For the final installment of our conversation series with the 6th Congressional District candidates, WRKF's Ashley Westerman spoke with the incumbent.
Republican Representative Dr. Bill Cassidy is running for his third term in office. Cassidy says if he’s re-elected he’ll continue to work to repeal Obamacare as part of his agenda to reform Medicaid and Medicare, and balance the budget.
WESTERMAN: You said in a debate at the Baton Rouge Press Club that Republicans have a plan to balance the budget in 30 years. Now, would you have to cut or dramatically shrink federal agencies or programs to achieve that goal?
CASSIDY: Well, "dramatically" is, of course, a term to be defined. But that said, I think it's better to approach it the other direction. What are the drivers of our indebtedness and what is the plan to address those drivers? Because, really, according to President Obama's bipartisan debt commission, the drivers of our nation's indebtedness are health care entitlements: Medicare and Medicaid. And really, we can do everything we want to every other program, but unless we address those, one, those important programs will be lost and, two, we'll still go into debt.
The plan that Republicans have endorsed and Romney has endorsed most of – not all of – is that if someone is already on Medicare, nothing changes; if someone is 55 and above nothing changes. For those folks who are 54 and below, the program does change to a premium support model. Meaning that in an open enrollment period every year, a person who is currently 54 or below, but is then 65 or whatever, will then choose the program they like. If it is a frugal program, they actually may get a refund. If it is a bells-and-whistles program, they may have to pay more out of pocket. If someone is sick and poor, the federal government will continue to pay for everything. If someone is fabulously wealthy, then they would pay more. Along the way, by the way, it's important to stress no one can be denied care and the amount of subsidy the federal government would increase as someone aged.
This is the program that someone could choose the plan that met their needs, not have a one-size-fits-all come from Washington. And traditional Medicare would remain as an option. And, by the way, the plan in concept was first conceived of by John Breaux, our former Democratic senator from Louisiana. So, if you will, it has bipartisan parentage.
WESTERMAN: What would it take to get such an alternative to President Obama's health care law passed? And what would role would you play in orchestrating that?
CASSIDY: Well, first thing regarding President Obama's health care law, let's be honest, if he's re-elected, his law is the law of the land. Okay? And if President Romney comes in, then President Romney has vowed to repeal. Now, if you will, there's three aspects to health care. There's the Medicare market for senior citizens, there's the Medicaid market for those who are lower-income and then there's the private insurance market. Medicare, I think we already have a pretty decent proposal in the widened Ryan plan that we discussed earlier. Medicaid, I have my own bill I've worked on called the "Mack Act”, kind of based upon my experience here in Louisiana working in our charity hospital system and as a state legislator. And then for the private insurance market, some of the Republican alternatives is that let’s give somebody, a family-earned individual an advance-able tax credit or something similar. Whereby she could or her family could pool them together and purchase a private insurance policy. If they're employed, they could use it as their share, their employee's match for their employer-sponsored insurance. If they're in an individual market, they can buy high-deductible health plan with an H.S.A. or a more traditional policy, perhaps by adding some of their own money.
WESTERMAN: I have a question that we here at WRKF as well as our listeners, I'm sure, are interested to know the answer to: why do you want to cut funding for public broadcasting?
CASSIDY: I think you're referring to federal funding.
CASSIDY: I actually don't want to cut funding. I listen to WRKF. Right now, I support you through my taxpayer dollars. I don't want your funding cut, at all. What I am concerned about is the federal contribution. Turns out, we are borrowing $0.42 of every federal dollar that we spend. Now, when I was elected four years ago, that was $0.38, I think, maybe I'm off a percent. Now it's 42 and it’s projected to grow until ultimately, we will be like one of these countries like Greece with an unsustainable debt. Our future will be limited. Now, I'm older than you, so it may not impact me, but it'll impact you. Public radio is an institution. NPR, a wonderful set of programming – don't always agree with you, but I still enjoy the programming. That said, when money is tight, even good things sometimes have to be put on the line. I don’t want to cut your funding, but I do want to balance the federal budget so I want your funding to shift more to the private sector.
WESTERMAN: All of your opponents are marketing themselves as alternatives to the two mainstream parties who have been in power forever. As part of one of these mainstream parties, why should people vote you back into office over your opponents?
CASSIDY: People should not vote for a party; they should vote for an individual that kind of embodies what they would like to see happening in government, hopefully somebody that reflects their own values. If the people think that my values of a person who cares passionately about my community, about my state and about my country, if they look at my resume, and they like those aspects of my resume then hopefully they'll support me. If they want something different than that bio and conservative, Republican values, then they should support somebody else.