David Axelrod discusses the healthcare bill on This Week with George Stephanopoulos:
STEPHANOPOULOS: And, David, the public seems to have questions as well. We did a poll this week, ABC News/Washington Post poll, that showed that 53 percent of the public think their own health care will cost more if this passes, 55 percent think the health care system overall will cost more, and only 37 percent think their own quality of care will be better.
In the face of this kind of skepticism, is it wise to ram through legislation like this, such a huge piece of legislation on a party-line vote?
AXELROD: Well, I would say a few things, George. First of all, you say this is what people think, I think when people see what actually happens after these reforms are passed, those concerns are going to be allayed, and they're going to realize that if they have insurance, they're more secure in their relationship with their insurance company, their costs are going to go down.
If they don't have insurance, they can get it at a price they can afford. It's going to reduce our deficit. It's going to extend the life of Medicare. Medicare recipients are going to get a better deal on prescription drugs and better care. So the reality I think will trump polls numbers in the dead of winter as this debate is going on.
In terms of ramming it through, we've been talking about this, we've been debating it and considering it for eight months. The Republican Party has spent a month engaged in parliamentary maneuvers and dilatory tactics to try and prevent and vote.
Understand, the big question here isn't whether or not we're going to get a vote, whether this will pass or not, the big question is whether the Republican Party will allow a vote. A majority of senators support this reform, and the Republican Party wants to prevent it from coming up for a vote. I think the American people are entitled to a vote.
If you are a person with pre-existing conditions, if you're a small business person who can't afford health care, if you are a person who became seriously ill and was thrown off your insurance -- their insurance because of that, if you're going bankrupt because of out-of-pocket expenses, you need the United States Senate to act.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But most of the changes, even if the bill passes won't be instituted until after the next presidential election, so you're asking people to take an awful lot on faith.
AXELROD: George, that's not really true, almost all of these insurance protections, the things that will protect people in terms of out-of-pocket costs, the pre -- children...
AXELROD: The day the president signs the bill, children with pre-existing conditions will now be -- an insurance company can't keep them from joining their parents' insurance policy. People with pre-existing conditions will have a catastrophic plan they can join.
And then, of course, when the thing goes fully into effect, everyone will be on insurance, insurance companies can't ban anyone with pre-existing conditions. But there are number of insurance protections that go into effect as soon as the president signs the bill. And not to mention, will begin reducing that gap in Medicare prescription coverage. So there...
STEPHANOPOULOS: The doughnut hole.
AXELROD: There are many, many benefits to this that go into effect right away. And most of them affect people who have insurance already.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Ben Nelson provided the 60th vote yesterday -- said he would provide the 60th vote yesterday, but he also laid out a warning, you've got a tough conference ahead with the House, and here's what he had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. BEN NELSON (D), NEBRASKA: I reserve the right to vote against the next cloture vote if there are material changes to this agreement in the conference report. And I will vote against it if that is the case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: So he still can hold this whole agreement hostage. Senator Joe Lieberman can still hold this whole agreement hostage. Yet you've got progressives in the House and your outside supporters like Richard Trumka, the head of the AFL-CIO, saying that if the bill doesn't move back in the direction of the House, they can't support it.
How do you thread that needle?
AXELROD: Well, look, this whole process has been like that, George. You know, the president said months and months ago that the best advice he got at the beginning of this process was that health reform would be declared dead at least five times before he signed the bill.
It's difficult. We're trying to do something difficult. As you know, seven presidents have tried this. Seven presidents have failed. We've been talking about it for a hundred years. So nobody expected this to be easy. We -- but I think that there is a determination in that Congress to get something done here.
Everybody understands that we can't sustain this system as it is. It's crushing families and businesses. People need protections against the excesses of their insurance companies. People who don't have insurance need to have insurance. And we need to reduce the overall cost of the system.
So I think that despite all of these problems, the will to get it done is there and we will get it done.