Senator David Perdue (R-GA) joined SiriusXM host Alex Marlow on Wednesday’s Breitbart News Daily to talk about delaying the August recess so Congress can work on vitally needed legislation, prominently including the Obamacare repeal and replacement bill.
Perdue introduced himself as an “outsider” in Washington, like President Donald Trump.
“Washington really doesn’t know how to interpret Trump’s approach to the economy and foreign relations and all that, and they’re having the same trouble with me,” he said.
He applauded Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s decision to cancel half of the August recess to “provide more time to complete action on important legislative items and process nominees that have been stalled by a lack of cooperation from our friends across the aisle,” as McConnell put it.
“We asked for it. Ten of us actually sent a letter to him earlier this week,” said Perdue. “He acknowledged that letter and decided to keep us here during the work period. We need to do that. We’ve got so much work yet to be done, and we only have 30 days, 30 working days between now and September 30th, the end of our fiscal year.”
“We have to get the debt ceiling, we have to get the budget, we have to get reconciliation behind the budget, and then we have to do the appropriations. There’s no way we’re going to get all of that done,” he warned.
“And so we’re leading toward another CR, which leads to an omnibus, which leads to more spending, and that’s what we’re up here fighting against. And then we’ve got to get to the tax package, which is one of the drivers of this economy. We’ve simply got to get that done this year, Alex,” he told Marlow.
Of course, one of the highest profile items on the Republicans’ to-do list is Obamacare repeal. Marlow asked Perdue for a status update on that supremely difficult process, which includes a key amendment proposed by Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX).
“Let me first give you a little heads-up: I agree 100 percent with people in Breitbartland. What we’re not doing is focus on the priorities,” Perdue responded. “The priority up here is that we have a $20 trillion debt, and that’s driven by our mandatory expenditures. That’s something that’s almost sacrosanct here. You don’t talk about that.”
“Getting back to health care, what Senator Cruz is trying to do – and I support this, I have all along, in fact I’m a living poster child for what we’re trying to do here with this change – and that is to give insurance companies the ability to offer a menu of plans, of policies,” Perdue continued.
“This is one of the big drivers that cause premiums to go up so dramatically, Alex, under Obamacare,” he explained. “They limited that. Before I got into the Senate, I was an individual in retirement on an individual policy in an individual market. I had a catastrophic coverage, high-deductible plan. That was canceled under Obamacare. Before I got to the Senate, I had to have vision, hearing, drug rehabilitation, and maternity. Now, I met my wife in first grade. We’re not having any more kids. And my cost almost doubled. We were a perfect example of how Obamacare drove premiums up. What Senator Cruz is trying to do is to give the insurance companies more flexibility to get these premiums down.”
Perdue added another data point: “In 2014 — we asked the IRS repeatedly, they finally gave it to us — in 2014 the fines of people who didn’t sign up for Obamacare, they fined 8 million people $1.7 billion.”
“85 percent of those eight million people make less than $50,000. 50 percent of those people make less than $25,000,” he noted incredulously. “What Obamacare did is basically price out of the market anybody making $50,000 or less, and then fined them when they decided they’d rather pay a few hundred thousand dollar penalty to the government versus a $5,000 premium.”
Perdue saluted Marlow for having the courage to say bluntly that Obamacare looks like a scheme to get Americans hooked on a new entitlement program, which would inevitably collapse and give way to single-payer socialized medicine.
“That’s exactly my opinion, and you now see it with people like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren talking about single-payer,” said Perdue. “By the way, people need to realize that that’s now estimated by – I think the Urban Institute came out this week with the latest numbers – $3.2 trillion in new spending of new spending by the federal government. That’s as much as we spend on all mandatory spending right now. That’s the entire cost of health care.”
“I’ve lived under single payer, and I can tell you what it does is, it bifurcates health care delivery,” he said. “The people with money will get the best physicians, the best hospitals, because they’ll pay out of their own pocket. The people that have to use the health system, like in the U.K., they will get the less-qualified doctors, the less-qualified hospitals.”
“It’s an outrageous thing to think about in America in a free enterprise system like we’ve got, that somebody in elected office is even talking about a single payer system. I’d be ashamed,” he declared.
“People are hurting,” Perdue said. “If you do nothing, people are going to get thrown off their insurance because they can’t afford it any more. My state just got a notice this week – this year alone it’s going up 41 percent. That’s after 30 percent last year. 105 percent nationally is the average increase over the last couple of years. People will lose insurance and they will get hurt.”
“Our first option is to pass the bill before us. We all know it’s not perfect. I would much rather see us start over and come up with a clean bill, but the reality is that it’s really almost impossible to think about that happening in this environment here in D.C. realistically,” he said.
The second option Perdue laid out is that the current health care bill fails to pass and the current effort collapses. This would leave Republicans in “a sixty-vote environment where you’re negotiating with the Democrats, who have very little incentive to see this thing through.”
“Honestly, the evidence is very clear that all along, this is either the worst example of political bureaucratic bungling in the development of Obamacare, or it was a masterstroke to tie the hands of us, even if we got power to undo it,” he said.
Perdue said it was essential to “fight tooth and nail” against the slide into single payer socialized medicine, which he warned the left could “do in a month.”
