Howard Dean: Money Is Not Being Taken Away From Senior Citizens, It's Being Taken Away From Insurance Companies
God we need about a hundred more Howard Deans out there to put a stop to the Republican fear mongering. When Newt Gingrich tries to say that getting the waste out of Medicare Advanatage that is a giveaway to the private insurance companies is taking something away from seniors, Dean straightens him out and tells him no, it's taking away from the insurance companies that are ripping us off.
Dean and Durbin both did a good job on Meet the Press today against Gingrich and Cornyn.
MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about the deficit. And the president made a very important pledge during this speech on Wednesday.
PRES. OBAMA: I will not sign it if it adds one dime to the deficit now or in the future. Period.
MR. GREGORY: Senator Durbin, a hard pledge to meet when you've got House legislation that already does that, it already breaks the deficit. It can't be paid for over 10 years, according to the CBO. Here's a Washington Post editorial this morning having to do with where are the details, does the math work: "When politicians start talking about paying for programs by cutting `waste and abuse,' you should get nervous. When they don't provide specifics--and when the amounts under discussion are in the hundreds of billions of dollars--you should get even more nervous." How does this get paid for without adding to the deficit?
SEN. DURBIN: Members of Congress should take the president at his word, he will not sign a bill that adds to the deficit. He walked into the White House and inherited a $1 trillion-plus deficit from the Republican administration because they had fought a war in Iraq they didn't pay for, the gave tax breaks to the wealthy they didn't pay for and they had a prescription drug program under Medicare they didn't pay for. This president said that's over, and members of Congress should take that seriously. Now, I disagree with The Washington Post. The fact is, under Medicare now we are providing multibillion-dollar subsidies to health insurance companies for something called Medicare Advantage. The health insurance companies said to us, let us run Medicare. We can show you how the government's not doing it efficiently, we can do it at a lower cost. Guess what, it's not at a lower cost. We are subsidizing private health insurance companies to provide the Medicare benefits that we can provide at a lower cost. That has to change. That subsidy has to end. That is the kind of savings that can come back into the system to help small businesses provide health insurance and help those with lower incomes pay their premiums in America.
MR. GREGORY: How does...
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, first of all...
MR. GREGORY: Speaker Gingrich, how do you keep that pledge?
FMR. REP. GINGRICH: ...listen care--first of all, listen carefully to what he just said. He just said to the senior citizens of America, "We're going to take hundreds of billions of dollars out of Medicare and we're going to divert it to people who aren't senior citizens." Now, this is part of why you're seeing these town hall meetings. People who are on Medicare Advantage in rural America are getting a quality of health care they never got before. I just got an e-mail from somebody at the Gundersen Lutheran Clinic in La Crosse. They're on Medicare Advantage. They don't want to be forced to give this up. And it's interesting; the president says on the one hand, nobody has to give up anything. But by the way, if you're a senior citizen on Medicare Advantage, we're going to take a couple hundred billion dollars away from you. I think this, this section you showed of the president is an example of why we are in the kind of debate we're in right now. I don't believe most Americans believe it's possible to have the plan he wants and not see the deficit go up; unless he's going to propose, in the middle of the deepest recession since the Great Depression, massive tax increases which would further deepen the recession.
DR. DEAN: First of all, the money is not being taken away from senior citizens, it's being taken away from the insurance companies who are responsible for a lot of them problems in the first place. Second of all, it pains me deeply to see one of the great optimists, which is House Speaker Gingrich--you are. I mean, we agree on a lot of stuff. And the great--the thing we have in common is America can do anything. Every other democracy in the world has a healthcare system that covers everybody and we don't. Of course we can do this. How ridiculous.
MR. GREGORY: But, Dr. Dean, you have said, when you were running for president in 2004, people have to understand that you got to pay for it.
DR. DEAN: That's right.
MR. GREGORY: If you want that coverage, you've got to pay for it.
DR. DEAN: And the president is paying for it...
MR. GREGORY: And how do you not raise taxes?
DR. DEAN: And two-thirds of the money that's being--when President Obama talks about taking $500 million out of Medicare, that's not taking $500 million--billion dollars away from seniors. That's taking the waste that the Republicans have been talking about for years, the abuse that the Republicans have talked about for years, the stuff that the insurance companies are getting for profit over and above what their services are. They're--two-thirds of this bill is paid for with savings. And if you don't think the savings are there, then how come we spend 17 percent of our gross national production on health care and, and the Canadians, the British, the French, all of whom insure everybody, spend about 10 percent? There is so much fat in this system, we can pay for it.
SEN. CORNYN: David, we've got to be honest about the cost, and so far we haven't heard the president be clear about the cost. The Senate Budget Committee estimates that the House bill will cost not $1 trillion, but $2.2 trillion. The HELP Committee bill, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Senate Committee bill is estimated to cost $2.2 trillion over a full 10-year budget window. We need to be honest about what the cost is, what the pay forwards are going to be in terms of tax increases, cuts into existing programs that are already very fragile and not, and not going to be solvent by 2017, and then I think that's what is making people nervous. That's why people are speaking up and expressing...
DR. DEAN: Right.
SEN. CORNYN: ...their concerns.
MR. GREGORY: Well, Senator Durbin, look, you're in the Senate leadership. Can you say unequivocally that taxes will not have to go up in order to pay for a $900 billion healthcare reform plan?
SEN. DURBIN: Of course not. That's irresponsible. What the president said, if we're going to need new revenue, and some revenue will be needed, it'll come from those who can afford to pay. He's talked about tax increases for those making over $250,000 a year, a tax increase on health insurance companies for certain policies they sell. I mean, those are, those are the realities of the situation.
And let me tell you, I've heard this song before from Mr. Gingrich and from others that we just can't do it, that America's incapable of doing it. But Dr. Dean has it right. This is our chance. If we don't do it this time, we won't have a chance in my lifetime and the situation will get progressively worse. Let us face up to the reality and do this in a responsible way.