'Rhetoric Collides With Reality'

Published September 10, 2009

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This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," September 9, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Continuing our breaking news coverage of President Obama's health care speech to a joint session of Congress. Without a doubt, it is do or die for the president. But Republicans have plans of their own. Something is happening tomorrow night.

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty is a big part of it. Governor Pawlenty joins us live. Good evening, Governor and what's your plan for tomorrow night, sir?

GOV. TIM PAWLENTY, R – MINN.: Well, hi Greta. Well, tomorrow night, myself and a number of other Republican governors are going to hold a tele-town meeting, outlining our concerns about the Obama health care plan, acknowledging the current system is broke and we need to do things to fix it and make this more affordable for Americans.

But we also need to do it in a way that's respectful of consumers and individuals and not having the federal government take this system over. So those are the some of the things we're going to be touching on tomorrow night.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right.

In terms of the president's speech tonight and without going to what you would take -- what you don't agree with. What would you add to it? Or how would you change it, what's missing from his speech in your mind?

PAWLENTY: Well, I think the speech tonight Greta, should be dubbed rhetoric collides with reality. What the president is asserting, the numbers, the math just don't add up. You cannot expand insurance for 30 million to 45 million people make -- for the people who are uninsured, make the insurance for all of us who have it even better and do that for no additional costs or for having the deficit not be swollen.

It doesn't add up. The rhetoric is colliding with the reality. He is not telling us how he's going to pay for it. I have to say, he's being very evasive in this regard.

And if you can save all of this money through Medicare savings and Medicaid savings, why aren't they doing it now. Then why don't we try that first as a sequence of the thing that might be considered or explored and see if those savings really materialized. And the answer is they won't.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, if you had your way and you were seeking to provide medical insurance coverage for those 35 million or 40 million, where would you get the money, or how would you tinker with it to make this financially viable for the country?

PAWLENTY: Well, there's a lot of different things we need to do Greta. But I'll just give you a couple of examples amongst nine or ten in the interest of time.

Harvard University recently came out this slew of study that said that 30 percent of the medical care in this country is medically unnecessary. A large part of that is driven by the fact that doctors are afraid of getting sued. So we need to address that issue.

Second thing we need to do is -- if we are going to give people some financial assistance to buy insurance we should do that to them through the form of a voucher or through the form of a tax credit rather than having they have come to a government panel or the federal bureaucracy to pursue that.

Have them manage their health care rather than the federal bureaucracy. Those are a couple of the key themes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Except that the -- the voucher and the tax credit -- that's going to costs us money. That made -- they have some variant terms of freedom of choice and what people want to do in their lives, but a voucher or tax credit, that's a cost.

PAWLENTY: Well, one thing we did in Minnesota in our state employee plan is just -- started as a goal of slowing down the current system, having the costs slowed down, so we said to our state employees, "Hey look, you can go anywhere you want, you'd be in charge but if you choose to go somewhere that has bad results and high cost you're going to pay more.

If you choose to go somewhere with good results where that is more efficient you're going to pay less. Guess where they go and our insurance premiums in Minnesota have been zero percent increases in three of the last five years and the other two years is very modest.

So this isn't necessarily about just throwing more cash on the pile. It's about using the cash we have more wisely.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, then I have a question is the president said his program is going to cost $900 billion. And he also made some reference to tort reform, but he didn't seem to factor that in. Under your theory with the Harvard study in 30 percent, it sounds like if you incorporated what Harvard says on tort reform that would now cost us $600 billion. Right or wrong?

PAWLENTY: To be fair to the Harvard study it wasn't just tort reform it was also the capacity of the providers having more to do with whether the procedure get performed or not as compared to the health needs of the consumer or the patients.

But notice the president said in trying to get rid of frivolous losses against...

VAN SUSTEREN: But what about that $600 billion -- and let me ask you though...

PAWLENTY: Yes.

VAN SUSTEREN: Am I wrong on my numbers? Are we down to $600 billion and if so, where are we going to get that?

PAWLENTY: Well, you know keep in mind he is enhancing benefits and privileges under this system. It's not just the status quo knocking it down from here.

He is not going to get it, Greta. He's not going to get it, that's the point. You cannot pay for this system in savings and waste and inefficiency. If you could why didn't they do that already? Why wouldn't you propose that first to see if that actually works?

And so he wants to do little pilot projects on things the Republicans are most concerned about. He wants to make sweeping changes on the things that are on his agenda.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I should note that we even visited here at ON THE RECORD of hospital in my hometown and they have cut costs -- I think it's like 25 percent in a year without jeopardizing quality just by refiguring how they handle patient care. It was a very interesting program. So maybe I'd look at that.

Let me ask you a question, tomorrow or -- not tomorrow but September 12, Saturday President Obama is going to be in your state. Did you know that?

PAWLENTY: I did. Yes, and we welcome him to come.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are you going to talk to him? Are you going to see him?

PAWLENTY: Well, I do not know. I think he's going to go to a rally or a big speech at a local arena on these issues. I think if you would let the states experiment and take a lead on this, we could do allow with this.

We know what he is proposing has essentially been tried in one state. And as it relates to slowing down cost it hasn't worked. It's the most expensive health care in the country and its rapidly accelerating. To hold this model out as the solution for the whole country, it's not going to work Greta. And he's selling this, I think as a bill of goods.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's sort of interesting though, from my vantage point, because September 12 is supposed to be a big Tea Party, here in Washington D.C. I don't know how many people are going to show up but it's almost like you sort it could be like get out of Dodge or go to a town hall, in Minnesota.

I do the same sense, I must confess, but it's sort of interesting that we have no idea of what the Tea Party is going to bring here. But it's going to be interesting.

All right, your town hall tomorrow night, any idea how many people are signing up for your tele-town hall?

PAWLENTY: Well, they're starting to get that organized and so I don't if it's going to be 3,000, 5,000, 10,000 but I think it'll be that at least and probably more.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you sign up?

PAWLENTY: You just go out to Republican Governor's Association Web site, the information is on there and a lot of people will be getting calls and are promoting it as well.

VAN SUSTEREN: And I think probably now that we've told that they're going to jam the phone lines anyway. Governor thank you and I hope you come back.

PAWLENTY: Ok, thanks a lot, Greta.


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