Mitch McConnell came on Meet the Press to spew some more Frank Luntz talking points on health care reform, but when asked whether the United States actually has the "best health care in the world", McConnell punts and retreats to the Republican mantra of more tax cuts and then adds this little gem when asked if it's a moral issue that 47 million Americans go without health insurance:
McCONNELL: Well, they don't go without health care. It's not the most efficient way to provide it. As we know, the doctors in the hospitals are sworn to provide health care. We all agree it is not the most efficient way to provide health care to find somebody only in the emergency room and then pass those costs on to those who are paying for insurance. So it is important, I think, to reduce the number of uninsured. The question is, what is the best way to do that?
So in other words, Americans have access to health care because they can go get in line at the emergency room, and the hospital cannot turn them away. I'm curious if Sen. McConnell would care to opt out of his government run health care plan and take a vow only to use the emergency room when he needs to see a doctor from now on since he believes it would mean he has access to health care? Anyone think he'd take me up on it?
GREGORY: We just heard from the secretary of Health and Human Services, and I thought a couple of significant points, the first on timing. Is the president going to get a bill out of the House and Senate by the August recess?
McCONNELL: Well, I don't think he ought to get the particular bills that we've seen out of either the House or the Senate before August, because they're really not the right way to go. I mean, what's going on here, David, it's perfectly clear, this is the same kind of rush and spend strategy we saw on the stimulus bill. We're going to have a deficit this year, $1.8 trillion, that's bigger than the deficit of the last five years combined. They passed a budget that puts us on the path to double the national debt in five years, triple it in 10. And here comes health care on top of it. As you just pointed out with Secretary Sebelius, CBO says it's a quarter of a trillion dollars will not be paid for. And even if you look at the pay force, they're taking it out of the backs of senior citizens and small businesses. This is a bill that shouldn't pass at any point, either before the August recess or later in the year. What we need to come up with is a truly bipartisan proposal.
GREGORY: Will they get what they, what they're working on now, though? Do you think they'll get it passed?
McCONNELL: Well, I certainly hope not. I don't think this particular measure ought to pass either the House or the Senate, because it's not good for the country.
GREGORY: And that's the big factor here in terms of cost. Did you hear from Secretary Sebelius, who certainly recognized the fact that the CBO said that increased costs over time undermines their goal. The president would have to really drive some specific cost-cutting before signing on to these measures.
McCONNELL: Well, if you're going to do something as comprehensive as the president wants to do and you're going to pay for it, and you, you ought to pay for it, there are no easy choices. And this is what they're grappling with right now.
Let me, let me just tell you what I think, David, if I may, is flawed about the whole approach. They don't seem to grant that we have the finest health care in the world now. We need to focus on the two problems that we have, cost and access, not sort of scrap the entire healthcare system of the United States. It's laughingly said around the Senate, "Where would the Canadians go for quality health care?" John McCain and John Cornyn and I were down at MD Anderson in Houston, one of the world's famous cancer hospitals, a couple of weeks ago, having a meeting with their healthcare professionals. They take care of patients from 90 countries who come to Houston to save their lives. We have quality health care now. Surveys indicate that Americans overwhelmingly like the quality.
McCONNELL: So let's focus on access and cost and not try to scrap the whole system.
GREGORY: Well, but wait a minute. You, you say that we have the best healthcare system in the world, you say it as a matter of fact.
GREGORY: But it seems to be a matter of debate. You just mentioned access. You've got 47 million people who are uninsured.
GREGORY: And there are experts, including one expert who is now an Obama adviser, who actually writes about this idea that it's a myth that it's the best health care in the world.
GREGORY: And this is what he wrote along with another expert last fall, saying: "It's a myth that America has the best health care in the world. The United States is number one only in one sense, the amount we shell out for health care. We have the most expensive system in the world per capita, but we lag many developed countries on virtually every health statistic you can name"; life expectancy, infant mortality, obesity, death rate from prostate cancer, heart attack recovery. That's the best system in the world?
McCONNELL: That's one expert. If you look at the surveys and ask the American people what they think, they don't think quality is a problem. They think cost is a problem and access is a problem.
Let's look at access, the people who are uninsured that you mentioned. A better way to begin to deal with that problem is to equalize the tax treatment. Right now if you're running a business and you provide health care for your employees, it's deductible on your corporate tax return. But if you're an individual buying health care on the open market, it's not deductible to you. We ought to equalize the tax treatment. Another cost item we seriously ought to address, that the administration only pays lip service to and some of the proposals kicking around in Congress actually discourage, are these wellness efforts that we've seen on display, for example, at the Safeway company, which through their own efforts have targeted the five biggest categories of preventable disease--smoking, obesity, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and lack of exercise--and incentivized their employees to improve their personal behavior in all of those areas and capped their costs. They never mentioned junk lawsuits against doctors and hospitals. We're spending billions every year, billions in junk lawsuits defending, in defensive medicine, defending all these lawsuits. They don't want to do anything about that.
GREGORY: And yet you say that the time is now to act. You think something must be done.
McCONNELL: Oh, absolutely. I'm not in favor of doing nothing. We have a cost problem and we have an access problem. We do not have a quality problem.
GREGORY: Do you think it's a moral issue that 47 million Americans go without health insurance?
McCONNELL: Well, they don't go without health care. It's not the most efficient way to provide it. As we know, the doctors in the hospitals are sworn to provide health care. We all agree it is not the most efficient way to provide health care to find somebody only in the emergency room and then pass those costs on to those who are paying for insurance. So it is important, I think, to reduce the number of uninsured. The question is, what is the best way to do that? The proposals over in the House, according to CBO, not only aren't paid for, they don't really dramatically increase the--decrease the number of uninsured.