Dean: Health Bill ‘Not Worth Passing’

By Jennifer Parker

Dec 16, 2009 11:37am

Former DNC Chairman, presidential contender and doctor, Howard Dean continued his assault on the Senate health reform bill this morning, telling me on “Good Morning America” the bill in present form is “not worth passing.”


Dean is leading a liberal revolt over health care reform, telling Vermont Public Radio Tuesday Democrats should just kill the health care bill and start over.


“A very small number of people will get insurance, if at all, until 2014,” Dean told me this morning, “This is the insurance companies’ dream, this bill.”


Dean argued health care reform is the victim of bad decisions in Washington.


“Bad decisions were made along the way,” Dean said on GMA, “Now we’re in the last week of this. And this is the Washington scramble. And I think it’s ill-advised.”


Here’s our exchange:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We turn now, to Howard Dean in Washington. Good morning, Governor.


HOWARD DEAN: Good morning, how are you George.


You call this the collapse of health care reform. You call this united opposition. The president’s poll numbers at new lows. And a lot of leading Democrats believe if this bill goes down, it will cripple the Obama presidency. Are you prepared to do that?


Of course not. That’s one of the problems. We’ve gotten to the stage, George, you know this better than most, in Washington, where passing any bill is a victory. And that’s the problem. Decisions are made about the long-term future of this country for short-term political reasons. And that’s never a good sign.
There are some good things in this bill. The problem is, we’re now committed to a solution using the private insurance companies. And you will be forced to buy insurance. If you don’t, you’ll pay a fine. And 27 percent of the money you put in will not go to your health care. It will go to CEOs, who make $20 million a year. This is a bigger bailout for the insurance industry than AIG. And not one person — excuse me. A very small number of people will get any insurance at all until 2014, if the bill works.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Excuse me. The president says this is going to cover about 30 million Americans and a lot of your fellow progressives and liberals are onboard. Listen to Senator Tom Harkin.


[VIDEO]


HARKIN: I plead with all of my progressive friends, now is the time to get over this hurdle. If this bill were so bad, why are 40 Republicans on the hill going after it day after day after day and trying to kill it?


[END VIDEO]


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: You say this is a big bailout for the insurance companies. You see Senator Harkin is for it. Others are for it. Sherrod Brown, Jay Rockefeller are for it. Are you saying they’re all selling out?


HOWARD DEAN: Of course, I’m not saying they’re selling out. These are wonderful people. And there’s good things in the bill. But the problem is, there has to be a line beyond which you think the bill’s bad for the country. I think at this point, the bill does more harm than good. I don’t believe there’s going to be the money around in five years for — because the insurance companies are charging so much. The pre-existing conditions piece, which — has disappeared essentially. This fine print in this bill allows that insurance companies charge you three-times as much if you’re older than they do if
you’re younger. This is an insurance company’s dream this bill. And I think it’s gone too far. It’s a shame. But bad decisions were made along the way. Now, we’re in the last week of this. And this is the Washington scramble. And I think it’s ill-advised.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Except, as you say, if you look at the fine print of the bill, older Americans are going to pay more. But the Americans Association for Retired People supports the bill. The president has pointed out it does cover 30 million Americans. It has a patient’s bill of rights for those that have insurance. And it begins to control cost. Look what it’s doing to control health care costs. The tax on the Cadillac health insurance plans.
New incentives for doctors and hospitals to focus on quality, and new Medicare panels to try to get the costs under control. You have said time and time again, that’s the key to controlling costs. The president says this bill does it.


HOWARD DEAN: George, you just named a whole bunch of bureaucracies and promises. I see little cost control in this bill at all. I really don’t. I want health care reform. But the choices have been taken away for the American people. The special interests, basically, made a lot of demands on the people passing this bill. And everybody has to decide for themselves. I think Jay Rockefeller and Tom Harkin and Dick Durbin are fantastic human beings. I think they’re wonderful people. But in Washington, you get into this crunch where bad — good money gets thrown after bad and bad money gets thrown after bad policy. And at this point, this bill is not worth passing in its present form. One of the things you could do is take some of the things in this bill, community health center money, wellness and prevention money, the exchanges, which are a good way — which was done in Massachusetts, to help people buy health insurance.
But the fundamental part of this bill that’s been decided is, we will only do health insurance through the private sector for the future. And you will not have a choice as an American, to get into other kinds of systems which work better. And I think that’s a mistake. And it always happens in the last week where people go too far, water down things too much. Give too much to the special interests. That’s where we are with this bill today.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Final question. Any chance you can succeed here? Can you convince your fellow Vermonter, Bernie Sanders, to vote now?


HOWARD DEAN: I think this thing will pass the senate and go to the house.
The problem is, there’s not a lot of room to fix it in the House because the four senators who balked on this, who represent the insurance industry, are not going to support the conference committee my job is not to convince what I think is right all along. I’ve, you know, put up with a lot of stuff I didn’t like –  what was good about the bill outweighed what was bad the bill. I don’t believe that anymore.

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