American Morning

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October 6th, 2009
10:09 AM ET

Frist supports Snowe's health care 'trigger' plan

War strategy in Afghanistan and President Obama's failed Olympic bid may have stolen the headlines last week, but beneath the surface the health care debate rages on.

Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist joined John Roberts on CNN’s “American Morning” Tuesday to talk about health care reform and his new book, “A Heart to Serve.”

Dr. Frist, who is a heart and lung transplant surgeon, says he strongly supports the bipartisan efforts of the Senate Finance Committee and Olympia Snowe’s “trigger” plan. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.

John Roberts: You said, not too long ago, if you were still in the Senate you would probably vote for a health care overhaul.

Bill Frist: A transformation of the health care system today.

Roberts: What exactly is it that you would feel comfortable voting for? Any of the plans that are out there now?

Frist: Two things. And again, these next two or three weeks are critical. We have to bring people together to get it done. It’s a great moment in time if it can be done. Number one, we’ve got to get the uninsured into the market itself. There’s too much cherry picking going on. There’s too much adverse selection.

Roberts: How many? All of them? Half of them?

Frist: The 46 million out there. There are 20 million, who are hardcore uninsured, who just can't get it because they can't afford it. So I would start there, but eventually we need to get them all into the insurance market. We just don't have enough money to do it right now, but 20 million hardcore. Number two, it’s the cost in health care. And basically, health care costs went up three times faster than inflation. Your typical person out there simply can’t afford it any longer. $15,000 policies being the average for a family of four is too much, but it's going up too fast.

So the health care reform we need is something that brings in as many as we can – I’d say 20 million now; that addresses issues – the spending – by putting benefits out there with competition on the marketplace, eliminating the about 30% waste in health care, and that can be done through information technology and transparency and accountability. And if we can do that, we can both afford it today and bring people into the market itself.

Roberts: Let's zero in on this idea of competition in the marketplace. Many Democrats believe the way to really get competition in the marketplace is to put forward a public option, which would have a government-sponsored health insurance program out there competing with the other ones. Would you support that?

Frist: A public option as a backup that is not federally controlled, but is controlled at the local level with local ownership.

Roberts: Are you talking co-ops?

Frist: It can be a co-op, but even the co-op people – it's kind of a new concept, but the idea of not having government out there controlling prices out there undercutting the insurance market. And that's the big fear. At the end of the day, you’re going to have to have some sort of a backup of a public plan. And at the end of the day, if the private sector doesn't step up, you have to have some other kind of trigger coming into play.

Roberts: So you're talking about Olympia Snowe's idea?

Frist: Olympia Snowe. And it’s what we did in 2003 with the Medicare Modernization Act, which was the prescription drug plan. If the private sector does not step up, and there’s not more than two plans there, a public plan that has local control, local and private implementation, has to step in.

Roberts: It sounds like the plan that's being written in the Senate Finance Committee is something that you might support?

Frist: I'm coming out very strongly in support of what's going on in the Senate Finance Committee. It's bipartisan. I hope that it ends up being bipartisan. If not, it’s going to be a destructive bill. But it's bipartisan. People working together. So we’re on the way there. I would not endorse the bill the way it is now. There’s still about 400 amendments out there so hopefully that process can come together.

Roberts: You and I saw each other a couple weeks ago at the U2 concert at Giants Stadium and we were talking health care. You suggested that you didn't think it was such a great idea to do this all at once, that you could do pieces of it.

Frist: Well the problem we have today – I actually write about it in my book, “A Heart to Serve” – is that in a time of recession and job loss, when we have really 46 million or 20 million people out there, we simply can't afford to promise them a Cadillac, gold-plated plan – and that’s what’s being done today. There are too many mandates out there. It's too expensive. We simply can’t do it. Taxes go up. Premiums go up. It can’t be done. Thus, what you can do is – yes, get universal care, but not promise everybody everything. And one thing you can do is do it like car insurance and make sure that we have at least catastrophic coverage so you can look people in the eye and say “You are not going to be driven to bankruptcy if your child gets leukemia,” for example.

Roberts: I want to talk about a couple things in your book, which you say is not a political memoir, but a story about leadership lessons “lived and learned." And talking about U2, you write about the time you spent in 2001 with Bono in Uganda going around the country. Just two guys. You didn't take any cameras with you as he did when he traveled with Paul O'Neil, the former Treasury secretary. What was that experience like?

Frist: The fun thing about writing a book like this – as you said it’s not a political memoir – it's about a third stories in health care, about a third stories on global health issues – the sort of stories like with Bono, and a third is on experiences in the Senate. It was written to inspire people to get involved in their communities, but I did put stories like meeting Bono, sort of serendipitously, very quietly. We did go to Uganda to see if policies the United States had in place were really working. No cameras. No constituents. No security. No rock star fans. We were there. Out of that came eventually legislation, HIV legislation that means about 23 million people are going to be treated for HIV.

Roberts: He gave you a shout-out at Giant stadium and again in Washington.

Frist: He did. And we worked closely on things like the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which is a way to give development aid in a very responsible way instead of just throwing it away. People like him who give voice to very accountable, transparent issues have a huge impact on global health and health here at home.

Roberts: That's a story that I knew – that you went to Africa with him. A story I didn't know, which I was fascinated by reading this book to find out, in 1991 you saved then Lieutenant Colonel David Petraeus' life.

Frist: Yeah. Again, this is a lesson in service and part leadership, but mainly service. Things come full circle. In 1991 when I was at a – long before politics for me, long before he was the famous general he is today – I got word there was a Life Flight helicopter coming in with somebody dying, shot through the chest with an M16, blew out his back, took off the top of the lung and hemorrhaging. And I went into the hospital and opened up his chest, put my hands around his lung and stopped the hemorrhage, and really two days later he was up walking around. Tough guy.

Roberts: He wouldn't be where he is today if it wasn't for you.

Frist: Not necessarily me. I happened to be the surgeon on call. I was the tool. I was the instrument. It would have been another trauma surgeon. But it is ironic. Long before politics and long before he was in Iraq, Afghanistan and the like, we come full circle.

