Governors Shut Out of Health Care Summit?

Published February 23, 2010

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This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," February 22, 2010. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, ANCHOR: All right, we are just getting news right now that the Congressional Budget Office says it simply cannot score the president's health care proposal, saying that the White House hasn't provided sufficient detail.

What we do know is, the White House is offering its own version, ahead of Democrats and Republicans gathering at the White House on Thursday. And, so far, the CBO is saying: There just — just not enough there for us to go on.

We want to get early reaction right now from Republican Governor Mike Rounds, who is here to take a look at this and what this could mean.

But, Governor, already, the indications are that — that the administration's on approach to this can't even be effectively scored. What do you make of that?

GOV. MIKE ROUNDS R-S.D.: Well, that's the first that we have heard about it. As you know, that just came out.

CAVUTO: Yes.

ROUNDS: We had a discussion with the president this morning, Republicans, Democrats alike — cordial. The discussions focused not just on health care, but on education and on getting more jobs out there in the private sector.

We didn't talk a whole lot about what his proposal was. At that was, it had not been released.

CAVUTO: All right. And, again, it's still early on. And maybe other numbers will follow. But this is going to be a very big week, not only, obviously, for you governors, as it has been the last couple of days, but for this big powwow at the White House, to which you're not invited. What do you think of that?

ROUNDS: Well, we have not been invited yet. We have made it clear that we would like an opportunity to participate in it, as we think we should as governors, participate, because we're the ones that are expected to implement the programs.

Most of the regulatory process for health care is at the state level right now. And when you start talking about adding people to Medicaid, it means that the states participate in that. And, right now, we simply can't afford to add more people onto the government rolls. Our rolls have already grown because of the national recession.

It's hurt our states' budgets, the way that it is right now. And if we do add more people on, there's another issue here that has to be talked about. And that is, is that when people become part — members on Medicaid, we reimburse their charges right now between 50 and 52 percent of the bill charge.

Now, if we're only paying half of what a doctor is charging, the cost shift goes to someplace else. And that someplace else is the private sector. And that means it's more difficult for small businesses to be able to afford to pay the cost that their employees have...

(CROSSTALK)

ROUNDS: And that's part of the concern.

CAVUTO: So, bottom line, Governor, what you're saying, it's one thing for the federal government to propose, but governors have to pay and their residents have to pay. So, that's something you're very, very leery of.

Nevertheless, maybe the White House, because I guess there's a limit on the number of seats at this thing, you and your colleagues, governors, fellow governors, aren't coming.

But this message has gotten through loud and clear through some of your representatives in Congress. Any White House reaction?

ROUNDS: Well, if you're asking me what the White House reaction is, I can't tell you. We have made it known to both congressional leaders and to — to the president that we would like to participate.

Whether or not we participate at the Thursday summit is not the most critical issue for us, because I think it's pretty clear that probably not a lot is going to happen at Thursday — or at least we don't believe that it will.

Long term, though...

CAVUTO: But do you believe, Governor, that it's bipartisan? I mean, a lot of Republicans have been chafing at the notion the president has already put out his own plan, CBO scoring notwithstanding. And the Democrats have a plan, and this might be just a setup.

ROUNDS: Well, I think if you ask — if you ask Republicans, I suspect that they will tell you that they don't think it's bipartisan.

But, remember, what we're suggesting is, is that you have to change the flavor of the discussion in Washington. Governors have been able to sit down side-by-side. We don't agree on everything, but we have tried to send a message that says, this is literally 16 percent to 17 percent to 18 percent of GDP in the United States. It's not something that you do without a pretty good consensus about what is going to work and is not.

We have suggested that there are reforms that can be made in the health insurance industry that — that will work, that have been proven, that have been done in the state settings. We want to participate in this. We want to share how tough it is to implement some of the ideas that are out there, and, at the same time, lend credibility to — to other issues. But we do want the opportunity to participate in the discussions.

CAVUTO: OK.

ROUNDS: And it would be nice if we could do it this week, but — but we're not holding our breath.

CAVUTO: Governor Rounds, a real pleasure. Thank you for your indulging us with this breaking news. As always, a pleasure.

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