‘We’re all different’
Enzi says new Senate health care draft would allow for flexibility, continued improvements
“I think there will be a stronger consensus among everybody as we get to debate the bill and get to take action on it and do amendments. We’re not done with the process. That was a discussion draft that was put out – you put out a discussion draft so that people can suggest solutions.”
Washington, D.C. — The Senate health care bill would make a bad situation better, according to U.S. Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.).
Below are key excerpts of the interview:
On content of the bill:
“There are always a number of things; I’ve been working on this for a number of years and had my own ten step health plan. The one thing that’s in here is the small business health plans, and I would have liked to have had some other steps in there. There are some prohibitions because this is going through a budget process. All of these have to be written up as budget items and have to result in some significant budget changes. I’m working with a lot of amendments from my colleagues. We’ve been taking reasonable suggestions from anybody. But my job is to try to pull 50 votes together so that we can pass something, because the health care system is in pretty dire straits at the moment – more so in some states other than Wyoming. Although when I travel in Wyoming, one of the comments I hear frequently is how much they’re having to pay for their healthcare premiums. I’ve had several people mention that they’re paying more for their premiums than they do their house payment, and if they ever have to use their insurance policy, then they’re going to be stuck with a whole bunch of deductibles. So they don’t really feel like they’ve got any coverage now, and we’re trying to overcome that.”
On waiting to have a vote:
“I’d like for us to take all of the time that we need to get a reasonable bill and to be able to pass a reasonable bill. Some of the things that are being asked can’t be done under this process. No matter how long we wait, we wouldn’t be able to do those things. We’ve got to be sure that those people understand that there can be more steps to this process to handle those things.”
On how this draft bill helps states:
“Susan [Collins] had this report on Maine. They’re one of the ‘Healthcare Laboratories’ – every state is kind of a laboratory because most of the constraints are within states – and they have a high-risk “invisible pool.” People get switched to this high-risk pool, their premiums don’t go up, they don’t even know it, they get the same kind of treatment as everybody else. But the catastrophic coverage is taken care of. We have some things in this bill to help the states with that catastrophic coverage, so that they don’t go out of business and so the insurance companies can have reasonable premiums for everyone. I hope people will take a little look at that. Now that isn’t provided for in the bill, and I think there are several things like that that people would like to have in the bill. What we made sure of in the bill was that we didn’t take away the right for states to do these other corrections. Many corrections can be done better on a state-by-state basis because we’re all different. Wyoming is extremely rural as opposed to some of the other states, although Maine is pretty rural too, and what they’re doing with this invisible high-risk pool I think will work with the remnants of the high-risk pool that the Wyoming legislature was smart enough to keep around. When we were talking about high-risk pools during the whole process, President Obama felt that the states were gouging people on those, so he put in a lesser cost plan, and it went bankrupt in 6 months. So that didn’t work. That’s when Maine decided they’d try a different approach. And theirs does work. It’s had excess revenue each year that it’s been in effect. There are solutions out there. All of them can be done under this process.
On changes to Medicaid:
“The present system isn’t sustainable. We don’t have enough money to continue exactly what’s being done, but we do not cut Medicaid. We slow the growth of Medicaid. It becomes pegged to inflation, and states will get more money each year than they did the previous year – only in Washington can that be called a cut. It was set up for poor women, for children, for people with disabilities, and Obamacare used it as a dumping ground for some able-bodied, working-aged individuals. And states will have more flexibility to see that the aged, the poor, the sick are actually taken care of, but they can put some requirements in to make sure that able-bodied, working-aged individuals do their part for the system. This doesn’t jerk the rug out from under anybody, but it will start to raise the amount of money that the non-expansion states get while it curtails the growth of the expansion states.”
On working with senators to support the bill:
“I think there will be a stronger consensus among everybody as we get to debate the bill and get to take action on it and do amendments. We’re not done with the process. That was a discussion draft that was put out – you put out a discussion draft so that people can suggest solutions. Then we have to take those suggested solutions and see if they will fit in the format that we have to abide by in order to do this special process. If it takes more time, we’ll take more time, but I think most of the people will see that what can be done is in the bill and that some changes can be made through the amendments. At the end of the amendment process, I’m hoping that we’ll have a substantial number of people to pass it. But I’m an ultimate optimist, and that’s how I’m able to serve here.”