Welch Supports House Health Care Efforts

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(Host) Congressman Peter Welch is supporting efforts in the House that he says will reduce the cost of health care.

And Welch says he’s willing to back several Republican in a bid to reach a compromise.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports.

(Kinzel) With a comprehensive health care reform bill currently stalled in Congress, the U.S. House is taking steps to pass individual pieces of the larger bill.

The first piece that’s been adopted ends the anti trust exemption that health insurance companies now enjoy.

Welch says this change is needed because he says there’s no question that some insurance companies collude on prices to maintain higher premiums:

(Welch) "Getting rid of the insurance anti trust exemption basically means competition is introduced into health insurance – and that’s going to give some downward pressure on rates. It’s not, obviously, a silver bullet but it’s something that’s overdue and should have been done long ago."

(Kinzel) House Republicans have proposed a plan to allow consumers to purchase health insurance policies from any state in the country.  Welch says it’s a good idea as long as some consumer protections are included in the proposal:

(Welch) "I support buying insurance across state lines as long as we have a minimum standard of benefits, so that if you are buying an insurance policy from Idaho or New York or Vermont you can be assured that the content is real – that you’re getting real coverage."

(Kinzel) House Republicans are also pushing for malpractice reform.  They argue that some doctors order unnecessary tests because they fear litigation. Welch says it’s an idea worth looking at:

(Welch) "It really comes down to ‘how do you have a system where, when someone is on the bad end of a medical error they can get fair compensation, but have a system that doesn’t have the doctors who are working hard, acting responsibly, constantly looking over their shoulder practicing defensively?’ So there’s a way to get there if we calm down and work together to achieve it."

(Kinzel) On Thursday, President Obama will meet with Democratic and Republican leaders in a special health care summit.  Welch hopes the meeting will motivate Congress to pass a meaningful bill this year:

(Welch) "There won’t be necessarily anything that comes out… but it may be the next day and the day after if the public reaction is really urging all of us in Congress to get on with the job of changing health care. The worst possible outcome in this whole debate is the status quo. It doesn’t work."

(Kinzel) Welch says he also supports providing individuals and small businesses with subsidies to help make health care policies more affordable.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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