Interview of Vice President Pence by David Stieren, KFQD-Anchorage
5:35 P.M. EDT
Q Mr. Vice President, welcome the Dave Stieren Show.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hi, Dave. Mike Pence here. It's great to be with you, great to be on the air on KFQD. Thanks for having me on.
Q Absolutely, sir. And let's cut right to it -- I am very excited about the latest efforts by the Republican leadership in the Senate, by President Trump, by his administration with the healthcare bill known as Graham-Cassidy.
There's a lot of rhetoric floating out by opponents of this bill. You're a guy that is studious. You're a man of character. What is it about Graham-Cassidy that you feel is important for the citizens of Alaska to know about this bill?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Dave, thanks for the kind words and thanks for the enthusiasm. You know, President Trump and every Republican in the Congress promised to the American people that we would repeal and replace the failing policies of Obamacare.
And thanks to the work of Senator Graham, Senator Cassidy, this new legislation -- which you rightly name the Graham-Cassidy bill -- gives us the best opportunity we've had yet to lift the burden of Obamacare off the people of Alaska and, frankly, send the resources that the federal government is now spending in healthcare out of Washington, D.C. and to every state capital in America so that the people of Alaska, the people of my home state of Indiana, and all 50 states will be able to craft healthcare solutions that will lower the cost of health insurance and expand access to healthcare coverage.
So we're very encouraged by it. We’re very grateful for the opportunity. We've been in regular communication with Senator Sullivan and Senator Murkowski, and talking with them about this legislation. But this is a tremendous opportunity to lift the failure of Obamacare off the American people and replace it with the kind of healthcare reform that will not only lower costs but also expand access to coverage and improve people's lives.
Q This is the most pragmatic application of the “drain the swamp” phrase that we have in American politics.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.)
Q When you control the healthcare and the health coverage of the American citizenry, you control them. And to do so in a centralized federal government program -- like the Obamacare status quo currently is -- is, for all intents and purposes, control of the American public and counter to the precepts and concepts of liberty in this country. Isn't it?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, Dave, that's a very eloquently stated, as usual, on your part. But look, there's simply no question that we have a clear choice here.
You know, if you want Washington, D.C. to continue to order you to buy health insurance, whether you want it or not; to continue to order businesses to provide health insurance; if you want Washington, D.C. to continue to dictate policies in the area of healthcare most precious to our families and our communities, then stay on the path with Obamacare.
And as it continues to collapse, Bernie Sanders, a week ago outlined what their -- what the vision of many Democrats is, which is ultimately, as Obamacare continues to collapse, their answer is to repeal Obamacare and replace it with single-payer healthcare.
Now you know, somewhere in between where I'm sitting in Washington, D.C. and Alaska is a place called Canada. I probably don't need to tell the people Alaska about the failings of national socialized healthcare because it's right in our neighbor and you see the results every day.
Look, we've got a choice: It's between big government, Washington, D.C. solutions that ultimately, I believe, will collapse into single-payer healthcare or whether or not we're going to repeal the individual mandate, repeal the business mandate, and block grant resources back to the states so that states like Alaska, states like my home state of Indiana can craft healthcare solutions in the private marketplace to make healthcare more affordable, and also to redesign our healthcare system for the poor, known as Medicaid, in ways that will truly empower people to take greater ownership of their own healthcare.
And Dave, I know what I'm talking about here because before I was the Vice President, I was a governor. And in the state of Indiana, a few years back, we got the most expanded waiver from the last administration in the history of Medicaid. In the state of Indiana today, if you're on Medicaid, you can have a health savings account. You can choose your own doctor. You get credits in your health savings account for engaging in wellness practices.
I mean, these are the kind of innovations we're just beginning in Indiana, but under the Graham-Cassidy bill, states like Alaska are going to have significantly more freedom and flexibility to redesign healthcare for our most vulnerable, redesign healthcare for small businesses and individuals, and we're working out hearts out.
