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Montana Governor Discusses Concerns About Cost of Obama's Health Care Plan

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," August 14, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, to Belgrade, Montana right now, the president just wrapping up that town hall meeting.

Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer greeting the president. He was often quoted by the president. And the governor all for reforming health care, but worries about the costs to states like his. So, he's obviously going to be very careful how this proceeds.

The governor joining me right now, as the president departs in Air Force One.

Governor, very good to have you back. Thanks for coming.

GOV. BRIAN SCHWEITZER (D), MONTANA: Good to be back.

Video: Watch Cavuto's interview

CAVUTO: Governor, this didn't turn out to be tension convention some had feared. There were a couple of little dicey questions. But how do you think people in that room were feeling? Or they were being respectful because you were there or the big guy was there? What?

SCHWEITZER: I'm dang proud of the people of Montana.

We had people who showed up who are concerned about the way we are reforming insurance. We had people that were concerned about how much it would cost. We had people for and we had people against.

But, as usual in Montana, people can be disagreeing with each other without being disagreeable. So, I was — I was very proud of the people of Montana. And I think that Montana put on a good face today.

CAVUTO: All right. Now, the question that a lot of people — people are focusing on is the one where the president was directly asked how he could pay for all of this.

I want to hear this one again and get your reaction to it, too, Governor.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RANDY RATHIE, QUESTIONED PRESIDENT OBAMA AT MONTANA TOWN HALL MEETING: We keep getting the bull. That's all we get is bull. You can't tell us how you're going to pay for this. You're saving here. You're saving over there. You're going to take a little money here. You're going to take a little money there.

But you have no money. The only way you're going to get that money is to raise our taxes. You said you wouldn't. Max Baucus says he doesn't want to put a bill out that will, but that's the only way you can do that.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I'm happy to answer the question.

RATHIE: OK. Thank you.

OBAMA: The — look, you are absolutely right that I can't cover another 46 million people for free. You're right. I can't do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: His answer for those who were there — and you were there, Governor — was that the savings I'm going to realize and then limiting deductions on wealthy folks, such as himself, will — will cover the costs.

Do you believe that?

SCHWEITZER: Well, I can tell you this, that, in the United States, we pay about twice as much for our health care as all the other industrialized countries — twice.

So, if we're paying twice as much, obviously, with some cost containment, we can find some places to save money. That's got to be number one in any of these bills.

And the president is absolutely correct. We don't have to pay more to bring these new people in, because we're already paying for those people. If you have got someone who doesn't have health care insurance, and their child gets sick, you can bet that they put them in a car, and they go to the emergency room, and somebody pays that $5,000 for that emergency room visit.

It wasn't the person that was uninsured. It's the rest of the pool. So, if we can bring people in and give them some kind of a — a health care system, so that they get the children to doctors, to clinics, to make sure that they're getting their wellness checkups, that people go to a doctor before the — the disease is advanced — look, we know a little bit about managing money in Montana, as you know, Neil.

Forty-eight states are experiencing budget deficits, California 48 percent, Alaska 30 percent. And Montana, we're one of the two states that has a surplus.

CAVUTO: Absolutely. And, Governor, you know what?

SCHWEITZER: We have got $400 million in cash.

CAVUTO: And I will tell you — and...

SCHWEITZER: Yes.

CAVUTO: ... I told you this when you were here before — you do know about doing that. I don't know if they know about that in Washington.

So, if you were to tell me I could extract some savings in Montana health care-related costs, given your track record, I would believe you. I really would. Given Washington's track record, I would not.

SCHWEITZER: Well, Washington, D.C., is a big place, and it's a long ways away from Montana.

But there are some lessons that we can learn in some states like Montana in cost containment. For example, in Montana, we use evidence- based medicine. If you are in the Montana pool of insured people working for the state of Montana — and, for example, in pharmaceuticals...

CAVUTO: Right.

SCHWEITZER: ... we use evidence based medicine to decide which medicine you take. You don't get to take the most expensive one. You get to take the one that does the most for the least.

CAVUTO: OK.

But let me ask you this. And I know you're a straight shooter, so I hope you will give me a straight answer. Do you really think that we can pay for this with savings that the — the president wants to see, even though the CBO doesn't see them, and the only people who will have to pay more will be the rich seeing their deductions limited, and that is all; we are there, done, fini; away we go?

SCHWEITZER: If we have 16 percent of the people that are uninsured, and those uninsured people are getting health care, but it's the most expensive in the system, and we're already paying for it by shifting that cost to the other people, it is like shooting fish in the barrel for me to find 20 percent savings, so that we can bring those people into the insurance system.

If you — if you handed all the paperwork to us out here in Montana, we could get it done in about 10 days.

CAVUTO: Well, we're not. That's the bottom line, right, Governor? We're not doing that, and — and that's what worries me.

And I — I do not mean to disparage public servants.

SCHWEITZER: No, no.

CAVUTO: I do not mean to disparage those in Washington of both parties. Their track record is a little dicey. That's all I'm saying.

SCHWEITZER: Well, we feel pretty comfortable in Montana, because another rancher like myself, Max Baucus, he is negotiating in the Finance Committee.

CAVUTO: Yes.

SCHWEITZER: And Max is like me. He can squeeze a penny for a full mile and make some copper wire out of it.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: All right. Now, the angry protests, you have heard a lot of Democrats say, you know, we have got to stop this town hall nonsense, not worth it.

What do you make of that?

SCHWEITZER: Oh, people get together. People like to talk to the politicians when they're home on break. People like to hear what the politics have to like — have to say. And — and, every once in a while, somebody gets worked up and shouts a little bit too much. That's the American system and it's the America that I love.

CAVUTO: Well, but Nancy Pelosi recently said that they're un-American when they get like that. Are they?

SCHWEITZER: Well, I don't — I don't know about. I can tell you that, in Montana, we have demonstrated that we can have people on two or three sides of the issue. We can work together until we get a resolution. And, at the end of the day, we can all get together and enjoy ourselves.

CAVUTO: All right, Governor Schweitzer, I know you have a very hectic schedule. We appreciate having you on, as always.

SCHWEITZER: See you again.

CAVUTO: All right, Montana Governor Schweitzer.

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