Interviews

Sen. Portman on why Sebelius shouldn't go

Ohio lawmaker says that doesn't solve the problem

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," November 6, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: You know, today's health care hearing really wasn't just about the website. Look at this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN CORNYN, R-TEXAS: The White House website says if you like your plan, you can keep it, and you don't have to change a thing due to the health care law.

Is that statement on the White House website true or is it false?

KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Sir, I think the statement...

CORNYN: Is it true or is it false?

(CROSSTALK)

SEN. JOHN THUNE, R-S.D.: It said if you -- if you like your health care plan, you can keep it, period. The president said that over and over and over again. And, yet, how you can go out knowing what you know and allow the president to continue to say that, and you and other members of the administration to continue to say that?

SEBELIUS: Well, I really don't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't care about that data...

(CROSSTALK)

SEBELIUS: I care about the data, sir, but you asked if I could give you that answer. I can't tell you for Ohio.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: All right.

To Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman on whether, no matter how much Secretary Sebelius tries to explain this mess, she just seems to be creating a bigger mess.

Senator, after hearing what you did today, do you think she should go?

SEN. ROB PORTMAN, R-OHIO: No, because I don't think that's the problem. In fact, I think in some respects, Neil, that might lead people to think that solves the problem.

You know, I don't think she has done a great job, and obviously she has to be held accountable, but it's a much deeper problem. And, look, I don't typically call for people's resignation unless it's really something egregious that is personal to them. In this case, I think it's the problem that the president has put upon her, which is that he promised that he was going to provide universal coverage. It hasn't happened.

As I asked her today, what about the 30 million people who aren't going to get coverage after all this, after all the sound and fury, and new taxes and new mandates and new costs, what about the promise that people could keep their health care? What about the promise that it was going to be 2,500 bucks cheaper, when it's 2,100 bucks more expensive on average for a family in Ohio?

So, that's the fundamental problem with this, is that the system itself is -- not the website, but the health care system itself that's being created here is not in the interest of the American people.

CAVUTO: Well, apparently, Senator, to your point and in prior visits here, and you were saying this a year ago, the numbers were not adding up, that all these things that you wanted and demanded insurers cover that invariably the numbers would go up, you pay for more this because nothing is free.

PORTMAN: Yes.

CAVUTO: You can't get a free lunch.

PORTMAN: Yes.

CAVUTO: So, I understand the wisdom of that. But apparently it was lost on the creators of this. Or do you think that they knew it? I'm wondering that -- whether those in power, and I said this of the president, this was just not their area. Basic economics was not their area

Understanding the cost of something like this was not appreciated. It wasn't so much deceit as much as it was just ignorance of basic economics.

PORTMAN: Well, it was some of both, as you know, because now we are hearing reports that they did know that people weren't going to be able to keep their own plan. I mean, it was pretty obvious to you, Neil.

CAVUTO: But I don't think the magnitude that we're...

PORTMAN: You have been talking about it for years.

CAVUTO: I don't think the magnitude of which those are not getting coverage now.

PORTMAN: Yes.

Well, I don't know. I mean, even on the individual coverage where we have obviously seen a huge problem there, about 12 million people are going to lose their coverage, we're told, I think they had data, but they certainly had it for the employer side...

CAVUTO: Yes.

PORTMAN: ... because they knew that a lot of employers were not going to be able to meet these mandates and others were going to do an economic analysis and say, gosh, maybe it's better to pay the fine.

And, so, I think the statement itself, you can't just excuse it by sort of ignorance and not understanding economics. I think there was data, there was adequate data available not to have made that promise that couldn't be kept to the American people. On some of the other issues, maybe so. Maybe you're right. Even today...

CAVUTO: Maybe so. But I wonder if the worse -- but -- but worse could be yet to come, right, sir?

PORTMAN: Yes.

CAVUTO: A year from now, we have the employer mandate kick in.

PORTMAN: Exactly.

CAVUTO: And there's a lot of concern that a lot of employers will then look at the expense of running their plans and the new requirements and they might push a lot of their employees, even their retirees, off to some exchanges, private or public or otherwise.

PORTMAN: Well, absolutely. Absolutely.

CAVUTO: Do you think that's a legitimate worry?

PORTMAN: It's a totally legitimate worry.

And, Neil, remember a few months ago when we saw these big numbers of people who were part-time workers coming up, it happened to be just prior to the president's decision to put off that mandate for a year. I don't think that's coincidental.

I think it's not just about employers saying, gee, I have done the analysis, it's better for me just to pay the fine than to continue to cover health care expenses at, let's say, 14,000, 15,000 bucks a year. But it's also people who are saying, you know, I can't run my business. It doesn't -- the model doesn't work unless I have these people under 30 hours.

And that's the encouraging of part-time work, which is bad for the economy. It's certainly bad for those families. That's happening, as you know. The one-year reprieve does give the administration a chance to change their mind on this. But, if they don't, I agree with you. The employer mandate and the employer-provided coverage that people are going to lose is going to be a much more serious problem than we have seen even in the individual coverage.

CAVUTO: If I could quasi-alert this as well as a final question to you, I want you to take a look at what happened on Wall Street today, Senator, the Dow at better than 128-and-a-half points. It's now well in record territory, the third -- 33rd so far just this year.

Nasdaq is moving up. The S&P is moving up. So, obviously, if the markets are concerned by any of -- of what you just talked about, they have a funny way of showing it. What -- what -- what do you think gives here?

PORTMAN: Well, look, you are the expert, not me, and you have got other experts on.

But my sense is that you think Janet Yellen is going to be even more dovish than Bernanke was, and they are assuming interest rates will be kept artificially low. And they're assuming therefore the equity markets will continue to be a better investment. Also, there are some corporate profits that are decent.

So, we have got a weak economy. We have got high unemployment. But we have got this notion that the Fed is going to continue to be very interventionist. And I think that is what is pumping up the market right now. It's not, to me, something that's sustainable over time, unless we deal with the fundamental problems in our economy.

That's getting this unemployment number down. That's getting the economic growth up above 2 percent. That's really beginning to do what we have done in every other recovery in the history of our country, which is to have a real robust recovery after a deep recession.

CAVUTO: You know, Senator, that is very well explained. Please keep your day job, because I value mine.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: But you are a very good financial analyst. That's exactly what's going on.

Senator, always a pleasure.

(CROSSTALK)

PORTMAN: On the one hand, on the other hand, on the one hand, on the other hand.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: No, no, no, not at all. No, you got that right. Thank you, Senator Portman. Very good seeing you.

PORTMAN: Good to talk to you, Neil. Take care. Good talk, buddy.

CAVUTO: All right.

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