Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) showed the political power of the Serious Medicine argument when she led off "Fox News Sunday" yesterday. Of course we have to control and even cut federal spending, she said, but we have to do it the right way--a cure is cheaper than care.
Bachmann points the way for Republicans to keep faith with Paul Ryan-type budget cuts AND get re-elected. As the polls show, people object, strongly, to cuts in Medicare. But nobody minds if the price of medical care falls. And that's what technology can do, if we let it happen. So Ryan + Bachmann is a winning formula.
But let her speak for herself. Here's the transcript of her interview with Fox News' Chris Wallace:
Congressman Michele Bachmann, welcome back to "Fox News Sunday."
REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, R-MINN.: Thank you, Chris.
WALLACE: Let start with the budget, because you want to go even farther than House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan. You voted for the Republican Study Committee plan which would cut spending by $3 trillion more over the next 10 years and balance the budget by 2020, not 2040, as Paul Ryan does.
Let's take a look, though, at some of the big differences. You want to cut $700 billion more than Ryan from Medicaid. You want to raise the Social Security retirement age for people who are now 59. And you would change Medicare to a voucher system for those who are now 59.
Question -- Paul Ryan doesn't go far enough?
BACHMANN: Well, remember, both Paul Ryan's budget and the Republican Study Committee budget changed the trajectory that we're on. We are on a trajectory of failure right now. So, both Paul Ryan and the Republican Study Committee were making very good responsible choices, they're trying to get America's house to balance. That's what we have to do.
WALLACE: But, if I may, you're saying let's go even further, faster than Paul Ryan?
BACHMANN: Well, remember again, what both of those bills are. They aren't pieces of legislation. They're aspirational documents, which means these are goals that we're trying to come toward.
And one thing that I have heard all across the United States, people want us to get our financial house in order. They recognize we may not have 26 years to get our financial house in order. We may need to do it sooner.
And so, people want to us get serious. People who have been doing this in their own lives and with their own businesses don't understand why Washington is taking so long to get our house in order.
WALLACE: But I just wanted to make it clear -- you stand by your vote for the Republican Study Committee plan. There is nothing in there that you say would go too far?
BACHMANN: Well, remember, what -- again, this is an aspirational document. It's not legislation. It may --
WALLACE: But would you support all of those things we just talked about?
BACHMANN: What I'm saying with that vote is that we have to make decisions. We aren't saying that every single decision that's in that bill, or aspirational document, will be the final result. But what we are saying is we have a conviction, those of us in the Republican Study Committee, those of us who supported Paul Ryan that we thank them and applaud them, that they want to get in the game and they want to make sure that we don't go down in flames with our economy.
WALLACE: Let me ask you about one specific -- and it may be the most controversial in both plans. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that under Medicare premium support, which both plans would have, seniors would bear a much larger share of their health care costs, than they would under the current plan.
What do you tell people nearing retirement who say I can't afford to pay more of my own health care costs out of pocket? Which is what the Ryan and the Republican Study Committee plans would do.
BACHMANN: And I understand that. I put an asterisk on my support and I put a blog posting up that said just as much. That is my area of concern. I support these bills with that proviso, because there are a number of people across the United States who have exactly expressed the fear that you just mentioned.
I think that's what we need to do with Medicare. It isn't that we are saying that we don't want people to have the health care. It's -- will there be a better way to fund it?
I think there is a better way than the way that the federal government is currently funding the program. Various ideas were put out on the table. Even Paul Ryan said he was open to tweaking his position that he has staked out.
One position that I'm concerned about is shifting the cost burden to senior citizens. Seniors are saying, "Look, I'm not in a position to be able to handle that." I also share that real fear. That's why I put the asterisk out there.
Will there be greater efficiencies? I think so. Will there be choices and options that I think we should offer people? Absolutely.
In the private sector -- I'm a private business person, my husband and I have our own business. What we try to do is offer better solutions all the time for our customers. The federal government isn't keen on doing that.
That's what I think the ingenuity is behind what Paul Ryan wants to do and behind what the Republican Study Committee wants to do, new and different ideas. That isn't the be all and end all. We're only just starting.
WALLACE: But --
BACHMANN: But with the proviso and the asterisk that I agree with the concern for senior citizens and their fear that they will have to assume the cost themselves. One thing we also need to focus on --
WALLACE: Well, let me -- let me ask you this. You're not wedded to the idea of a voucher plan for Medicare?
BACHMANN: I'm wedded to the idea of efficiencies and cost-cutting and savings.
WALLACE: But not a voucher plan?
BACHMANN: How we get there is open to discussion. Plus, the other thing that we should focus on would be cures -- cures for things like Alzheimer's, cures for things like diabetes. It's very expensive to just cover the care for sickness. I'd prefer to see money that we have at the federal level go for cures.
Probably one of the best examples is polio. If you look in the 1950s, polio was a huge issue. And government was forecasting at that point that we might be looking at $100 billion in costs.
Today, polio costs us really virtually nothing. Why? A private charity, March of Dimes, put money in to finding a cure. We all have the little vaccines that Jonas Salk came up with. Thank God. I would like to see that with Alzheimer's and diabetes and others.Exactly. If we want to save money on Medicare--and on medical care in general--let's unleash the ingenuity and productivity of the American people. Not only will we improve health, not only will we save federal healthcare dollars, but we will also create a new industry for Americans to find employment--as well as exports, because the world will want these same medicines.