ICYMI: Senator Collins Discusses Health Care on ABC’s “This Week”

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Washington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Susan Collins appeared on ABC’s “This Week” with host Jonathan Karl to discuss the Senate health care bill.

A transcript of the interview follows:

“This Week”
July 16, 2017

KARL: I'm joined now by Republican Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who has made it clear that she is opposed to the latest version of the bill. Senator Collins, thank you for joining us this morning.

COLLINS: My pleasure.

KARL: So you heard Vice President Pence say that this bill provides for the most vulnerable, improves Medicaid, and will lead to better outcome. Is he right?

COLLINS: I would respectfully disagree with the Vice President.

First, let me extend my best wishes to my friend and colleague, John McCain, as he recovers from his surgery. And that has led, as you indicated, to a delay in consideration of this bill.

This bill would make sweeping and deep cuts in the Medicaid program, which has been a safety net program on the books for more than 50 years, ensuring that some of our most vulnerable citizens, our disabled children, our low-income seniors, receive the health care that they need. It would also jeopardize the very existence of our rural hospitals and our nursing homes, which not only provide essential care to people in rural America, but also are major employers in the small communities in which they are located. And worst of all, these changes would be made without the Senate having held a single hearing to evaluate their impact.

KARL: But the vote's been delayed. Did McConnell have the votes to get it passed?

COLLINS: I don't know. I think it would be extremely close. There are many of us who have concerns about the bill, particularly the cuts in the Medicaid program. But there are other problems with the bill as well. It could lead to insurance plans that really are barely insurance at all. It would cause premiums to increase for some very vulnerable individuals, including those with preexisting conditions, depending on what states decide to do.

So there are a lot of us who have concerns about the bill. On the Senate side, I would estimate that there are about eight to ten Republicans senators who have deep concerns. But how this would all translate out I'm not certain. And I never underestimate Leader McConnell's skills.

KARL: That's a good idea. But if you look at Medicaid, which you've mentioned repeatedly on this, isn't Medicaid spending now out of control? If you look at the estimates, Medicaid is estimated to be at nearly a trillion dollars a year by 2025. That's a 70 percent increase in Medicaid spending over the course of a decade. You heard the Vice President. He says that this bill puts Medicaid on a more sustainable path. You'd acknowledge right now it's not on a sustainable path?

COLLINS: I would never say that the Medicaid program should not be scrutinized to see if we can lower the costs. I believe there's a good model in Indiana, which applied a managed care approach to the expansion of Medicaid that was done in that state under the Affordable Care Act. That offers a very useful model that I believe could be replicated in other states.

But to totally change the program and to set a future inflation rate that we know will not cover the costs of medical care at a time when the Baby Boomer generation is going to be needing those services is not the way we should proceed.

Should we proceed to have careful hearings and look at what we can do to make sure that the Medicaid program can continue to be there for future generations without bankrupting the federal budget? Absolutely. But we haven't had that kind of in-depth analysis, public hearings to vet all kinds of ideas that would be useful in lowering costs of the program and producing better outcomes, which is what the Indiana model has done.

KARL: So the President says that this must happen, that after seven years of what he calls the “Obamacare disaster,” it must happen. Have you heard from him? When was the last time you spoke to the President about this?

COLLINS: I spoke to the President at the White House at a meeting that was held of the Republican caucus a few weeks ago. I have been in touch with members of his administration, who have talked to me about the bill. And of course there have been some changes made in the bill, so it still seems to be a work in progress.

Let me make clear, I think there are substantial flaws in the Affordable Care Act. It has produced premium increases that are very troubling and difficult for people to afford, particularly those who don't get the subsidies under the current law. And in some counties in some states, the markets are literally collapsing, so that even if you have a subsidy, you're not going to find that there's an insurance policy that you can purchase.

So we do need to fix the significant flaws in the current law. But the way to do that is through the normal process of committee hearings and expert witnesses and writing a bill with bipartisan support. President Obama in my view made a serious mistake when he pushed through the Affordable Care Act without a single Republican vote. I don't want to make the same mistake in reverse and push through this bill without a single Democratic vote.

KARL: All right, Senator Susan Collins, thank you for joining us.

COLLINS: Thank you, Jonathan.