While Gov. Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rep. Ron Paul, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman all pledged to do away with the federal law, they disagreed on other aspects of health reform. Ron Paul called Medicare a “mandate,” Perry called for Medicaid block grants and Romney defended the Massachusetts law as helpful or the uninsured of the state.
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Here is a transcript of the parts of the debate concerning health care issues:
John Harris, Politico: Congresswoman Bachmann, over to you. Of all of you on this stage, you’ve been very vocal about wanting less regulation in American life. Which current federal regulations have been prohibitive or damaging in terms of your own small business?
Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.: Well, I think without a doubt, there’s two that you look to. First of all are the new regulations that are just being put into place with ObamaCare. As I go across the country and speak to small business people, men and women, they tell me ObamaCare is leading them to not create jobs.
I spent three weekends going to restaurants, and I talked to business owners, said I have 60 people on my payroll, I have to let 10 go. At the same time, a 17-year-old girl came in and said, I’d like a job application for the summer. He said, I’m sorry, dear, I’m not hiring this summer, I’m actually letting people go. ObamaCare is killing jobs. We know that from the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. But I know it first-hand from speaking to people.
Harris: I’d like to turn to another subject that’s been dominating this campaign. It’s health care. … Governor [Romney, four years ago], you said that what you did in Massachusetts was a great opportunity for the country. … What I’d first like to do is ask if anyone else on this stage agrees that the Massachusetts example was a great opportunity for the rest of the country.
Some voices: No.
Gov. Rick Perry, Texas: It was a great opportunity for us as a people to see what will not work, and that is an individual mandate in this country.
Harris: Got it. That actually, Governor Romney, leads to my question. I’ve heard you on this many times before. You said some things about the Massachusetts law worked; other things didn’t work as well. Let’s go to what Governor Perry mentioned, the individual mandate, the government saying that people have to buy health insurance. Was that one of the things that worked in Massachusetts?
Former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney: Let’s step back and make sure I make something very clear from the very outset. I understand health care pretty darn well, having been through what I went through as a governor. And one thing I’d do on day one if I’m elected president is direct my secretary of health and human services to put out an executive order granting a waiver from Obamacare to all 50 states. It is bad law, it will not work, and I’ll get that done in day one.
Now, number two, what we face in our state is different than what other states face. What we had is a lot of people who found that they could simply stop getting insurance, go to the hospital, and get free care paid for by the people, paid for by taxpayers. We were spending hundreds of millions of dollars in our state giving care to people who in some cases could afford to take care of themselves. And we said, you know what? You’ve either got to get insurance, if you can afford it, or you’re going to have to help pay the cost of providing that care to your — to you. And that was the approach that we took.
It’s a model that lets other states take a look at it. Some parts of it have been copied by other states; some haven’t. One thing I know, and that is that what President Obama put in place is not going to work. It’s massively expensive. In our state, our plan covered 8 percent of the people, the uninsured.
Harris: Governor, time.
Romney: His plan is taking over 100 percent of the people, and the American people don’t like it and should vote it down.
Harris: Thank you, Governor. Governor Perry, you clearly don’t like the Massachusetts plan as an example for other states, but Massachusetts has nearly universal health insurance. It’s first in the country. In Texas, about a quarter of the people don’t have health insurance. That’s 50 out of 50, dead last. Sir, it’s pretty hard to defend dead last.
Perry: Well, I’ll tell you what the people in the state of Texas don’t want: They don’t want a health care plan like what Governor Romney put in place in Massachusetts. What they would like to see is the federal government get out of their business.
For Medicaid, for instance — as a matter of fact, I bet Mitt and Jon [Huntsman] would both agree — and I know Newt would, as well — Medicaid needs to be block-granted back to the states so that we can use the innovation in the states, come up with the best ways to deliver health care.
My wife is a nurse. And I’ll promise you, we understand that if we can get the federal government out of our business in the states when it comes to health care, we’ll come up with ways to deliver more health care to more people cheaper than what the federal government is mandating today with their strings attached, here’s how you do it, one-size-fits-all effort out of Washington, D.C.
That’s got to stop. And I’ll promise you: On day one, as the president of the United States, that executive order will be signed and Obamacare will be wiped out as much as it can be.
Harris: Governor, quick follow-up. Why are so many people in Texas uninsured?
Perry: Well, bottom line is that we would not have that many people uninsured in the state of Texas if you didn’t have the federal government. We’ve had requests in for years at the Health and Human Services agencies to have that type of flexibility where we could have menus, where we could have co-pays, and the federal government refuses to give us that flexibility.
