Interviews

Sen. Rand Paul: Will take a little bit of work to get me to 'yes' vote

On 'Your World,' lawmaker says the House Freedom Caucus made the healthcare reform bill a lot less bad

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 4, 2017. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: All right, in the meantime, this battle now goes to the United States Senate.

To Kentucky Republican Senator, former presidential candidate Rand Paul. 

Senator, if you were to look at what you have seen come out of the House -- and we don’t know even all the details -- what do you think? 

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KENTUCKY: You know, I think the House Freedom Caucus made the bill a lot less bad. 

But what I’m still concerned with is, this will be the first time that Republicans have affirmatively put their stamp of approval on a program where federal money, taxpayer money is paid to insurance companies. 

And I really, frankly, am not too excited about subsidizing the profit of insurance companies. They make a great deal of profit. Their profits went from $6 billion a year to $15 billion a year under ObamaCare. 

And now they want to quadrant off the individual market, where they don’t make money, and say, oh, we want everybody to have insurance. We’re so magnanimous, but as long as the taxpayer pays for it, and premiums will come down as long as you subsidize the people that get sick, which is what supposed to be what the insurance is about. 

When you get sick, that’s when the insurance company is supposed to pay. 

They don’t want to pay when you get sick. They just want to reap the profit and then have -- stick the taxpayer with the rest of the bill. 

So, there’s about $300 billion or $400 billion in this bill for insurance company profit. And it boggles my mind how that became a Republican idea. 

CAVUTO: Sounds like you would be a no vote as things stand. 

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: It is going to take a little bit of work to get me to a yes vote. But I do have an open mind. 

I mean, there’s not been a louder voice up here for repealing ObamaCare. I really want to repeal it. I just don’t want to replace with ObamaCare-lite or another federal program. The programs they put in place will be there forever. 

So, the refundable tax credit, which is a subsidy by another name, will be there forever. And this -- these buying -- these high-risk pools they want to create, Republicans used to hate the idea. They hated the idea. When they were called risk corridors and they were giving money to insurance companies, they were bailouts when it was a Democrat idea. 

Now that it's a Republican idea, they keep sweetening it up. So a lot of it depends on which way the bill goes. If the bill gets better in the Senate, I could be a yes. If the bill gets worse, and they plus it up with more federal subsidies, that's going to make it much more difficult for me. 

CAVUTO: Senator, one of the things we’re told that President Trump was telling people who might be on the fence is, I have a problems with this as welcome, but it's a hell of a lot better than the measure it is going to replace. 

Would that be -- if you -- if it was a choice between rejecting this or keeping what we have, how would Rand Paul go? 

PAUL: Well, that's sort of the question. 

So, ObamaCare has a trillion dollars-worth of spending. This will have maybe half-a-trillion. So spending half-a-trillion, you can say, oh, we saved a half-a-trillion. Or you could say, well, you know what? We used to be for repealing the whole trillion. 

If ObamaCare cost a trillion, what we ran on was repealing that trillion- dollar program. Now we’re saying, well, we’re only going to spend a half- a-trillion on an ObamaCare-type of program, so we saved a half-a-trillion.

There’s a lot of gymnastics, mental gymnastics going on there... 

CAVUTO: Yes. 

PAUL: ... that for many of us who are small government people, who don’t think that taxpayers should buy insurance or be paying the insurance company anything, it concerns us that a big victory is giving us half as much as ObamaCare was.

 

CAVUTO: Now, apparently, Senator, to win over some reluctant Republican congressmen, including Fred Upton of Michigan and Billy Long of Missouri, provisions were made, another $8 billion worth of spending over the next five years for those with preexisting conditions, and to help cover the costs for them.

 

And that is on top of the $130 billion or so built into ObamaCare for roughly the same kind of thing. Are you afraid that the costs are going to get crazy, and similar concessions that might or might not be made in the Senate could bring this closer to the trillion of ObamaCare? 

PAUL: Maybe. And we will know when we see a CBO score. 

But there's about $140 billion given to insurance companies to cover their losses when people get sick, which I think is ridiculous.

CAVUTO: By the way, you mentioned the CBO score. 

I’m sorry, but you mentioned the CBO score. You want to see that first. Do you expect your Senate colleagues to see that before you do anything on this? 

PAUL: You know, I would like to know at least how they evaluate it. 

They're not always right. 

CAVUTO: Right. 

PAUL: But I would like to know how they evaluate it.

The other thing that Republicans need is, offering people half as much ObamaCare, half as much subsidies, the question is, what about all those other people that will no longer get subsidies? How are you going to help them? 

And one of the ways I want to help them is with less expensive insurance by letting them join a buying group. I think we could have multimillion- person buying groups. AARP has 30 million people. What if we empowered them to be a buying group? 

They could really negotiate in force with their size and leverage to bring prices down. Then Republicans could be for something positive that would get people insurance.

Without something positive in there, I think we're offering them -- you know, ObamaCare was Santa Claus. We’re offering half as much. We’re going to be Santa Claus-lite. And I just don’t know how that ultimately is a winning argument for the American people. 

CAVUTO: You’re a doctor by training. And I wonder, this preexisting condition provision could mean that those with such conditions pay a lot more.

I know some cushions are built in there, but should they? As a higher-risk pool of potential patients, should they? The coverage is not denied them, but they will pay potentially, in some states, significantly more. 

PAUL: Right. 

Here's the interesting thing. If you work for General Motors, and your wife gets breast cancer, you don't pay more. You're part of group insurance, and your rates don’t go up.

Now, if you're a plumber or a pest controller, and your wife gets breast cancer, it does goes up. So, it only happens in the individual market really. The group market, you’re fairly protected.

My goal is to take the 10 million people in the group market, and I want them all to have group insurance. The insurance companies hate this because they like pushing their losses into the individual market, and then they want us, the taxpayer, the sap, to pay them for their losses. 

I want everybody in the individual market to be protected against preexisting conditions by getting into the group market, and let market forces work. 

It can work, but the current bill acknowledges that it doesn’t work, and then we just subsidize the insurance companies, which I think is deplorable. 

CAVUTO: All right, so it sounds to me at this point that you would be a no, unless some of these changes are addressed. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but... 

PAUL: It's got to get better. The bill has got to get better. I'm open- minded. 

CAVUTO: OK. 

PAUL: I spoke to the president today. I want to be supportive. I want to repeal ObamaCare. But I don’t want to have to vote for a federal program, a new one that will be hundreds of billions of dollars paid to insurance companies. 

I'm all for capitalism, but I’m not a big fan of crony capitalism. 

CAVUTO: He only invites those to the White House who vote for what he likes. Are you ready in that case not to be invited to the White House? 

(LAUGHTER)

PAUL: I like the president. I’m a big defender on the president on so many fronts. But I just have to be for what I think is best for the country. 

CAVUTO: OK, I’m just kidding there. 

But, Senator, thank you very much. Good seeing you. 

PAUL: Thank you. 

CAVUTO: Rand Paul.

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