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Senator McCain's Townhall Meeting

Senator McCain's Townhall Meeting

By John McCain - August 25, 2009

Sun City, Arizona

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Let me just mention to you, you know, you see a number of organizations like the AMA and some others who are "signed on," which is remarkable. But -- by the way, in England, today -- let me just mention -- you know this -- the NICE is the outfit called National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence in the United Kingdom. They have repeatedly blocked breast cancer patients from receiving breakthrough drugs; they forced patients with Multiple Sclerosis to wait two and a half years to receive innovative new treatment; prevent patients in early stages of Alzheimer's Disease from receiving medication; on and on and on.

That's what they do there. But obviously we don't want that in this country.

I'd like to mention to you -- quote to you two things. One is the Mayo Clinic.

The Mayo Clinic said, "The proposed legislation misses the opportunity to help create higher quality, more affordable health care for patients. In fact, it will do the opposite."

Now, the Mayo Clinic went on to say, "Unless legislators create payment systems that pay for good patient results at reasonable costs, the promise for transformation in American health care will wither. The real losers will be the citizens of the United States."

That's what the Mayo Clinic says.

And let me just mention to you what the CBO says, the Congressional Budget Office, who was appointed by the Democrat majority in Congress. And I quote -- when they were evaluating the health bill that's winning its way through the Senate and the House. OK?

"On the contrary, the legislation significantly expands the federal responsibility for health care costs. The changes we have looked at so far do not represent the sort of fundamental change on the order of magnitude that would be necessary to offset the direct increase in federal health costs included in the insurance coverage proposals." And when he was asked if the cost is reduced over time, the CBO director said, "No. The way I will put it is that the curve is being raised."

Now, so you don't have to take my word for it, my friends. We're talking about a new trillion or multitrillion-dollar debt laid on the American people. And unfortunately, not an improvement on the quality of health care in America.

So let me just say, what can we do? What should we do? What must we do?

First of all, we want the premise that health care should be affordable and available to all Americans. Right? We all want it available and affordable to all Americans.

(APPLAUSE)

How do we do that? Let me just give some ideas.

Let's focus on what we can afford. I talked to you about the fiscal problems we are in.

Insurance reforms to improve access. Let's make sure that Americans are not denied access to insurance policies and those who have pre-existing conditions, those who have -- or are "uninsurables," let's put together risk pools and get them insurance so that they will have it available.

Let's reform medical malpractice.

(APPLAUSE)

My friends, any one of our physicians will tell you that they practice defensive medicine, and understandably so, because of their fear of being sued. In no bill that's going through Congress right now is medical malpractice part of the bill. Why? Because of the trial lawyers. Duh.

(LAUGHTER)

So, we could save $100 billion a year in health care costs just by allowing physicians not to have to practice defensive medicine in the prescription of tests and procedures that are absolutely unnecessary.

There are some specialties that are paying as much as $200,000 a year for their insurance for medical malpractice insurance. Who ends up paying for that? We all know who ends up paying for that. We all know who ends up paying for that.

Let's have tax reforms and incentives to purchase insurance.

During the campaign, I was much maligned because I said that we should give every family in America a $5,000 refundable tax credit so they can go any place in America and purchase the insurance of their choice that best suits the needs of themselves and their families. And we should.

You know, right now, you can't go across state lines. If you live in New York and you think that there is an insurance policy available in Arizona that's better, you are not allowed to do that.

Why in the world is that? And as you know, there is great disparities between the cost of health insurance varying from one state to another.

By the way, back on malpractice a second, California has enacted some real improvements. Texas has enacted some real improvement. We need national change too medical malpractice.

(APPLAUSE)

I'm not going to get into too many more details. But you know one of the great increases in costs that we have today is, of course, readmission to hospitals. Everybody here knows someone who went into the hospital, was discharged too early, and then had to go back to the hospital again, and the costs have dramatically increased.

Now, the problem there, my friends, is the insurance companies, because -- and the doctors who know that they won't pay for more than a few days. That needs to be changed. That needs to be changed as well, as you know.

So, I mentioned about the risk pools. I mentioned about long- term cost reductions.

