0813DEAL audioListen to Deal’s entire answer to the first question.
Times reporter Ashley Fielding conducted a brief one-on-one interview with U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal immediately after Wednesday morning’s health care discussion. She spoke with him about health care reform.
Question: Do you think we need health care reform?
Answer: I think we need some health care reform. Yes, and I think we need to address the things that we all acknowledge need to be fixed. I view it primarily as insurance reform.
Q: What is your take on people’s reaction to the proposed health care reform bill?
A: ...We are seeing fear and we are seeing anger, and as I indicated, I think they’re both driven by this sort of being a culmination of a number of things. I think this bill and this recess period has sort of taken on the aspects of a pressure valve that has been building up for a very long time. It really started at the latter part of the Bush administration with the TARP program, the Toxic Asset Relief Program, and it was, of course, carried on into the Obama administration. It was then followed by the very large stimulus packages. I think people are frightened when they see that, in ... less than a year’s time, the federal government has taken ownership of the largest automobile companies, the largest insurance companies, the largest banks, and now they perceive that the federal government is trying to take over health care. And that is the basis, I think, for the fear factor. And it’s also a basis for the anger factor as well. People think that is not the role that the federal government should have, and that even though we are in rather dire circumstances, that ... even that does not justify the massive intrusion that we’ve seen the federal government take on in terms of invading what has been considered to be private and the free market system. It’s a culmination of a lot of things in my opinion.
Q: President Obama has chastised some people, including representatives, for spreading misinformation and this fear that we’ve mentioned. The word "death panels" has been all over the news ... do you think that has been the case, that people are spreading this misinformation?
A: Well, I think what has happened is, is that they have tried to rush this thing through so fast that there has been no time taken to explain to people what the provisions of the bill mean and why they are there. And if you read some of them on their face, it is very easy to conclude that there are some very perverse intentions that underlie what the words in the bill actually say. ... It’s like anything else. If you don’t explain why you have something there and give the public a good reason for it, you allow them to reach whatever conclusions they want to reach. And you can’t just say that you criticize them for reaching those conclusions, you’ve got to be able to tell them and show them why their conclusions are wrong. You can’t just criticize them and call them names for drawing conclusions if you haven’t furnished them with factual information to allow them to reach an opposite conclusion. And that’s why the whole rush of this thing, I think, has just complicated the whole factor.
Q: Is it safe to assume you’ve read the entire bill?
A: Yes, I have. Let me tell you though. I started reading the original bill, and then the first day of mark-up we came in with a substitute bill that the chairman substituted, which was even longer than the first bill. Now, it was not all totally different, but ... there were changes and pieces of it that were changed. When we went through the mark-up process in the committee, not only did we have to deal with the underlying bill and the substitute bill, we then were confronted with numerous amendments, some of which were very lengthy. In fact, the first amendment that was presented was a 75-page amendment, so there’s been a lot of reading to have to be done. ... When you put down a 75-page amendment and you expect to vote on it in about 10 minutes, there’s no way anybody knows what’s in there. So some of that did not totally get read by anybody.
Q: (In the discussion) you mentioned someone who may go into the emergency room with an ear infection. What do you say to your constituents who can’t afford insurance but have a child with an ear infection. Where do they go?
A: Well, certainly, that is a safety valve there, but, you know, part of this so-called uninsured population that is the basis or justification for this bill are people that are Medicaid eligible that just have not enrolled. So that’s the first place we ought to start is to make sure that people who are eligible for the existing federal programs ... that they enroll both themselves and their children. Probably those children are eligible for PeachCare and may or may not be enrolled.
Q: What are you hearing from your constituents (about the bill) ... and what are you telling them when you hear things from them?
A: Well, the first thing you have to do is listen, and that’s pretty much what this whole thing was about today. And you have to be aware that they have legitimate concerns and nobody has been able to answer a lot of their questions. So, you know, I just try to tell them that the process is not finished, that ... this is still an ongoing process and hopefully we’ll be able to fix some of the things that are of concern to them and to us.