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Senator Claire McCaskill (D): a conversation with bloggers in Kansas City (January 20, 2011)

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): a conversation with bloggers in Kansas City, part 2 (January 20, 2011)

Senator Claire McCaskill (D).

On Wednesday evening Senator Claire McCaskill (D) met with a small group of Missouri political bloggers for a conversation at her Kansas City office. This is the third part of that conversation.

The continuation of the transcript:

….Michael Bersin: And, but in your experience, you did a lot of town halls about health care. And, uh, some of your colleagues did, in, in the Senate, did anybody, were you aware of anybody else doing the kinds of things that you did? And…

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Well, I mean, a few did. But, the, the, the prevailing wisdom in the, in Washington was don’t go do town halls.

Michael Bersin: But, and I, I heard you do several of those and you used it, and sometimes the, the crowd was boisterous, we’ll say, but you always used it as an opportunity to educate people. And, and that seemed like it was a, a, a missed kind of, uh, opportunity for some of your, your colleagues in the Senate to, to actually go out and teach [crosstalk] people. I was going…

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): I wish we would have had a nationally televised town hall on the health care bill. I would have loved us to have some prime, you know. Let’s do a, a prime time debate on the health care bill between, you know, uh, Barack Obama and John McCain. You know, um, seriously, I just think if we would have done, if we would have used what the media wanted to cover which was the fight, if we’d have used that opportunity, I mean people wanted to cover the town halls ’cause they sensed there was a conflict. And, you know, I welcome that because I thought it was important for me to get out there and not to shirk away from that. But that’s the, just one example, and it’s a little example, there’s lots of things we could have done. That we could have embraced the conflict and used it to illuminate the differences between what they were saying and what the reality really was. But, we, we can’t get around one thing. The mandate is very, very, very unpopular. Nobody, I shouldn’t say nobody, most Missourians do not like the government using the word shall. They just don’t like it.

Michael Bersin: But, is, is there any other  way, you know, you, and I heard you describe this. You say, well, you can’t have, you know, pre-existing condition as something that, that, you know, you take care of and then somebody says, well, I’m not gonna have insurance until my pre-existing condition comes up [crosstalk] [inaudible]…

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Right. And I’m not gonna get insurance until I get sick. Be like telling people you can go get car insurance after you’ve had a wreck. I mean, who’d buy car insurance, right? Now, it’s go, if we did that it’d make health insurance in a private market, which is what we passed, very, very expensive. So the issue is how do we get health people in the pool without saying the word shall? And I’m exploring it right now.

Michael Bersin: But.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): I think there is a way. If we would use Medicare Part D as a model, not how much we made the pharmaceutical companies rich or the insurance companies rich, but as a model in terms of an enrollment period. Seniors know they’ve got to sign up for Medicare D, they’ve got like a month at the end of every year, they’ve gotta sign up. And if they don’t, it’s cost ’em more. We could do that with this. We could say, you’ve got an enrollment period. Now, if you don’t enroll, when you get insurance it’s gonna be thirty percent more ex, expensive. Um, and actually do it that way so that you’re, so you don’t have the shall, you shall buy something. Rather, if you don’t buy something it’s gonna be a lot more expensive. And I think most Americans want affordable health care insurance. So if you have it I think most Americans are going to buy it as long as they know if I don’t I’m not gonna be, be able to get it later except for a lot more money.

Michael Bersin: Yeah, and, but part of it is, you know, people use the, kind of, the rhetoric to say, well, if, if I’m healthy I don’t need it. But, you know, part of it is educating people, say, well, sometimes you might think you’re healthy or something comes up that’s unexpected then, then what? And, and there was not a lot of it, you know, [inaudible] education about that. We just heard the government [crosstalk]…

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Right.

Michael Bersin: …is going to make you do this.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): But, the example we should have used more often is, um, a thirty-two year old single guy who really wants a new Harley. Really wants a new Harley. And, right now, he can pay almost the cost of a payment of the new Harley for health insurance or he can get a new Harley. So he gets the new Harley and says, I don’t need health insurance. And then, six months later, he’s driving the new Harley and he gets broadsided. And he has traumatic brain injuries and he goes to the hospital. Well, who pays for that? You know, obviously, we all pay for that. And, is that really taking responsibility? Is that the personal responsibility that Sarah Palin likes to talk about? Is that people being accountable for their own lives? Or is that using the welfare state to take care of you as opposed to taking personal responsibility? Truth be known, he probably couldn’t afford the Harley until he could afford health insurance.

