Transcript: Face to Face with Rep. Price
Nancy Cordes: Hello and welcome to "Face to Face" on cbsnews.com I'm Congressional Correspondent Nancy Cordes. I am joined today by Chairman of the Republican Policy Committee Tom Price of Georgia. Congressman thank you so much for being with us today.
Tom Price: Oh thanks Nancy, wonderful to be with you. I appreciate it.
Nancy Cordes: Obviously everyone is awaiting this health care ruling from the Supreme Court. That's all anyone's talking about here on Capitol Hill. Got any predictions for us?
Tom Price: Exciting week, exciting time. Historic time to see whether or not the Court is going to find any portion of this law constitutional, or unconstitutional. I don't know what's going to happen. The gurus say they're going to strike down the mandate, but we'll wait and see what happens tomorrow.
Nancy Cordes: If they don't strike down the mandate, if this entire law holds, what do Republicans do then, this has been a centerpiece of your argument for the past two years about why the country needs a change in direction.
Tom Price: Well regardless of what the Court does, whether they strike down the whole law, whether they uphold the whole law or strike down just a portion of it, the fact of the matter is that in the real world, where doctors treat patients, not a whole lot has changed and there are a lot of challenges that remain. So we continue with our message and that is that we need to repeal this law in its entirety because its premise is that Washington knows best and then we need to move forward in an open, honest, deliberate manner and correct the challenges that are out there in the health care arena so that patients, families and doctors are making medical decisions and nobody else.
Nancy Cordes: So even if the Supreme Court holds that this law is constitutional, even if a few conservative members join that decision, that doesn't change your determination to repeal it?
Tom Price: No it doesn't change our determination and it doesn't change the American people's resolve understanding that this law doesn't work. It doesn't work for patients -
Nancy Cordes: How can you say it doesn't work if it hasn't been implemented yet?
Tom Price: Well they already know because it doesn't work for patients, it clearly doesn't work for physicians who are, many of my former colleagues, leaving the practice of medicine because of what they see coming. It certainly doesn't' work for employers who are trying to figure out how they're going to pay for employees' health coverage and finding out they aren't going to be able to. It doesn't work for states. You've got state after state asking for waivers on the Medicaid portion of this law. And it certainly doesn't work for the federal government because the money doesn't add up. The nation can't afford what the President put in place. That doesn't mean there aren't solutions, because there are wonderful solutions that respect patients, respect physicians, and make it so we put in place patient-centered reforms which are patients and families and doctors making medical decisions.
Nancy Cordes: The White House says if the individual mandate gets struck down the rest of the law is unworkable. All these perks in the law like allowing people to keep kids on their insurance coverage until age 26 or banning insurance companies from discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions. They say it either all has to stay or it all has to go. Is that your view?
Tom Price: Well on one day they say that on another day they say, oh the individual mandate isn't that important if the Court strikes it down then we'll work through it on a rule or a regulatory standpoint. The fact of the matter is, the American people don't want Washington in charge of health care. And that's what this bill does. So we believe the whole thing has to come down. We have to repeal the entire law and move forward with those positive solutions to get folks covered, to address the costs in health care which weren't addressed in this legislation, to make certain that we have the highest quality care in the world, which we are losing as we speak, and to make sure that patient choices are respected. There are wonderful ways to do that without putting Washington in charge of our health care.
Nancy Cordes: What are those ways?
Price: Well you can get folks covered through the tax code - tax deductions, tax credits, refundable credits, advancable refundable credits so that every single American has the financial wherewithal to purchase coverage that they want for themselves and their family, not that the government wants for them. Portability: you ought not lose your insurance if you change your job or you lose your job. But you don't have to have the government in charge to solve that challenge, all you need to do is to say, regardless of who's paying for your health coverage, you own the coverage, you can take it with you like a 401k plan, and then we can save hundreds of billions of dollars in health care by ending the practice of defensive medicine. You need robust lawsuit abuse reform, which was completely ignored by the president and his party.
Nancy Cordes: Is there anything about the law that you do like, that you would want to reinstate?
Tom Price: Well the principles are violated for everything that we hold dear in health care with this law. It increases costs, so it decreases affordability. It decreases accessibility. It makes it a bit more difficult for individuals to gain health coverage that they want. It decreases quality because of the rules and the regulatory scheme, and it decreases choices. So if you're looking at the principles of health care, they are violated by this law. Which again, is why the whole thing needs to be repealed. And that's not to say -
Nancy Cordes: But what about the specific elements of the law, like the 26-year old provision, like pre-existing conditions?
