HH: Joined now by United States Senator John Barrasso from the great state of Wyoming. And Senator, great to talk to you, welcome to the program.
JB: Great to be back, thanks so much.
HH: Well you know, last time I talked to you, I was telling you about all my terrible times fly fishing up in your neck of the woods, and so I’ve recovered from that. But now I’ve got to ask you if you guys are going to recover from Tom Coburn walking away from the Gang of Six stuff today.
JB: Well, you know, I just saw that. I was just on the Senate floor. Tom is very, very solid. And if he walked away, he had good reason to do so.
HH: Now, so that means, though, that here we are facing a $1.5 trillion dollar deficit, a debt ceiling, and there’s nobody talking to each other, and the President’s not leading. This is a crisis, Doc.
JB: Well you know, there’s meetings going on with Vice President Biden, and we have Jon Kyl in those discussions from the Senate side, and our side of the aisle. And Eric Cantor is there as well. So I have great confidence in their ability to convince the President, because we visited with the President on Thursday in the White House, to convince the President of the severity of the issue, and the fact that we are not going to vote to raise the debt ceiling unless there are significant changes in spending, long term, short term, and in the intermediate term.
HH: Now when you sat with him, you’ve interviewed, my guess is, thousands of patients over the years. You’ve got to be able to figure out when someone’s telling you the truth and when they’re not telling you the truth. Do you think he genuinely is committed to doing something that makes sense right now? Or is he totally in campaign mode?
JB: Well, I think he’s very much focused on the election of 2012. And he told us a number of things, and said that he gets it. He does want to raise taxes, and we told him that that was a non-starter with us.
HH: Now Senator, I want to turn to Obamacare for a moment on a couple of subjects. First of all, the Daily Caller has an extraordinary story this morning that of the 204 new Obamacare waivers, dozens, two dozen of them went to companies in Nancy Pelosi’s district, high end restaurants and hotels. Are you shocked by this?
JB: Well, I continue to be shocked by the number of, and the makeup of the waivers that have been granted. With this new release of 204 new waivers, you’re now talking about waivers for three million people. And we’ve also gone over the 50% mark in that half of those three million people, well over one a half million, get their insurance through union insurance plans? Hey, these are the same unions, these are the people that were out there lobbying for, for the health care law to be passed. Now they say oh my gosh, we don’t want this issue to apply to us, it’ll bankrupt us. Plus, one of the things the Daily Caller didn’t mention is not only those specific ones in Nancy Pelosi’s district, but the entire state of Nevada got a waiver. Well, that’s Harry Reid’s home state. Remember he’s the leader of the Senate, they wrote this law behind closed doors? It was his door that was closed, where he and Rahm Emanuel sat back there and wrote this health care law, the American people not listening or hearing. The President said it would be all on C-SPAN. None of that happened. So even Nevada, Harry Reid’s home state, said we need a waiver, too, or we will have a, the phrase that they used is they said that two of the state’s largest insurers might leave the state, leaving 20,000 people without insurance. Why? Because of Obamacare, the health care law, the regulations. So you have Nancy Pelosi, who’s famous for her quote, first you have to pass it before you get to find out what’s in it, and Harry Reid, who had the secret meetings that wrote the law, and they all both want waivers.
HH: I’m talking with United States Senator from Wyoming, John Barrasso, who is also a medical doctor. Now Senator, when these waivers get granted, walk through what you think is the impact. I think it just shifts burden of the Obamacare cost onto a smaller universe of people for whom it then gets more expensive.
JB: Well, the specific waivers and all these union waivers in just this past month, over 9.700 waivers to the International Union of Operating Engineers, branch AFL-CIO, another 5,800 to the Service Employees International Union, another 2,600 to the Journeymen Apprentice, AFL-CIO. All of these waivers have to do with the level of coverage that people get. You know, Obamacare says they have to have for this year $750,000 dollars of coverage. These people don’t have that coverage. They probably don’t need that level of coverage. But the law says you have to have it. You’ve got to have this high level of coverage. And companies are saying we can’t afford to buy that kind of coverage. But you know what? These waivers are for a year. And the numbers go up next year, so they’re all going to come back next year, I believe, asking for additional waivers. So the reason that you don’t hear people out there who got the waivers talking about it, are because they know they’re going to need waivers year after year after year for the next four years.
JB: And I think they’ve been kind of told hey, hush up. If you start talking, you’ll never get another one next year.
HH: Now Senator, Mitt Romney gave a speech last week where he said if he’s president, he’s going to repeal Obamacare, sort of a rolling repeal, by waiver. He’s just going to issue waivers to every sate, and he’ll open the waiver window, and you’ll have repeal by waiver while he waits for the Congress to catch up with formal repeal. What do you think of that plan?
JB: Well, I like the idea for every American to be able to get a waiver from this health care law. It’s what Lindsey Graham and I have worked to do. We have a bill called the state health care choice act that would allow states to opt out of all of these different provisions of Obamacare. But if you get three million people that have waivers, I know probably 300 million in America that would like to be able to opt out of this health care law, which is bad for patients, it’s bad for providers, the nurses and the doctors who take care of those patients, and it’s terrible for our taxpayers.
HH: Now in terms of the Medicare debate as well, obviously in the last couple of days, we had Newt Gingrich and Paul Ryan shooting at each other, not good for any kind of Medicare reform. What’s your opinion on that, John Barrasso?
JB: Well, you know, I’m not going to endorse or criticize any of the candidates running for president or my side of the aisle. I will tell you that Paul Ryan has come up with a responsible approach to a significant problem. We’ve learned Friday from the Medicare actuaries that Medicare is going to be broke, actually bankrupt, in about 13 years. They’re spending more, more’s going out this year than is coming in, it is unsustainable, it’s…and this is going to break the bank of the country. You know, when they set up Medicare in 1965, men, average life expectancy was in the mid-60s, women in the early 70s. Now, men are living to the late 70s, and women to the early 80s. So at the same time they set this up in 1965, all of us baby boomers, we were teenagers, so that the number crunch has come. I think about four million Americans a year are being added to the Medicare rolls. You know the worst of this? President Obama, when he forced through this health care law? Took $500 billion dollars away from our seniors on Medicare.
JB: Not to save and improve and strengthen Medicare, but to start a whole new government program for somebody else.
HH: Yup, yup. We are in a deep, deep hole. Thirty seconds, Doc, what do you hear from doctors who are seeing the Medicare rate reimbursable panel expand to fifteen and do a jam down next year? What do they think of that?
JB: Well, you know, doctors are running away from Medicare, and that’s what I told the President in our meeting with the Senate leadership last Thursday at the White House. I said you’ve got to save and protect, and strengthen this program. And your proposals, and also, Mr. President, your payment advisory board that’s going to ratchet it down even more, is going to drive doctors away from taking care of Medicare patients, it’s going to make it harder for Medicare patients to get the care that they want and that they need.
HH: Great to talk with you, Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming. I appreciate it so much. We’ll have to keep track of this in future segments.
End of interview.