Washington, D.C. - This evening, U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a member of the Senate Health Committee, appeared on MSNBC’s “Meet the Press Daily” to discuss health care with host Chuck Todd.
A transcript of the interview follows:
“Meet the Press Daily”
October 17, 2017
TODD: Joining me now is the Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins, who is a member of the Senate HELP Committee, whose leaders of course crafted this deal. Senator Collins, good to see you.
COLLINS: Thank you.
TODD: Alright, let me get your initial reaction to this deal. I know you still got the details to look at, but from what you’ve heard, what you’ve read, what you’ve seen, are you inclined to find a way to support this deal?
COLLINS: Absolutely. I'm very pleased that Lamar Alexander and Patty Murray continue to work so hard to try to stabilize the insurance markets, to lower premiums, and to provide some stability, which is really needed. This bill may not be perfect. I would have liked to have seen a specific authorization and some seed money for reinsurance pools, which would further help to lower premiums. But this is a good package, and I hope it will be passed very quickly so it can have an impact on rates this year.
TODD: Would you call this a deal that saves Obamacare for now or chips away at it?
COLLINS: I wouldn't characterize it either way. I would say that it's an agreement that prevents low-income people from losing access to funding, to subsidies that help them support their out-of-pocket costs. It's a deal that helps to ensure that insurers do not flee the market leaving no choices or fewer choices for consumers. And it gives far more flexibility than exists under the Affordable Care Act for states to do more experimentation and innovation.
TODD: Some of these innovations, though, that allow for, you know, waiving certain federal rules on insurance—on what insurance you can offer—are you convinced this will fully protect those folks with the preexisting conditions? That the catastrophic plans and all those things, that it isn't going to put them in a riskier pool by themselves?
COLLINS: I am. I am convinced that it is going to protect people with preexisting conditions or I would not support it. The interstate pacts are really already authorized under existing law. I don't really think they are going to make a lot of difference because the states are going to have to come together and agree on a common set of rules and guidelines and consumer protections. That is already current law, but it's just never been implemented. There's much more flexibility given in the waivers, but it's really process flexibility. The waivers have to be approved much more quickly. You don't have to have budget neutrality in a single year, which is very difficult to do when you are innovating.
TODD: Senator Lamar Alexander has been around the block. He's not somebody that's new to politics. Let me ask you this, would he have gone public saying we had an agreement with Patty Murray if he didn't have the White House on board?
COLLINS: He definitely has been talking to the president, and I believe that the White House will be on board.
TODD: You say “will be.” You think they already are essentially with this framework?
COLLINS: I do.
TODD: So anything being said to the contrary is just negotiating posturing at this point?
COLLINS: Likely, or there may just be confusion within the White House. That's not unheard of in this White House. But from what I understand, the president has been involved personally. He's encouraged this bipartisan agreement, and my goal is for us to pass it as rapidly as possible because those rates are being set and open season is coming up very soon.
TODD: You know, President Trump also said that he has the votes, essentially, for Graham-Cassidy in the Senate, that the votes are there for block grant style reform. Is that true? I’m assuming if the votes were there, wouldn't you be voting on it?
COLLINS: Well, I don't see it, but of course people keep tinkering with the bill. There have been four iterations to date, and I’m sure that the authors, who are very committed to this approach, continue to work. But when you realize that virtually every health care provider group from physicians, to hospitals, to insurers, to disease advocacy groups are opposed to that approach I just don't see us getting there.
TODD: Before I let you go, do you feel that the U.S. Senate, as an institution, is under attack by the president?
COLLINS: The president has made very clear that he's not happy with the Senate. I hope that the meeting that he had with Mitch McConnell this week will lead to a new era where we work together and there's more consultation, more harmony, fewer tweets and fewer texts.
TODD: What's your confidence level in Mitch McConnell as your leader right now?
COLLINS: Very high.
TODD: You have no issues with him? What do you make of the Steven Bannon attempts to try to create an atmosphere that would chase him out of his leadership position?
COLLINS: I think what Steve Bannon is trying to do is completely inappropriate and also inconceivable to me. He's not looking at how people vote on issues that matter to President Trump. He's looking at whether or not they support Mitch McConnell as majority leader. Mitch McConnell is key to President Trump's ability to get tax reform through, for example. So I don't understand Mr. Bannon's approach. Obviously, he has the right to say or do whatever he wants. But I certainly don't think that it is at all constructive.
TODD: Senator Susan Collins, I will leave it there. Republican from Maine, good to see you.
COLLINS: Thank you.
TODD: We’ll have you back for another couple of years at least.
COLLINS: Thank you.