August 4, 2009

Lou Dobbs looked like he was hoping to get President Obama's former doctor to trash him, and instead got polite disagreement, and some straight talk on health care reform he looked like he didn't want to hear, but wasn't willing to argue against. Sorry Lou, no red meat from this interview. Instead just some very good arguments about why we should have universal Medicare.

DOBBS: The president's health care proposal has many critics. One is the president's former personal physician, Dr. David Scheiner. Dr. Scheiner is a Chicago doctor. He treated President Obama for more than two decades. He says the president's health care plan will not work because it's too expensive and too compromised.

Doctor, it's great to have you with us here. You know I think a lot...


DOBBS: I think a lot of people are going to be surprised that -- you know, you spend two decades with your patient and now you're a little disappointed, to say the least, with his health care plan. Why so?

SCHEINER: Well, you know, I have tremendous respect for him. He's incredible, maybe the best president I've been living through and I go back to Franklin Roosevelt. But on this issue I think he's wrong and I think...

DOBBS: And we're only six months in.

SCHEINER: Well, I think on this particular I think he's wrong.

DOBBS: No, I'm just kidding with you.

SCHEINER: He is extraordinarily bright. I mean the man is incredible.

DOBBS: Right.

SCHEINER: His knowledge. Once I told him a joke the last time I saw him, and he remembered that I told him the same joke, and he criticized me. If he can remember dumb jokes this guy has got a memory.

DOBBS: Yes, he's got a memory but what's his vision? And that's the issue here. You say this plan is too expensive and doesn't go far enough in the sense that it isn't sufficiently universal, isn't sufficiently nationalized? In what way?

SCHEINER: Well, you know, there's a number of areas. For example, one area that really bothers me is Medicaid. One of the things that he wants to do is to increase Medicaid.

And Medicaid -- the states can't afford it right now. And how are they going to afford it if he increases the size of Medicaid. I can't understand.

Medicaid is also not a good system. Most doctors won't take them. And many hospitals won't take Medicaid patients, and the patients are treated often in a third-class fashion. That's not the American way of life when we're supposed to be more egalitarian.

Medicaid is bad.

The other thing is that the private insurance companies will still be driving the car and private insurance companies -- I've had, you know, 40 years of dealing with them. People keep saying, well, the government will get in the way between you and your patient.

The government never gets in the way. In Medicare, 40 years of Medicare, they've never interfered with me giving care. Private insurance...

DOBBS: But Medicare...

SCHEINER: ... is constantly.

DOBBS: All right.

SCHEINER: Constantly interfering.

DOBBS: Medicare is -- I'm sorry, which is interfering?

SCHEINER: Medicare never interferes. If anything, Medicare is too permissive. There's too many things they allow that they should not. They should tight en it up. Private insurance tells me what hospital, what laboratory, what medication, whether I can admit the patient, whether I can't admit the patient. It's incredible.

DOBBS: But the argument is, as you know, Doctor, that with government-run health care that there would be great intrusion by the government and the government, you mentioned Medicare, is 35 percent more expensive over the past 30-some-odd years than all of the other private programs combined per patient.

So that's not a very likely model either. So what would be the two...

SCHEINER: Well, except Medicare is treating old people. Medicare is treating old, sick people. They're going to have -- you know, great amounts of costs the last two years of one's life. It has to be more expensive.

DOBBS: So my question is, what are the things you would like to see done, the top two requirements for successful health care reform? I know there are many more. Just the top two because we're out of time.

SCHEINER: The first one would be universal Medicare so that everyone is covered and there is no difference between different patients.

DOBBS: Right.

SCHEINER: The second thing, I think is we've got to address the issue of the pharmaceuticals. This is getting way out of balance. We have to negotiate the fees for the...

DOBBS: So you're talking price controls for pharmaceuticals?

SCHEINER: Not cost controls but it has to be -- you know, part "D" was a disaster, it was so expensive.

DOBBS: Right.

SCHEINER: There has to be negotiation.

DOBBS: All right. Well, Dr. David Scheiner, good to have you with us. And maybe you should call up your former patient and talk about maybe a beer at the White House to get this thing resolved.

SCHEINER: I wouldn't mind a glass of water.

DOBBS: You've got it. Dr. Scheiner, thank you very much.

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