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Bangor, ME - U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” today with host John Dickerson to discuss health care.
A transcript of the interview follows:
“Face the Nation”
September 24, 2017
DICKERSON: We turn now to Senator Susan Collins who is leaning against the Senate health care bill. She joins us this morning from Bangor, Maine. Senator, you're waiting to hear from the Congressional Budget Office for it to give you its assessment of this bill. What is it that you're most worried about?
COLLINS: I really have three major concerns. One is the impact on the Medicaid program. This is a very important program in my state and many others because it provides needed health care to low-income seniors, to disabled children, and to so many of our most vulnerable citizens. Some of the projections are that $1 trillion would be taken out of the Medicaid program between the year 2020 and 2036. That would have a devastating impact, and the changes, the sweeping changes have not been thoroughly analyzed by Congress. Second, I'm really concerned about continued coverage and protection for people with preexisting conditions like asthma or diabetes or arthritis or cancer. This bill clearly weakens those protections, so it depends on where you live. And you would still be sold insurance, but it might well be unaffordable. And finally, I'm very concerned both with the current law and with the proposed law about the impact on premium costs and on the number of people who will be covered.
DICKERSON: So Senator, that's a really long list. Is there anything, really...given your experience and your knowledge of health care, and the rush to get this done before next week, it just doesn't seem possible with your long list that your fears can be allayed by anything CBO is going to put out.
COLLINS: Well, it is hard for me to envision getting to yes on this bill, because my concerns are so fundamental. CBO's analysis in the past has been very helpful to me in evaluating bills such as the previous bills that I opposed. And that's why I'd like to see it. The problem is, CBO may have a very difficult time analyzing the bill because it still seems to be a moving target, even over the weekend. The sponsors were making changes in it, and I think that's part of the problem. You can't, when we're dealing with a sixth of our economy and millions of people, you can't do sound health insurance policy this way. You need to have extensive hearings. The Democrats must come to the table. And that's what we should be doing.
DICKERSON: There's one hearing scheduled for Monday, so in your view that's not enough?
COLLINS: That isn't even close to enough. You know, the Medicaid program has been on the books for more than 50 years. The Graham-Cassidy bill proposes a dramatic sweeping change in the way that program would be allocated and administered. And a program, which does need reform, but we need careful reform. And I don't think this bill does that.
DICKERSON: Your Republican colleagues say on the record and off that this might lose them control of the Senate. What do you think of that? If this doesn't pass?
COLLINS: I don't think that's the case. What Americans want is more affordable health care. And throughout this entire debate, it is so ironic that when the ACA was being passed years ago and as we're deliberating today, that there is not enough focus on looking at the causes of escalating health care costs. And that includes taking a look at the rising costs of pharmaceutical drugs. And that is something that we need to do way more focus on that. I think that the Senate Health Committee's done a great job having four substantive hearings. We ought to proceed down that route and do a series of bills that fixes the current law, which does have a lot of flaws.
DICKERSON: Let me ask you one last question. If this fails in the Senate and the current law stays in place, the Affordable Care Act, what obligation does Health and Human Services have, the Department of Health and Human Services have to support the Affordable Care Act during the open enrollment period that we have coming up?
COLLINS: The department has to follow the current law. I hope that we can pass a bill this week that will be bipartisan, help stabilize the markets, help reduce the premiums under the leaderships of Senator Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray and those of us who are working hard toward that goal. But the administration does need to follow the current law until we change it.
DICKERSON: All right, Senator. Thanks so much for being with us. And we'll be right back in a moment with more "Face the Nation."