Lawmaker claims health care costs have 'slowed down'

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 1, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Do you remember that? "Call Me" by Blondie. I'm the only one in this studio who remembers it.


CAVUTO: Well, it was at the top of the Billboard charts. Farrah Fawcett was among the year's hottest stars. "Dallas" was number one, as J.R. Ewing was, well, pretty much captivating the nation, so too Ronald Reagan, who later that year would capture the White House. He would later be name TIME magazine's man of the year, all this as the Rubik's Cube burst onto the scene.

And, yes, I was just graduating from college. I was 40 years old. No, I'm kidding.


CAVUTO: The year was 1980, and not since that year, not since 1980, have we seen health care costs rising this fast.

Welcome, everybody. I'm Neil Cavuto.

And so much for this.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Since the law took effect, health care spending has risen more slowly than at any time in the past 50 years.


CAVUTO: Well, not quite, because we got a new report that finds that health care spending spiked nearly 10 percent in the first three months of the year, rising at its fastest clip since 1980 because of the health care law. Add to the House Republicans saying that a third of enrollees have yet to pay.

Now, we have got to emphasize here that Democrats are quibbling with that. The bottom line is the numbers are not looking good.

But Texas Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar here to say, don't be too quick to judge.

Congressman, you say what to this? Because we were going through all these hoops and all these controversies with who is a real enrollee or not, but the upside would be that costs would come down. They have not come down. What happened?

REP. HENRY CUELLAR, D-TEXAS: Well, first of all, I think if you look at the health care costs, they actually have slowed down, number one.

Number two...


CAVUTO: Slowed down from -- wait a minute. They're going at 9.9 percent clip. That's slowed down?

CUELLAR: Well, there's two different things.

One is, the health care costs have gone up, but if you look at the overall picture, there's more health care spending, because if you added eight million -- and let's see what the final number is -- let the numbers be whatever they are. Of course, if you add more people that have health care and have private insurance and are going to see doctors and buy medical products, of course spending is going to go up.

If you look at The Wall Street Journal, The Wall Street Journal said the last quarter, our economy would have contracted, would have shrunk by almost 1 percent, but because of health care spending, we actually grew a little bit on that.


CAVUTO: Well, when the government gets involved in something, I don't if that is -- that's at artificial stimulant here. But I understand what you're saying.

But it worries me, something else you're saying, Congressman, that the administration was saying that in short order, we will get that number of enrollees, whether they're real or not or net paying or not, up to 25 million, maybe 30 million. So, by your argument here, this is going to get even more out of control, the spending part.

CUELLAR: Well, again, there's two things.

If you add eight million or whatever the number might be at the end -- let the numbers be whatever they are -- you're going to have more people with private insurance, not government spending, private insurance, going up to doctors and seeing the doctor for primary care, or health care, whatever the case might be.

Of course, if you add more people, you are going to have more spending.


CAVUTO: Yes, but if someone were to explain that to me when this was being debated, I think a lot of Americans would have said, I'm not so sure about this thing.

But this was billed on the notion that average premiums, the costs would go down $2,000 to $2,500 for every family, that everyone would be covered. And now it turns out that, in the end, 30 million will still not be covered.

I'm getting a sense that the same argument for keeping your doctor, you can't keep your doctor, this was built on promises that aren't panning out, Congressman.

CUELLAR: Well, again, it's -- all I can tell you is what I saw in Texas before the health care law.

Before the health care law, what I saw was that 10 years before that, we had 64 percent of the small businesses in Texas that had health insurance. Right when the health care law got passed, that had shrunk down to 32, 33 percent.


CAVUTO: But you just mentioned -- sir, you just mentioned Texas.


CUELLAR: It went down.

CAVUTO: But you just mentioned; 42 percent in this survey who signed up under the state exchanges here and under the federal exchange program, 42 percent have not -- have not paid for that.

So, add that to the 67 percent of overall enrollees who have thought to have paid in, that means a third have not, but which means that the eight million enrollee figure we have got has to be reduced about by another 2.5 million 2.7 million to get a better reflection of those who have actually paid, to say nothing of how many of those might have already had coverage and really aren't net new enrollees.

