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September 30th, 2009
09:28 AM ET

Sen. Collins hopes to reach a 'yes' on health care reform

The Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday rejected two amendments to include a government-run public health insurance option in the only compromise health care bill so far. It's one of the many road blocks the plan has faced and the White House is trying to get some Republicans on board.

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) says so far she hasn't seen a health care bill that accomplishes what she thinks needs to be done."]

Senator Susan Collins of Maine is one of those Republicans whose support is being sought by the White House. She spoke to John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Wednesday. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.

John Roberts: We were talking off camera. You said you don't recall seeing times like these. There is so much going on.

Susan Collins: There is. I can't remember another time when there were more important issues on the table. You've got the two wars, a major decision coming up in Afghanistan, the health care debate, a faltering economy, the need for financial reform, environmental legislation, the cap-and-trade bill. It's just an enormous array of issues, all of which are extremely important.

Roberts: This morning let's take a narrow slice of all of that and talk about health care reform. Are you going to be able to vote for health care reform, do you think?

Collins: John, I want to vote for a health care bill but so far I haven't seen one that accomplishes what I think needs to be done. And that is to really focus on the cost of health care. It's the cost of health care that's the biggest barrier to the uninsured and causes such a struggle for middle income families and small businesses.

Roberts: So you say cost is the central concern that you have. Proponents of this public option have said that's one really good way to lower costs. You don't like the public option, you don't like this idea that your fellow senator, Olympia Snowe, is proposing about a trigger to a public option. So what do you do?

Collins: There is so much that we could do. For example, we could allow small businesses to band together to boost their purchasing power. We could pass medical liability reform. That would have a direct impact on cost. We could revamp the Medicare reimbursement system so that it focuses on quality rather than quantity. That would help reduce unnecessary tests. We could provide tax credits for small businesses so they could help insure their employees. There is a lot that unites us and I think that's what our focus should be.

Roberts: Now, if you were to adopt all of the measures that you have just outlined there, how much do you think it would reduce in America the number of people who are currently uninsured?

Collins: Well, 82% of the uninsured are in families where someone works. They either work themselves or they work for small businesses that can't afford to provide health insurance, or they are self employed. So that's where I would start. And from my conversations with many small business men and women, I'm convinced that if we gave them a generous tax credit they would provide health insurance for their employees. That would substantially reduce the number of uninsured Americans.

Roberts: I know that you are a very sought after vote there in the Senate, the White House is certainly pitching you hard. Give us some idea – a behind the scenes look at the sales pitches. How hard are they wooing you here?

Collins: Well, I appreciate that the White House has reached out to me. I've had great discussions with the director of office of management and budget, with Nancy-Anne DeParle the White House adviser, with Rahm Emanuel and I hope we can get to “yes.” I would like to see a bipartisan bill that makes a real difference in reforming health care to expand access and to lower costs, without greatly growing the role of the federal government. I don't think that that's what the people are looking for.

Filed under: Politics
soundoff (305 Responses)
  1. jay m

    Democrats have the power, all Blue dogs must go.

    September 30, 2009 at 8:59 pm |
  2. 62yearoldbusinessman

    The Republicans are going back to scaring people. KILL GRANDMA, Kill grandma, not true, it's grandma who is selling out on the grand kids. They sit there and say no to the public option except for themselves. They do not want to give up their plans but refuse to share it with their kids and grand kids. Disease, unemployment, politicians and insurance companies don't discriminate. One day they may need health care and not have it because you believed the lies and sold them down the river.
    Unless grandma has so much money she can afford all the medical bills for anyone of her kids and grand kids who get sick. I hope she won't have to sell everything she has and then have to move into subsidized housing paid for by the government.

    September 30, 2009 at 7:04 pm |
  3. 62yearoldbusinessman

    These people are apparently under the believe that it is cheaper to dig graves than to insure those who are not.
    They rubber stamped two wars we are fighting now. Once again its OK to kill our own people and people in other countries but no way can we take care of our own. The money we spend on these wars can insure the uninsured. What happened to these so call religious people, have they no compassion for anyone but themselves.

    September 30, 2009 at 7:02 pm |
  4. 62yearoldbusinessman

    Down with Blue Dog Democrats

    September 30, 2009 at 6:58 pm |
  5. 62yearoldbusinessman

    We are praying for health care option, I hope we find out who from Missouri voted against it so I can vote against them, He's right, people are dying without it. I don't see how these people can live with themselves dening health care reform, Is the money you get from the insurance companies that important.

    September 30, 2009 at 6:55 pm |
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