a debit card, and pay for that procedure. I’ll guarantee they can negotiate a better price,” DesJarlais said.
“I know as a doctor, if someone came in and I said I charge $200 to excise that skin cancer, but they said I’ll pay you $150 today, are you willing to accept that, I probably would knowing I didn’t have to go through insurance,” DesJarlais added.
“People are able to negotiate better prices that way,” the Tennessee Republican noted.
DesJarlais was in his home district, Tennessee’s Fourth Congressional District, on Monday, the guest of honor at an invitation-only luncheon held in Murfreeesboro with about 40 local activists and office holders who wished to express their appreciation to the Congressman, particularly for his work on the American Health Care Act.
After the meal, DesJarlais made brief comments and then took questions from the attendees. Following the two-hour event, Congressman Desjarlais gave an exclusive interview with The Tennessee Star.
The Star: What would you like your constituents or the people of Tennessee to know?
Congressman DesJarlais: “I think that they need to look into the claims that we’re seeing in regards to health care and pre-existing conditions, because just saying something doesn’t make it so.”
“If you look at most of the claims you’re hearing on really any of the news networks, in the paper or even by a lot of politicians on the other side of the aisle, they’re just no truth to it and they can’t back that up with facts.
We really worked hard on making this bill go even further to cover people with pre-existing conditions. For a state to get the waivers, as I mentioned, the governors have to prove that we can deliver better health care and a better product to people. First of all, you’ve got to get the waiver, and I feel concern for states that don’t because premiums are going to go up 15 to 20 percent per year under the current system, and there’s really no relief in sight into the out years.
But with this bill, if we get the waivers, you could see up to a 10 percent reduction next year, and then up to 30, 40, 50 percent in the following years if we put this in place. People will still be covered, and I think sick people who need the help are going to have better coverage.
People that are able-bodied, we expect them to pay, because we’re against a single-payer socialized system. I campaigned on that, I ran on it, Trump ran on it, so the people who lost are just going to have to get over it the fact that American people rejected that premise.”
The Star: Is the most egregious claim that people are going to die in the streets?
Congressman DesJarlais: A letter sent my office, signed “sincerely” by a constituent, basically said I will have blood on my hands for everyone who dies under the Republican health care plan. It’s not a very kind letter, but it’s irrational to even look at it, because they don’t address the fact that 16 counties in our state have no access to health care right now under Obamacare. Apparently, that’s okay to leave that many people without coverage at all in their mind and for the sake of protecting, preserving the name of President Barack Obama. That’s basically what they said, that it’s my hatred towards Barack Obama that is driving my actions on health care.
I can tell you that my actions on health care come from being a physician for 25 years and caring about people. We don’t have liberal diseases and conservative diseases. We just have diseases, and that’s the way I approach health care.
The Star: With foods, you can look and see on every menu how many calories there are. How come people can’t go on-line to shop for the price of a colonoscopy? Why is it not common practice that prices are published?
Congressman DesJarlais: I can tell you as a doctor, I didn’t understand it. The insurance companies basically told me what I would get paid or not get paid, and I didn’t really have any say in that. I didn’t get to set my own prices. They would determine what they were going to pay, and they’re supposed to be negotiating on behalf of the patients. I’m not even sure they’re doing that any more.
You’re right, because the cost can vary. If you go get an MRI, it can range from $300 to $3,000 depending on where you go and you’re kind of at the mercy of the insurance you currently have. That’s why I think under the Republican plan, allowing people to put money in health savings accounts will allow them to negotiate.
We need transparency in health care where people know exactly what something’s going to cost and whether they’re willing to pay for that or not. If they are, they can take that health savings card, like a debit card, and pay for that procedure. I’ll guarantee they can negotiate a better price. I know as a doctor, if someone came in and I said I charge $200 to excise that skin cancer, but they said I’ll pay you $150 today, are you willing to accept that, I probably would knowing I didn’t have to go through insurance. People are able to negotiate better prices that way.
I don’t know why as consumers we have been put at the mercy of insurance companies and now the government to decide our health care
The Star: Who drives those road blocks?
Congressman DesJarlais: That’s a great question. That’s why I referenced that article that came out that insurers, hospitals and doctors agree that the Republican health care bill is bad. Like I said, if it said “and patients think it is bad,” I would have been more concerned but apparently they feel like they’re losing control of their interests. They’re business people, I get it. Insurance companies aren’t in it because they’re altruistic and want to help with people with health care. They want to make money.
But, we have a right to know how the game is played, and I think it’s been a rigged game up to this point.
The fact that they’re getting nervous makes me think we passed a pretty good bill.