You see what I mean, how the numbers then all of a sudden make people think, wait a minute, someone is pulling a fast one on us?

CUELLAR: Well, again, let's say eight million or let's say whatever number you want to use. Let's say six-and-a-half or six million.

Even if you good with a low number, using your numbers here, then...


CAVUTO: Well, what are yours? You have better numbers? I'm pro-choice on these numbers.


CAVUTO: The numbers that I see though are not eight million. That's what I'm saying. There's not eight million.

CUELLAR: OK. Well, you give me a number, and then I will make my argument.

CAVUTO: I just told you one. Let's say we're about five-and-a-half million net those who are paying.

CUELLAR: OK, five-and-a-half million.


CAVUTO: And that's just paying. And that's leaving out -- that's leaving out those who might have had insurance before who you can't count as enrollees. Right?

CUELLAR: Let's say it's five-and-a-half million number -- million people that have insurance.

That's five-and-a-half million Americans that didn't have insurance that now have a private insurance where they can go see their doctor...


CAVUTO: But what about the millions more who have lost insurance? What about the millions more who have lost insurance are paying more for their coverage?


CUELLAR: I'm just saying isn't five-and-a-half million people value added to our economy?


CAVUTO: Well, where is the value added -- Congressman, where is the value added...

CUELLAR: Value added.

CAVUTO: ... for millions more who have lost policies? Where is their value? Where is the value added for people who are paying more for coverage?

CUELLAR: Value added. Value added.

CAVUTO: Where is the value added for all these things...

CUELLAR: Value added.

CAVUTO: ... for all these citizens who are coming...


CAVUTO: ... higher deductibles. Where is their value?

CUELLAR: Neil, Neil, if you had zero, you add one, that's a value added. If you add six-and-a-half million, eight million, that's value added.

CAVUTO: Congressman, I know what you're saying. Where is the value added for the millions who have lost policies? Where is the value added for those who are paying more for their policies?


CAVUTO: Where is the value added for those who have lost their doctor, for those who have lost their specialist? Where is the value added for them?

CUELLAR: Well, let me -- again, value added, if you add eight million, or whatever the number is, that is value added.

And if you now stop the discrimination against women, because they used to be charged more for premiums, or you had a preexisting illnesses -- and I can go on. Now the elderly now have preventive care. That is value added.


CAVUTO: Congressman, you're right to raise people who didn't have coverage before who do. We don't have a firm grip on that number. Let's say you're right.

I'm just talking about all these others who have been completely discombobulated because of this. You tell them where the value is in this.


Again, if you add six-and-a-half million people or more, that is value added on this first enrollment.

CAVUTO: OK. All right.

CUELLAR: And we're going to have more enrollments. We're going to have more.

And, again, if it wasn't -- and there's two things here. Yes, you have more health care spending, because you added eight million or whatever the case might be of new people.


CUELLAR: But health care spending overall has slowed down. It's the slowest that we have had for many years.

CAVUTO: I'm telling you, I love you to death, Congressman. But if this is slowing down -- and you're bragging about it only -- only going up 10 percent...


CUELLAR: You do love me. I know you love me, Neil.


CAVUTO: Come on, Congressman.


CAVUTO: That would be like me saying I -- I plan to look at gaining 30 pounds this year. Turns out I gained 20 pounds, and I say I'm down 10 pounds. You would say, Neil, you're an idiot.

CUELLAR: No. No. I would never call you an idiot.

CAVUTO: Of course you wouldn't.


CAVUTO: All right. Congressman...


CUELLAR: I would never...


CUELLAR: But seriously...

CAVUTO: All right.

CUELLAR: ... let me just say this.

CAVUTO: Quickly.

CUELLAR: Look, health care law, hopefully, one of these days, we can get from the two extremes, people that want to repeal the whole thing, people that don't want to change anything, let's move and make it better.

CAVUTO: OK. It's always a pleasure, sir. We can agree or disagree.


CAVUTO: Never disagreeable.


CAVUTO: Thank you.

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