Roberts: That was an accidental shooting. What's fascinating to me is that he insisted that he get back to Ft. Campbell two days after the surgery.

Frist: Five days after he insisted, which I didn't like, doing push-ups with his soldiers.

Roberts: He is a pretty tough guy.

Frist: Those are the kinds of stories that are in here, the back room, the inner working of the United States Senate, encouraging everyone to find their own passions, get out there, involve, develop them, so they can be of service to their communities.

Filed under: Politics
soundoff (108 Responses)
  1. John

    Want to give us a choice, then how about if I do not agree and do not want my tax dollars to pay for this. Then I do not have to pay the taxes on it, that would be a choice.

    October 7, 2009 at 12:18 pm |
  2. Charles

    Chas, Rick and Drew,

    You make me wish there was a medical treatment for ignorance. If there were I would pay for your treatment myself.

    Is there really no way to reduce costs without profit? WT_? Food costs have come down, clothing costs have come down, ALL with someone still making a profit.

    Go move to a commune in Cali you nuts.

    October 7, 2009 at 11:56 am |
  3. ladyntx

    While I applaud Dr. Frist's work in the medical community, it is un-believ-able to me how untrue his some of his key facts are – there are not 20-40 milliion Americans who are without health care unless he includes illegal immigrants. These folks are here illegally ~ we provide them free emergency care as is. They could also purchase health care at the same time they now purchase homes and car insurance (if they do). The answer to these problems is not publicly furnished health care, it is an immigration policy that IS enforced. Dr. Frist ~ WE CANNOT AFFORD A GOVERNMENT A HEALTHCARE POLICY of any kind, partly because of all we are already providing without reimbursement . We, the people are being forced into bankruptcy already by GOVERNMENT – is that clear enough?

    October 7, 2009 at 11:55 am |
  4. Catana Barnes

    I love the fact that Senators that are doctors are making decisions about our health care!
    These are the very people that created the health care crisis in the first place through outright greed!!!
    Greedy, black-hearted people will keep us down!

    October 7, 2009 at 11:53 am |
  5. Lon

    I had what Frist would consider "catastrophic" insurance through my employer. When my pregnant wife was hospitalized, and my child was born 2 months early, I learned how good catastrophic insurance works. After the bills were totaled up – the portion we were expected to pay was determined and it was shocking. Payment arrangements could not be made with every single lab/doctor/specialist group we owed and bankruptcy became the only option.

    Even better, the insurance company dropped my employer (a small business) afterward. Count this two-time Bush voter among those who believe health insurance should NOT BE A PROFIT SERVICE. Single payer healthcare makes financial sense and would help our businesses better compete internationally.

    October 7, 2009 at 11:50 am |
  6. James L.

    The definition of 'trigger' is clearly the same as a used car salesman's "trust me".

    Please say what you will, but please remember that when I look at you in public, I am thinking there is a genuine fool.

    October 7, 2009 at 10:57 am |
  7. James L.

    Please stop beating around the bush like a politician. If you support a full government take-over of US health care, just say so.

    October 7, 2009 at 10:55 am |
  8. Angela

    A healthy debate...even on this site. No crazies....I think that we may just get healthcare passed with a bi-partisan bill! Thank you!

    October 7, 2009 at 10:53 am |
  9. George

    I am currently on Disability due to cancer, and I have a medicare advantage plan. Now I was on regular medicare and it was very screwed up. My plan is through Aetna and costs me 139.00 per month. I also pay my medicare Part B Premium of 96.40 per month. It actually works pretty good, I do have small co-pays of $10 for primary and 10.00 for specialist docs my drugs are covered and I pay the donuthole. Why cant the uninsured be set up like this? Granted the govt may be a little more for this, but, its all run by the private sector . This would be a middle ground. The insurance companies are infamous on catching fraud better than the government. Why go through all of the exotic co-op crap if they just tweek the existing framework and everyone could be covered. ? Please don;t bash me I am only throwing out a simple suggestion.

    October 7, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  10. Nick

    What a load of CRAP.

    This guys wealth comes from owning hospitals. Of course he wants to have people forced to buy insurance from the private companies – they would have a captive market.

    Trigger Schmigger.

    No WAY


    October 7, 2009 at 9:57 am |
  11. Jim

    I find it interesting that so many folks are touting Medicare as an example of how well run government health care can be. Low overhead I believe one writer mentioned. Isn't Medicare where we are supposed to find the billions/trillions of waste, fraud and abuse that's going to pay for the government to take over more of the health care system?

    October 7, 2009 at 9:24 am |
  12. Dale

    Reminder: Republicans have had decades to fix the health care system and they have done nothing. So in general, Republicans have no ground to stand on. Some moderate Republicans (a dying breed) could be helpful, but most of them are truely just the party of "No."

    You think you are insured? My mother was insured, until she got cancer. Then the insurance company hired lawyers and fought tooth and nail to not have to pay for her treatment. They basically told her she wasn't worth treating so go home and die. The insurance company laweyers did everything in their power to delay the fight until she died. Great system, huh? You think you are insured. I hope you never have to test that and find out.

    October 7, 2009 at 9:01 am |
  13. Bob in Florida

    Sorry about being so lengthy, but I feel it important to opine further on the subject. Five years ago, I had to go to the Emergency Room at a local Hospital. At the time I was working for a large company and had pretty good private insurance. They found I had Diabetes so bad it required immediate surgery to remove a large area of Gangrene, very painful process. While recovering from that, they found the I also had Lung Cancer, which required a lower lobe lung removal and subsequent Chemo. After decades of fast food and convenience apparently my body had been in the process of shutting down. While recovering from those processes, I took an early retirement and went on Soc. Sec. Disability. After a year my Cobra ran out and the cost of private insurance was absolutely prohibitive. Since I was on Soc. Sec. I was able to eventually get on Medicare and I also went into, thankfully, the VA for my following care.