We know for a fact that, given that freedom, the states can do a better job of delivering health care. And you’ll see substantially more people not just in Texas, but all across the country have access to better health care. …
Harris: I’d like to go to Governor Huntsman, if I could, because at the heart of this is this argument about the individual mandate. Is it ever appropriate for government at any level, federal or state, to force people to buy health insurance?
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman: Absolutely not. You know, at some point, we’re going to get around to talking about individual and personal responsibility. And I’m raising seven kids. I’ve got a couple of them here. The most important thing we can do in this health care debate is talk about individual responsibility, personal responsibility.
But I’ve got another solution for you, with these two great governors over there, both of whom I like and admire. And I hate to tell you that the situation in Utah is pretty darn good, but I want to draw you to another example there. We embarked upon health care reform. We did better than Rick, in terms of covering the uninsured, and we don’t have a mandate. It allows the free market to create a marketplace of choices and options for people.
I believe that once Obamacare is repealed — and it will be — the question will then be, what do we do now? And I’m here to tell you that what we did in Utah is going to be a perfect example of what we do now. We approach cost-cutting, cost overruns, harmonizing medical records, which doctors will tell you is a hugely consequential deal, and expanding the marketplace for choices and options for individuals to choose from, without a heavy-handed and expensive mandate that has caused for the average family in Massachusetts $2,500 bucks to go up.
Harris: Congresswoman Bachmann, let’s turn to you. Is Governor Romney’s support of an individual mandate in Massachusetts, is that disqualifying from the point of view of conservative voters?
Bachmann: Well, what I want to say is that Obamacare took over one-sixth of the American economy. And with all due respect to the governors, issuing an executive order will not overturn this massive law. This will take a very strong, bold leader in the presidency who will lead that effort.
None of us should ever have ourselves think that the repeal bill will just come to our desk. It will take a very strong leader.
I was the first member of Congress to introduce the bill to actually repeal Obamacare. As the nominee of the Republican Party, it will be my business to make sure that I elect also 13 more Republican senators who will help me repeal Obamacare. This is the issue of 2012, together with jobs. This is our window of opportunity. If we fail to repeal Obamacare in 2012, it will be with us forever, and it will be socialized medicine. It must be gone now, and as president of the United States, I won’t rest until I repeal Obamacare.
Harris: Speaker Gingrich, it sounds like we’ve got a genuine philosophical disagreement. In Massachusetts, a mandate, almost no one uninsured. In Texas, a more limited approach, about a quarter uninsured.
Who’s got the better end of this argument?
Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House: Well, I’m frankly not interested in your effort to get Republicans fighting each other. …
Harris: But we’ve got a choice between the individual mandate or not. So go ahead.
Gingrich: You have — you would like to puff this up into some giant thing.
The fact is, every single person up here understands Obamacare is a disaster. It is a disaster procedurally, it was rammed through after they lost Teddy Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts, it was written badly, it was never reconciled. It can’t be implemented, it is killing this economy. And if this president had any concern for working Americans, he’d walk in Thursday night and ask us to repeal it because it’s a monstrosity. Every person up here agrees with that. …
Harris: Mr. Cain, I’d like you to get in this, but my understanding of why conservatives don’t like the Obama plan, the individual mandate is at the heart of it. So this is a genuine philosophical disagreement that I’d like your view on. Is the individual mandate ever justified at the state level or the federal level?
Herman Cain: No. An individual mandate to buy something is not constitutional. Now, back in the early 1990s, I worked with Speaker Gingrich to fight Hillarycare. I have been outspoken fighting Obamacare, which needs to be repealed. Now I’m running against Romneycare. Neither one of them works.
Here’s what I would do. Let’s patient-centered, market-driven reforms. You lose a pay loss. Some people call it tort reform. Lose a pay loss. Let’s expand medical savings accounts versus what the president did in Obamacare. He shrunk health savings accounts. Let’s allow association health plans.
When I ran the National Restaurant Association — today it has 14 million people — we wanted to put together a plan that would be tailored to the constituency of that industry. We could not do it. We would have been able to do it cheaper and cover more people if we didn’t have the restrictions that are out there today that are preventing the free market from bringing down costs and increasing access.
Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas: I was trying to get your attention a little while ago. There’s eight of us up here. I’m a physician, but you sure weren’t going to ask me any medical question. But I would like to address that just a little bit.
First off, you know, the governor of Texas criticized the governor of Massachusetts for Romneycare, but he wrote a really fancy letter supporting Hillarycare. So we probably ought to ask him about that.
But mandates, that’s what the whole society is about. That’s what we do all the time. That’s what government does: mandate, mandate, mandate. And what we — we talk so much about the Obama mandate, which is very important, but what about Medicare? Isn’t that a mandate? Everything we do is a mandate. So this is why you have to look at this at the cause of liberty. We don’t need the government running our lives.