Republican Congressman from NJ Explains Objections to Obama's Health Plan

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Republican Congressman Scott Garrett advocates for a balanced budget with fellow members of the Republican Study Committee

Republican Congressman Scott Garrett advocates for a balanced budget with fellow members of the Republican Study Committee

Scott Garrett, the Republican Congressman from New Jersey explains some of his objections to President Obama’s plan.

Brian Lehrer: How would you respond to this clip from Anthony Weiner speaking I guess, to his colleagues like you.

Anthony Weiner: My Republican friends pound the rostrum about how outrageous it is to propose the public option which would compete with private plans because they say they don’t want a government take over health care. But, about 20 percent of health care in this country is some sort of public, some single payer public plan: Medicare, the Veteran’s Administration, Department of Defense and frankly they do a pretty good job. They are not perfect and there are gaps but their combined overhead is about 3% compared to about of 30% combined overhead and profit taking by the private insurance companies.

Scott Garrett: His constituents may be different from my constituents in their mindset on this. I’ve just spent the days and weeks going back home on the weekends, doing telephone town halls and now going to various fairs in my district, hardly anyone comes up to me and said, “I want a system where the government has more control or the government is the single payer. Everyone else goes quite the opposite direction on this.”

Lehrer: Weiner would say, “Why not look at the insurance we have in America today. Compare the various types and come to the conclusion that the one with the most customer satisfaction and choice of doctors and taking the least cut for itself is actually the government single payer system of Medicare.”

Garrett: There are a whole bunch of misconceptions with regard to that statement. I can say, as far as the satisfaction, all you have to do is talk to people who work in my office, who deal with the constant phone calls of seniors calling up and saying 'I have this problem with Medicare, I have that problem with Medicare.'

Lehrer: Worse than private insurance companies do you think in terms of customer satisfaction?

Garrett: I don’t get as many calls from seniors with regard to the private sector. Now you can obviously push back and say 'Well that’s because you’re a federal office and you’re not necessarily dealing with that' but we do get these calls with regard to Medicare, so to say that everyone’s happy. No.

Secondly there is that myth also with regard to the 3%. I’ve looked into it and part of the reason for that is because when they come up with those numbers, they’re just looking at the numbers of Medicare being a government agency that simply cuts checks and how much does it cost to write the check and send it out to the doctor. They’re comparing an apples and orange situation. They are the apples, the oranges would be the private sector.

Lehrer: A lot of what we hear from Democrats right now would be to say that the insurance company’s model is to take as much money from you as they can in premiums and give you as few benefits as they possibly can in payouts for your health.

Garrett: When speaker Pelosi was making her attack against the insurance industry and saying that they’re doing all this big push. As I sat here listening to her little speech that you just played, I can’t think of hardly any insurance companies that have come into my office over the last several months and lobbied me on this issue, to be honest with you.

Lehrer: Well they’ve got you right? I mean you’re in the camp that they would support so I would imagine that they would put their lobbying efforts elsewhere, am I wrong?

Garrett: No, whether I support them 100% 90%, 80%, or 20% they don’t know exactly where I stand on particular aspects of this. The way any industry works is they will always go in and sit down and push to see where you are. There has not been this huge push. Now, there maybe now that the Democrats and Speaker Pelosi specifically, is trying to say,"Let's vilify the insurance companies and make them the bad guys in all this", because there are other initiatives of trying to sell health care and single payer haven’t worked, now we got to find another scapegoat.

First it was the drug companies. They were all the evil bad people. Now they have come on board and said that they are going to kick some money back into the plan so they’re not the problem. Then all the hospitals were being vilified by the Democrats: "They’re evil, they’re high administrative cost..."

Listen to the entire interview:

Here's what some of Brian Lehrer's listeners had to say:

GUMMENT PLEEZ August 04, 2009 - 10:14AM
"i can talk to all the nurses i want, but my insurance company WILL pay for $3 grand in tooth replacements and WILL NOT pay for $500 tooth guard , ie tooth replacement PREVENTION. The government, incentivized fiscally and socially unlike AETNA, WILL choose PREVENTION. Give me the government so I can call this guy and complain about my health insurance instead of some cud chewer in a call center!!!"

Aaron Whitby from Brooklyn August 04, 2009 - 10:17AM
Of course more seniors call in complaining about Medicare than about insurers, they are ALL on Medicare and only a handful have private insurance on top. Brian, don't let a guest get away with such simple trickery. Please!

Maggie from new york August 04, 2009 - 10:23AM
" 'A hospital is a business, that's the bottom line' there's your problem in a nutshell. It's about profit. Thank you for encapsulating it. Human life and health is not a commodity and we need to stop thinking of it in those terms. Profit models devalue health and ultimately humanity. "

Read more comments here

Listen to Monday's interview with Democrat Anthony Weiner here