    The VA found that I had 2 arteries with 100% blockage and another that was 50% blocked and a fairly large tumor in my other lung. The VA doctors suggested bypass surgery and perhaps another lung surgery. An interesting realization happened at the VA, actually the point of all this. Since my body nearly shut down and I realized why, I had been taking aggressive steps to provide my body the fuel it needs to help itself and I had been seeing the effects of that effort in many areas. For one thing, the Diabetes, for all practical purposes, was no longer an issue. There were several other things as well. But the VA doctors were somewhat skeptical but went along with my idea to try to let my body try to do what it can for itself with the Heart Disease and the other Tumor. So far, over 2 years now, the bypass option has been tabled as the naturally built bypasses seem to be working and the tumor has been and continues to shrink. I have the feeling that had I still been in non-government care, my opinions on how to handle this, if even possible, would have been much harder to accomplish. Maybe it's because the VA doctors are less susceptible to law suits so are less inclined to "cut and go", cover all bases and move on to the next cash cow. I, for one, am extremely glad that I am in a Government run program.

    October 7, 2009 at 8:55 am |
  14. landas

    What an inspiring interview. I had just about giving up on republicans. Thank God, there's still some around that has common sense.

    October 7, 2009 at 8:47 am |
  15. Tammy

    Give me a break! All these comments saying that we should not let the government run our health care and then bleating on about liberty and freedom, is just sickening. The truth of it is that those selfish idiots dont want to give up there virtually free cadillac health insurance policies with absolutely no thought of the people out there who don't have insurance. Do you really think the guy down the road filing for bankruptcy because his daughter got sick is thinking about freedom or liberty? Just how free is he? Just how much liberty does he have?? We are the only country in the world that makes a profit off of people being sick! I don't know about you but that just confirms the level of greed and selfishness that is so rife in this so called 'great country' of ours. People have a right to live! It's so basic and yet so many people out there can't even get health insurance based on ridiculous 'so called' pre existing conditions – which can be anything from a previous diagnosis to being overweight. The only people that can get decent health coverage are the people who don't need it. How can that be right? From a moral standpoint, it's just gross.
    The only thing that will work is to take the profit out. A single payer system that ensures every single person is covered.
    All you republicans who don't want to have their health care messed with? Way to step up to the plate. It's this I'm alright Jack attitude that just blows me away

    October 7, 2009 at 8:05 am |
  16. rm

    One word-–>RINO! Thankfully he doesn't get a vote, therefore he's irrelevant.

    October 7, 2009 at 7:18 am |
  17. surfdog san diego

    This is the health insurance industry talking through one of its principal owners, Bill Frist. This ghoul is responsible for tens of thousands of lives lost due to lack of "insurance." Why do we need insurance? It's just robbers like Bill Frist standing between us and our doctor, collecting enormous fees for doing nothing. Just give us the medicine, and save the Frist. Let's join the civilized world, okay? Forget these banana republic plantation owners like Frist.

    October 7, 2009 at 4:53 am |
  18. Tony L

    Too many people are making unbelievable amounts of profits from the misery of others with disease and sickness.
    The doctors, specialists, nurses, hospitals, emergency clinics, drug companies with higher and higher drug prices, insurance companies with higher and higher premiums. An average American simply cannot afford these costs. An average small business cannot afford to offer it's employees insurance, especially in this long term recession and down economy in the economy.
    Insurance companies are like wall street thugs or greedy oil companies. Their bottom line is profits without compassion.
    If we do not create a honest competition among them, they will collude with each other to keep the premiums high to keep that dough coming in that they are in love with high executive pays and bonuses.
    People with common sense need to raise their voices instead of dumbmasses supporting insurance companies and medical industry, not knowing, what's in their best interests.

    October 7, 2009 at 2:21 am |
  19. Philip

    Why are Democrats promoting market choice with a public option, but so adamantly opposed to allowing private insurers to compete across state lines?

    October 7, 2009 at 12:41 am |
  20. JAY

    He would say anything to get free air time to sell his book.

    October 6, 2009 at 10:57 pm |
  21. James E

    The Medicare Modernization Act in 2003 which is known as the prescription benefit plan with a donut hole coverage. I had a problem with that one because there were no CBO score keeping on the long term cost and no way to pay for it. Not one Republican demanded that it is to be deficit neutral and lastly the GOP altered the rule on the voting procedure in getting the bill passed.
    At the same time Bush used faulty numbers to justify the cost at $239B when it's actual cost to be $500B in 2005. I find it ironic he supports the reforms that are needed now instead when the Republicans were in charge...

    Mike- Obama lost the Public Option for his own party by staying out of the debates and hopping on a plane to Copenhagen

    It is more like in the summer when he did not do anything. When the conservatives started using the scare tactics, then he got involved which is why the public option failed after Congress reconvene in the Fall.

    October 6, 2009 at 9:51 pm |
  22. Eileen from Portland, Maine

    The so called 'trigger' option is a means of voting for the protection of the Insurance companies that are supporting the election campaigns of politians. A vote for the 'trigger' is a vote against the American People. History has shown they simply do not work. Many Americans aren't aware of that, but Senator Olympia Snowe is well aware of it.

    October 6, 2009 at 9:42 pm |
  23. Jon

    Let's see, this is the "physician" who diagnosed a woman in a persistant vegatative state as being perfectly normal based on a videotape. We should believe him now. because, what, his family made billions of dollars from owning Hospital Corporation of American. As for Olympia Snowe, she's the biggest RINO in Congress and how she gets re-elected is beyond me.

    October 6, 2009 at 9:29 pm |
  24. Pat

    Why do Americans have such a short memory? In this case , this supposed wise man was able to diagnose a brain dead woman as having bright prospects of recovery. Remember Teri Schiavo? When this man and others of his ilk (Republicans from the South mostly) interfered with the most private of decisions of any persons life. And now he and they are being the party of NO. When will Americans quit playing the slots and start studying history ? These defeatists are doing nothing new. They did it in World War II. They did it when Medicare was created. They did it during civil rights. And now for the second time the party that brought us to our knees is saying no to health care reform unless it is their way.

    October 6, 2009 at 9:26 pm |
  25. Sam


    It is sad how our great country rates in various statistics regarding
    healthcare, despite vast resources, relatively speaking.