What are those? Wellness and fitness. Wellness and fitness.

You know, there's a guy who's gotten pretty famous lately, and he's the CEO of Safeway. And you know what they've done at Safeway? They have programs and policies that incentivize their employees to practice wellness sand fitness -- not to smoke, to work out, to do exercise, to get regular physical checkups so that -- and they give them cash rebates, even. And they give them policies that fit their particular needs.

And guess what? Safeway's health care costs have gone down. Why can't we adopt that on the national scale? Why can't we reward people for practicing wellness and fitness?

(APPLAUSE)

Finally, there are many things that we can do sitting down together, but I want to emphasize again to you...

PHILLIPS: John McCain holding a town hall there in Sun City, Arizona. Sun City, Arizona, that's right near Phoenix. Of course, his state there.

We're going to monitor that for you, as we've been looking at all the town halls across the country, various lawmakers. We'll continue to monitor it for you and dip in when appropriate.

Meanwhile, your top stories.

This is why the U.S. is building up troops in Afghanistan. Nearly 40 civilians killed, up to 80 wounded by a massive car bomb in Kandahar. The attack happened just outside a government building.

More than folks bargained for at a New Jersey mall. A small plane coming in for an emergency landing right in the parking lot. The pilot and flight instructor on board reported engine trouble after takeoff. Both of them making it out with minor injuries.

And caught on tape over and over and over. Now the FBI wants to catch this guy for real. Take a good look at him. He's knocked off banks all over the South, at least 10 of them, always with a big gun, always bare-faced, and no disguise.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PHILLIPS: All right. John McCain now taking Q&A from his town hall meeting there in Sun City, Arizona, just outside of Phoenix.

Let's listen in.

(APPLAUSE) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To me, the two-party system has failed our nation miserably. Why should voters continue their support for major party candidates when their ability to achieve results on these tough issues has been far less than satisfactory?

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

Let me -- I think you may be seeing the beginning of a peaceful -- and I emphasize "peaceful" -- revolt in America against...

(APPLAUSE)

I've seen involvement and engagement on the part of Americans that I have never seen the likes of which before. But let me tell you an example of the frustration that you feel.

And you know what? Everybody -- the special interests have gone over the White House and gotten a seat at the table, and they've said, we need your support and you be here early. And then when we finish, that we'll take care of you.

There's no better example than the drug companies. No better example than the drug companies of what I'm talking about.

(APPLAUSE)

Now, the lobbyists for the drug companies, a guy named Tauzin, who makes over $1 million a year, went to the White House, and he was quoted -- he was quoted across this country when he says -- and I quote -- "We assured we need somebody to come in first. If you come in first, you will have a rock solid deal."

Billy Tauzin, CEO of PhRMA, on August 6th. And then Mr. Tauzin said, "The White House had tracked the negotiations throughout, ascenting to decisions to move away from ideas like the government negotiation of prices or the importation of cheaper drugs from Canada. The $80 billion in savings would be over a two-year period."

And let me quote him again -- "$80 billion is the max, no more, no less," he said. "Adding other stuff changes the deal."

That's by the head lobbyist.

Has anybody here been invited to the White House for a deal lately? Huh?

Look, here's the pharmaceutical companies, who have done everything that they can to block generic drugs from being on the market, which are much cheaper, who are blocking, now got a deal with the White House, apparently, that there won't be competition in Medicare between drug companies to get you the lowest price. And now the White House will adopt a policy of blocking reimportation of drugs from Canada.

That's the price of pharma. And, by the way, they're reportedly spending $150 million in ads supporting, guess what? The Democrat bill.

So, if that doesn't make you cynical, my friend, nothing will. We've got to take back our government from the special interests.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hi there. Thank you, Mr. McCain. You are the most patriotic person that I've had the honor in my lifetime to know.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: I knew I should call on you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I worked on your campaign, too.

But anyway, my concern is ACORN. What in the world is going on with that? And why do we keep giving them money?

This is ridiculous. And it's a -- and it's just out of control.

Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Well, let me just say that most of you know, they're "community organizers," and there are allegation of irregularities in the last election and previous elections. I think that those irregularities, like any other allegations, need to be investigated. But I do not have information that would indicate, except for what has been alleged, that there needs to be an investigation.

