Transcript: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Mitt Romney

SEBELIUS: I think he is making it clear the -- that's a direction he thinks will be beneficial for the public and for -- to make sure that costs go down. And that's a central belief of his. This has to lower costs for everyone.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Secretary Sebelius, thanks very much for your time this morning.

SEBELIUS: Thank you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me now bring in, for Republican a perspective, former governor of Massachusetts Mitt Romney, also a former presidential candidate.

Let me just start, right out there, Governor, with the public option. Is that a red line for Republicans?

If there's a public option in this plan, should Republicans reject it?

ROMNEY: Yes, of course, they should. Let's -- let's start out from the very beginning, which is Republicans recognize and have said for a long time we've got problems in health care; we need health care reform.

And, you know, we took that on in Massachusetts. We decided we wanted to get everybody insured. We've done that. I understand that the president considers his plan, in some respects, following the model of Massachusetts.

Let's learn from our experience. And that is, we got everybody in our state insured. Some 98 percent now are covered by insurance. And we did not have to put in place a government plan.

We have competition in the health insurance market. There are hundreds of health insurance companies that all compete with each other. We don't need to have the government get in and create a health insurance company in order to have competition. We've already got

And let's be clear, here, George. This is not about getting competition in health coverage, which is already there. This is instead a Trojan horse. Barack Obama, when he ran for office, said he's in favor of a single-payer system. He's said it for years. This is a way of getting government in the insurance business so they can take over health care.

It's the wrong way to go. And every single Republican and every thinking Democrat who knows something about the private sector would realize the wrong thing for America is to get government into the health care business.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Except, Governor, you bring up the Massachusetts plan. And you're exactly right. And most studies have shown that Massachusetts has done a very good job of expanding coverage with this plan but has not done as good a job of controlling costs.

And some say that's because of the absence of a public plan. Alan Sager, professor of health policy at Boston University has said that health spending per person in Massachusetts has increased faster than the national average in seven of the last eight years.

ROMNEY: Massachusetts is an expensive state to do a lot of things. But the key thing I can tell you is this. What's happened to the health insurance premium for people buying insurance in Massachusetts? It's been cut in half.

For an individual, a young male, let's say 35 years old, buying insurance in Massachusetts for themselves, the premium has been cut in half since our plan went in place.

So the cost of buying insurance is down. And that's the course that you have to have for the nation. Look, the idea that you have to get government into an enterprise in order for that to become competitive makes no sense at all.

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