    It is about using economies of scale to improve efficiency, outcomes
    and eliminate waste, as occurs with car insurance.

    One great post mentioned the fact Medicare is run with phenomenally
    low overhead, relatitve to business interests. Excellent example, but
    it's just a start.

    Common sense folks (which apparently isn't to common)...

    Fix the problem.

    October 6, 2009 at 9:24 pm |
  26. Ed J

    Mr. Frist has had serious financial connections to the healthcare industry – check out his stock ownership over the last two decades. He sounds fair and balanced here but where was he all those years in the senate? How about when we had a budget surplus before the Bush era wiped it out and created the largest defecits ever under his watch?

    Don't bother buying the book – start getting yourselves healthy by eating better and exercising – if anything less than universal healthcare passes it will be a game of we hope you die sooner rather than later.

    October 6, 2009 at 8:36 pm |
  27. Question

    Why has no one addressed this proposed fine for individual consumers who do not have health insurance? Last time I checked, I get fined by the tax man for having insurance. I used to claim 0, but now I need to claim 1 to make up for the $200 a week I put into a healthcare plan which doesn't even cover a $150 lab fee. I think it's almost cheaper to pay out of pocket considering I pay around $800 per month for this crap.

    October 6, 2009 at 8:31 pm |
  28. Eye wide open

    If I were young and healthy, I'd wait until the Democrats could get a bill passed that said that no medical insurance could be denied me with a "pre-existing" condition.
    Then, don't have insurance until you have a catastrophe, then sign up for insurance.
    That way, you never pay premiums and only get the services.

    Anybody think that sounds stupid?

    The reason insurance companies don't cover pre-existing conditions is that in order for them to stay in business people need to pay premiums when they are healthy to cover the payouts when people get sick.

    The left has no clue how the financial world works.

    PS – The insurance industry has paid off Obama and the Democrats as well. The idea that Corporations and The Rich are only Republicans is naive at best and really just ignorant.

    October 6, 2009 at 8:16 pm |
  29. rd

    I choose capitalism, freedom and liberty from a inept, beauracratic government. Just look at Medicare, Medicaid and SS – all a messss! HSA's are a great reform that has been a small piece of the reform that needs to happen. And at least Frist get closer to talking about the actual real uninsured although I think it is more like 10-12 mil from everything I read. And people may not have insurance but they are not refused care from everything I read. Let's remember where our country came from and why it has been so great. That means not adopting the european socialism model. We have enough of the welfare state as it is and it is failing.

    October 6, 2009 at 8:06 pm |
  30. Flex

    Frist is a republican. Republicans do not want us to have a government option. Without a government option, nothing will change!

    October 6, 2009 at 7:48 pm |
  31. Lee K

    I hear Mr Frist and many Republicans tell how they are generally fearful of government. They find it to be terribly inefficient and a poor choice given the great ingenuity and efficiency of the marketplace. So I pose this question:

    Why can’t we have a public option that is revenue neutral and competes with the private options that we currently have available? May the better plan win?

    Its simple, it doesn’t cost the taxpayers anything… its revenue neutral, and the private insurers have every opportunity to put the pubic option out of business.

    October 6, 2009 at 7:35 pm |
  32. reggie

    The dems are clueless and we are all starting to realize it.

    October 6, 2009 at 7:27 pm |
  33. Earl Kaatz

    I add my voice to the previous comments that have said that no public funded plan as replacement for health insurance by for profit companies is no reform at all. It seems to me that the only way to reform health care is to disassociate it from the word insurance, now or in the near future. There are some companies that are offering pre-paid legal services for a monthly fee before a person is in severe need. That seems to be what health "insurance" was originaly based on. There was a person in the twenties who tried to start a company into which people paid into all their working career for a payback of a monthly amount after they were no longer able to work. He was deported for planning a fraud. Now insurance companies sell annuities that do the same. However the last few years there have been many, such as Madoff as an individual and companies who have raided all the commercial annuities, private and public plans. The millions of people whose retirement funds were raided will only be helped if they were fortunate enough to have a fund backed by Federal funded and operated backup. There were several insurance companies who provided senior citizens health care for the Medicare benefits. They were uncerimonsly dropped as of December 31, 2000. Is that date indicitative of any other event? After watching what happened to prescription drug costs, I think I understand that those insurance companies were just saving themselves from drug costs. Corporations can always declare bankruptcy, and cheat every one (GM, et al). If a person is pushed into bankruptcy, he becomes a pariah. Did GMAC (Di-Tec Mortgage) come under the bail-out or the Bankruptcy?

    October 6, 2009 at 6:53 pm |
  34. eolufemi

    How come nobody's asking doctor's to take a pay-cut?

    Instead of increasing the amount medicaid and medicare pay doctors, they need to decrease the amount insurance companies pay to providers.

    The way to achieve this is to increase the number of providers. Either hire foreigner, have the government directly train new doctors for free if they accept 80K a year for five years and work in general practice serving low income communities. Expand the use of nurse practitioners and physician assistants, and cede a larger marketshare to pharmacies that have physicians on staff.

    Couple that with allowing individuals to choose a non-employer based insurer and that'll reduce prices significantly.

    October 6, 2009 at 6:50 pm |
  35. Cindy

    The first health reform we need is to end the interference of trial lawyers in the practice of medicine. If we don't have meaningful reform of this mattter, we'll never afford to bring healthcare to all!

    October 6, 2009 at 6:33 pm |
  36. Laura

    Tired to read about no money to provide for a regular person an affordable health care. Not a regular person created that financial mess, why he or she should suffer any longer because greediness kill consciences in 1% of population who have wealth as 95% combined in US or in those who sold their souls for money and lobby interests of companies in enpense of sick people? I guess it’s true; the profit must be cut on all levels of health care chain. If it would save just one life – it’s worth it. If you still could not find money to finance it, go to see Michael Moore new movie "Capitalist: A love story". He will give you addresses where to find money. A Public option NOW!