Michael Bersin: Right.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Especially under the plan we passed, because you get help buying the health insurance so that you never have to spend too much of your income on health insurance. So I, I think that, you know, if we can do a better job of talking about that element of personal  responsibility plus making it a financial disincentive to not buy it I think we could possibly avoid the legal fight over the mandate and get rid of that word shall that really rubs, um, Missourians the wrong way, I mean, ’cause it’s in our DNA in Missouri not to trust the government.

Sean:  Do you see other places where the health care bill’s gonna be modified or changed? Or, what is gonna be substantive discussion, [crosstalk] not just [inaudible]?

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): I think we’ll do something about the ten ninety-nine problem. Um, I think that that was, uh, there wasn’t enough thought given to the burden that would place on most businesses, not the great big guys, but most businesses having to keep track of ten ninety-nines for all these vendors over a certain amount, um, that, that is too much.  And so there’ve been several proposals, in fact, we had several proposals to already fix it. And the Republicans [crosstalk] blocked it.

Sean: Sure.

Michael Bersin: Because they didn’t want to [crosstalk]…

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Fix it.

Michael Bersin: …lose, lose a club. [crosstalk][inaudible]

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Yeah, well, they voted against the small business bill right before the election. They didn’t want to be seen as agreeing that we could ever do anything to help small business. They were on a kind of a roll that we were all against business and that we were all about socialism and we were all taking, you know, the government was gonna take over everything. In truth we did a net, outside of the Bush tax cuts, we did a net f
our hundred billion dollars in tax cuts to working families, middle class, and small businesses. Um, all very targeted. But, they, you know,  they were counting on the fact that everyone was believing the narrative that we were overreaching, that government was taking over everything, that we didn’t care about the free market and, so that’s why I think that, that happened. But I think we’ll fix the ten ninety-nine. Um, you know, I, those are the two things right now that I think are bubbling up the most.

Sean: And you mentioned crop insurance. As the next farm bill’s put together you think they’re gonna be, do you see substantive changes actually happening? Or is it just the can getting kicked down the road again?

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Well, I, you know, I think, again, we’ll have discussions about, um, how much income should someone have and still get a check from the government. Um, you know, we’re subsidizing Ag sector now. Um, but we subsidize every sector. So, I, you know, I think we’ve got to, we’ve got to hold back how much the government is doing but we gotta be fair. We can’t continue to subsidize the oil sector and not subsidize the sugar, you know. And so I think, but we need to look at all of ’em and see how we can shrink the programs so that they’re more affordable. And, it’s, it’s always a slightly awkward moment when someone stands up at a rural town hall and goes on and on about the government doing too much and has reached too far. And then I ask the question, how many people in the room got a check from the government last year? And, obviously, in rural Missouri there’s a lot of farmers that get significant help from the federal government. And there’s nothing wrong with that in and of itself. But, you can’t be saying, I want the federal government to do nothing except when it’s a program that helps me.

Sean: Sure.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): That’s the mentality that’s gotten us in this mess in the first place.  You go cut somebody else’s program, don’t touch mine. I think we’ve got to cut everybody’s program [crosstalk].

Blue Girl: Don’t help those people [crosstalk].

Sean:  I’m from [inaudible], I understand that, [crosstalk] that dynamic.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Right. [crosstalk] Right, it’s really interesting because in rural Missouri they want to think all of the federal government money is going to the urban areas. And in the urban areas, they want to think all of the federal money is going to the farm program. Truth is, that there is a lot of federal money going everywhere. [laughter] [crosstalk] You probably need to shrink all of it.

Michael Bersin: But, but one of the interesting things that’s, that’s, uh, that you always see is when you start to see that the states which are net, uh, contributors to the federal budget and states that are net takers. And people are sort of stunned by that. That, you know, states that you would think that, that have the rhetoric of we don’t want the government to do anything or [crosstalk][inaudible]…

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): Actually getting more from the government than they’re paying in.

Michael Bersin: …than they’re paying in.

Senator Claire McCaskill (D): They’re, they’re, they’re, they’re payer, they’re, they’re the plus states rather [crosstalk] than the donor states.

Michael Bersin: [inaudible] Yes, than the donors, yeah….

A transcript of the final part of our conversation will follow in the next day.