Tom Price: The status quo is unacceptable in health care. We know that. That's why we put forward positive solutions. So for example, 26-year-olds on their parents' health coverage policy - what we need to do is to make certain that every individual can get on a health coverage policy and that they have the financial wherewithal to be able to purchase it. Whether it's a 26-year-old or 25-year-old on their parents' coverage, people haven't been asking this question: what do you do when the parent loses their job and they don't have health coverage? Where's that child go? That adult child? That means three people aren't covered as opposed to just one. That's why we need fundamental reforms that respect the principles of health care - accessibility, affordability, quality and choices.
Nancy Cordes: Your leader, Speaker John Boehner, has explicitly told members of the House Republican Conference, look, when this decision comes down, if it goes our way, don't go out there in front of the cameras and gloat, don't go out there and bash the administration, take your time, read this ruling, maybe write a thoughtful op-ed. What is the thinking behind those instructions?
Tom Price: This isn't a time to celebrate. If there's any celebration that ought to go on it's to celebrate the Constitution of the United States and the rule of law, which we believe the Court will recognize and therefore strike down, if not the whole law, a portion of the law. But the American people are hurting out there. The economy is in the doldrums. Jobs aren't being created by this administration, the fact that health care, this bill is making it more difficult for job creation, and it hasn't addressed the fundamental challenges in health care. So this isn't a time for celebration, it's a time to get to work, and get to work in a bipartisan way. Health reform isn't a Republican issue or Democrat issue, it's an American issue and that's what we hope to do is work in a bipartisan way as we move forward.
Nancy Cordes: Democrats like to point out that the individual mandate started out as a conservative idea. It originated, many argue, from the conservative Heritage foundation. It was championed by Republicans on Capitol Hill for something like two decades. What changed about the individual mandate that made the Republican party view it not just as the wrong way to go but as unconstitutional?
Tom Price: What changed was that this is the first time in the nation's history that the federal government has said, by virtue of being a United States citizen, you must buy a product and this is what it must be. Very specifically--
Nancy Cordes: But how is that different from what you were proposing -as Republicans?
Tom Price: I've never personally proposed that. However, what was being proposed is what many states do that says you have to have health coverage. You have to have it. You pick it for yourself and for your family. Not the specific items within it. So for example you could pick a closed panel HMO, you could pick a PPO, you could pick a Health Savings Account, or a flexible savings account, or you could self-insure. Those kinds of things. Instead what the president and the Democrats did is say you've got to buy coverage and this is exactly what it must be so that everything else becomes essentially illegal in this country. That's where the constitutional challenge is.
Nancy Cordes: Some Democrats have predicted that if the individual mandate gets struck down, that Republicans might almost be working against themselves in the sense that now that that direction, which was originally seen as a kind of middle way is not available, that either nothing changes or people start to move towards more support for a single-payer system where the government provides health insurance?
Tom Price: I don't believe so. I think what the nation has said clearly is they don't want Washington in charge of their health care. That's fundamentally why the American people oppose this current law. And as I mentioned there are wonderful ways to solve this without putting Washington in charge, and that's what we will continue to work on. But we'll do it in an open, in a transparent, in a rational, in a logical way. As opposed to the process that the Democrats used before. We aren't going to do this behind closed doors. We aren't going to ram anything down people's throats. We hope to do it in a bipartisan way, in an open way. We believe that Gov. Romney, who I believe will be President Romney, will embrace the kind of solutions that we've put forward.
Nancy Cordes: Speaking of Gov. Romney, he has proposed, when it comes to Medicaid which is another important component of this law, giving the states more money, but giving them more leeway as well to run Medicaid the way they see fit. Democrats have said that this could lead to states that are all cash-strapped, as we know right now, dropping people from their Medicaid rolls, using that money for other things that are also badly needed - education or transportation or what have you. How do you see it?
Tom Price: That's a scare tactic that the other side loves to use. The fact of the matter is if we had flexibility in the coverage for the indigent population at the state level, that the states decide, there'd be much more money actually available for those who are actually the sickest of the sick within the indigent population, within the Medicaid population. In my home state of Georgia for example there are about 1.8 million individuals on Medicaid. Two-thirds of those folks are healthy moms and kids. You could write a check for every incident of health care they receive and save hundreds of millions of dollars. Instead we waste hundreds of millions of dollars because of the rules that come down from Washington. If you allow the states greater flexibility, you can provide the care that folks need in that indigent population, in that Medicaid population. You can also have greater resources available for those who are the sickest of the sick.
Nancy Cordes: Got it. Well Congressman Price, where will you be at 10:00 Thursday morning as this decision is being handed down?
Tom Price: I've been honored and privileged to be able to have the opportunity to sit in the Supreme Court and be there as the decision is given. So it's a historic time. I'm humbled to be there.
Nancy Cordes: A fascinating opportunity and thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak with you today. And that is Face to Face. Be sure to tune into "Face the Nation" on Sunday when my colleague Norah O'Donnell will be interviewing Speaker of the House John Boehner in the wake of this very important health care ruling from the Supreme Court. Thanks for watching, and have a great day.
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