    October 6, 2009 at 6:11 pm |
  37. tj

    Another paid shill working on behalf of the industry? The article wasn't clear or Roberts didn't ask he is working for who?

    He is one doctor, if you want to listen to doctors then try the group of doctorss at a group of doctors that are mad at the reform, why? Because the insurance industry is at the end of the pen which is writing the bill. Go to their site and listen, they believe we are going in the wrong direction.

    October 6, 2009 at 5:59 pm |
  38. Bob Pacific Grove, Ca

    There is only one kind of "trigger" and that's the one supported by the NRA. A public option is the ONLY was to keep the cost of health care down – and the insurance companies know it, and will do anything to defeat it......

    October 6, 2009 at 5:58 pm |
  39. Michael, Gallatin, TN

    There must absolutely not be local control of health care. If Frist and his cronies continue to have control, those of us here in Tennessee are doomed. Whatever system finally comes out of all this it must be universal and national.

    October 6, 2009 at 5:47 pm |
  40. Steve

    They all say whatever it takes to get a vote. If all of you people know so much, then why don't you all run for office. Do you all actually believe anything these hypocrites say. If you do, than your more of an idiot than they are.

    October 6, 2009 at 5:37 pm |
  41. That's correct.....from an RN

    He's fundamentally right. His only error is understanding the high costs in health care are caused by health INSURANCE inflation with premiums and other insurance costs. It's not a health care inflation cause from within Hospitals, Nurses, Doctors,etc.

    October 6, 2009 at 5:20 pm |
  42. Dan

    Democrats should be ashamed not stepping up to oppose this so called trigger option.

    We have talked about reforming health care for decades and this is all we can do?

    Frist is going to protect the health care industry, his family has made millions having it the way it is.

    God help us all if we get sick.

    October 6, 2009 at 5:19 pm |
  43. Carl

    Do you really think that making some people pay for insurance for other people is fair.
    I THINK NOT.I have worked hard all my adult live and I am about to retire.I don't want my social security tax's to pay for people who haven't worked a day in their life AND ESPECIALLY TO THE MILLIONS OF ILLEGAL ALIENS THAT ARE IN THIS COUNRTY.

    October 6, 2009 at 5:16 pm |
  44. Dan

    Let's try this for a trigger. The left can have their public option plan. If the plan ever "contributes one dime" to the deficit, the overhaul lapses at the end of that fiscal year. Come on, Mr. President, put your money where your mouth is.

    October 6, 2009 at 5:09 pm |
  45. D-Sea

    By all means, lets allow Reid and Pellosi to continue the wonderful work that they're doing! And we have to make sure all the illegals have better insurance than those of us who are hear legally and who work for a living. If you want to find the looniest liberals, visit the CNN web site. You people are lost! Frist has the right idea.

    October 6, 2009 at 4:52 pm |
  46. Gus B

    There is a large group of health care executives who support the reform but are laying low. They don't want you to know that the current reformes will insure that their corps continue to reap huge profits. After all, If you don't go on the feds insurance, and most middle class and higher wage earners will not, you will be fined if you don't have a fed approved insurance plan with a fed approved insurance corp. No new ins.corps will be allowed due to restrictive regs. Nice huh?
    we are being inslaved to the mega-corps and the liberals are leading the charge.

    October 6, 2009 at 4:27 pm |
  47. swoosie

    Enough. The average American does not want to die from medical neglect. Simple. So, we need to have insurance premiums that are affordable, that give a little to the insurance companies but also ensure that the average American is paying his/her fair part of this. Also, we don't want to be denied coverage because we have had an issue in the past or we have a bad gene pool that makes us high risk for issues, or because we are fat or arthitic or have high cholesterol that can't be managed, or because we once had a hip replacement, or a stroke. We want to be able to get coverage that isn't jacked up or denied because of who we are health-wise. We don't want the government telling us to go on a diet or to stop smoking, or to go out and exercise or put our senile parents in a cage without treatment. We need to know that we won't have our homes taken away because we have one, before we can get coverage. It's bad out there Mr. Politician, and we want you to understand that you either need to stand with us on this thing or get out of the way or be voted out of the way. You do not own us and you do not get to make the wrong decision so that you can make money for yourself.

    October 6, 2009 at 4:16 pm |
  48. Jason Quest

    Why not a "trigger" to cancel the whole program if it goes over budget, does not improve care in 2 years, or actually costs everyone more?

    My fear is that they don't know what they are doing and we'll be stuck with it FOREVER if it passes.

    October 6, 2009 at 4:13 pm |
  49. bash-on

    Delay and obfuscate. That's the tactic. Push this back two years until we have a different make-up in Congress and then kill Health Care reform. Going with a `trigger' simply won't work.

    October 6, 2009 at 4:10 pm |
  50. Oliver Klozzoff

    Frist just does not get it. Doesn't he realize that if government-run health care is enacted, about 45% of his fellow physicians have said they would quit or retire early? Olympia Snow is about the only Republican who consistently votes with the Democrats, so she is very much unrepresentative of the loyal opposition to this socialization of our free market health care system, which, while in need of improvement, should not be radically changed to attend to the needs of about 6 or 7% of the population. That is just nuts.

    October 6, 2009 at 3:46 pm |
  51. Teney

    I think Frist was involved in healthcare..possibly nursing homes?? not sure..I do know that Max Bacus got over 1.5M from the health care industry and those on the comittee for the public option got a total of about 3.5M from health care industry and those against got about 10M. The health care industry is spending 1.4M a day to stop public option and every member on the finance comittee got money from Ins. Companies. Again it's all about money and greed..Guess who's sure as hell isn't the American people!

    October 6, 2009 at 2:48 pm |
  52. Gary M

    Skip what Frist did or didn't do in the past. we need to be focused on the present and future. And if he is for reforming our out of-control, second-rate health care "system" (and I use that word loosely), then he deserves our support.

