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tv   Washington Week  PBS  August 21, 2009 8:00pm-8:30pm EDT

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gwen: a special progm this week. your questions...r answers... all on the hot topic of this hot month.health care. tight, on "washingtoweek." gwen: the estions are coming fast anfurious... >> w are we inviting 15 million illeg alie-invaders, who brke federal law, into o health care syst? >> why do you continue to support a nazi policys obama has expressly supportethe policy, why areou supporting it >> on what planet do you spend most of your time? gwen: but o do you trust to give you the answers...? the prident is trying... >> we're ing to have to cut througha lot of nonsense t the, a lot of absurd aims that have been made abo health insurancreform. gwen: but is it too little too late?
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>> call your setor. stop the government takeoveof health care. gwen: we asked for your qstions and hundredof you reonded. tonig's answers co from the eporters who ha been covering the story... ceci connol of "the washington post"... per baker of "t new york times"... naftali ndavid of "the wall street journal"... and jeanne cummings of politico. >> lebrating 40 years of journalistic eellence, live fro our nation's capital, this is "washington week withwen ifill," produced in aociation with natial journal. corrate fundi for washington week is provided y -- >> we know why we're here. to redfine air travel for a new generation. >> to ensure our forces are safer and sronger.
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>> to ta the world we sare to tomorrow and beyond. >> aund the glob the peope boeinare working together to ake a differenc. >> that's why we're here. >> it cretes half te electricity that seals our dreams. we have more than y place on earth. we're working on cleaner ways to e coal every day. there is more informatn at n.m.a..org. mar fundinis also provided by the anenrg fondation, the corporationor public roadcasting and by contributionto your pbs station from viewers lke you. thank you. thank you. once ain, live from waington... moderator gwen ifill. gwen: good eveng and welcome to a ecial "washinon week" undtable on health care reform... if it's hot where you are, it's quite possible that the elevated
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tempature is caused by more than summer sshine. for president obama, the headwinds he has encounred on this signatu domestic issue remind him this time last year. he ld suppoers as much sterday... >> you will recall that the republicans have just nominated their vice pridential candidate andeverybody was -- the edia was obsessed with it and ble was 24 hors a dy and obamaas lot his mojo there is somthing about august going into september where everyone in wra ges all wee-we' d up. up." 50 percent othose polled nodisapprove of the presidt's handling of health care...a decline refleed in his erall approval ratis as well. at increasing public skepticism extends to congress as well. >> ou can stand up and tel us
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your answer onbama care. demand an answerow! gwen: wel, in the interest of generating lightver heat, we cided to ke your questions to our whington week truth squad re.... we got hundreds of them, from 42 states and a few forgn countris too...we'll get as many we can... ut first, aupdate...how real ceciis all of this skepticism 're seeing? >> it is certain real. as we allknow, polls are snapshotin time andthe last sevel weeks have not been a good peri for this white ouse. they have lost ntrol of the messa. theyave been caught by rprise about the reaction to the idea of droping this government-onsored option that is sometes known as a public plan. it's interesting, thoughin our polling, the new poll tat's come out, president oba still remains ptty pesonally pular. his own favorability rating is 57%. that's a god, healthy number for a prident. th you ask the question, how do youeel about his ability to make the right decions?
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well, t comes down to 49%. and then hen we ask, how do you feel he is doing in erms of handling the health care dbate, it drops dn to 46 approv. so y can see that the public still lis him, and that's he go news for the white hse beuse they're going to have him selli this thing right after his vacation. but nterms of th detals, the public is cnfused at aminimum and upset in many instances. gwen: peter, presumely thefolks inhe white house are looking at numbers of thr own which reflect e same kind of erosion. do they have a plan ofwhat to do oer than ripping up the tros of the democratic national comttee as he did sterday? that's part of the ply. as a certain point, the white house is ognizant tha the idea of a bpartisan plan is unlikely. in the end, it's ging a democrats-only ill. they have 60 votes in the senate and they have a sizble majority in the house. they're not going to sayhat when people ask themhat. no, of cour we want a bipartisan pn.
