• With: Erica Payne, Founder of The Agenda Project

    NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF “YOUR WORLD”: Now back to that ad and the group that created it.

    Erica Payne is single-handedly responsible for destroying this country as we know it.

    (LAUGHTER)

    ERICA PAYNE, FOUNDER, THE AGENDA PROJECT: Neil.

    CAVUTO: OK. That was extreme.

    (LAUGHTER)

    CAVUTO: This is nuts. You are saying that an attempt to rein in the growth of an entitlement program that, just last week, we found out it’s going to be running out of money five years earlier than we thought is akin to pushing grandma over a cliff.

    PAYNE: Well, I’ll tell you what my friend Reverend Jim Wallis says that I think is really important to remember right now.

    And that is that a nation’s budget is really a moral document. So, when we sit down and say we’re going to spend money on this and spend money on this, and not spend money on this, these are really moral choices.

    CAVUTO: Erica, we’re running out of money.

    PAYNE: Well, you know, I will give you a great example of the turkey that makes me crazy, so we both have a dog in the hunt.

    A couple months ago, Republicans and Democrats, 200 of them voted to keep building an engine called the F-35 second engine on a fighter plane that George Bush and Obama and Gates didn’t want. That’s $3 billion that could be spent to cover seniors.

    (CROSSTALK)

    CAVUTO: You’re veering off topic. You’re veering off topic.

    I’m not here to debate other programs or initiatives. I’m telling you, we have got a program that, by the government’s own estimates, is losing money faster and sooner than we thought. We’re not destroying this program. We’re talking about curtailing the growth of the program.

    And, yet, even addressing it -- and you can have your qualms with the details of the Ryan plan or any other plan -- you are -- you are telling anyone who wants to tackle this, this is how we’re going to treat you?

    PAYNE: I think that I’m actually doing something different.

    What I would like to do -- I think we are in a really important moment in our country.

    CAVUTO: You’re fear-mongering, Erica.

    PAYNE: And we have important choices to make.

    And I want to just make sure that people understand the choices. Look at what is happening. Learn about the issues, and really focus.

    CAVUTO: Do you think you elevated the debate with that?

    PAYNE: I think what I did was I highlighted that we have got a lot senior citizens who are going to be in a really bad spot if we don’t make the right moral choices in this budget debate.

    CAVUTO: But what if we do nothing, Erica? Why don’t you do an ad about if we do nothing? What about those seniors now who are going to face higher costs, higher deductibles, more responsibility for their own coverage if we do nothing?

    This is the same group that’s going to be affected by this national health plan that, over the next decade, is going to take half-a-trillion out of Medicare.

    Now, you might be right. It might be swept out for something better and nicer. But to say that any effort to rein in the growth of that program is tantamount to killing everyone’s grandma is just wrong.

    (CROSSTALK)

    PAYNE: So, I’m not saying that an effort to address the challenges that the program faces are wrong.

    What I’m saying -- and I think really people need to ask this -- what the Republicans and some Democrats have thought about doing is privatizing Medicare. Now, that sounds good. You think, well, private industry does a good job on things.

    My grandmother died when she was 96 years old. There is no profit margin in covering my grandmother when she is in the nursing room, none. There is -- there is -- you cannot find a profitable way to cover my grandmother. So, do we want that put in the private sector, which is driven by profits? Or does that just mean that the costs of paying for my grandmother’s health care is going to have an additional cost of a profit?

    (CROSSTALK)

    CAVUTO: But that is built into our system now. Whether your grandmother and her state in a nursing care facility paid for by private insurance or Medicare, the same reality is there.

    (CROSSTALK)

    CAVUTO: What I am asking you, this -- you are acting like he’s wanting to privatize the whole system. Believe me, there are many parts of this Ryan plan over which I don’t flip. I agree with you about quibbling over the details.

    I am not throwing grandmother over the cliff on the basis of some of our discrepancies, though. What I’m wondering about is how we forward the debate with stuff like this and how a plan that gives older people the right to get vouchers backed and paid for by the United States government, which you’re a big fan of, and also coverage for preexisting and the riskiest conditions, where they can’t be part of this exchange, how that is so end-of-the-world-ish?

    PAYNE: So, what a voucher does is, you give me money and then I go out into an exchange and I pick the plan that works best. And that exchange is filled with private insurers who have a profit motive.

    And that sounds like it might work. But, again, my 96-year-old grandmother, there is no profit motive in covering her. And I got to tell you, love her to pieces, miss her, but she wasn’t capable at 96 or 86 of going into an exchange. And I can barely sort through the health care plans that I used to cover my employees.

    CAVUTO: Well, do you have any more comfort -- well, do you have any more comfort in the president’s plan, 14-advisory-member commission that is going to be essentially making these same decisions?

    Because -- because I remember, about a year or so ago, when that commission and its formation were being discussed, it was called a death panel.