    Pushing his book? So what? You want to buy it, buy it, you don't don't. Don't let it take away from the fact that he has a fairly well informed centrist position in a world of raving extremist lunatics (- I'm talking about our Congress, not al Qeda.-)

    BTW, I've been in the medical industry for 30 years, have lived overseas under two different national healthcare systems. We really need to go further than Frist suggests, but he well knows the extremist elements in this country won't permit that because: "National health Insurance" = "Socialized Medicine" = "Communism." – or so they chant – conveniently forgetting that Medicare is a government run health insurance plan.... Go figure.

    October 6, 2009 at 2:35 pm |
  53. j

    " trigger" ????? Sounds like someone is just trying to "kick the can down the road" to me. Same old story, just put it off to be delt with later. Besides, this comes from a doctor`s prespective -

    October 6, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  54. Mike

    The reason the Public Option got shot down because of the constant bickering among the Democrats.

    Democrats can agree on a big idea, but the party implodes when it comes to hashing out the small details.

    You can all thank your fearless leader Obama for ignoring the pleas of his fellow Democrats to get involved with the Health Care debate. Obama lost the Public Option for his own party by staying out of the debates and hopping on a plane to Copenhagen to try and impress the IOC during the week it was getting voted on by the Budget committee.

    Democrats have nobody to blame but Obama and their weak party.

    October 6, 2009 at 2:26 pm |
  55. johnrj08

    Here is Frist's key remark:

    "It can be a co-op, but even the co-op people – it’s kind of a new concept, but the idea of not having government out there controlling prices out there undercutting the insurance market. And that’s the big fear. At the end of the day, you’re going to have to have some sort of a backup of a public plan. And at the end of the day, if the private sector doesn’t step up, you have to have some other kind of trigger coming into play."

    He doesn't seem to get that the only way to get the for-profit private insurance industry to control costs and lower rates is to have a government run option that "undercuts the insurance market." That is what is called "competition". Without it, there is absolutely zero incentive for insurers to stop shifting costs and raising rates.

    If the U.S. government, which Frist and many Republicans seem to think is incompetent, can run Medicare with a 6% overhead, then it would seem to me that the private companies should be able to go from their current 30% overhead down to at least 10%. That would basically rescue thousands of small businesses which are being driven out of business by premiums. But that is not every going to happen.

    Frist is still trying to appease the crazy anti-Obama element that has hijacked the Republican Party. He's talking about a half-fix, which will achieve nothing and only delay the inevitable collapse of Medicare.

    The fact is that Dr. Frist is still acting like a two-faced politician here and is likely in the back pocket of the insurance industry. The Republican Party is no longer just the "party of No". It is the party of "Ho", because it is prostituting itself to private insurance industry.

    October 6, 2009 at 2:18 pm |
  56. Ed

    Here's an idea. We are always talking about the savings we can produce by eliminating fraud and waste. Do that first. If it suceeds, it will be an argument that cannot be refuted.

    October 6, 2009 at 2:08 pm |
  57. Jim from Denver

    Why are so many politicians so worried about what happens to insurance companies? What do they really bring to the table that actually improves anyone's health? I think insurance should be non-profit and that would cut our costs for the non-government health care by 30%.

    October 6, 2009 at 2:03 pm |
  58. Tom

    Well, well...
    Tommy, Bill's brother, just crossed the $2 Billion personal value/worth mark. As you know, he is hat-in-hand with HCA and brother Tommy. I guess that both these boys now have enough $$$$???

    Having known Tommy, my understanding is that his goal was to be a billionaire. It looks as if he succeeded!? What he did for health care in America is questionable.....

    October 6, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  59. CNN Giddy over this one!

    You know will push this one! failed to mention others who oppose it, only one guy who accepts it. And he's alone.

    But CNN will have you believe all the GOP are for it now.

    October 6, 2009 at 2:02 pm |
  60. Raj

    He sure has changed a lot since he left Washington. He may be hawking his book, but his moderate ideas are certainly worth considering.

    October 6, 2009 at 2:00 pm |
  61. stevegee

    I'm extremely opposed to "ObamaCare" as it's been labeled; and frankly, it makes me sick!

    A government takeover of our healthcare system would be an abomination. This country was founded on individual freedom and liberty, which means less government - not bureaucrats acting as doctors!

    I agree the country's current healthcare system isn't perfect. But, rather than restructure it in its entirety, why not fix what needs fixing?

    For example, to ensure more competition, allow insurance companies to sell across state lines.

    To lower costs, we should go back to the way medicine used to work - when you go to the doctor's office or get an x-ray at a diagnostic facility, you pay; just like when your get your car repaired, you pay. In addition, encourage Health Savings Accounts through the tax code to help people pay for regular medical costs.

    To cover major medical expenses, people should carry catastrophic health insurance (like life insurance policies).

    As for a "triggered" public option to provide healthcare, we have that already: they're called Medicare and Medicaid. And they're both an insolvent mess, fraught with waste and fraud (just like Social Security, another public option to take care of retirement, hah!).

    So why should the American people think Washington can do any better with health insurance for all of its citizens? I have no faith that the Federal Government can "change" its ineptness.

    These are just some of the concerns that tens of millions of citizens like myself have with this so-called "healthcare reform" that Baucus, Obama, Pelosi, Reid and all the liberal gang in DC are trying to shove down our throats.

    The Town Hall meetings held across America show the true anger and frustration people feel towards Washington - and it's all kinds of people: Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. We are tired of the tax-and-spend-and-ignore-the-people attitude of so many of our elected officials. They might as well be saying, "let them eat cake."

    I urge The American People to stand up for freedom and liberty - and capitalism - in this country. Stand up against the liberal agenda that will undermine our republic and bankrupt this great nation.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:58 pm |
  62. Nick

    I never thought much of Sen Frist, but his support of insuring 20 million Americans and a public option trigger is a breath of fresh air.

