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MR. HEMMER: Breaking news from Capitol Hill now, watching that Senate committee take up the issue of health care. You see the stacks of paperwork on top of those desks there. We're told the top third is the actual health care bill and the bottom two-thirds are the amendments suggested to the bill.
Well, Senator John McCain was on the microphone just minutes ago. He's railing against the possibility that, well, the real possibility that there are no clear answers as to how to pay for this or cover it. Roll this and we'll talk about it.
SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ) (From video.): So how in the world do we expect to reasonably address this when we now have CBO estimates that this bill would be some trillions, others estimate more than $1.6 trillion, others as much as $4 trillion. How in the world do we expect to reasonably authorize, maybe there's good things, maybe there's not in this without a cost estimate? It is a joke if we run through this stack of papers here without having some provision, and I suggest we not move forward until we have some provision as to how we're going to pay for it.
MR. HEMMER: Give you a bit of a flavor of what's happening inside that committee room now, Lindsey Graham, Republican Senator from South Carolina.
How are you, sir? Good morning to you.
SEN. GRAHAM: Good morning, Bill.
MR. HEMMER: How are we going to pay for this?
SEN. GRAHAM: With taxpayer dollars, I guess. The point is you can't look at this bill in isolation. Between 2010 and 2020, the Obama administration plans to borrow $9 trillion, add that to the debt that already exists. We spent $3.7 trillion in today's dollars for World War II.
So, yeah, this is -- CBO says that $1 trillion would cover about one-third of the uninsured, so until you answer the question of how you pay for it, we're kind of stuck.
MR. HEMMER: What the White House would be saying it's okay, what's your plan?
SEN. GRAHAM: My plan would be to do a couple of things, number one, of the 45 million uninsured people, 11 million of them are already eligible for a government program, 9.7 million of them are illegal immigrants. I wouldn't try to cover those. And you've got 9.1 million that make over $75,000. I would give them an opportunity to pay for their own health care. I would create a system that covers everybody, but I'd have it in the private sector and I'd reform Medicare. Medicare is a ticking time bomb for this country. I would not apply it to everybody in the country. I would focus on private sector health care, choosing your own doctor, competition among plans for those below 65 and cover the uninsured.
MR. HEMMER: Okay. There's an alternate plan. What will that cost?
SEN. GRAHAM: I don't want to spend a penny more. We're spending plenty of money. Right now, our health care system spends over $2 trillion a year. We will cut your leg off if you're a diabetic, but we won't give you the drugs to keep you from having your leg cut off.
I would re-focus the American health care system fundamentally, change it to a preventive model versus treating people who are already sick and I wouldn't spend a penny more.
MR. HEMMER: So your plan is zero balance then?
SEN. GRAHAM: Exactly. I think we already spend a lot of money. We have health care inflation far beyond the growth of any other segment of the economy. We're spending more money on health care per capita than any other area of the economy. I would slow down and figure out how to spend the current money better. If you smoke, I would encourage you to stop. I would reward you, help pay for getting off smoking, but if you continue to smoke, I would charge you more.
I would change behaviors that exist today and not spend any more money. I would reward people who do the right things.
MR. HEMMER: Well, preventative medicine is part of your plan, and, frankly, it's part of the Democrats' plan, too. I mean it all sounds great, I mean, it sounds good to the ear, but getting people to change their habits is not an easy thing.
SEN. GRAHAM: Sure it is if you put incentives out there, people will go where the incentives are. Once you pay your co-payment, none of us care what it costs, but we ought to start caring what it costs, medical savings accounts, but our Democratic friends want everybody covered under the umbrella of government from kid care to Medicare to Medicaid, that's exactly where they're headed. I'm trying to not take everybody and throw them into the government-run plan where you have to wait forever to get taken care of is a better way.
MR. HEMMER: Is your plan; is your plan part of the two-thirds of that stack that I described?
SEN. GRAHAM: No. I think what we're looking for is alternatives. I think we're looking for bipartisanship here and you'll never have bipartisanship when the bill came out Friday and you have to amend it by Monday. You'll never have bipartisanship when the Democrats are going to do this by the month of July and they won't tell us how much it costs.
We need to slow down. This may be the biggest decision we make in my political lifetime. I don't like the process. You're never going to get buy in. Who is going to buy into a system that you do in a month and you don't even know what it costs and how you pay for it?
MR. HEMMER: Well, I don't think you're alone in that opinion --
SEN. GRAHAM: I know how to do bipartisan things, Bill. You sit in a room and you negotiate.
MR. HEMMER: And you give a little here and you give a little there and eventually you come out with something that everybody agrees on.
SEN. GRAHAM: That's right.
MR. HEMMER: Tom Harkin on the screen, Democrat out of Iowa, to The Boston Globe, "I wake up at night thinking, my gosh, we could wind up with a more convoluted system than we have now. We could just be multiplying the points in our system that create waste and abuse and cost us so much money." That's basically what you're saying, Senator.
SEN. GRAHAM: Yeah. What I would do if I were the president is I would get a group of Senators and Congressmen together, a bipartisan group and I would use the rest of this year to flush out models that we could buy into and incrementally change this system. If you try to push a bill through the United States Senate in the next 30 days that Republicans really haven't had much input into, nobody knows how much it really costs and how you're going to pay for it, this is the first rule of politics and medicine you don't want to violate, do no harm and what Senator Harkin indicates is about to happen. We're about to do some harm because we're not looking at it holistically or in a bipartisan fashion.
MR. HEMMER: Well, I've got to go. I'm way out of time here. Is this going to pass or not? You're saying it's not going to pass.
SEN. GRAHAM: I don't think it will.
MR. HEMMER: All right, Senator. Thank you. Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, thank you for your time.
SEN. GRAHAM: Thank you.