CBS "Face the Nation" - Transcript
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FACE THE NATION - CBS NEWS (202) 457-4481
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BOB SCHIEFFER: All right. Thank you so much, Mister Axelrod.
And, we turn now to Congressman Jim Cooper, who is one of those conservative Democrats. He is at his home in Nashville, Tennessee this morning.
Well, I guess we couldn't blame Mister Axelrod for not canceling the President's vacation this morning on television; he probably wouldn't keep his job very long if he did that. But do you want more specifics, Congressman Cooper?
REPRESENTATIVE JIM COOPER (D-Tennessee): Yes, Bob, we do. It is very important that every American understand this plan, because it is so vital. It's about how their doctor or hospital treats them and that is what this issue has got to do. We want more White House leadership. Now they have been increasingly good at this where they're more and more engaged, but the real question is not about authorship it's more about craftsmanship, a bill that works. And the President laid doubt excellent guidelines. We are for reform. We want a good bill to pass this year and I think that can be-- that can happen.
BOB SCHIEFFER: But as of right, Speaker Pelosi has said that when she takes the bill to the floor for a vote that she will have the votes to pass it. Can she take that-- that bill to the floor next week yet? Does she have the votes yet to pass it?
REPRESENTATIVE JIM COOPER: I don't believe so next week. I think that the American people want to take a closer look at this legislation. They want to feel comfortable with it. And I think most members of the House and Senate want the same thing. We're still in the earliest stages of drafting reform. We have a-- a long way to go. A lot of agreement is out there. And I think David Axelrod is right, we have agreement on the seventy or eighty percent of the legislation. But it's important we get the other details right too.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, because the other details are who's going to pay for it and-- and how you going to cut the cost? What do you want here Congressman? What if you went to the White House or if the President called you on the phone after you're on television here this morning, what would you tell him about what needs to happen here?
REPRESENTATIVE JIM COOPER: Well there are two approaches: We can try to amend the current bills that are in Congress, and that's a possibility; or there are other approaches that are completely bipartisan and introduced and actually score well according to the Congressional Budget Office. They save money and they cover everyone. One of these is called the Healthy Americans Act introduced by Ron Wyden and Bob Bennett. Another approach is the one that former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle came up with Bob Dole. So there are other alternative approaches that, I think, Congress should be allowed to consider.
But if we're just amending the current legislation, it's really important that we get into the details and make sure they work in every state in this great country. And there are ways to do that, because there are excellent models of health care delivery all over the country, places like the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, they do a superb job. Almost every state has one of these outstanding models, and if we just allowed them to grow a little bit more. And as the President has said repeatedly, if we just make health insurance more affordable and more available for everybody then I think it's going to be health care reform that everybody can get behind.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Well, what about this idea that's apparently being talked about at least in the White House now of putting a tax on the more expensive health insurance programs, the so-called Cadillac Plans? Would that be something you could vote for?
REPRESENTATIVE JIM COOPER: Well, Bob, that's a very interesting and promising new development in the discussions. I think the better way to describe it is like this: First of all, this is a free country. You should be able to buy whatever health insurance you want to with your own money. But you should not be able to force your fellow taxpayers to subsidize your choice of these super luxury plans. We're reading about one today from Goldman Sachs that's forty thousand dollars per family. That's fine if you want to do buy that with your own money, but you shouldn't be able to force poor middle-income taxpayers to subsidize your decision to buy that policy.
And a lot of folks don't understand today's very complex tax system which does, in fact, subsidize the policies for the highest income people in America, and it really doesn't give much of a tax break at all to regular-working Americans. So I think there's a way to make that tax system a lot fairer than it has been in the past.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Is it possible to cut health care costs? I talk to doctors that say, "Look, the costs are going up, they are not going down." Is it realistic to say that you can actually make substantial cuts in how much this cost?
REPRESENTATIVE JIM COOPER: Bob, you've asked the key question right there and I think the best way to put it is what we really need to do is slow the rate of growth of health spending. It's been growing at inflation plus two and a half percent for thirty or forty years. If we can just get it down to the growth of inflation that would solve some two-thirds of our entitlement problems in the future. But there is resistance to that because a lot of the health care sector has grown so fat and happy on the extra money they don't know how to just live on an inflationary adjustment.
So I think we can reform the system, but so much of medicine is cultural and it's very difficult for government to get at. The excellent New Yorker article by Atul Gawande on the difference between McAllen, Texas and El Paso, Texas; McAllen taxes being the highest spending health care area in America. And this all developed in the last fifteen years due to a practice pattern in McAllen that is very, very wasteful.
So what we want is good value. Every American wants to live longer and healthier. We can do that and safe a bunch of money. The estimate is that we're recurrently wasting every year some seven hundred billion dollars. And that's billion with a "B," Bob. That's a lot of money.
BOB SCHIEFFER (overlapping): All right.
REPRESENTATIVE JIM COOPER: If we can just save a fraction of that we can solve the problems.
BOB SCHIEFFER: Congressman Jim Cooper acknowledged as one of the real experts on this whole issue in the House.
We'll be back in just one minute.
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