ICYMI: Senator Collins Discusses Health Care on CNN’s “State of the Union”

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Bangor, ME - U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” with host Jake Tapper to discuss health care.

A transcript of the interview follows:

“State of the Union”

September 24, 2017

TAPPER: Well, Senator Collins joins us now. Senator, good to see you, as always. Your vote is pivotal on the Graham-Cassidy health care bill. Where are you? Yes or no? 

COLLINS: Jake, it's very difficult for me to envision a scenario where I would end up voting for this bill. I have a number of serious reservations about it. I'm concerned about the impact on the Medicaid program, which has been on the books for more than 50 years and provides health care to our most vulnerable citizens, including disabled children and low-income seniors. I'm concerned about the impact on costs and coverage. We already have a problem under the Affordable Care Act with the cost of premiums and deductibles. And, finally, I'm very concerned about the erosion of protections for people with pre-existing conditions, like asthma, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, and what it would mean to them.

TAPPER: I imagine you have been on the phone with other uncommitted senators, like Lisa Murkowski, and also probably with the White House. How have those conversations been going?

COLLINS: I have had a lot of conversations over the weekend with numerous of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle. And I had a very lengthy conversation with the vice president yesterday. As always, with the vice president, he was very cordial. He made the case. He asked me to think more thoroughly about some issues. I told him about the various analyses of the impact that concern me. He told me he would get me more numbers on the impact on the state of Maine and on the nation.

TAPPER: So, you say you find it difficult to have envision any scenario you would vote for Graham-Cassidy. Is that a no, then?

COLLINS: What I am doing is, as is my general practice, is, I would like to see the Congressional Budget Office analysis, which is expected to come out tomorrow morning. And I am worried about whether CBO has been given enough time to thoroughly analyze this bill, which has been a moving target. Even over the weekend, I was receiving e-mails suggesting that the sponsors of the bill are still changing the formula. So, it may be difficult for CBO to do the kind of in-depth analysis that it usually does. But that's what I would like to see before making a final decision. But it may be that CBO is going to say that this is impossible because the parameters of the bill keep changing. 

TAPPER: You say you want to see a CBO score. As you note, there have been other studies of the impact of Graham-Cassidy. Let me put some of the numbers on the screen from some of these studies, 21 million fewer Americans covered. That's from Brookings. States losing $215 billion. That's from Avalere. Thirty-one states losing money. That's from Kaiser. As you know, the CBO score, even if you get it in time for the vote, it's probably only going to look at the impact on the deficit, and not look at the impact on the issues you talk about, Medicaid, the total number of uninsured. What information could the CBO possibly provide you that might make you support the Graham-Cassidy bill?

COLLINS: Well, I actually expect that CBO is either going to reinforce those studies that you have just mentioned, all of which I have digested over the past couple of weeks, or that CBO is going to say that they simply don't have the time to do a thorough analysis. But you remember, when the CBO did the analysis of the first Senate bill and the House bill, it was very thorough in analyzing the impact on the number of people who would lose insurance, on the impact of changing the Medicaid program. And, by the way, we would be making these huge changes in Medicaid without the benefit of extensive hearings. And that's what we would need. And so I don't know whether the CBO analysis will have new information that would change where I'm inclined to head. Normally, the way we proceed is to look at the CBO analysis. I'm going to know tomorrow morning whether or not CBO reinforces the concerns and reservations that I already have based on the studies that you have cited, or whether CBO is going to say that they can't come up with the kind of in-depth analysis that the agency usually does, or maybe there will be a surprise in there. I don't anticipate that. But I want to wait. It's just a few more hours to wait to see that important study.

TAPPER: So, it sounds like a no, with an asterisk unless CBO has some sort of dramatic change. President Trump had some tough words on Friday for any Republican senator who votes the way it looks like you're likely to vote. He tweeted -- quote -- "Rand Paul or whoever votes against health care bill will forever, future political campaigns, be known as 'the Republican who saved Obamacare.'" Assuming that you ultimately vote the way it sounds like you're going to vote, are you OK with President Trump calling you the Republican who saved Obamacare?

COLLINS: You know, my focus is on improving our health care system. And what I would like to see happen is for us to return to the very good work that the Senate Health Committee was doing, under the leadership of Senators Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray. We had four substantiative, in-depth hearings, widespread participation by the Senate, during the past two weeks. And they were very close to producing an initial bill that would help to moderate increases in premiums, or actually lower premiums, and stabilize the insurance markets to ensure that people had more choices. That's the avenue that we should take. The ACA is a flawed law. And the cost of premiums and deductibles are a real problem for individuals, particularly those who don't get subsidies. And it's a real problem for our small businesses.  So, I want to fix those problems. And I see the work we're doing in the Health Committee as the path forward. I think we should do a series of bills, with the first bill being directed at stabilizing the markets and lowering premiums.

TAPPER: Senator Susan Collins from the great state of Maine, thank you so much. We appreciate your time today.