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MSNBC "The Rachel Maddow Show" - Transcript

Interview

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REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: Thanks so much, Chris.

HAYES: I find this gap between where the public is and where the budget conversation in Washington is centered really frustrating and mystifying. And so, I would like you to explain to me where you`re coming from, both from the Democratic House Caucus and the Democratic Party. What do you consider bright lines on Medicare?

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, you know, when the Republicans talked about cutting $716 billion from Medicare, the key word is really benefits.

HAYES: Right.

SCHAKOWSKY: We actually made the program better when it comes to seniors, people on Medicare, people with disabilities, but we were able to create efficiencies in Medicare, stop subsidizing private health insurance companies, beefed up the anti-fraud division of Medicare, and cut billions of dollars -- yes, we did, from Medicare. They called it, I heard the clip you played, Mitt Romney say, funneled money out of Medicare. No, that is not true. We made Medicare for beneficiaries better. Of course, the Republicans confused the voters. And you saw that seniors voted by -- you know, I don`t know what the percent is, more for the Republicans. Their campaign of confusion actually did work.

But I -- Chris, I think I read differently the Boehner letter about the structural changes that they want to make, meaning the voucher system. Voucher care that they wanted to go back not only to raising the edge of Medicare, but to turn it into a voucher program and turn it over back to the private insurance companies -- a very unpopular, inefficient, bad idea that would cost seniors up to $6,000 more a year to pay for Medicare benefits.

HAYES: One of the things I really like about the plan that you put together during the Simpson/Bowles Commission, was that it questioned a lot of the underlying premises that guide the conversation we`re having about fiscal policy right now.

And I guess I want to ask you -- given the fact that we have just thrown all these different policy mechanisms at the problem of the growth in health care spending, wouldn`t it make sense to just wait three or four years, look what`s working, and then have this conversation about adjustments we`re going to make long-term to Medicare?

I do not understand why in the wake of passing that bill, the obsession with doing something about it right now.

SCHAKOWSKY: Well, actually, I think that would be a fine thing to do, but there are other efficiencies that we could make in Medicare right now. We could ask -- we could allow Medicare to negotiate with the pharmaceutical companies, and that would save a good deal of money. Health care, overall, we could have a public option, which actually passed the House of Representatives, which would save another $106 billion over 10 years. We are doing pilot projects that make accountable care organizations get away from fee-for-service for every individual kind of procedure, and pay for outcomes, for making people healthier, preventative services.

So I`m really not against those kinds of efficiencies. But asking seniors, whose median income in the United States of America is $22,000 a year, to suggest that they should pay more, or that they should wait two more years. I have people crawling into my office --

HAYES: Yes.

SCHAKOWSKY: -- almost, literally, every week, saying, if I only can make it until I`m 65 years old. These are proposals that not only are wildly unpopular, but they make no sense --

HAYES: They`re bad policy.

SCHAKOWSKY: -- in terms of efficient health care.

HAYES: And they don`t -- and they don`t save a lot of money, I should also note. If cost driving is what you`re -- very quickly, yes or no, do you see raising the eligibility age as a red line? As the thing that if it`s in the deal, you think Democrats should walk away from?

SCHAKOWSKY: We should walk away from raising the age of Medicare, absolutely. My sense is that the White House is in --

HAYES: Same place.

SCHAKOWSKY: -- exactly the same place. Not supporting it, thank goodness. It`s a very bad and very unpopular proposal.

HAYES: Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, thank you very much.

SCHAKOWSKY: Thank you.

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