HH: Joined now by Arizona’s great Senator, Jon Kyl. Senator Kyl, always a pleasure, welcome.
JK: Thank you, Hugh, great to be with you and your listeners.
HH: Thank you. Max Baucus, your colleague, your Democratic colleague from Montana unveiled his idea of Obamacare today. Is there any Republican support for his plan?
JK: Not really. There are three Republican members of the Finance Committee who have been negotiating with him. Two of them have already released statements saying that they could not support his bill, Grassley and Enzi. Senator Olympia Snowe from Maine has not said much. It’s clear that there are parts of it she’s not crazy about, but I think maybe at the end of the day, depending upon how things go, she might be willing to support it. But understand that starting next week, we’re going to be engaged in a debate in the Committee about the bill, and there’ll be a lot of amendments, and probably for at least a couple of weeks, there’s going to be a lot of attention paid to this. So the American people can see for themselves what they think of the bill.
HH: What do you think of the Baucus bill, since it is the least ruinous of the American economy and medical system, but still ruinous in my opinion? What do you, Jon Kyl, think of the Baucus bill?
JK: You just said it. It is the least ruinous of the three, and still very ruinous. So about all you can say about it is that it does begin to show areas in which there have to be compromise. But it provides for a government takeover of health care, it costs almost a trillion, in fact, if you take the true cost, it’s over a trillion dollars. It will cut Medicare significantly, hurting care for seniors. It’ll mandate that everybody in American have insurance, and as defined by the government. It will raise a lot of taxes in order to pay for that insurance for people who can’t afford it, and it will set up a regulatory regime for all insurance, which will end up with government-run insurance. Now that’s to be distinguished from a government health care plan, or a government-run insurance company. They call that a co-op, and there’s that in here, too. But that’s different from running health care. And at the end of the day, this bill puts Washington in charge of all health care in America – the half that’s already provided through Medicare and Medicaid, Veterans and Indians, and now the new provisions that will affect all of the so-called private market.
HH: Senator Kyl, the two constituencies that call this show most often most alarmed are senior citizens and doctors. Are senior citizens right to be worried about the provisions of even the Baucus bill?
JK: Senior citizens ought to be extraordinarily fearful of all three of these bills. They all cut Medicare by four or five hundred billion dollars. The two key way in which they cut Medicare will directly harm seniors’ care. About two hundred billion dollars is taken out of a Medicare insurance plan for seniors called Medicare Advantage. The CBO, according to one estimate, said that once the Medicare Advantage plans are dealt with as they are in these bills, there would be seven million seniors that even though they like their plans, wouldn’t be able to keep them. And that’s especially true in states with a lot of seniors like my state of Arizona. The second way it hurts seniors is that it allegedly cuts physician and hospital practices that cost too much money, and therefore effect savings. Well, the two things wrong with that are first of all, the savings don’t go back in Medicare, which as everybody knows, is a broke program financially. It goes to buy insurance for other people. But more important than that for seniors, what exactly are these services that are not needed that we’re paying for, for seniors, that they’re not going to get anymore? Seniors should be deathly afraid, and I use that phrase advisedly.
HH: Now doctors call in, and in fact, and Investor’s Business Daily TIPP poll today revealed 45% of America’s doctors will consider quitting or retiring if Obamacare passes. Are you surprised?
JK: No, because bear in mind that today, Medicaid reimburses doctors about 60 cents of their dollar of cost, and Medicare, about 70-80 cents out of a dollar. So what the doctors have to do, and hospitals to some extent, too, is to charge those of us who have private insurance, either through our employer or that we’ve bought, those premiums have to subsidize the doctors and the hospitals to make up for what the government care cheats them. Now if you bring more and more people under government care, then there’s a point at which fewer and fewer private policies are subsidizing a higher and higher cost in order for doctors to stay in their practices. And at a certain point, they’re just going to have say sorry, we’re not getting paid, and we can’t keep our doors open. We can’t pay our nurses, we can’t pay our receptionists, we can’t pay our rent, and therefore we’re going to go do something else. And that’s happening all around the country. Physicians are retiring early, they’re not encouraging their kids to get into medicine, there are shortages of doctors, and particularly in my state of Arizona, for example. And by the way, just a little tidbit here, a state that engaged in significant medical malpractice reform, Texas, in the last four years, has seen an increase of 7,000 doctors in that state. Well, that’s interesting. So if we actually reform the tort laws, so that doctors don’t have to practice as much defensive medicine, we actually encourage more of them to go to medical school and to practice in our cities and towns. So there are things that Republicans believe that would actually help. These Democrat bills will significantly hurt.
HH: Now Senator Kyl, the estimates of the march on Saturday in D.C. range from very low, tens of thousands, to the very high end, the University of Indiana grad student, I think, put out a 1.8 million people there. My friend, John Warner, just sent me that analysis. I don’t know where it was. It was a lot of people.
JK: It was tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands. I’m not sure about the million estimate, but I was here. There were a lot of people here. And they were just regular…these were not people organized by some nefarious force. These were American citizens. And you know, a lot of their message was not specific to health care. It was stop the government takeover of everything, stop spending so much money, stop piling up so much debt on us. People are worried about the future of this country. And then we have the health care program coming along, and it’s just the straw that’s breaking the camel’s back. They’re saying enough is enough, we can’t afford this anymore.
HH: People have asked me on air, I have been urging them, to how to get in the game, and I tell them at this point, the most effective thing they can do is to contribute to www.nrsc.org, or www.nrcc.org, the National Republican Senatorial Committee.org, the National Republican Congressional Committee.org, because your opposite number watches those numbers as a temperature of how great the opposition is growing. Am I right or wrong, Senator Kyl?
JK: Well, that’s true. On the other hand, let me make this point. You’re wisely looking at the next shoe to drop here, which is after the next election. And it’s good to be planning for that, and to be putting away the money right now to make sure that we can pick up enough seats so that forever more, we can stop this stuff. But of course, the immediate battle is still at issue. It’s in the balance. It’s on the knife’s edge. We don’t know who’s going to win or lose. We have to win it. And I would say that right now, if you’ve got a little extra time, start blogging the heck out of everybody you know, hook them up to the links that have good stories, e-mail your friends. If you can get into a radio talk show, do it. If you can write a letter to the editor, do it. Most importantly, visit your Congressman, write to your Congressman, or Senators, obviously. Right now, the action is in the Senate. And it’s really important that they hear from you. If you can belong to an organization which leverages and individual’s power, do that. There are a lot of organizations out there. And I mean, I could, I don’t want to do it on the air here, but there are organizations which are funding a lot of the advertising that’s bringing out, for example, the rationing that’s going to occur. To me, the most pernicious thing of all, I mean, I hate the expense, I hate the government takeover of all this. The most important thing to me is, I don’t want my health care rationed, and I don’t want anybody else’s health care rationed, and that’s what happens under the Baucus bill, or any of these other bills.
HH: Senator Jon Kyl, always succinct, always powerful. Thank you, Senator.
End of interview.