Interviews

Tester on Sanders' claim thousands 'will die' under GOP plan

Reaction from the Democratic senator from Montana

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," March 14, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

STUART VARNEY, GUEST HOST:  Put Vermont independent Senator and former Democrat presidential Democrat Bernie Sanders, put him down as a maybe on the GOP's health care bill.  A little sarcasm there.  Sanders telling reporters, thousands will die under the plan.  

Reaction from Montana Democrat Senator Jon Tester.  

Senator, do you think he's gone a little far with that one?  

SEN. JON TESTER, D-MONTANA:  Well, let me tell you, people are very concerned.  

Health care is a big, big part of the economy.  I will just tell you, Stuart, I have been traveling the state since the election, in anticipation of the repeal of the health care bill.  

I heard from a guy that had diabetes that could never get the diabetes under control.  He had mental health issues, by his own admission, and couldn't keep a job.  Now he has got health care, the diabetes is under control, he was able to see a psychologist, get his mental health under control.  

Another guy my age was sitting at home on a Sunday afternoon having sharpshooters go down his left arm.  He told me he would have never went to the doctor if he wouldn't have had health care.

So, it has its impacts.  And I will tell you that, in rural America, the impacts are huge on both patients and the health care providers.  

VARNEY:  But the idea that it is going to kill thousands, are you comfortable going back to your voters, because you're up for reelection next year?

TESTER:  Yes.  

VARNEY:  You comfortable going back and saying, those Republicans, that guy Trump -- Montana voted for Trump -- that they're a bunch of killers?  I mean, you comfortable with that?

TESTER:  No, no, no.  

I'm going to be talking about access to affordable health care when I go back to the state.  And that's what is really important.  

And I'll tell you, if -- these rural hospitals, if their charity care goes up -- if their charity care goes up -- and this is their words, not mine -- they end up being put in a world of hurt and potentially even closing, in fact.

VARNEY:  Sure.

TESTER:  And that's a big problem in rural America, where there's a long distance between health care centers.

VARNEY:  Understood.  

Senator, we went to Health and Human Services.  We looked up and we found that, in Montana, the silver plan under ObamaCare, for example, a 44 percent spike in premiums between 2016 and 2017.  

And if you go from 2014 to 2018, those premiums were up 83 percent.  Can you vote against any kind of change in ObamaCare with those kind of numbers in your state?  

TESTER:  Stuart, I have said from the beginning we need to work fix ObamaCare.  Keep the parts of it that work and fix the part that isn't.  

The part you're talking about right there, that is real, and we're seeing folks that don't get any subsidies paying too high premiums with two high deductibles.  Let's fix that.  

VARNEY:  How would you fix it?  

TESTER:  Well, there are several ways.

First of all, more transparency on drugs companies, more transparency on insurance companies.  And then let's sit down as a body, whether it's in the House or with the Senate, and talk about ways that we can help fix the problem.  

But to throw everything out, and, by the way, take people potentially off of health care doesn't fix the problem.  

VARNEY:  OK.  

TESTER:  It takes us back to a problem where there's more charity care, and it puts people who are paying the bills even at more risk.  

VARNEY:  Would you raise taxes?  

TESTER:  Would I raise taxes?  No.  

I think that what is in the health care bill right now is working.  And I know that there's folks out there that say it's collapsing.  But if you take a look at some of the things that have been done over the last couple months, it may be self-fulfilling prophecy there.  

The bottom line is that there's 71,000 more Montanans just because of Medicaid expansion that have health care now than they -- that didn't have 15 months ago.  That's a good thing.  

There's people with preexisting conditions that are able to get it covered, people with high blood pressure be able to go get insurance.  Those are good things.

The part you talked about, about the exchanges being too high absolutely needs to be addressed.  But why throw everything out and not really have any assurances for those people moving forward?  

VARNEY:  OK.  Very interesting, sir,

And, Jon Tester, Democrat, Montana, thanks for joining us, sir.  We appreciate it.  Thank you very much.  

TESTER:  Stuart, thank you very much.  

VARNEY:  Yes, sir.  

END

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