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you heard thepresident yesterday, look, he sa the republicans have made a calculated decision to denyme a victory ju as tey did with clinn in the 1990s. you can hear i their voice how theyave basically come to the idea that thy're going to have to shove throug what they wat. the caucus are complicated n their own way. gwen: we have somany questions from o viewers. i'll start with th general one for you, naftli. what are the top reasons r the creasing costs of heah care and how do theplans from obma in coness address them? this is from wes in llinois. >> i mean, obiously, theres an array of thigs thatare going into this and an aray of different theories. one of the big reasons that evyone talks about is th incente system that we have set up right now ecourages doctors and patient to get as much heah care and as many procedures as ssible rather than focusing on e onesthat might be for efftive. isn't an incntive for that one of the things tat lawmakers on both sides are wreling this and you're seeing thi ight now specifically with the sete
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financcommittee that met last nigh, six members ofthat committee, they'rerying to figure out to get thatunder ctrol, how to eward doctors for better jotcomes rather than orderg many tests as posible. gwen:you mentioned the gang of six,republicans, demrats trying to come up with a midle grnd. i have a questn for you, jeanne, from b in clifornia. he say america electeda democrat majority to congress and e white house. how in bazes, he rites, did he end up with a subcommittee of equal rpresentation by th minority? >> well i thin that in the senatethey have 60 votes, but it's an illusion nature nmber. even the demcrats are not united around onelan. so that's part of it. th had to come up wit a compromise th was going to appeal to the broadest nber of democrats and hopefly some republicans as wl. and those oderate republicans who are in the negotiations i many ways represt the vices of the conservive democrats who are not in te room.
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in addion, the white house from the beginng said they dd want a biprtisan plan. if possible,they wante to se that creat. and so itas a goal to try to wo with the republicans. three stepped forward, and i don't think max baucus was prared to walk away from those three until it's rtain they can't me to terms because baucus would lik to hav republican vote onboard. gwen: we have a lo of questions abt the role of the senate but i nt to get to a uple of nuts and olts questions. a lo about medicare. keepn mind there is not one ll everyone has agreedon. people stilwant to know. peopleike ruth from ne york wh writes, i am on medicare. would i e required o purchase adtional insurance? >> n, there areo hanges like that envision to the medice program. while we're on the subject o what is required underedicare an what's not there has been lot oconfusion about this idea
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of enof life counselin there is n in any present bill any mandatoy end of life counseling. so iterms ofpeople -- gwen: that's wha we haveeen hearing. >> that's right. for the people that are o medicare now, thy're over 65 years old or dsabled, 45 million of hem, they'll basically keeptheir same policies. some of them by gap coverage that is what rut may be refeing to which is extra coverage. you dot have to do that we cn get intosome of the policy changes within medicare. for beneficiaries, tings will ay pretty much the same. gwen: nap taly, here isanother dicare question for you to achieve universal health care, this is david from wyoming and uah, to achie univeal heth care, why no cover everyone under medicare, it see simpler than creating new pros? >> there ha been proposals to that effect. one of the slogans ou'll hear isedicare for all. it's system that peopllike. it's popular.