So far, I do not think there has been.

Yes, in the back. Wait until the microphone comes, if you would. A little closer.

We have a mechanical failure. It's intentional.

No. Go ahead. We'll get you another one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is it working now?

MCCAIN: There you go.

You're fired.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just want to thank you for letting us come as we, the people, to express our concerns about our country. We love our country and we are very concerned.

I went last week to the rally and stood in front of the convention center across from ACORN, and I noticed a T-shirt that said, "HR676." It's an old bill that's been reemerged.

And they chanted "Health care now! Health care now!"

I didn't know anything about it. I haven't heard anything on Fox News. And so I went home and did homework.

And I found out that 676 is now on the House floor as the Weiner amendment to HR3200 legislation. The amendment will replace Division A of HR3200 and make it a single payer legislation. So, all their talk about co-ops and public option, we will become a single payer.

The bill actually states it's the United States National Health Insurance Act, establishing a unique American universal health insurance program with single payer financing. The bill would create a publicly financed, privately delivered health care system that improves and expands the already existing Medicare program to all U.S. residents and all residents living in U.S. territories.

Then it says eligibility. Every person living in and visiting the United States and U.S. territories will receive a United States national health insurance card and I.D. number.

How do they plan to pay for this?

MCCAIN: How long is it?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just how they say to pay for it: maintaining current federal state funding for existing health care programs; a modest payroll tax on all employees and all employers of 3.3 percent each; a five percent health tax on the top five percent of income earners; a small tax on stock and bond transfers; closing corporate or tax loopholes; and repealing the Bush tax for the highest one percent income earners.

Do you know about this bill, sir, and do you know the validity of this?

MCCAIN: With typical Senate snobbery, I do not know of a House bill. But, look, I have heard of similar proposals that has come from the liberal left in America. I understand that. I respect their philosophies. I respect their views.

But obviously, I would vehemently oppose such a proposal, but that's what we are looking at as comes from the people in this country in all sincerity who believe that a government-run health care system is best for America.

And by the way, if you like that, you will love Cash for Clunkers.

(LAUGHTER) So, the point is, that I would never support such a proposal. I have seen those proposals around, and obviously, the quote, "public option" to whatever degree it is, in my view, is the beginning of the end of private health insurance in America because of the advantage that it would give to the government plan.

If you are an employer, and you can get a health insurance plan that's less expensive, at least initially, from the government, of course, you are going to take it. And of course if you are facing a fine, that you are either going to pay the fine and have the government provide the health insurance, or you are going to adopt the health insurance policy that if it is not government run, then it has such high requirements that it basically is harmful for your ability to hire and keep employees.

Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you very much. I may be a literally one-person minority here, but I wish to speak anyway. It is kind of interesting that Republicans have been in control of government at almost all levels, presidency, as well as Congress, for a number of years...

MCCAIN: Well, tragically, we lost to the House and Senate in 2006, but...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not arguing that.

MCCAIN: So, we have not been in control for the last three years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But during the time when George Bush the first was in, when Ronald Reagan was in, George Bush the second, there were no attempts to change and reform the health care system. During that time, all the studies show that the number of unemployed -- uninsured and underinsured, which is something you haven't talked to at all. A lot of people have health insurance but it really doesn't cover major situations when they occur, or as with my own daughter, I know and her family, and I'll make this much shorter.

But there is limitations to everything. So, pass the cap and they don't pay. So, how come during that time when the Republicans were in power, the number of, like I say, uninsured and underinsured rose, and health care costs skyrocketed? And the drug companies and the insurance companies have made a huge, huge profit and, of course, their administrative costs are twice that of Medicare, if not maybe more. So, I would appreciate some kind of response to that, Senator McCain. Thank you for the town hall.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Thank you, thank you for being here.

One, we should have done more. Two, there were several attempts that were made such as inauguration, Medicare Advantage Program and some others, but we should have done more. We should have done more on a bipartisan basis. But we also needed to work more on a bipartisan basis, and we need to work on a bipartisan basis now.

