Rep. Weiner Says Medicare Is Holding Down Costs Better Than Private Plans

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," November 24, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

STUART VARNEY, GUEST HOST: All right, now to the other side.

My next guest says these side deals are not an issue as far as passing the bill. He is Democrat Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York. Congressman, welcome to the program. Good to see you.

REP. ANTHONY WEINER (D), NEW YORK: My pleasure. Thank you.

VARNEY: You don't think this is going to kill the bill, side deals, you know, sausage making?

WEINER: Well, it's sausage making to improve health care. In the case of Louisiana, it's getting additional poor people health care coverage. In the case of just about every case that you mentioned in the intro, the idea is to improve health care.

You know, the founding fathers set up a system here. We are supposed to go and advocate for our states. The former senator from Pennsylvania did it when he was in office. Maybe if he did it a little better, he would still be in there.

VARNEY: OK, look... WEINER: But I don't have a problem with that. Just the way I'm fighting for New York, someone should fight for...


VARNEY: I know your basic position. And I know what you are fighting for. You would really like a single-payer system...

WEINER: That's right.

VARNEY: ... like the British...


WEINER: That's right. We, unfortunately, are not going in that direction. I wish we would.

VARNEY: But do you really want to do that?

WEINER: Well...

VARNEY: The British version of health care — I know these things.


WEINER: I don't want to do the British version. I don't want to do the British version. I want to do the American version.

VARNEY: Socialized health care costs an arm and leg. It's incredibly expensive. And, more to the point, Congressman, it is politicized.


VARNEY: Politicians take decisions...


WEINER: You don't have to take a look at — I understand your experience. You don't have to take the experience of Britain to understand this. Look at Medicare.

For the last 44 years, here's what it has done.

VARNEY: Bankrupt.

WEINER: It has taken people — it has taken people who were at 33 percent poverty when the plan was passed and now have it today. It's one of the most popular programs around.

VARNEY: It is bankrupt. It's an out-of-control expense.

WEINER: You say it's bankrupt. There are cost problems for private insurance, public insurance. All insurance has a cost problem.


VARNEY: Do you really think the government can control costs?


VARNEY: Is government more efficient than private enterprise?


WEINER: Do you know what the overhead is of the Medicare system? One-point-zero-five percent. Do you know what — private insurance is 30 percent in overhead and profits? Given a choice how I'm going to improve health care, I'm going to take it away from private insurance profits and overhead. Wouldn't you?

VARNEY: You would eradicate private insurance?

WEINER: Yes, I would.

VARNEY: And give it all to government?


WEINER: I would. Medicare. How are you, Stu?

VARNEY: Forget it.

You would give all to the government.



WEINER: Here is what I would say.

VARNEY: OK. WEINER: Here is what I would say.

We have a line for Medicare, 65. Why not 60? Why not 55? Why not 45? If we think the program is efficient — and no one can deny that.

VARNEY: I don't think it's efficient.

WEINER: A 1 percent overhead? You find me a business that can operate that efficiently.

VARNEY: What efficient business is going bankrupt?


WEINER: Wait a minute. You keep saying bankrupt.


WEINER: Hold on a second. Hold on a second.

VARNEY: It's in deficits.


WEINER: Your insurance plan went up $1,000 last year, OK? Yours did. Yours here at FOX News went up $1,000.

What I am saying is, all health care has a problem with costs. Medicare is growing slower than the private insurance plans. Why? Because of their efficiency. They don't have to give money to shareholders. Why should be defending shareholders?

VARNEY: Medicare is efficient?

WEINER: Medicare — 1.05 percent. I can show you the documents.

VARNEY: When Medicare was first introduced in 1965, they said it would cost $10 billion by 1990. Wrong.

WEINER: Do you know why?


WEINER: Wait. Do you know why?

VARNEY: No. I am looking at government projections.

WEINER: Well, would you like to know why? Would you like to know why...


WEINER: ... why it has exceeded government projections?

VARNEY: We are told that this program out of the Senate or the House is going to cost $1 trillion over 10 years. Do you trust that?


WEINER: There are a lot of Republicans and maybe...


VARNEY: Do you know what you are doing?


WEINER: Hold on. Here's the thing. You have asked me now four questions. I want to answer them all.

First, you say, is it more efficient? It clearly is — 1.05 percent overhead and profits. Your insurance company — now, I don't know what it is — is in the magnitude of 30 percent for overhead and profits. Why is that? Because they have to take some of their money and give it to shareholders.

VARNEY: No. No. They have to charge more...


VARNEY: Private has to charge more because the doctor can't get enough money out of Medicare and Medicaid.


WEINER: No, that is not why they're doing it.


VARNEY: Yes, it is why they're doing it.

WEINER: They're doing it because there's no incentive for them to control costs because there's such little competition.


WEINER: Look, here is the question I have to ask you. Medicare, by the way, is indeed — it has a financing problem as well, but it is holding its costs down better than your insurance company is.

It is costing more. Why? People live 10 years, on average, longer than were projected at the time. It is a success story, the fact that more people are living longer, healthier lives.


VARNEY: This plan will only cost an extra $1 trillion over the next 10 years?


WEINER: If I want to control costs, the first thing I do is overhead and profits.

VARNEY: You comfortable with that? You believe that?

WEINER: I don't take it out of health care, like insurance companies do.

VARNEY: Talked like — spoken like a brilliant socialist. Take away the profits from private enterprise.


WEINER: Look, let me ask you, is Medicare socialism?


WEINER: Is Medicare socialism?

VARNEY: Do you think I came to this country to be ruled by guys like you?

WEINER: Is Medicare socialism? You want to get rid of Medicare. And a lot of the people against health care do. I want to preserve it and grow it.


VARNEY: It is socialized medicine...


VARNEY: ... because it is politicizes medicine.

WEINER: No. No. Government does not control the means of production. You don't know what socialism means.

VARNEY: I — you're talking to an Englishman.

WEINER: Government doesn't control the means of production. We still have doctors and hospitals. Medicare works. You may not like it, because it is a Democratic program. And I am proud of that.

VARNEY: You know what they're saying in my ear? Time's up, Congressman.

WEINER: We out of time already? Impossible.

VARNEY: Congressman Anthony Weiner, thank you very much.


WEINER: When are we having the Stuart and Anthony show again?


VARNEY: Never.


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