JUDY WOODRUFF: And back to the battle over health care.
I spoke a short time ago with Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of the key votes that could determine the future of the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Senator Paul, thank you very much for joining us.
Is there any doubt in your mind, if the vote had gone ahead today or tomorrow, that the bill would have failed?
SEN. RAND PAUL, R-Ky.: Yes, I don’t think there were enough votes, but I think there also just hasn’t been enough time to have a full discussion.
We just got the bill last week. We just got the CBO score on Monday. So, there needs to be a little bit more time to absorb this, then also to discuss, what are the changes that the leadership might be open to in order to get it to pass?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, speaking of that, you met with President Trump at the White House earlier today. You tweeted after your meeting, you said: “@realDonaldTrump is open to making the bill better. Is the Senate leadership?”
My question to you is — and the president is meeting now with the rest of the Republicans in the Senate — what changes does the president want to see in this bill?
SEN. RAND PAUL: Well, I don’t think it’s so much him lobbing us for changes. It’s us asking him for help in getting the changes done.
I think he has the bully pulpit. He has a great deal of influence with the Republican Party on both the House and the Senate side. And I think the bill right now to the conservative point of view doesn’t have enough repeal. In fact, it looks like we’re keeping a lot of Obamacare.
Even the architect of Obamacare, Jonathan Gruber, said, hey, hey, guys, don’t worry, we’re actually keeping Obamacare. So we actually think that there needs to be more repeal. That’s the message I took to him.
But I also took a specific list that we’re sending to Senate leadership, and we’re saying, if you address these items, there’s a possibility we could vote for this bill, but it’s got to look more like repeal and less like we’re keeping it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Well, as you know, what the president has said about the House version of the bill, which many people said was tougher than the Senate bill, he said it was mean, and he wanted a bill with more heart.
So where are we on this?
SEN. RAND PAUL: You know, I think there are various ways you can characterize both Republican and Democrat proposals.
President Obama, I think, wanted what was best for the country, but I think it didn’t work well. I think we have the death spiral, and I think particularly premiums in the individual market are going through the roof.
I think Republicans want what’s best for the country also, but I think they’re not fixing the death spiral of Obamacare. They’re going to subsidize it with a lot of taxpayer money. So, characterizing something as mean or generous I think goes to people’s motives, and I think it is sort of why we have such an angry country now. We think that people have ill motives.
But I think Republicans want people to have health insurance. We want people to be healthy. So do Democrats. We just believe in a different type of economic system or different types of limitations of government or more expansive government and how we can do it.
JUDY WOODRUFF: One of the things, Senator Paul, you have talked about wanting to do away with is the Obamacare tax on individuals making over $250,000 a year.
That would be money — that’s the money that’s been used to pay for many of the subsidies for people with lower income.
SEN. RAND PAUL: Right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: It’s a transfer, taking money away from those who have more to give it to people who have less, but that troubles you?
SEN. RAND PAUL: No, we already do quite a bit of that, and it’s call Medicaid.
The problem or the fundamental flaw of Obamacare was that they put regulations on the insurance, about 12 regulations, which increased the cost of the insurance. And so President Obama wanted to help poor, working-class people, but he actually hurts them by making the insurance too expensive to want to buy.
I had someone at the house just recently was doing some work, and he said: “Oh, my son doesn’t have insurance, he’s paying the penalty because it’s too expensive.”
So, President Obama said, oh, we want to make insurance perfect for people, but he added all these regulatory mandates, made it too expensive. Young, healthy people didn’t buy it, and the people remaining in the insurance pool were sicker and sicker. That’s the adverse selection and the death spiral of Obamacare.
And so really we do need to discuss the intricacies of what worked and what didn’t work in Obamacare. And I think the better way to do this is to let individuals have the freedom to choose what kind of insurance is best for them. The government doesn’t always know best. Maybe the individual should be allowed to choose.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator, I hear you, and I have read of some of the other comments you have made lately. You have some very strong views on this. As you just said, you would like to do away with this tax on individuals earning — high earners.
You have talked about doing away with the mandates in Obamacare. You talk about health savings accounts. But other members of the Senate, including other Republicans, have very different ideas. They are worried about these Medicaid cuts in this legislation.
SEN. RAND PAUL: Right.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Where is the common ground?
SEN. RAND PAUL: Well, that’s what we’re going to see, if we can find it.
One of the things that horrifies me is that we would be giving taxpayer money to very, very wealthy corporations. The insurance companies make about $15 billion a year. They have doubled their profit margin under Obamacare. And so now we’re going to take a lot of this and call it a stabilization fund, but really it’s a bailout of insurance companies.
And I just think that’s wrong. I just can’t see why ordinary, average taxpayers would be giving money to very, very wealthy corporations. An analogous situation would be this: We all complain that new cars cost too much. Why don’t we have a new car stabilization fund and give $130 billion to car companies?
JUDY WOODRUFF: Right.
SEN. RAND PAUL: We could do that in any industry, but it’s not really good economics. What it is, is, you’re simply transferring money from the ordinary, average taxpayers to very wealthy corporations.
JUDY WOODRUFF: But, Senator, my understanding is that plan was put in there to take care of some of those people at the lower income level because of these changes in Medicaid.
I still don’t see where the middle ground is between you, other Republicans, and certainly with Democrats.
SEN. RAND PAUL: Actually, the money in the stabilization fund, $130 billion which I call an insurance bailout, is put in to try to cure the adverse selection that Obamacare created by making insurance too expensive. Healthy people didn’t buy it.
They tried to fix this by forcing young people to buy it through an individual mandate. Even that didn’t work. So the way the Republicans fix it is they don’t actually fix it. They subsidize it. So we have to fix what went wrong with Obamacare, not just recapitulate something that’s broken.
JUDY WOODRUFF: What you’re saying makes it sound like you’re still uncertain this is going to pass.
SEN. RAND PAUL: Yes. I’m uncertain whether it’s going to be enough of a repeal bill for conservatives. And we need to adhere to our promise. We promised people we’d repeal it. We talked about all the problems of Obamacare. We shouldn’t leave half of it in place and expect things to be better.
JUDY WOODRUFF: Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, we thank you.
SEN. RAND PAUL: Thank you.