“That would be the death knell of the free enterprise system in America,” he predicted.
Perdue said it was unrealistic to expect all of the health care system’s problems to be fixed in any single bill, so he agreed with Marlow’s concern that Republicans could end up being blamed for all of Obamacare’s failures, even though they wanted to replace it.
“I saw somebody on the floor the other day try to complain that the reason insurance companies are withdrawing from the market is because of uncertainty from the Trump administration,” he marveled. “That’s outrageous. People are withdrawing from the exchanges, the companies are, because they can’t make any money. They’ve increased rates as high as they can, and they’re going to focus on the group market. It’s as simple as that.”
“If we can build in what Cruz is trying to do, and I support that and have, we’ve got to manage the down side of that,” he said. “States like South Dakota have already done that, where you have pre-existing conditions have to be protected a little bit. If everybody can come out of the macro policies, then the people left, the costs to up astronomically. Well, you can control that with ratios, and they’ve done that.”
Perdue said the replacement bill with the Cruz amendment would be a great improvement over the status quo of Obamacare, but agreed that “if we don’t manage the messaging, we’re going to get blamed for all the shortcomings.”
He said one of the bill’s best features is eliminating the Obamacare mandates, which were “un-American from the beginning.”
“The math was never going to work that allowed people to get insurance when they get sick and cancel it when they were well, and then have that subsidized by the 25-year-old who’s healthy. That was never going to work. That’s not, basically, the way insurance works,” Perdue noted.
He also praised the GOP bill for eliminating the corporate mandate and protecting Medicaid over the long term. “It also is the biggest Medicaid reform in U.S. history. It really is,” he said.
“We have over $100 trillion of future unfunded liabilities coming at us. This is our first opportunity to reach into that crisis and actually lower the curve,” Perdue contended. “This proposal today does that.”
He added that the bill in its current status protects health insurance customers with pre-existing conditions.
“There were 48 million people before the ACA that did not have insurance before the ACA. That was a crime in America, in my opinion. Pre-existing conditions were a serious problem, but Obamacare is not the answer. Today we still have 28 million people who do not have insurance, and people are leaving the exchanges every day because they can’t afford Obamacare,” he said.
“Of the 20 million that got it under Obamacare, 16 million got it because of the expansion of Medicaid. It had nothing to do with Obamacare,” he continued. “That only leaves 4 million. 2 million of the 4 left were people like me and you that were canceled. Of the 2 million remaining, only 1 million were the most serious high-cost patients that we had to deal with. So they uprooted the entire health care system to try to deal with the indigent, most severe, high-cost patients that needed help. That’s outrageous. That will get taken care of.”
Perdue explained how the “ratio” idea he mentioned from South Dakota works: “You put a cap on the ratio between the cost of, let’s say the cheapest coverage might be a catastrophic high-deductible coverage for somebody that just wants to be covered in a catastrophic situation, but they don’t want to worry about trying to get costs paid back for an ear infection or that kind of thing. That’s one policy, it’s the cheapest policy you can probably get. The most expensive is the full comprehensive that allows your pre-existing conditions and all that. What you do then is that the cost ratio is controlled. You don’t let the insurance companies have an outrageously expensive, unobtainable cost for the coverage that they want to have.”
Perdue said he would not flinch from most formidable of reform goals, controlling federal spending by digging into entitlements, such as Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.
“There’s $100 trillion in the future of this unfunded liability that’s coming at us” he said. “It’s got to be dealt with. This is the first opportunity since I’ve been here, in two years, to actually get our hands on a piece of this. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, pension benefits for federal employees, and the interest on the debt – those are the five drivers of our debt going forward.”
“Once you put an entitlement out there, it’s hard to unwind,” he acknowledged. “We saw how this was liberalized under Obama, from food stamps and disability all the way down to Medicaid.”
“$23 billion is what the federal government gives the state of California, and that’s just for the expansion of their Medicaid,” Perdue pointed out. “It was an open-ended entitlement. At least what this bill does is it caps that, and puts a protection on that, and lowers that curve dramatically. It’s our first opportunity to do that.”
He said there was a larger philosophical issue at play, looking back to President Bill Clinton and House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s effort to control the growth of unemployment benefits by adding a work requirement in the 1990s.
“Guess what? All of a sudden, the workforce grew by 60,000 people, almost overnight,” Perdue recalled. “You can do that, but you’ve got to do it in a unified manner, and you’ve got to build consistency, and you’ve got to build a case that we don’t have a choice. We’re so far down this debt rabbit hole that we don’t have a choice. We are doing things we cannot afford.”
By way of example, he noted that every dime spent on discretionary spending – including military and domestic programs, to the tune of $1.1 trillion – is all borrowed money.
“That means that the mandatory side is the one that’s exploding away from us. The baseline budget today, if we don’t do anything, we will add another $10 trillion to this $20 trillion debt over the next decade alone,” he cautioned. “And if you went to a single payer, you’re talking about $32 trillion. These are nonsensical numbers that we’ve got to deal with. This Medicaid entitlement is the first step, I hope, toward opening Pandora’s Box to try to get at something that it’s hard to get politicians to even think about.”
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