Wendell Potter takes Chuck Grassley to task on Democracy Now when asked about his reaction to his rejection of the public option amendment offered by Chuck Schumer.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to go back to yesterday’s debate in the Senate Finance Committee. Democratic Senator Charles Schumer, who introduced one of the public option amendments, questioned Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa over his rejection of government-run health insurance option.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: I’d just like to know what you think of Medicare, a government-run program that’s far more government-run than what Senator Rockefeller has proposed? Do you think Medicare is a good program? Because most of the amendments on the other side have been aimed at preserving Medicare, a government-run program.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: I think that Medicare is part of the social fabric of America, after forty years, just like Social Security is. And I don’t say that because it’s perfect. There’s a lot of things that need to be changed, and a lot of the things in this legislation are changing a lot of things that’s wrong with Medicare. And to say that I support it is not to say that it’s the best system that it can be.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: But it is a government-run plan, isn’t that right?
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: It is a government-run plan.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER: Thank you.
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY: And not—and the reason I say it’s part of the social fabric of America is there are private health insurance plans and retirement plans that are connected with Medicare and Social Security, and it’s not easy to undo a Medicare plan without also hurting a lot of private initiatives that are coupled with it. But that does not make it perfect. And I’ll bet, based upon fifty years of experience, if we had to do it over again, we’d do it other ways, even if it were a government-run plan.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Chuck Grassley. Wendell Potter, your response?
WENDELL POTTER: Well, clearly, this senator has the insurance industry’s best interests at heart, not the American public and not his constituents. The Medicare program is, as he said, part of the social fabric of this country and has been for many years. And it is a government-run plan that has meant a great deal of difference to a lot of people in this country, including certainly his constituents.
He has said that he didn’t think a public plan would be fair, compete fairly with insurance companies who—the private insurance industry. I’d like to ask him what is fair about the way that the insurance industries operate today, the companies that dump sick people when they need insurance most. What is fair about the way the insurance industry operates, Senator Grassley?
AMY GOODMAN: Forty-five million new customers, that’s what the private insurance companies can now look forward to, if a bill like what came out of the Senate Finance Committee moves forward with the mandate. Explain how they will make out and how important, how significant, how profitable this is for the for-profit companies.
WENDELL POTTER: Yeah, this is the first time that the insurance industry has really seen great opportunity in healthcare reform, with an individual mandate, which would require all of us to buy insurance if we are not eligible for a public, government-run program, which, fortunately, many people are. We would have to buy it in the private market from insurance companies, many of whom—many of which are for-profit companies. We would not have the option of buying or getting insurance through a government-run program like the public option would create.
So, not only would our premium dollars go into this—into the private insurance industry, but a lot of tax dollars would. Most people who don’t have insurance can’t afford it, and they wouldn’t be able to afford it after healthcare reform is passed without the government subsidizing their premiums. So billions and billions of taxpayers’ dollars will flow right into the treasuries of these big for-profit insurance companies. So we will be essentially paying a tax that will help support these insurance companies. It will be an enormous bailout of the health insurance industry.