House Republican Conference Chairman Mike Pence (IN) appeared on MSNBC's "Morning Joe" this morning. See the clip here and read excerpts below:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: Do you think health care reform is dead?
REP. PENCE: Well, I hope not. I really believe that we ought to take some bipartisan action to lower the cost of health insurance, and to lower the cost of health care. But I hope that the plan - the Democrats' initiative on Capitol Hill to introduce a government plan, a public option that would result in a government takeover of health care paid for with about $800 billion in higher taxes is dead. Judging from the town hall meetings that I have had in Indiana and what we have seen around the country, I think there are millions of Americans who don't want to see a public option and don’t want to see a government takeover.
SCARBOROUGH: Very quickly, what’s the Republican alternative? What is the Republican plan you would like to see passed?
REP. PENCE: Well, it's not very different than what Harold Ford just described. I give a shout-out to my old friend Harold Ford sitting there. He made mention of the fact of malpractice reform and dealing with issues like preexisting conditions and lowering the cost of health insurance. Republicans believe that, in addition to tort reform, what we ought to do is allow Americans to purchase health insurance the way that Members of Congress can, the way all federal employees can, and that's to buy health insurance across state lines. To get out there and allow new insurance products to be created in a new competitive marketplace. In between allowing for nationwide health insurance products to be created, and allow people to be choosey shoppers in a truly competitive market and that plus responsible malpractice reform and I think you are pretty far away down the road toward curing what ails health insurance and health care in the country.
HAROLD FORD JR.: Mike, good to see you this morning. Thanks for the kind words. Let me be clear, though – so you are saying Republicans in the House could support an insurance reform bill that addressed pre-existing conditions and insurance companies that deny coverage when a family member gets sick, malpractice reform, and it could even support expanding coverage for children at the poverty level and right above the poverty level, is that something you think could win? Again, the details would have to be worked out but do you think that could win Republican support?
REP. PENCE: …I think that we can talk about throwing in information technology. I think we can talk about some of those things, as long as we are talking about lowering the cost of health insurance by bringing real competition within the private health insurance economy itself. I think that what we have to see the administration walk away from, and frankly we have to see Democrats in Congress walk away from is this insistence, this demand, on the creation of a public option that most of the people in my district, and I’ll bet most people back in Tennessee, Harold, at these town hall meetings know that if the government starts offering a health insurance option, tens of millions of Americans are going to lose their health insurance at their current employer because their bosses are going to say ‘look, we’re going to pay the 8% payroll tax and tell you to go down the street and sign up for the government program or the government exchange.’ As long as we can walk away from the public option, we could have a reasonable debate about all of these other issues. And, again, I think we should do something to lower the cost of health insurance for working families and small businesses.
MIKE BARNNICLE: Off of what Harold just asked you, what - if anything - is in the bill in that is front of the House right now, what do you like in it? What do you favor in it?
REP. PENCE: What do I favor in the bill? You know, Mike, it really is hard to look past that massive government plan. You know, the so-called ‘exchanges’ with the public option. But even the private insurance elements in the exchanges are essentially government controlled and government dictated. What you have got in the vision that Democrats reported out of the Energy and Commerce Committee is just a massive expansion of the federal government's role that I believe, as Barney Frank has suggested, would put us on the path toward socialized medicine. Barney Frank said on video that if you have the public option, I think he said that's the fastest way to get to single payer and I agree. So, it's hard to look past that elephant in the room and find much there that we agree with.