But there were a number of attempts. I will be glad to give you many of those bills. In the Senate, when you don't have 60 votes, those can be blocked even from consideration. Look, I am not here defending the spending practices when Republicans were in power. I, in fact, I fought against them at the time, and I fight against them now, whether it be Republican or Democrats.

Obviously, health care issues such as medical malpractice reform were not going to be accepted by the Democrats, either, but we need to do a better job. The time is now. I think we should. Obviously, there is plenty of responsibility to go around. But, now, we are where we are. The solution proposed by the Democrats, in my view, will destroy the quality of health care in America.

Yes, sir.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it on? OK. I appreciate this opportunity to ask you a question, Senator. I'm an 87-year-old veteran of World War II. I was very...

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was very fortunate to survive the war fighting with the 29th Infantry Division. I think you realize where their position was in World War II in France and Germany.

That's beside the point. I've been blessed by my God to have lived for these 87 years and 66 with my beloved wife.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty-three years on Social Security. What country would support me for 23 years with Social Security payments far above what I ever put in? I'm on a Medicare Advantage Plan. I am very happy with it. I am happy with my personal physician.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My bottom line question is, will I be able to maintain this, or will the government interference drive me to a plan that the only thing you can say for it is so far, we've spent several trillion dollars and haven't gotten anything for -- I know the bill hasn't passed. But I mean, every time an objection comes up on the points that are printed already, and it turns out to be something kind of sour, the president gets up and says, we are not going to put that in there.

I want to be sure it doesn't get in there. I appreciate you and your work across the aisle. Incidentally, I recognize that you reach across the aisle. I don't know how much reception you have gotten -- but that we end up with something more than a pig in the poke. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Thank you, sir.

Well, I'm always honored to be in the presence of the Greatest Generation, and I thank you. Could I just say, that's what this national debate is all about.

I still believe, I still believe that the American people can overcome the special interests, the national interests. They'll overcome the pharmaceutical companies, the American Medical Association, in all due respect, the AARP and others who have dogs in this fight.

I think we will be able to succeed because your program is typical of so many millions and millions of Americans who like their health care plan, who like their Medicaid, who like their Medicare, who want to keep it. So, our job is to get the cost down, which, as you know, is double-digit inflation, and at the same time preserve that same quality of health care which America has in some very small way repaid you for your great service to this country.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator, it is very nice of you to be here with us. I would like to know how the president is getting by with all of this money. It's against the Constitution. Doesn't he know that we still live under a Constitution?

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: I'm sure that he does.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: No. No. I'm serious. I'm sure that he does and that he respects the constitution of the United States.

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

MCCAIN: No. No, no, no. I really do. I am absolutely convinced of it. I just believe, my friends, that there is a fundamental difference in philosophy about the role of government. That's why we have competition for public office and competition amongst parties and competition about different ideas and visions for the future of America.

I am convinced the president is absolutely sincere in his beliefs.

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

MCCAIN: Wait a minute. He is sincere in his beliefs. We just happen to disagree, and he is the president of the United States, and let's be respectful. Yes, in the back there, yes.

(APPLAUSE) UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, sir.

MCCAIN: By the way, could I mention that I still want your sympathy for the mothers of Arizona, because Arizona is still the only state in America where mothers can't tell their children that someday, they can grow up and be president of the United States.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I think I'm the mother of a daughter that will probably be there, OK?

MCCAIN: Good. We don't give up hope.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. I would like to tell you that I agree with what you've said today, but I want to know how. I thank everybody for being here today. What do we do? Tell me what to do.

MCCAIN: You see that list right over there? We need to have malpractice reform, we need to have outcome-based treatment for patients, we need to have risk for those who have pre-existing conditions. We need to have long-term reductions. We need to have incentives for wellness and fitness. We need to reward people for not smoking and wellness and fitness. We also need to check in to what the school lunch program is. We can do a whole lot of things.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to be involved. I want that to happen. That's why we are all here today.

MCCAIN: Yes, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't vote for the public or government options. You do. We want to know how to help you.

MCCAIN: Thank you, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: By doing exactly what you are doing today. Participating in the most fundamental, and I think, the most valuable part of democracy and that is participation by our citizens in the process. And making their wishes known.