    We absolutely need a competitor to private insurance companies, but if there are not enough votes for it now, I would support the public option trigger to be implemented if private companies don't lower costs.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:58 pm |
  63. Duncan Brazier

    Just a couple of comments one guy here said we need to cut out the profit in health care- if you are any type of medical provider and your told you can't make a profit why would you do it ?? That would be a great way to get all the medical providers to tell us to go pound sand. Frist says and we've heard Obama say as well there's 30% waste/fraud in Medicare if we get rid of it we can afford Obamacare. Why is waste and fraud acceptable today ? Why not get rid of it now, make that a priority with or without Obamacare.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:57 pm |
  64. everything in moderation

    It's funny that the people making healthcare policy in Washington were B average political science majors. Here's someone with a degree in Medicine and nobody wants to listen to him (or the few other physicians in Congress and the Senate who actually have first hand experience in the system). And now we see why the system will never be optimal. And that my friends is why I'm tempted to in a few year,s take my MD degree and run as fast as I can straight into a concierge medicine group. Then I won't have to deal with policy made by the History, English, and Poli Sci majors that dominate washington. Leave healthcare to the HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS!

    October 6, 2009 at 1:56 pm |
  65. Mark Baird

    I am also a Democrat and applaud Mr. Frist for his pragmatic approach. Sweden insures everyone using private insurance plans. There is to much ideology and egos on both the right and the left.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:55 pm |
  66. suresh

    Why these politicians do not get it? According to Harvar study, every year 44000 americans are dieying because they have no access to health care. That should be enough reason to put in Public Option right away. Why talk about 'Kick in" for it?

    Basically the Republicans care more about the profits of private insurers and Democrats have no guts to do right thing for the people.

    Shame on our democratic system that panders the corporations at the cost of the ordinary people.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:53 pm |
  67. John jr

    I read this with great interest. Being sick and in desperate need of treatment that I cannot afford(with my Adecco cafeteria health plan). These plans really need to be outlawed. They are marketed as yuo only buy what you need!? Wierd becuase how do you know what you need? single group coverage that denies everything it is so amazing. my Hear cath was rejected for pre existing becuase I had seen a cardiologist before I had it? you try to figure it out cost to me almost $20,000. How could it be pre-existing if it weas a test? well it was I guess no apeal helped. Everyone has to realize that the group you are in youi are stuck with! you cant change like auto insurance. I will say after watching all the lobbying that I really dont think anything will happen at all. it hurts becuase i know I am going to be one of the 12 min statistics. Jay Leno had an interesting monolugue the other night stating that all politicians like NASCAR drivers should have to where the emblems of all the lobbyists who paid them, I think that would be a great start!

    October 6, 2009 at 1:52 pm |
  68. rking

    Single Payer, Single payer....... Health insurance shouldnt be a for profit business. Living is not for sale.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:51 pm |
  69. Ray McEntire

    If you can't get basic service for everyday problems ie..fever, flu stomach problems then what good is catastrophic coverage. It is the day to day things that lead to long term problems that the lower income worker can't afford to get help for. When you have to deside between going to the doctor or buying food for your family or keeping the lights on or heating your home. Medical is almost out of reach for my family also and I work for a large Corp. that has medical insurance. But the cost along with increasing deductables and co-pays has almost put it out of reach. Next year my cost will increase 3 times what it is this year.
    My son who has a family was sick with the flu and could not find a doctor for treatment because he could not afford to pay the office vist up front. I had to pay for the visit and the prescription for him and that one trip cost $174.00 that was for a vist with the doctor that consumed almost 10 min. And you think that there is not a problem with this system. The only ones that are happy with things as is are the minority. If it takes a goverment ran program to provide universal care then I will support that option. It is because you have finance committees running the medical programs that most of these problems are present today. They need to be involved but they should not head them up.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:48 pm |
  70. Jose

    A republican speaking FOR health care......... Wow

    October 6, 2009 at 1:47 pm |
  71. vernis robertson

    The American people need to hold our Senaters and Congress accountable for what's happening in Washington . We need to limit senate seats in the Senate and Congress that is the only way to fix things in D.C . The Politicians are lock up in these Lobbiyist so deep , that is way things are not getting down . I will challenge any politician to stop taking money from lobbiyist and get things done . It is out right greed in Washington .

    October 6, 2009 at 1:46 pm |
  72. mary griffin

    So Sentor Frist we can't insure the American people, but we can see that people in another country get shots for hiv. Who do you people work for. I love this country, but this goveremnet is way out of line. Something to happen and it problely will

    October 6, 2009 at 1:41 pm |
  73. Kevin

    Hey Bill,

    Why didn't you speak up back when you were Senate Majority Leader and had the power to actually reform health care instead of just talk about it?

    Typical conservative politician who says he cares, but quietly prefers the status quo.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:38 pm |
  74. Joe Doe

    Be aware that Frist has strong personal and family ties to the highly profitable health care provider HCA, so understand that he has a bias interest in this battle.

    "HCA, the nation’s largest for-profit hospital company, was founded by Frist’s father and his brother was formerly its CEO and chairman and remains on the board of directors."

    October 6, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  75. Jon

    MiMi October 6th, 2009 1:16 pm ET

    It ain’t gonna happen Frist. We “THE PEOPLE” do not want the gov messing in our healthcare decisions. If you guys want to fix the 20 million that do not have insurance because they truly can’t afford, go for it. Leave the rest of the 300 million people alone.

    MiMi – you are not the only person in "We the people." I have good health insurance provided by my employer, as does my wife. Even so, I WANT A GOVERNMENT PLAN. So try to remember, you're not the only one out there. You're whole 'we the people" don't want is crap.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:36 pm |
  76. richard

    Bill Frist does not understand the true need of Health Care Reform. his family lead the charge for "for profit" hospitals run by doctors. his idea of his hippocratic oath is that i'm a businessman, not an altruistic healer, i should PROFIT from your health. this to me is a violation of that oath. his idea for these types of hospitals are one of the reasons the cost of health care has become so expensive.

    Bill Frist has zero credibility when it comes to discussing health care reform.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:35 pm |
  77. HeMan

    Oh my God! A republican that is actually for something that will help the people!!! What is this country coming to! Be still my beating heart.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:33 pm |
  78. JRadical

    Oh man you guys are reaching. Why not bring out a wax statue of Elvis to promote this garbage?

