White House praises Rep. Steve Kagen’s efforts on health care reform
By Larry Bivins • Post-Crescent Washington bureau • March 6, 2010
WASHINGTON — As the White House seeks to secure support from House Democrats on health care reform, it is promoting Rep. Steve Kagen’s efforts to require insurance companies to openly disclose the prices of their services.
In an interview Friday, White House health care reform adviser Nancy-Ann DeParle said the administration is keen on Kagen’s calls for transparency in pricing. She said several provisions in President Barack Obama’s reform proposal address those concerns.
"Kagen has really stood out as somebody who is working for cost containment and making sure people get more information so they can make better decisions," DeParle said. "He’s been like a broken record … a one-man truth squad on transparency."
The proposal Obama submitted to Congress on Feb. 22 would require each hospital to publish a list of its standard charges, DeParle noted. She said another provision establishes a Medicare and Medicaid database that could help control costs by reducing waste and fraud.
"This is a good bill," DeParle said. "It allows us to get cost containment for the first time in decades."
Kagen, D-Appleton, initially was lukewarm to the proposal, saying it was a good start but fell short of ensuring that consumers can learn the costs of what they’re buying before they buy it.
Three days later, Kagen offered his own legislation, requiring any individual or company to publicly display prices for all health care services, including on the Internet. The measure has 45 co-sponsors, but no other Wisconsin Democrat has endorsed it.
"Unless you have transparent pricing in all health care, you have no mechanism to restrain excessive pricing," Kagen said Friday.
Along with Kagen, Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., has been "very much a champion of cost-containment," DeParle said.
Kagen and Feingold are facing re-election campaigns as anti-incumbent fever is raising concern among many lawmakers, especially Democrats, who control both chambers of Congress and the presidency.
The White House support comes while Republican campaign committees are using health care reform as a weapon in attacks on Democrats they consider vulnerable.
On Thursday, the National Republican Congressional Committee initiated a "Code Red" telephone campaign against Kagen and other House Democrats, condemning their support for Obama’s proposal.
Larry Bivins: 202-906-8105 or [email protected]