I repeat again, I still believe if it had not been for the veritable uprising of people all over this country about these proposals that were about to be rammed through the Congress, we would not be here today still discussing this. With would be lamenting it.

Yes, in the back, yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Good morning, Senator. What I want to say is, first of all, some input from a constituent and a question to follow. Input on the -- I guess it is Plan B, where we are going to have nonprofit co-ops instead of the public option. Thank you to J.D. Hayworth for telling us exactly what that means. He says, they are going to be called GSEs, government sponsored entities. They're called...

MCCAIN: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Senator, we don't want to be having a health care bailout in ten years. They are just another means. So no co-ops. We want typical -- what we have now, private enterprise.

MCCAIN: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But secondly...

MCCAIN: Could I answer that and then you go to the second one really quickly?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secondly...

MCCAIN: One, I agree with you, number one. Number two, if you want to start a co-op today, you can start a co-op. So, really, what they are talking about is a back door entrance into a government- sponsored program. Go ahead.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What will make any health care reform a nonstarter, what will shoot it down from the beginning, is failure to exclude illegal aliens from the benefits. When you are talking...

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let me detail that. Currently, the plan for tax credits to purchase insurance is no less full of loop holes than the earned income tax credit, which illegal aliens avail themselves of all the time. There has to be a verification of legal presence in this country through the same system that every Social Security number covered under the tax credit plan is a valid one and a legal American resident or citizen. Under no circumstances will there be compromise, none.

(APPLUASE)

MCCAIN: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's the input. My question is this.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: I knew we would get here.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The idea that the president can appoint 30- plus czars with no accountability for anything to anybody is appalling. What's even worse, what's even more appalling to me is that nobody in Congress seems to be objecting.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Let me just say, I object.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: They have now more czars now than the Romanoffs had.

(LAUGHTER)

It's a way of getting around the confirmation process of the United States Senate, which is examination of people's records and whether they are qualified or not. It has been done before, but certainly never to the degree that this has been done. It's funny you mentioned that, because I think it causes a significant breakdown in the efficient conduct of foreign policy, among other things, and national security policy.

So, I agree with you and I think that this is now come to a circumvention of the Senate that I think you are going to see some efforts at curbing what has become an excessive practice. Let me just..

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Let me just say, look, there is no proposal that I know of that would include illegal aliens. But the problem -- illegal immigrants. The problem we have got is we still have to get the borders secured, OK? The problem is, because people come across the border illegally that are here, so that's why I put on the board there that 11 million of the people that are lumped into the, quote, "uninsured" are people who are in this country illegally.

We have to continue to secure the borders. We have to continue to work with the Mexican government to stop the drug cartels that continue to export poison into this country that's killing our children.

Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator McCain, I'm a lifelong Democrat, but not this last time. I voted for you, the Republican Party, straight on.

(APPLAUSE)

I contributed, and I answered your phones. And I think I'm speaking for the majority here today. We're very regretful that you are not in the Oval Office.

(APPLAUSE)

First, the health care proposal needs to be killed now in its entirety. No compromises, Senator, please. Because if it passes in any form, it will give the Obama administration opportunity to build on it, and I think we all know that. With all due respect, Senator, I propose that you go back to D.C. and propose that Congress return the Medicare health care plan and the Social Security retirement plan, because if these plans are not good enough for you and your family, sir, then they certainly aren't good enough for us and our families!

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No compromises, no compromises, no compromises. Senator, nuke it now! Thank you.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: I'm glad I called on you, ma'am. Thank you very much. Could I just say, look, on this issue -- really, let's have some straight talk here, my friends. Let's have some real straight talk. The system is broken. The cost of inflation is not acceptable, OK? The Medicare trustees sat the system is going broke. Social Security is going broke. Whenever you have double-digit inflation, then you have a huge problem.

So, I can't just go back, in all due respect, ma'am, and just say, we'll do nothing, because our kids and our grandkids should be able to have Medicare and Social Security as well. It has to be there for them. So, let's go back with constructive, free market incentives to improve the quality of health care and the affordability and availability.

