This is a partial transcript from Your World with Neil Cavuto, July 21, 2003, that was edited for clarity. Click here for complete access to all of Neil Cavuto's CEO interviews.
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NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: If pizza helps you stay healthy, then my next guest is very happy. He wants all Americans to increase the quality of their health.
He is the secretary of Health and Human Services, and he says that if you're doing all the right things to stay fit, maybe including eating pizza, you should get a break on the price of your health care coverage. Sound like a good deal?
Joining me now from Washington, I'm honored to have the health and human services secretary of these great United Statesm, Tommy Thompson (search).
Secretary, thanks for coming.
TOMMY THOMPSON, SECRETARY, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES: Well, Neil, it's always a pleasure to be on your program. And thank you very much for this opportunity to talk about quality of health for all Americans.
CAVUTO: All right. Now this pizza thing, first off. Do you buy that?
THOMPSON: Well, I haven't seen the study, but if the study is accurate, then that's a good sign. I am not familiar with that study. It must be relatively new.
CAVUTO: All right. I think it was put out by an Italian group. I'll look into that.
CAVUTO: But let me ask you in you all seriousness, secretary. If you are on to something here that those who practice healthy styles should get better health insurance rates, what's the long-term plan?
THOMPSON: Well, Neil, let's just take a look at the figures: $155 billion a year for tobacco-related illnesses, $132 billion for diabetes (search), and $117 billion for obesity-related diseases. You can have a great reduction in these three areas if you watch what you eat, if you stop smoking and you start exercising…
If you're able to reduce these huge, huge health-care costs, why shouldn't you be able to show to the insurance company that it's in their best interest to reduce the policies and give you a credit, as well as the companies you work for?
And that's my argument, and I believe it's a very sound one. That's why I talked to the health insurance industry this afternoon, and it was a very informative and constructive meeting.
CAVUTO: What about those who have genetic illnesses or major diseases and they pay higher rates any way? Under your potential plan, secretary, they could pay still higher rates, sometimes through no fault of their own.
THOMPSON: No, not necessarily. It doesn't follow. In fact, the opposite. It's even better because, if we're able to get America healthier, we're going to be able to reduce health-care costs.
Just look at those figures that I just told you about, and you will see that if we're going to really improve on the quality of health but also, at the same time, reduce the costs of health care, you've got to start making some lifestyle changes.
And, if you are able to successfully reduce these health-care costs, which I am confident that you can — and all the experts also agree — then you're also going to be able to lower insurance costs for every individual, those with...
CAVUTO: So you're kind of compelling people on the workforce to sort of look at each other and sort of inspire each other on. But can it also set up kind of enmity in the workplace where one group is pitched against another group and they start really hating each other?
THOMPSON: I think the opposite is even more true, Neil, because, with the high costs of health insurance right now, companies are asking the employer to pick up a bigger co-payment, and some companies are deciding they can't afford health insurance costs.
So I think it behooves the employee as well as the employer to find ways in which they can reduce the cost of health insurance so they can get more people health insurance and be able to improve the quality of health of those employees.
It just makes sense if your employee is in better health condition, he or she's going to be more productive, and, therefore, it's going to help improve the company's bottom line because it will reduce health care costs and make the company more productive.
CAVUTO: Secretary, sounds good. Thank you very much. We appreciate it very much.
THOMPSON: Thank you, Neil.
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