    October 6, 2009 at 1:30 pm |
  79. walleye

    It turns out that in eight states, plus the District of Columbia, getting beaten up by your spouse is a pre-existing condition.
    Under the cold logic of the insurance industry, it makes perfect sense: If you are in a marriage with someone who has beaten you in the past, you're more likely to get beaten again than the average person and are therefore more expensive to insure.
    In human terms, it's a second punishment for a victim of domestic violence.
    In 2006, Democrats tried to end the practice. An amendment introduced by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), now a member of leadership, split the Health Education Labor & Pensions Committee 10-10. The tie meant that the measure failed.
    All ten no votes were Republicans, including Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyoming), a member of the "Gang of Six" on the Finance Committee who are hashing out a bipartisan bill.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:27 pm |
  80. walleye

    After Al Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans, on Sept 11, we went to war and spent hundreds of billions of dollars ensuring that this would not happen again. Yet every two months, that many people die because of our failure to provide universal insurance — and yet many members of Congress want us to do nothing?

    October 6, 2009 at 1:26 pm |
  81. Moe

    I'm a democrat, that I find those stories fascinating...I look forward to reading the book.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:20 pm |
  82. Keith Runyon

    Frist should run for President

    October 6, 2009 at 1:20 pm |
  83. Zac

    Cool story. I hope his former colleagues in the Senate actually step up and start lining up votes for the health care bill. Or at least one of them...

    October 6, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  84. MiMi

    It ain't gonna happen Frist. We "THE PEOPLE" do not want the gov messing in our healthcare decisions. If you guys want to fix the 20 million that do not have insurance because they truly can't afford, go for it. Leave the rest of the 300 million people alone.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:16 pm |
  85. Jason

    A trigger would make the entire option useless, especially if the republicans make the "trigger" another vote.

    Its just kicking the can down the road, typical politician move.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:11 pm |
  86. jack akins

    i think this is a great admirable man to speak out honestly as he does. and of course john does another masterful job of interviewing.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:10 pm |
  87. Connie White

    Why are we listening to a doctor that could not correctly diagnose Shaivo and said she was not brain damaged?

    October 6, 2009 at 1:06 pm |
  88. Davo

    I think he is just pushing his book; did'nt he make millions in the health insurance game.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  89. Sniffit

    Sniff that, obstructionists.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:05 pm |
  90. KMO

    Such a nice, concise discussion of what our objectives for health care reform should be, but also the step-wise nature that is likely needed to help it get to that idyllic state. Why is it that politicians are so much less divisive when they LEAVE office? It would be nice to hear more of this type of rational discussion and compromise amongst our currently serving representatives.

    October 6, 2009 at 1:03 pm |
  91. Luke Liem

    Bill Frist is voicing the position of the Center. It is reasonable. It seeks compromise, bipartisanship and a rational approach to solving this most important social issue of this country.

    I am a Democrat and I applaud him.

    October 6, 2009 at 12:49 pm |
  92. StormerF

    Why are Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, Vowing to fight any attempt to post the health care bill on the internet? What is up with the Democrats,Is there more Bonuses hidden in the bill,Or is it full of Pork again?

    October 6, 2009 at 12:32 pm |
  93. mojo in chicago

    It is good to hear that Dr. Frist is a proponent of health care reform, but this problem has been brewing for many years, and I wonder why he did not pass any meaningful health/health insurance/liablity reform when he was majority leader with a Republican president. Also, he should reach out to his fellow Republicans to ask them to think about the future health and economic security of the country vs. just trying to gain political points.

    October 6, 2009 at 12:06 pm |
  94. kris

    Looks like healthcare reform may just end up with a consensus on GOP proposed changes...which i always felt are better suited as it will create less disruption to the system and patients as a whole and costs a heck of a lot less...hence, save our deficit from increasing and more tax dollars needed from the governement. Not exactly a win for the president but at least he will show me that he can compromise and can accept good ideas even if they're not his. However, how will he explain the outrageous marketing campaign he launched for the public option which has proven to not be a viable option? I guess its just another sign of an inexperience president.

    October 6, 2009 at 12:02 pm |
  95. AJ

    Yeah and Frist was all hot to trot to jump into the Schaivo case too. Do we really think this is a man with sound judgment? Olympia Snow needs to stop pretending to be a moderate and show herself for the right wing nut job she really is.

    October 6, 2009 at 11:48 am |
  96. Jeffrey

    Just another greedy fool. No public option, no vote. I can't stand "Blue Dog" democrats like the ones in my state.

    October 6, 2009 at 11:42 am |
  97. don

    the gop needs more pragmatic people like frist and snowe.
    kudos for putting america ahead of partisan politics!

    October 6, 2009 at 11:41 am |
  98. DREW


    October 6, 2009 at 11:34 am |
  99. Rick McDaniel

    Pipe dreams.

    Basically, the notion that you can significantly cut costs in health care, without removing the profits, is simply a pipe dream. You cannot cut costs without cutting out the profits in medicine, whether doctors fees, hospital fees, or insurance profits. All 3 have a profit incentive to provide services, and unless that gets cut, nothing will happen. The current proposals will do nothing to cut profits.

    The notion that there is too much fraud and mismanagement in Medicare, so the government needs to cut those benefits to support a whole different government system, is also a pipe dream. Government is so corrupt that eliminating fraud is basically impossible, especially when the profit motive is still present, at every turn. To remove some of the corruption, you must have health care for all, and no profit motives in health care.

    So, all this hullabaloo is just nonsense. There can be only 1 (one) way to cut costs in health care, and that is to nationalize health care for all. That is the only way to cut out the profit from the system, and make it possible to reduce costs. Absolutely NOTHING else will work.

    October 6, 2009 at 11:27 am |
  100. Chas

    I have a hard time taking a politician seriously while he is constantly pushing his new book.

    A trigger to what? Does it kick in when 500,000 people have lost everything and some loose their lives because of the insurance companies greed or does it take more than that?

    A transformation of health care that includes manditory coverage, no ceiling for health care policies, and no public option is not a transformation of health care it's just a license for further abuse by insurance companies.

    October 6, 2009 at 11:00 am |
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