So, I understand your frustration at a government-run proposal and an increase in taxes and all of the things that you hear bandied about, including the legislation that the young woman in the back talked about, but we need to fix this system.

Let me just mention one idea to you, if I could. Since we can't act, what about a Brack (ph) commission? You know, the base-closing commission where we get the smartest people in America, we get together and say, here are the long-term fixes for Social Security and Medicare and have Congress vote up or down? You see, because the systems are going broke. We've got to preserve your health care, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security.

But our trustees of the system tell us that they are going broke. So, we have to fix it. So to go back, frankly, and do nothing just delays this problem for other people who come after us. So, I hope you appreciate that. To do nothing is not the answer, either. You are very skeptical but I hope to be able to convince you of that. To have a government takeover is exactly the wrong way to go.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we need in Washington are true statesmen, not more trial-lawyer politicians. We need to encourage our Congressmen Trent Franks, because he is a true statesman from the state of Arizona because he is a true statesman from the state of Arizona.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: May I interrupt you a second and say, do you know the difference between a lawyer and a catfish?

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: One is a scum-sucking bottom dweller. The other is a fish. There goes the lawyer vote. Right down, there it goes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Also...

MCCAIN: My lawyer friends know it was meant in jest. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Also, I think it is a noble idea to examine the health care from foreign countries on a national level, if they have national health care. But we have something that's closer to us. We have what we call American Indian reservations. We should be examining and studying what goes on on those reservations as far as government health care goes. It pains me and it scares me to hear American Indians who, by the way, are American citizens, say, if you get sick or you have an accident, do it before June, because after June, the health care on the reservations runs dry.

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: I understand. The Indian health service has got a lot of good people in it. But the Indian health service has been continuously underfunded and Indian health service has not complied with the treaty obligations that we made with our Native Americans.

Yes, all the way in the back, yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Senator McCain for coming today. I do agree with most of your views. I want to thank you for being one of the first to try to stop runaway spending in years past, not just this year.

I do have a question. May I respectfully ask you about Guantanamo Bay? I feel that we should keep that open. President Teddy Roosevelt negotiated with Cuba. I thought that was ours. Why do we have to build and put money into other prisons and get these terrorists killers on our soil? And I respectfully ask you, why you voted to close it? I really am befuddled. Thank you.

MCCAIN: Well, first of all, Guantanamo Bay is a symbol throughout the world of mistreatment of prisons.

(AUDIENCE BOOING)

MCCAIN: My friends, it is. Let me just tell you a story real quick. We all have the right to disagree. I was in camp -- a prison camp in Iraq with Senator Lindsey Graham, who is an Air Force lawyer. We met with a former high-ranking member of al Qaeda, a terrorist, a murderer and a killer. In the course of our conversation, I said to him, "How did you succeed so well after the initial American invasion?" He said, "Two things." He said, "One, after the initial invasion, there ways total chaos, murder, rape, robbery, everything was rampant, because you didn't have control of Iraq." He said, the second thing he said that allowed me to recruit thousands and thousands of young men was Abu Ghraib because the pictures of the mistreatment of you people, you Americans held prisoner in Abu Ghraib. We're all familiar with those pictures.

So, in my view, we have to have a policy, hopefully return of these detainees either to the country they came from or put them on trial and then keep them in prison for as long as is necessary.

By the way, this return of this guy to Libya is really an absolute outrage that was responsible for Lockerbie. In my view, the mistake that the Obama administration made was that they didn't have a policy as to how to put these people on trial. They are enemy combatants. Some of them we cannot bring to trial but we cannot release. There is no overall policy yet associated with it. Thank you. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Senator McCain. I am an emergency nurse. It's something I have done for the past 43 years...

MCCAIN: Thank you for all you do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are welcome. I can say is that all you have to do is stand in an emergency department for an hour or two, and you can see the problems inherent in our health care system. Patients can't get to their primary care health physician. Any health care reform has to improve, as you said, improve access to family practitioners. From a personal point of view, it is expected that in 2020, we are going to be over 1 million nurses short in the United States.

MCCAIN: Could I ask you a question?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, certainly.