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it seems to work. that's one of thproposals. the problem is just doing i that way wld first of all be very exensive and t would be annormous additional government pgram or entitlement whh a lot of people are oppsed to. so betweenhe finaes and the sortof philosophy. that probably isn't goingto fly. gn: jeanne allued to this questi of influence and to the degree dierent members of congress and the white hou are beg influenced by people n either side of the issue here is a question from dog i colora, peter can handle ts. how muchoes the health indust spend on lobbying and political contibutions. i want to you pick up that as well. >> you m know the actually numb. they're increasing th year and they're on diffent sides of is issue. that's whareally interesting and compliced about this. in the 1990's, ad you a much moono lithic opposition part of the ealth care ndustry tord the things that preside clinn was talking about. this time you have lot of health car portions of tha lobbon the side of what
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president obama is doing oat least on theide of some versionf what president obama has lked about. there is sorof a cross purposes at th point. gwen: is ireal, this new shift in attitude? >> the newshift in attitude -- gw: among the indusy who say they signed on to th plan. >> they e nflicted. they are conflicted they're spending $1.5 million a day on lobbyg. it's on reco to ecome the biggest television advetising adversary wr in washington since 1993. and they are conlicted because they don't know what's going to me out and they're tr to influence theenate drafting of it legislation. all of t action is done in the house. so they know hw wellthey fared over the. gwen: to be car, there a thredifferent bills that came out of the housetrue? >> they have to be cobbled tether before the fina vote in the house after the augus brea they have sense of -- they won their wars or there. those battles are prety much done. but the senate, that gae is wide open right now.
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so, for instanc the insuranc copanies are on tap o lose their supplemental payments in medicare. they don't want to lose hem. so they're working the enate pretty hard tory to preserve them over there so it's ill in play. so it's not thathey have come out ecessarily against a piece of legislation becau we don't have one. what they're stl trying to do is influence the deails that coulshow up in the sena bill. as a cnsequences, you have health -- yohave insurance companies standing up net to the president saying we'rfor it. meanwhile, heir inancing some of the groups that are running opposion to it. >> wen, the main reason that some of these industry stakeholders have reained at the table is beause they're dreaing of 46 milli new customers. there is a big conomic incente for them to get this paed. gwen: i want to actually pick up on that because one of the estions which keep oming up with pple who wrote us was exactly who woulde overed and how would webe able t afford it. i will s if i can find one.
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maybe from fank in pennsylvania and carol from califonia, they bo wrote this. won't ealth care costs rise for everyone if inrance companies can't turn own people fr instance wth health care conditions? >>hat's an excellent questi. makes a lot of sense think about it that way because health insurance is all about risk but the ideis that the ore people that you can ring into a healt insunce pool, the more that you canspread aroud risk. and part of thegoal in this health ca reform effortis to bring to coverthose 46 illion uninred. now, some people say we hould do it becae of the wealth naon, it's the right thing o do. it's also to brin in a hole nch of younghealthy people who riht now don't have heath surance. they're known the invincibles, generally in their 20's. gerally 1/3 ofthe population are nvincibles. if y bring them in, that brings down some of the osts. i dn't want to givethe impression it's going to be free.
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it's going to cost a gd bit of money to cover million peop. terms of spreading the rik around, thatshouldhelp. gw: and a half at allyi want to follow on o tha and a different part of thecost equation from joe in azona and kathy in ssouri wrote -- what about e supply side what does the preident's plan do to icrease the number of nurses and prima care physicians? well, he has actually taled quite a bit abt that and any plan has to provide moey to help train professiona. we haven't focused on it a lot because it isn't a ot button issues,ill i be covered and how ishis going to be paid for? there is a reasonab amount of agreent on it but there has to money for training of nurse and certain kd of physicians. 's something the president has said h doesn't want to see n any inal package. gwen: are doctors onboard ith the preside's side of this, medical profeionals? >> agai they'll tel you they're for healthcare refrm. it does epend on the details. their versionof it is not necessarily the same thi that
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a lotof the different awmakers are taling about in different individual ements of it. oadly, they are -- >> the american medical association has been at the table. ctors are split on t, but there are rovisions in he and they'll be assaged further that would try t encouge family doctors, you know,he practice of that to expnd becauseit's that sort of geeral practitioner that the ki of system the govement envsions right now where you're gettg yo regular check-ups and tha sort othing. we need a lot more of them rather tha specialists. sothere ismoney inentives for educatnal programs to courage young mecal students to go dn that road o create a larger mass ofthat kind of doctor and nurses. gwen: i want to come bk to this qestion bout senaor baucus nd the peole in congress inthis. from gertrudein californiaand thomas iwisconsin both ant to know, it has been reported senator max aucus receives major fundi from the heah
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industry. how can he be objctive, they want to know? >> well, mosof the ey lawmars on the keycommittees receive a od bit of industry mone that'sust where the contributions come. i mean, actually, if you top and thinkbout it over on the house de, the energynd commer committee, that is a big money comittee because of the instries that the gulate and versee. now, you knw, that sai, there e all sorts of influenc that are coming into these lawmakers all e time. i think what most of them ould tell you is, you now, campai contributions isne sort of influee. their home and their dstricts d their states right now are anotr sort of influence. i think th would say, you know, we actor all of tis in and do what w think is best. >> if you look at ho much mone is at play here when ou look at aertising and donations, i mean, the union give a hge amount omoney to all of the democrats who are in cngress. they hava position on tis.
