June 17, 2009

Lou Dobbs brings in the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins and Sojourners' Jim Wallis to debate health care reform as a religious issue in Dobb's Face Off segment. Apparently Perkins isn't satisfied with just doing his best to bash gays and abortion doctors. He's now decided to start toeing the Frank Luntz Republican line on health care reform as well.

DOBBS: Congressional Republicans for their part today proposed a centrist approach to healthcare reform as they call it, a less expensive alternative to the Democratic plan which would cost somewhere around a trillion dollars over the next decade. The role of religion also rising to the surface of the health care debate and that is the topic of tonight's face-off.

Joining me now Tony Perkins, he's the president of the Family Research Council. Tony good to have you with us and the Reverend Jim Wallis, president and executive director of a Christian social justice organization. It's great to have you both with us. How in the world is god and politics moving to the center of a debate on national health care reform? If I may Reverend start with you?

REV. JIM WALLIS, FOUNDER & PRES., SOUIJOURNERS: The community of faith should never be involved in the weeds, policy weeds, but there's a fundamental moral issue here, 50 million Americans don't have health care coverage. And a lot of those are low income families, middle income families. On the way over here, Lou, I got a voicemail from a friend who said he's only 38. He said my wife this morning got diagnosed with lymphoma cancer. He's terrified yet he has health insurance. Imagine if he didn't have health insurance, he and his wife. So this is an injustice.

So we have to fight, we have to achieve coverage for all those folks who don't have it. That's a moral issue. We won't get involved in all of the details of policy. But the moral issue has to be front and center here.

DOBBS: Tony Perkins?

TONY PERKINS, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: Well, Lou, there's no question that we have a health care problem in America. In fact, for many families it's a crisis. But we need a common sense approach that will make sure that those truly in need will be covered and that our health care stays patient-centered and not government-centered. And that's what's at question here. And I think what we're seeing in this debate is -- and I appreciate what Jim says. I agree, now I take issue with the 40 million. It's really 43 million that do not have health insurance, not health coverage. Health insurance because we actually have 80 percent at a CDC report says 80 percent of poor children have public health care now. And my home state of Louisiana, we actually are one of the few states that have kind of a two-track system. We have a public health care system that runs parallel to the private system. And I'll tell you, it is fraught with problems. And I'm fearful of what will happen if we go to a one size government health care program.

WALLIS: But we're not.

DOBBS: I'm sorry?

PERKINS: That's what's being pushed. That's what's being pushed is a government-mandated. No, it is, that's what we're talking about.

WALLIS: We haven't had health care reform for years because before the debate there's a lot of scare tactics going on. This proposal is about people having choices. Keep your own doctor, keep your health care if you want it. If you don't have a health care plan, you can choose another plan. So there's choice here. This is not a government plan, government-control plan. There's a choice here.

DOBBS: May I ask, Reverend Wallis, where are you getting your details on the plan since the administration hasn't put it forward?

WALLIS: Well, that's right. All there are ideas and bills, but I've heard that's going to talk about a government-controlled plan. All the ideas I've heard from everywhere are how we can really get give people choices. A lot of Americans who have insurance, Lou, as you know, they're working families and they're underinsured.

PERKINS: That sounds very good, Jim. That sounds good, but we see through Medicare and Medicaid that once the government pays the bill, it calls the shots. And what we're looking at in the -- the president's very defensive, this isn't socialized medicine, but a single payer system. It calls the one shots, one-size fits all. I don't know if you've ever had one of those hospital gowns, they're one-sized fits all and important things left uncovered. And that's what will happen with a health care plan.

WALLIS: That's not true. It's talking about health insurance companies are not insuring people with preexisting conditions. So you want to give people a choice so they can get their health care needs met.

PERKINS: And that's true. We need accessibility, affordability, portability, and transparency. And there's ideas like allowing people to go across state lines and create pools for insurances that can bring down the cost, we don't need the government to run it.

DOBBS: The government shouldn't run it, no one's suggesting that.

PERKINS: Go ahead, you can talk, it's your show.

DOBBS: Thank you, gentlemen. What do you think of the congressional proposal put forward by some that would create a health care cooperative, much like rural utilities? Is this an acceptable public option coverage that within the --

PERKINS: It's an intriguing idea.

DOBBS: Right.

PERKINS: It's an intriguing idea. It depends on how it's going to be managed. Is it going to be managed from a national level, from a state level, or a community level? And also, Lou, it comes back to the question of if the government's going to pay. If they're going to pay the bills or even put in the seed money to get these going, they're going to define what the benefits are, and that's of great concern.

DOBBS: All right.

Proponents of -- let me ask this quickly if I may, Reverend. The president made it pretty clear that he doesn't believe he's talking about socialized medicine. But have you heard any proposals from the Obama administration or from Capitol Hill that will, in fact, reduce significantly health care costs, reduce the cost of healthcare insurance, indeed deal with the issue of separately health care insurance rather than control of, as some critics suggest the health care system per se.

WALLIS: There's two big issues here. One is coverage. We have to make sure, and Lou, as you know, the families who aren't covered are mostly working families. You know, Medicare covers those, the poorest. You know, Medicaid, but the working families are not covered. So we have to make sure those 47 million, 48 million, 50 million, whatever the number that they're covered. Second, we have to contain -- PERKINS: The majority --

WALLIS: The skyrocketing health care. The costs have to be contained. That's a moral issue too. Too many people are making too much money in the system, and we have to slow that down. So coverage and then cover the costs. We all need it. Those are both moral issues.

DOBBS: All right, Tony Perkins and Jim Wallis, we thank you both for being here.

Can you help us out?

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