Panel on the Latest in the Health Care Debate

Panel on the Latest in the Health Care Debate

By Special Report With Bret Baier - August 13, 2009


ROBERT GIBBS, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Polling is a snapshot in time. The debate continues. And we will see whether numbers move or change as a result of the continuing debate.


BAIER: Well, here is the latest snapshot from the FOX News opinion dynamics poll. And there you see health care reform legislation, in favor of up 34 percent, a little drop from July. Oppose rises two points to 49 percent.

The highest priority for the government right now, 57 percent in all categories say reduce the deficit. You see how it breaks down by ideology there.

Let's bring in our panel. Peter Morici, an economist from the University of Maryland business professor, Kirsten powers, columnist with the "New York Post," and syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer.

Peter, welcome, first time on the panel.


BAIER: What do you think as the polls show that the debate seems to have shifted, what this means for the White House and where this stands now?

MORICI: Well, the president is in a lot of trouble. He really hasn't addressed the basic problems of health care, malpractice insurance being one, high drug costs.

He seems to be cutting deals with the principal players but not making a lot of headway. Citizens suspect this will be very expensive and they will end up dumped into national health care.

BAIER: Kirsten Is the White House treading water here? Are they concerned?

KIRSTEN POWERS, COLUMNIST, "WASHINGTON POST": If they're not concerned, they should be concerned, I think. I think once you have the president having to try to convince you he is not going to kill your grandmother, you're in trouble. And that's where he has gotten.

And I think that they underestimated what was going to happen from the conservative side. To me it's very similar to immigration, frankly, immigration reform, where there are real fears out there, and conservatives really tapped into them and were able to stop immigration reform through talk radio essentially.

Now this time they are doing it through town halls, and they are going out and really making a lot of tubal for the White House. And I don't think they were anticipating it.

BAIER: So was it a strategic error to talk about the town halls as they did from the podium and how they have handled this up until now?

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: Well, I think they tried to exploit the fact that there was rowdiness, and I shared the view that that would actually hurt the opponents of health care reform as presented by the Democrats. But the polling has shown the opposite. It has shown that the reaction that people see in the town halls has strengthened opposition.

And that tells you that even though the Obama team is very good at street fighting, at one-on-one hand combat and campaign style, which they showed last year, when they're up against the fury of ordinary Americans, that doesn't work the way it does when you're up against the Clintons.

POWERS: Well, the USA today poll had 57 percent saying, including six in ten independents, that a major fact behind the protests were concerns that average citizens had. And that was a big mistake the Democrats made by trying to turn this into something that - is it true the people who are there are conservatives? Probably. But look, I think most Americans think it is good when you go out and protest the government and you show up and you actually care enough. When they protest the war, they certainly think it is a good idea.

BAIER: Peter, the other question is what the president is saying out on the stump, if you call it the stump, in that he says he is not going to sign anything that increases the deficit. However, the bills we have on the table so far do just that.

MORICI: Well, they are certainly going to cost a lot of money and his credibility is hurting. For example, his budget projections assume a 4 percent growth rate. No private economist would sign onto that.

Over and over the president behaves as though he is campaigning. And the campaign facts only have to be colorable. When you are president, people research what you do. The Congressional Budget Office runs the numbers, and they don't add up to this president.

So he is in a lot of trouble. He wants to spend too much of the peoples' money with too little results.

BAIER: Another issue is what he's saying about doctors. Take a listen to this from the town hall this week.


PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: If a family care physician works with his patient to help them lose weight, modify diet, monitors whether they're taking their medications in a timely fashion, they might get reimbursed a pittance. But if that same diabetic ends up getting their foot amputated, that's $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 immediately the surgeon is reimbursed. Why not make sure we're also reimbursing the care that prevents the amputation, right? That will save us money.


BAIER: That is not sitting well with the AMA American Medical Association, a group that the president cites as supporting his health care reform. Here surgeons are not paid $30,000 to $50,000 to amputate a diabetic's foot. Medicare pays a surgeon on average $541 to $708 for one of two procedures involving a foot amputation.

The American College of Surgeons says that remark was ill-informed and dangerous, as well as a remark a couple of weeks ago about taking children's tonsils out.

So Charles, what about this, and how much this has hurt him.

KRAUTHAMMER: Well, when the president is off in talking about the fee for an amputation, off by a factor of at least 30, he's got trouble, and it makes people worry about all his other so-called facts.

Remember, he has been selling here a free lunch. He says the way I'm going to solve the problem is prevention. We will put a lot of money in prevention. It will save a lot of money overall.

In fact there was a letter from the head of the CBO to a congressman last Friday which explicitly looked at prevention issues and said that, in fact, overall, when you pour money into prevention, it increases the cost of medicine.

And the reason is you have to screen and treat millions of people who don't end up with that disease, and there is a very small number that are helped. So even though it helps the individual, it saves on the individual, as a society it has been shown in a couple of studies, major studies, this prevention is a fantasy.

It's a good thing to do, but it does not save any money.

BAIER: From the other point of view, Kirsten, if you are in the White House, how do you turn this around?

POWERS: I think I have said this before, I don't know if they can turn it around. But there are people I talked to who think they can. And they say, look, all the major players are still at table. You have pharmaceutical companies. You have the AMA. You have them at the table still. You still have the numbers in congress.

BAIER: Although you have the AMA putting out statements like that, that doesn't really help.

POWERS: But still supporting reform. People who were completely against it before who are now spending money actually to try to get this passed.

So I think there are a lot of people who think that he can basically ram it through. You know, I just feel like you get one bite of the apple usually. And you know, now they are having to clean up and come back around and I think it remains to be seen what is going to happen.

BAIER: Peter, do they get a bill in the fall?

MORICI: They will get some kind of bill because they won't let their president fail. But it may be very scaled back. If it is what they have now it will be a classic case of elitism overwhelming the will of the people. Folks just don't have confidence in this program.

It will be a terrible mistake on the part of the Democrats to push through something big.

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