President Obama has challenged Republican Senator Lamar Alexander on a key health care issue that's a concern to congressional members on both sides of the aisle: cost containment. Senator Alexander accused the President of being wrong when it came to premium rates under his proposal, which is modeled after the Senate plan. "The Congressional Budget Office report says that premiums will rise in the individual market as a result of the Senate bill," said Alexander. President Obama countered that Alexander's claim was "not factually accurate." "The cost for families for the same type of coverage as they're currently receiving would go down 14 to 20 percent. What the Congressional Budget Office says is that because now they've got a better deal, because policies are cheaper, they may choose to buy better coverage than they do right now," Mr. Obama said. "That might be 10 to 13 percent more expensive than the bad insurance they had previously." The President says he's gone through the numbers with the CBO and offered to present the facts in full to the press "and whoever else is listening."
During the heated exchange between the President and the Tennessee Republican Mr. Obama asked Alexander to avoid "painting a broad brush" and express which proposals he supports and which he rejects while providing his own ideas. "In your opening introduction what I saw was the usual critique of why you thought it was bad," the President said.
Mr. Obama promised the summit participants that the issue of cost would be settled by the end of the day, adding, "I'm pretty certain I'm not wrong."
Before breaking for lunch, Alexander's Republican colleague Jon Kyl read from a November 2009 letter from CBO Director Douglas Elmendorf to Democratic Senator Evan Bayh. In that letter, Elmendorf stated that the average premium for individual policies would be about 10 to 13 percent higher in 2016 than the average premium for the same policy under current law. The President once again defended his policy, "If I now have the opportunity to actually buy a decent package inside the exchange that costs be about 10 to 13 percent more but is actually real insurance then they're going to be a bunch of people who take advantage of that," he said. "So yes, I'm paying 10 to 13 percent more because instead of buying an apple I'm getting an orange. They're two different things."