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therare so many interest groups who carebout what happens th health re reform, it's ard to ay that articular check had mo influence than these100 other checks th came from other grou as well. the is just a whole lot f money around this. >> it is true people n the key health committs, they get a lot of money rom the health industry. max bcus is an ineresting guy right now. he is on th hot seat. he is trying to lead he bipartisan group thahas the last hope thathere will be a deal. a lot ofemocrats are very unhappy wit him. they are afraihe has been king too many concessionsto the reublicans. ey are afraid he has drged th out and they're ready to havthis wrapped up so th they can pu forward wit perhaps a democrats only bill. gwen: peter - go ahead. i was going to ask you whether the white hoe is able to maintain e kind of arms lgth they said will on these lobbng issues. >> that's a vry good question. the president is eeting in te oval offi today with tom dash
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shal who w the former senate jority leader, someone wanted to make is secretary of health and human servis until a tax flap knocked tat nomination out. he is a very smart pson when it comes to health care. has written a book about it. at the same time is working or advising the industry at the same time. ltiple entanglements th different players. is he an advisor to the prident or the industry? is he both? iends on the finance committee, not so mucwith max baucus or the ohers. where es everybody stand and how do everybody balance tese different ides? it's a very complicated issue right now. gwen: it's notso simple to mainta arms length. a qestion fromjames in califoia for you ceci, another nuts and bolts question but we heard referce in our open. he asks will the taxpayer foot the bill for th coverage for the milions of alens in this country? >> absolutely not. everyby has said, very
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democric leader, the white use, etc., thathis is not about proving health care to illegal immigrants. gwen:here is this comi fro? >> thee has been a few hot button isues that have been introduced into the alth care debate. illegal immigration isne of them, abortion i another, en of life is y a third. i think tere is consously or unconsously an attemptto eject these volatile issues into the debate. it ts people worked out about it that otheise might not be concerned abt it and such stngopponents. wehave seen that interestiny across the boardin every volatile soal issue can name, it's been broughinto this. >> whais really ieresting was watchi thattownhall that u showed aclip o barney frank. he is ask about this isse, why are you coving illegal aliens and he say we don't. th say read the bill. he picksp a cpy of the bill and the passage ys there isno overage for illeg immigrants in the bill. theyoo. they don't believe him.