MCCAIN: Do you see a lot of this problem that I was talking about, readmissions...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every single problem you have mentioned, I have seen and I see daily. So, I agree with all of your issues on health care reform. As a nurse, it's hard for me to know all the fiscal answers. I would leave that to your expertise and the experts that you use. But from a nursing point of view, I definitely would like to see more primary care physicians.

MCCAIN: How do, in your view, can we, one, get more people in the nursing profession and two, more primary physicians?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From a nursing care perspective, most of the nurses my age are retiring. That includes faculty. Last year, almost 100,000 qualified applicants were turned away from nursing schools in the United States because there were not enough faculty to teach them. So, there does need to be some fiscal responsibility to increase nursing going on to become faculty and nursing schools.

MCCAIN: Could we do this through financial incentives?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Certainly, through financial incentives, giving back to the community. Nurses that are willing to take positions and faculty and work in areas that are undeserved to get more nurses in the United States.

MCCAIN: Thank you very much.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are very welcome.

(APPLAUSE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I too want to thank you for coming today, and I thank you for looking to the right, instead of always to the left.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was pleased, Senator McCain, to see that you support some of the objectives of President Obama and his health care proposals, like coverage for all, lowering the costs, eliminating pre-existing conditions and things like that.

Some of the things were said here today, I don't agree with. You mentioned the two-year wait in England to be treated for MS. I have a daughter-in-law who has MS. She waited 20 years, because she could get no health care coverage. She could not get insurance because she possibly might have MS. So, from the time she was in her 20s on, she was denied any insurance until she qualified for Medicaid and was totally disabled.

Now, that is not right. Our country is better than that...

MCCAIN: Could I just quickly respond and then continue?

I agree with you. I hold no brief (ph) for much of the practices of the insurance companies in America. Don't get me wrong. We have to fix the pre-existing condition situation -- and we don't shout at my town hall meetings.

So, I agree with you. We have to address the issue of people with pre-existing conditions, people who are unable to obtain health care insurance and we should do it through risk pools, and it is going to cost money. Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The other thing is, Mayo Clinic, that you talked about having good practices, is one of the ones that Senate -- President Obama has cited as being the type of medical facility that we should pattern our health care reform on.

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: Yes, they just don't agree with his -- they just don't agree with his proposals.

(CROSSTALK)

MCCAIN: Go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: They -- they -- they suggest some of the same things that the Mayo Clinic is doing.

And I have some experience with the Mayo Clinic. My husband, who was on Medicare, chose to stay on just regular Medicare. So, he had the choice of going to Mayo's. I chose an HMO with Medicare. And I am wondering, when we have that choice with our government-provided Medicare, why are so many people opposed to a government-provided health care option?

I believe -- I believe you -- I believe, Senator Kennedy. I just promoted you.

(LAUGHTER)

(BOOING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator McCain. I'm sorry. I believe you have had access to government-provided health care for most of your life. And, you know, I would imagine that most of us here are on Medicare. And there may be some who would like to give up their Medicare.

CROWD: No!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No, none of us do. So, what is so wrong with government-provided health care?

And...

(APPLAUSE)

MCCAIN: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have one more question. In the proposals you were suggesting, I didn't see any way to control costs. That's been one of our major problems, not only the denial of care, the rationing of care by health insurance companies, but that the costs have gone out of control.

So, how would you propose that -- how would your system control it?

MCCAIN: What I -- I will send you a cope of that poster board there.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: But I don't want to get into it with Mayo Clinic.

But, ma'am, in all due respect, here is what they said. The proposed legislation misses the opportunity to help create higher quality, more affordable health care for patients. In fact, it will do the opposite.

That's a fairly clear-cut statement from Mayo. Wellness and fitness, risk pools, ability to go across state lines to purchase health insurance, reform medical malpractice, give people a $5,000 -- every family a $5,000 refundable tax credit to go any place in America and get the health insurance that they think best meets their needs.

Eliminate this problem that this wonderful nurse and I were just talking about of hospital readmissions, which is a tremendous increase in costs.

We can do so many reforms. And so many things, we can change if we are incentivizing wellness and fitness as well, without adopting a government plan.

All the way in the back, the young woman with her hand in the air. And then I will go back to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Senator McCain.

 

John McCain

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