NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Well, my next guest controls a bigger budget than the Pentagon (search), and he's getting ready to spend $140 million to provide health insurance to some 14 million uninsured.
HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt (search) is the former governor Utah, joins me right now. A hundred and forty billion, I guess that is. Billion, million, you lose sight.
Secretary, welcome. Congratulations, by the way.
MIKE LEAVITT, HHS SECRETARY: Thank you, Neil.
CAVUTO: What do you make of what they're doing in California?
LEAVITT: Well, the president has a vision of America where every American has health insurance within their reach. As you indicated, he's proposing $140 billion. But through a much different vision.
He wants to provide the capacity for people to have health savings accounts, where they own their own health information, their own savings and their own insurance. That engages consumers. And an engaged consumer gets better results and better quality.
CAVUTO: Yes, but how are we going to come up with that $140 billion? We're running these big old deficits? Where's that coming from?
LEAVITT: Over a 10-year period, much of it will come from being able to provide credits to people to help them to be able to acquire health insurance.
This is a president who feels very deeply about the need to close the deficit, and you'll see a budget that will move us in the direction of doing so. But also feels the need for...
CAVUTO: But does that include your budget, sir? Are you held to this little more than the inflation rate growth?
LEAVITT: Yes. In fact, you'll see in the budget ideas that will provide as much as $60 billion of savings from Medicaid alone.
Now, we're going to continue to see health care costs in this country and spending increase. But we've got to move it in a way that allows us to remain competitive in a global economy.
CAVUTO: But we require a lot of people in a lot of states to automatically have automobile insurance. What's wrong with just automatically requiring them, through credits, what have you, to have health insurance?
LEAVITT: Well, it needs to be within the reach of every citizen to have health coverage or health care. Society generally does help certain people, either through providing the coverage or helping them buy it. But the vast majority of the citizens of this country know it's their responsibility to provide it themselves.
What we can do is provide a health care system that provides for fewer medical claims, rather for fewer legal claims and medical liability that allows for fewer mistakes and allows costs to go down. The health care industry as a whole could use some improvement.
CAVUTO: Secretary Michael Leavitt. Thank you, sir, we appreciate it.
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