Coburn Discusses Health Care Bill

with Greta Van Susteren Dec 02, 2009

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," December 2, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

VAN SUSTEREN: Really? "Die sooner"? What did the Senator Coburn mean by that?

COBURN: If you take $500 billion out of Medicare, you are going to affect care. There is no way that it is not. You're going to take $130 billion out of the hospitals when we have trouble getting somebody to answer a ringer right now to come and attend the patient that's in a bed.

There is no question if we take that kind of cut out of Medicare and you are going to see services eliminated, it is going to lower the life expectancy of a lot of seniors.

And it is not that we can't cut money out of Medicare and preserve the trust fund. We can by going after the fraud that's nearly $100 billion a year.

But when you go to the hospitals and you say we're going to take $130 billion or we're going to take $40 billion out of home health, you are going to impact care.

And what that means is that your life expectancy on average is going to go down. There is not any disputing that. They can say that they don't agree with it, but the fact is you cannot take $50 billion a year, that's 8.5 percent of Medicare, and eliminate it and say it's not going to affect care.

VAN SUSTEREN: The Democrats deny it. The Republicans says it's happening. It depends on who I have on the air.

COBURN: Let me give you an example. Let's just use some examples. Let's say you're in the hospital. You're 75 years old. You are in there for pneumonia. You are weak, and you have a call button, and nobody comes, and you need to go to the bathroom.

Nobody has come, so what you do is you decide to get up and go to the bathroom. And you fall and you break your hip. The mortality of a person that age breaking their hip is about 20 percent.

So now you had pneumonia, but the reason you broke your hip is because they did not have enough people to answer the call button in a timely manner to assist you to the bathroom. That is just a common thing that's happening today in a lot of hospitals because we have squeezed them so much and demanded so much.

We have Medicare payments that don't cover the cost of care, and we cost shift that over to the private sector at $1,700 per family, per year. And so when we are going to take another eight percent out of Medicare every year, it's going to decrease the quality of care. And with that comes complications.

VAN SUSTEREN: When you say that your Democratic colleagues in the Senate, what do they say to you?

COBURN: First of all, they deny that they are actually cutting Medicare. That is number one. Number two is they say it is not going to have an impact on care because we are going to do all of these other things.

There are 6,000 times in this bill where we are going to have HHS write regulations. That is at least 20,000 more people working for HHS to write the regulations.

And, if, in fact, you make these cuts, and then you tell all the providers, hospitals, home health, hospice, physicians, "Here is what you have to do," what you are doing is you are taking the loyalty and advocacy of the doctor away from the patients and putting their eye on the government.

And that's what's wrong with this bill. We all want to fix health care. We want to cut the cost, we want to increase the access. We don't want anybody to be denied because of preexisting illnesses, we don't want anybody to lose their insurance when they get sick.

But a government-centered program -- we already run 61 percent of the health care, and we are doing a lousy job at it, lousy. And they want to take another 25 percent of health care and put it under the government.

And we do need to fix a lot in health care, but what is good, we should be preserving. This bill will destroy what is good about American health care.

VAN SUSTEREN: Since this is so enormously complicated, let me ask a simple question. On a grade scale A to F, the existing bill that your debating now, what is the grade you give this bill?

COBURN: That I would give this bill? A "D." Senator Max Baucus admitted today that it will cost over $2.5 trillion over ten years. He admitted it on the floor. It is not a $1 trillion bill. It is a $2.5 trillion bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: And what about the accounting of it in terms of the cost to the American people, how much of a straight story are we getting on the cost, do you think? And I realized that it's difficult to price this stuff, but how straight are we getting the numbers?

COBURN: It's an estimate. But first of all, let's create a baseline. All of Washington accounting is Enron accounting, whether it is the budget deficit, which we said was $1.42 trillion which was actually $1.5 trillion. So we chisel the numbers, the official agencies chisel the numbers all of the time.

But it's going to cost $2.5 trillion. There is no question they will cut Medicare, raise taxes, and decrease benefits in a way to compensate for a portion of that.

The problem is that they will never actually cut Medicare, and we will charge that $500 billion to the next generation. They are not honest about paying the physicians, because they know they will have to come up with one quarter of trillion dollars to do that. That's not in the bill. So now it's a $2.75 trillion bill.

Number three, I would say is because you have so much more regulation it will actually increase the cost, and the CBO is underestimating it. So I think it will be $3 trillion. And that is somebody that has practicing medicine for 25 years and has been on the other end, the receiving end of the Center for Medicare Services.

VAN SUSTEREN: If you could get one message out to the American people tonight about this health-care bill, what is the bullet-point message?

COBURN: We need to start over. We need to fix what's really wrong in health care, and we need to protect what is really great.

What is really great is that if you are really sick anywhere in the world, this is the best place to be sick. It just costs too much. We can fix it. But let's fix malpractice. Let's incentivize wellness. Let's create transparency. Let's make sure everybody gets covered. And let's do it in a way that doesn't charge the next-generation $3 trillion.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, thank you, sir.

COBURN: You are welcome. Good to talk with you, Greta.


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