Rep. Weiner: Without The Public Option, The Bill Won't Pass

Anthony Weiner with Neil Cavuto on Fox News tells him the White House will lose 100 votes without a public option:

CAVUTO: So you’re saying if the president leaves the public option as just an option, not a drop-dead one, he’s gonna lose, essentially, the House.

WEINER: “Well frankly, right now, as the bill’s constructed, it would be an option for people to choose, no one would be forced into it.

What happens if you leave out the option? Where’s the competition, where’s the downward pressure on prices, and where is the thing that helps taxpayers, where’s the thing that helps small businesses? You need that, and it was part of the construct of the bill, and frankly the president’s been a couple of different places on it, but tonight we get to see what he has to say. And I think what he’s going to say is not only are we going to keep the public option in there, we’re going to make it a vigorous one so that consumers have a choice.

CAVUTO: But he has said, Congressman, while that’s something he would prefer personally, in the ABC interview, he said there are a number of ways you can get there, this is not necessarily “the” way. So what if he does something in the middle here? He’s a pragmatic fellow, he wants to get healthcare reform passed, and he says something to the effect, all right, to get the Anthony Weiners and all behind me, if the private insurance guys don’t do what I want them to do, or extract the savings I expect them to, then we do Weiner’s public option.

WEINER: Well frankly, the way the present public option kicks in is, what, ten years out? 2013 is Year One of the bill, then there’s a five-year grace period. But the fact of the matter is, we’ve tried the private insurance model and they’re providing unaffordable health care and 15,000 Americans lose their health care every single day. I don’t frankly see the argument for dropping the public option. All it is, is a choice. All it is, is competition.

CAVUTO: Well you know, the fear is that it’s not just an option, it’s a Trojan horse. That once in, the government just takes over everything.

WEINER: Yeah, I’ve heard that, and I’ve heard that a lot of places, and none more than here on Fox. Frankly, CBO say 4% of people would wind up getting in and I frankly think that’s not vigorous enough. I think we should cut out the bank shot and say the private insurance companies aren’t contributing enough. But that’s not where the president is.

CAVUTO: But Congressman, you could watch a lot more than just Fox to look at Medicare’s history to know, a program that started $65 million a year and that last year had a budget of $400 billion, and ended up with $5 trillion in benefits was substantially bigger than it was argued in its early stages.

WEINER: Yes, there’s no doubt about it that we have many more 65 years old and over and thankfully that we do, we have more people living longer. We have an actuarial problem.

CAVUTO: I think you’re pretty good at math, you would know that a growth from $65 million to $400 billion is substantial growth.

WEINER: We have an actuarial problem, and it’s a good one to have. That more and more people are living longer and that’s a good thing. But frankly…

CAVUTO: But it’s not all that. Right? I mean, it’s not just accounting for the people who are living longer and more of them. I mean, it’s government getting big and getting its nose under the tent and the fear that once it’s nose under the tent, it won’t leave.

WEINER: It’s the same bill that it was when it was created 44 years ago, and a lot of Americans like it for the service that it provides, but there’s no doubt about it…

CAVUTO: I know, I know, but let me finish that point. If you were to ask 44 years ago that this $65 million program would turn into a $400 billion monster handing out trillions in benefits way beyond the initial beneficiaries, would you, and would Americans, have signed onto it?

WEINER: We’re way beyond the original beneficiaries, but still you gotta be 65, and there are more people who are over 65, there’s no doubt about it. But the fact remains, the arc of cost for Medicare is actually lower than it is for private insurance plans, despite the fact they’re taking care of the most vulnerable population, 65 and over.

CAVUTO: But even when it comes to Medicare prescription drug benefits, something designed under the last president, it was a Republican, all of a sudden the original price tag on that has quintupled.

WEINER: Who’s running that program?

CAVUTO: Well, I’m just saying…

WEINER: Private pharmaceutical companies.

CAVUTO: It was dropped in your lap, though. It was a Medicare payment.

WEINER: No no no, that’s not fair. That’s not fair.

CAVUTO: All right, if you want to say it’s private insurance, I’m just telling you it is under the auspices of Medicare, your program.

WEINER: David, we made a huge mistake, and I voted against it, giving it to the pharmaceutical companies. We tried the private sector…

CAVUTO: How do we know you won’t repeat it?

WEINER: Because we’re not going to give it to them. The way you should do it is give it to someone like Medicare to administer directly.

CAVUTO: You trust government.

WEINER: You trust the private pharmaceutical companies that gave us a $733 billion donut hole.

CAVUTO: No no no, I’m not trusting anyone. I’ve yet to see an example, Congressman, where the savings you expect to be extracted because the government is in there has ever happened.

WEINER: You know the overhead rate of Medicare? Four percent.

CAVUTO: So you trust that you can get a savings from government.

WEINER: 44 years we’ve seen them do four percent, what it takes private insurance 30 percent to do.

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