July 20, 2009

CNN's Rick Sanchez brings in Michael Moore basher Sanjay Gupta and Rep. Roy Blunt to lament the horrors of private insurance companies no longer being able to reap massive profits on the backs of United States citizens. If we did by some miracle actually ever get to universal health care in the U.S., it would not mean these companies are out of business completely. They would still be offering supplemental insurance to compliment the government plan. In the world of the Gupta's and Blunt's out there, that would be a tragedy.

Blunt goes so far as to cite Medicare Part D as an example of just how well Republican health care reform has worked with giving consumers "choices". Yeah, the "choice" to line the pharmaceutical industry's pocket.

SANCHEZ: Roy Blunt is joining us now. He is a congressman from Missouri. He is good enough to talk to us now.

Congressman, thanks for being with us. I imagine the news that you are hearing, that there are problems here in the city, are ones you would have expected. But let me start you somewhere else and ask you, OK, what would your plan be?

BLUNT: Actually, that's the interesting thing about this debate, I think, Rick, is everybody agrees on the top line issues. We believe, I believe, as the leader of our group on our side that's tried to bring our committees together to work on this, I think we are in generally broad agreement.

We need a plan that has -- we need a health care system that has access for everybody regardless of preexisting conditions, one that has more competition, more choice in a way that would make it more affordable, and one that ensures that people have the maximum opportunity to make their own choices about their doctor and their health care.

So we agree on the goals, and our biggest disagreements are how you get there. And probably the biggest disagreement of how you get there is whether the government is going to run a plan that doesn't broaden competition, but actually eventually eliminates all the competition.

SANCHEZ: It's interesting, and I will let you maybe discuss this with my colleague, Sanjay Gupta, who has been giving this a lot of thought, and he seems to be suggesting, and Sanjay, I don't want to put words in your mouth, but maybe something in the middle may be the answer, right?

Because if you do everything based on profit, as you suggest, congressman, that leaves you some holes as well. And we all know if you let the government take care of it itself, that may leave you some holes. Sanjay, would you suggest a mixture of the two would be the way to go?

GUPTA: There are several different issues sort of at play here. and as far as a mixture of the two goes, people have suggested sort of a public/private option. And I am not sure if Representative Blunt is referring to that specifically or how he feels about the idea of a public option.

Let me lay it out this way. The public option would be, the way it has been presented would be for people who cannot afford health care and need some sort of subsidy or some other system in which they can purchase into to get their health care insurance.

The concern, the critics will charge this, Rick. They will charge that a public option that has the backing of taxpayer dollars will be such a big competitor that it eventually will sort of remove the private insurance industry all together, and that won't be any kind of competition at all. That's what the critics will charge.

SANCHEZ: Let's hear from the congressman on that. What do you make of that, sir?

BLUNT: Rick, and I think you said a moment ago that I was for a system based on profit. I'm actually not. I'm for a system based on competition, which is different than a system based on profit.

SANCHEZ: Aren't they the same? Aren't the really the same. You compete because you want to do better than the next guy.

BLUNT: You want to have some profit, but you don't want to have profit that the marketplace really shouldn't allow. That's the problem with the current system is it sort of grew up out of nowhere after World War II without any thoughts to really having maximum choices for people.

An example of maximum choices for people would be Medicare Part D, where everybody every year gets to look at their provider and decide if they still like that provider or not.

But back to Sanjay's point. I think many of us could accept the idea that if at some point the competition we are confident would be there doesn't materialize, and these new choices can't be developed, you visit this again.

But if you start out with a government competitor, nobody describes this as just a competitor for people who can't get insurance. The idea of the government competitor is to somehow make the marketplace more competitive.

What happens is that government competitor eventually drives all the other competitors away. A government competitor is like an elephant in a room full of mice. The fast mice get out of the room as quick as they can. The slow mice get crushed by the elephant. And then the only thing left in the room is the elephant. And then, you have government-run health care, which is what we don't want.

We want more competition. We just don't happen to think the government trying to run a big health care operation is the best place to give people more choice, more competition, and actually, ultimately, lower prices with their health care.

SANCHEZ: That makes sense. We appreciate the analogy with the elephant. We certainly understand that, quite vivid, in fact. What do you expect the president to come out and tell the American people in the next five minutes?

BLUNT: I think he is going to try to explain these numbers that the Congressional Budget Office came up with that really say that this isn't just a trillion dollars over 10 years, it is actually $2 trillion over ten years because the first five years, no money is spent. The second five years, you are spending almost $200 billion a year.

That's not anywhere close to being paid for by either tax increases that have been proposed in this bill or Medicare cuts.

And surely, he will try to explain why both his own Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office are wrong in saying this does nothing to slow down the spiraling health care costs.

There were two goals supposedly here. One was to get people insured who aren't insured, and two was to stop the spiraling health care cost. And I don't think this program does either of those, but it sure costs the American taxpayer and the American economy a lot of money.

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