This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," October 15, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
SHANNON BREAM, FOX NEWS GUEST HOST: The Senate finance committee may have passed its health-care plan, but the Democrats still have their hands full selling health care reform to the American people. The Fox poll taken after the finance committee vote finds Americans oppose the reforms by a margin of 54 percent to 35 percent.
Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist joins us now. He is a heart surgeon and also author of the book "A Heart to Serve, the Passion to bring Health, Hope, and Healing." Senator, thank you for joining us.
BILL FRIST, FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Shannon, it's great to be with you tonight.
BREAM: It is a very inspiring book would have gotten through so far, and it is such a good message. You now are in such a unique perspective, having been inside the sausage making on Capitol Hill, and as a surgeon and position yourself, what do you make of how this health care battle is playing out?
FRIST: It's interesting, Shannon, I am back. I was a citizen legislator, came here after taking care of 20,000 patients in the past, went back home to write about that story in there.
But what is interesting now is I come back and talk to my colleagues is the inability of information of the way people really feel, because they are scared out there. The climate, the economy makes them scared. And they are looking as if there will be a big experiment in health care here.
And that information is not getting all the way through to our legislators here in Washington D.C.
BREAM: Do you think the town halls were effective? Because it seems like for the first time people really got organize and they found their voice. It is now past, we are now at the September and October. That memory is still very strong for some legislators, but others are hoping to put that behind them.
FRIST: I admire President Obama for taking on the health care problem. It was not big in the exit polls. The American people were not crying for it. It is a big issue -- 18 percent of our economy, the cost curve, the spending is going up three times faster than inflation.
The problem is the approach that has been developed. It does increase access, brings people into the insurance market, which I am in favor of, aggressively. If you are uninsured, you die sooner, so it is good to do that.
But what it is failing to do is decrease meds cost over time. In fact, as we all know, premiums are going to go up, taxes are going to go up. And the average person listening to us right now is going to say, "What is in it for me? It's costing me a lot, but what's in it for me?"
BREAM: Now, you, light many other prominent Republicans said you are for health care reform. Some people across the odd hour point to you and saying look, former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist is for reform. Are they overselling what you are supporting? Clarify for us what your position is.
FRIST: That is important. First of all, I'm aggressively for reform, taking care of patients. As I said, if they don't have insurance, they just do not do as well. They don't get the preventive medicine, they don't get the preventive care, they don't get the chronic disease management that we know will bend the cost curve over time.
What I afford to bend back Oscar, basically all that means is to slow down the growth of health inflation, which people just can't afford today and they certainly cannot afford to put a lot more people in.
Instead of saying government does it by rationing healthcare, of having a healthcare commission basically saying we are going to determine how much you can spend in Nashville, Tennessee, a much smarter way to do it is to focus on the tools of the instruments of transparency of consumerism, but having -- the end product of the value of health care, or outcomes, or pay per performance, rather than just doing more stuff.
And that would than the cost. But, unfortunately, the five bills that are out there, the bills that are going to cost as much as $1.8 trillion fully implemented or $2.2 trillion -- that's what the two bills are in the Senate, that's once they're fully implemented, do nothing to bend that cost curve. The sphere of rationing really comes from an expensive I have that I read about in the book.
BREAM: I thought it was very interesting. You spend time in England where they have a very different system, and you were very fair in pointing out that there were more advantages to the system there, that you saw some things that were working, but somewhat or very frightening. And at the end of the day you thought this is not what America needs.
FRIST: Well, it's interesting, because we can learn a lot from other countries. This whole thing that we spend twice as much per capita as any other industrialized nation, our outcomes are worse, and therefore we need universal healthcare or single-payer system, or any of the things that are out there, it's really just false.
At the end of the day, we don't live as long here not because we don't have universal health care we don't have single-payer insurance or better hospitals. It is because of behavior. It is things like smoking and obesity and the like.
What bothers me, and I write about in the book, is what can happen if we let rationing be done by a bunch of bureaucrats here in Washington D.C. or even insurance companies, we are in trouble.
Over in England, which is a socialistic system, I spent a year working -- this was long before politics -- but as a heart surgeon. And I would keep a list of 100 people. And I would do three cases a day, and then three cases the next day, and then three cases.
And by the time I got down to the 50th person, they would have died. And the 60th person would've died, and the 70th person would have died. Why? Because of this rationing. Everybody accepts, but everybody is treated the same. In America we would go straight through that list and get everybody done.
That sort of rationing, which meant that it is locked at night the nurses would go home, my profusionist (ph) that would do the cardio pulmonary bypass would go home, and -- but he would come in at night, and there was nobody around because there is no money because somebody in London have basically set the budget there.
In America, that would not be tolerated.
On the other hand, things like primary care, family practice, the physicians are reimbursed more in England, their care, the prevention, their chronic disease management is valued more in England than in the United States, and that aspect we should look at and pull into our system.
The problem is this rationing ends up being delayed and care, denial of care, and I'll bet you over the next four weeks this rationing component of Washington, just big government -- it's kind of the fear of a public plan that's out of my control, is up there, that fear of denial of care is something that will come into debate I think before ultimately something passes in mid-December.
BREAM: All right, Senator Frist, thanks so much for coming in, and all the best with the new book.
FRIST: Great, thank you very much. It's great to be with you.
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