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there a deep well of skepticsm and istrust an cynicism some part ofthe electorate at least that the don't lieve the facts as they are being presented tothem. en: even in theiberal districts. >> ev in the liberal istricts. gwen: will artion or fertlity treatments be covere under these bills, s wants to know? >> abortion, no fertility reatments, that is good question i n't say for certain. i dn't even know that they hve thought a lot about it because generallwhat congress is trying to do is sathat we would le a independent board inly of physicians, nurses, etc. to establish whatshould be called the bsic minimum benefits package. now,if you lok outin the private marketpla right now, there are a ew insuranc plans that cove fertility tratments, not lot. so if that's a gide, my uess is itprobably wouldn't. it's also quite expeive. i don't think it wou fall
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under this notn of a basic package. gwen: jean, ita fromkentucky wants to know why isn't anone discussing tort reorm as a way of reducing health are costs? >> because its on brick too many. t would be hard tbuild. the president h acknowledged that lawsitshave some eect othe cost of health care. obviously, the coservatives and republicans an democrats don't agree on what degree. gwen: we heard dickarmy sayi -- >> they tow all kin of numbers out. you can talk to one sde they give you a buncof statistics. you go to the other sie, you get a whole other set. it's hard to figure t if you're jt talking to both sides. the president haacknowledged that someing along these lines ought toe done, but he ha said it ha to be doe after health care reformis passed. and the primaryreason for that
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is it is - it's ke abortion. you cannot ut an explosive issue like that it will blowit up for se. gwen: wh knows wat is ppening right now. before we wind up, i nt to get to a couple questios we have on the public optio the so-called publicption. that is the sis for many questions wheth this is going to be a governmet-run insurance prram. im concurrently unemployed, will the plan gve me an option th is free such as one that is the united kingdom free, probably not unless she were to quali for medicaid which isur current system of health care for the oorest of the poor in this country and even thn, that is geneally not free. there e still co-payments that individus make. so, no. on the other and, there is vision hat peope of limted income might get se knd of discount. sometimes they're desibed as subsidies at could go to this
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thing called te exchange, think of it alost like a helth care bazaar, a marketplace where there are lots of different heth plans lined up and presumely ey would tell you the price and what kind o covege you would get and you can ty to pick one maybe wi your iscount couon if y're eligible foit. now, tt doesn't get into he public plan, which is a whole anotheissue tht we can -- gwen: but the pup oion would be one othe things thecould choose from at that bazaar? >> the idea is one offering from the goernment, a nonpfit, sortof no big c.e.o. milon dostal his or mltimillion dostal his it's a fasciting thing. president obama hasever felt that strongly about apublic optionand i know i can imagi e e-mails i'm about to get. gwen: fr nancy in washington state wants to now why the single payer appach never gained tracks, for insnce? >> he was a supporr ofsingle
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payer wayback when he was a state senat in illinos. quickly came to ralize in the united stes of america, that is no a olitically vable route totake and h is nthing if not a pragmatist. >> that is why the public tion is so controversi among crits, they see it as a trow june horse if you put ina publ opton that prvate inurers can't compete against andultimately of course government willpiece by piece take over the ystem. they vw him as someone wo is secretly trying get there en though he said he is nt. gwe public option, oing to happen still? >> i don't know. i thk that its on life suppt right now. think what we're -- itmay come out of the house. i think the resident right now centered on one goal. hat is he has o have a enate bill because you c't go to conference without o. so i thinke have reaed a point where co-op isreat, whatever. gehim a bill so they can go to conference.
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if you have co-ops an a public plan, what you mightlook at is a trigger were you sart out with co-ops,if they work, terric, if not a public plan. gwenthat's what they're talking about i these meengs on apitol hill that is gng on. >> it is. the people o support the puic option aren't sure they can get the 51 voths tat they need to get this through. theris this issue called reconciliation whichs whether or not thewill be able to pass least som of the provisions of t health care vte nee. that would be a huge devepment. gwen: e time flies b. we have lot more quetions to get . but we'll tackle more of your questions online, ia special expand "washington ek" bcast. you can find it at pbs.org/washgton week. and before we go tonight."washington week" condolences go out to the families of two gnts in our busess. robert novak, one of the hardest-working anmost influential waington lumnists of his generation. d don hewitt, the creor of 0 minutes and dring force
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behind much of the century's best journalism. each in his own way changed t wawe do business. they ll be missed. as always, keep up with daily delopments on the "wshour th jim lehrer." and we'lsee you again right here, nexweek, on "washington week." good night. >> corporate funding for "washingt week" is providedby boeing and t natial mining sociation. major fundinfor "washington week" is also proved by the annenbg foundation, the corpration for public broadcasting anby contributio to your pbs stion from viewers like you. contributio to your pbs stion from viewers like you. thank you.
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