A politically charged morning kicked off the second day of the National Association of Health Underwriters annual meeting in Atlanta Monday. Congressman Tom Price (R-Ga.) roused the crowd with talk of rising health care costs and ideas of how to fix the problem. The group also heard thoughts from Fox contributor and former press secretary to President George W. Bush, Dana Perino, along with Democratic strategist and media personality Donna Brazile.

Perino, who is now part of a show on Fox called The Five, said that the intentions of the Affordable Care Act were “grand, but the tactics were terrible.”

Also speaking on the ACA, Rep. Price, an orthopedic surgeon before entering politics, said, “People ask me what it’s like to be an M.D. in Washington, well it’s kind of like being an insurance broker whose rules are set by politicians.”

Price said the three biggest cost drivers of health care are taxation, litigation and regulation. With litigation, the problem is “defensive medicine.” He explained: “It’s what every single doctor does in this nation if they’re honest with themselves. … And that is to make certain that if they’re ever called into a court of law, that they can honestly say to the judge and the jury, ‘I don’t know what you expected me to do because I did everything, everything.’ … When, in fact, everything isn’t necessary to treat the patient.”

Price quoted a RAND Corp. study that said one in every three health care dollars that is spent stems self-protection — totaling $800 billion a year. His solution is a bill called H.R. 2300 that “has in place a solution to the practice of defensive medicine that simply says if a physician uses specialty society guidelines … and they follow that and they do the right thing then that can become an affirmative defense in a court of law.”

Meanwhile, Perino, who was part of a panel hosted by past NAHU president Alan Katz alongside Brazile, said that while H.R. 2300 may be exciting for conservatives, “it is a ‘repeal and replace bill.’ Do you really think Harry Reid is going to allow that?” She continued, “The real problem is, the law isn’t going to be repealed.”

Too many Republicans, she said, are speaking in “all caps voices” rather than working across the aisle on improving a bill that seems to be here to stay. She also added, “You haven’t seen the Democrats introducing a fixed bill.”

Both Brazile and Perino also agreed that with immigration reform looking like a likely bi-partisan win and passage later this week, it’s less likely any reasonable ACA reform could pass. “If they do one thing, they’re not going to want to do another,” Brazile said. Republicans and Democrats “are going to divorce each other as soon as the bill passes.”

Stay tuned to EBA inBrief this week for coverage of the NAHU conference and follow us on Twitter @EBAMagazine and on Facebook for live updates.

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