Brian Sullivan Takes on Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders Over Health Care Bill

This is a rush transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," July 6, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRIAN SULLIVAN, GUEST HOST: Well, to Washington, where your next guest is warning Senate Democrats to make the most of their supermajority and push through universal health care. He is Vermont's Independent Senator Bernie Sanders.

Senator Sanders, welcome to "Your World."

Thanks for joining us.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), VERMONT: Good to be with you.

SULLIVAN: Will this — will this get done? Does the Al Franken victory in Minnesota pretty much seal the deal on health care?


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SANDERS: I would say not pretty much. There's a lot of work that has to be done. As you know, the drug companies and the insurance companies and the health industry are spending over $1 million a day to make sure that we don't make the kinds of changes in this country that we need to provide every man, woman and child with quality comprehensive health care.

SULLIVAN: But they're afraid. I mean, private insurance companies are afraid that they will be put out of business. So why shouldn't they fight it.


SANDERS: They should be afraid. I mean, let me tell you, they should be afraid. I think when they deny people health care because somebody had breast cancer a few years ago, when they throw people off of health insurance because people were sick and ran up a health care bill, they have a right to be exposed, a right to be afraid that they will not be able to compete against a strong Medicare-type public plan which treats people with dignity.

SULLIVAN: Senator, the insurance industry has taken its lumps, and maybe rightfully so in a large respect. However, one out of every 10 Americans works in or around health care. There are hundreds of thousands of people who work — good people — who work for these insurance companies. Should they be afraid for their jobs?

SANDERS: Well, that's a very good point, Neil, and a point we don't really talk about enough. Here's the problem. One of the reasons that we spend 30 percent of our health care dollars on administration is that over the last 30 years, for every new doctor that we've seen — and we have a real crisis in primary health care; we need more dentists; we don't have those — we have seen 25 administrators — one doctor, 25 administrators.

So you end up with a situation that with thousands of separate plans, the — the insurance companies are spending billions of dollars collecting fees and collecting premiums and arguing with people whether or not they should be covered when they thought they were covered.

So you raise a legitimate point. My hope is that we can get those people who are now billing us, are now arguing with us, who are not really providing health care, we can move them into the provision of health care and helping people.

SULLIVAN: Senator, are you going to trade, though, one set of problems for another? Earlier today on my program on Fox Business Network I interviewed author Sally Pipes. She runs the Pacific Research Institute; wrote a book called "The Top Ten Myths of Health Care." She's originally Canadian, now a naturalized American citizen.

This is what she said about Canada's national health system. Listen to this.


SALLY PIPES, AUTHOR, "THE TOP TEN MYTHS OF AMERICAN HEALTH CARE": I lived with it. I grew up under it. My mother passed away three years under the system where she was denied care because of her age; couldn't get a colonoscopy. So Canadians wait on average over four months from seeing a primary care doctor to getting treatment by a specialist.


SULLIVAN: So there you go. You trade some people getting denied coverage for other people not able...


SANDERS: Well, well, well — Neil, Neil...

SULLIVAN: It's Brian, by the way. I'm filling in for Neil, but I'm honored...


SANDERS: I'm sorry. I...


SULLIVAN: ... that's all right. I'm honored, actually, to be called Neil.

SANDERS: You sound like Neil.

SULLIVAN: He's a very intelligent, handsome man.

You know, you're trading one set of problems for another.


SANDERS: OK. One second.

To begin with, as you know, the Congress is not talking about a single-payer Canadian system. I myself believe that is the way to go, but that's not what Congress is talking about. So it's kind of a bogus argument.


SULLIVAN: No — no it's not, because it goes to the point I initially made, Senator, which is that there is great fear — I know it's a two-tier system — but the fear is that the government tier will eliminate the private tier and it will eventually morph into a single-payer system.


SANDERS: I live an hour away from the Canadian border. That's where Vermont borders on Quebec. And obviously there are problems with that system, but I have got to tell you, when they do polling and they ask the people of Canada how they feel about their system as opposed to polling about how we feel about our system, their system does much, much better.

In Canada right now, you have a very conservative prime minister. Have you been hearing that prime minister — a real conservative guy — saying, "We've got to end the Canadian single-payer system and move to an American system?" I haven't heard that.

SULLIVAN: When things are free, Senator, people tend to approve of them. I like it when things are free. If there was free parking in New York, I would drive in the city every day.

SANDERS: Well, it's not free. Whoa, whoa, whoa — the Canadian system is not free. Of course, they pay for it. They pay for...


SULLIVAN: They pay for prescription drugs. Actually, they pay for parking. That's actually where they get them in large part.

SANDERS: Whoa, whoa, whoa — well, hold it. All right. Let's just get the facts correct. Again, we're not talking about a Canadian approach here, but let's talk about Canada. Nothing is free. They pay for it out of their tax base.

But, at the end of the day, they provide health care to every man, woman and child spending almost a little bit more than 50 percent of what we spend. We spend almost double what any other country on Earth spends and we've got 46 million uninsured and we have a million people a year going bankrupt as a result of medically related bills. Do you think that makes sense?

SULLIVAN: I do not think it makes sense, no, but I — but I also don't believe that we need to completely blow away the private system, but I'm just one taxpayer.

Senator, we'll save the debate for when Mr. Cavuto comes back. I'm sure you'll be back on. I have a feeling the health care debate is not going away.

Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, thank you very much sir.

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