And I know the President is working everyday with every member of the Senate to see if we can get this thing across, and give the American people a fresh start on healthcare reform -- build on those principles of free market and individual liberty that you describe so well.
Q We're speaking the Vice President if the United States, Mike Pence. And Mr. Vice President, as a former governor, I listened to some of the arguments of opposition to this bill, and it disturbs me how little trust they have in the ability of state governments to manage healthcare systems within their own states.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Right.
Q I mean, the political rhetoric for years of, the left doesn’t want you to have local control over where you can build a road, you know, what your education system should look like. They've now basically owned that argument and said, not only do we believe federal government should have control of that, we're going to tell you which doctor to go to, we're going to tell you how that doctor is going to treat you, and we're terrified of local states and jurisdictions having any say or control. And I would view that as an insult to the 50 governors of the United States, you being a former one.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, and also it really is an insult to the principles of federalism, upon which our very constitution was founded. I love to tell people that the 10th amendment in the Constitution -- I know you've talked about it a lot on this show -- the 10th amendment was more of an exclamation point at the end of the Constitution. It's a document of a limited federal government.
And what the Graham-Cassidy bill does is essentially says, look, let's let leaders in Juneau make these decisions instead of Washington, D.C. Because, look, I will tell you, you know the --we've been to Alaska, you have a magnificent state, the people are wonderful, the landscape is extraordinary, but I got to tell you, it's a little bit different than Indiana. I mean, where we grow corn and – you know, it’s just a little bit different challenges. The beauty of the Graham-Cassidy bill is it will allow states to get a block grant and redesign programs that will work.
And you know, it's amazing to think right now there's about as many Alaskans who went ahead and just paid the tax penalty and got no coverage as people that enrolled in health insurance through the exchange. I mean, in 2015, 20,000 Alaskans decided to go ahead and just pay the tax penalty and get no coverage at all because the healthcare coverage through the health exchange in Alaska was so poor.
I just think that the reality is, you've seen premiums increase in your state by 203 percent. The average monthly premiums of $1,041. We can do better, Alaska can do better, and when you combine the block grants with the fact that we're going to repeal the individual mandate that tells every American that they have got to buy health insurance, whether they want it or need it or not, this is truly a repeal and replace of Obamacare. And we just truly believe this the moment, now is the time.
Q You have the largest listening audience in talk radio in the state of Alaska, Mr. Vice President. What can the citizenry of this state do to help push this thing across the finish line?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, look, I will tell you, I hold in very high regard your two senators. Senator Dan Sullivan and Senator Lisa Murkowski are two outstanding legislators. And they've been great champions for Alaska on this legislation and in virtually every bill that moves through the Congress.
But I think that if people want to see us repeal and replace Obamacare; if people believe that leaders in Juneau know better what's for Alaska than Washington, D.C. ever will; if people want to get rid of the mandate that requires them to buy health insurance or pay a penalty, I just encourage you to call both of your Senators and let them know you support the Graham-Cassidy bill.
And this legislation could come up as early as next week. We're going to be working hard through the whole weekend with your senators and with every member of the Senate who knows that we can do better than Obamacare. And we'd be grateful for anyone's support.
Q Well, take a little time out and watch some college football, if you can. You have to have a couple hours --
THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.) That's mandatory.
Q That's for some downtime. Mr. Vice President, I know that you are busy. I know that you are working the phones and bringing this message to the American people and we appreciate so much your time here on the Dave Stieren show.
And you know, I'm always looking for a co-host. I auditioned U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan a few weeks ago and he didn't quite make the mark.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: (Laughter.)
Q I know as a former broadcaster, you've got the chops so you're always welcome here in the studio anytime.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Dave, that's high praise, but I was never successful in radio as you've been.
Q Oh, wow!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Great to be on your program. I look forward to being on again and often.
Q Absolutely. Thank you, sir. Thank you very much. That is the Vice President of the United States of America joining us here on the Dave Stieren show.
END 5:45 P.M. EDT