Kyl: Health Care Fix Should Be Right, Not Just Quick

The much talked about public option in the plans to overhaul health care, is a major sticking point for most Republicans. Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona talks with Linda Wertheimer about how Republicans envision a workable health care plan.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:

That much-talked-about public option is a major sticking point for most Republicans. One of those Republicans is the Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl of Arizona. He joined us from his office on Capitol Hill. Good morning.

Senator JON KYL (Republican, Arizona; Senate Minority Whip): Thank you, Linda. Good morning.

WERTHEIMER: Senator Kyl, I want to begin by playing part of an ad which is produced by the liberal group MoveOn.org. The narrator is quoting a Republican member of Congress. I think its a Jim DeMint.

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Unidentified Man: If were able to stop Obama on this, it will be his Waterloo.

WERTHEIMER: Is that the way you see it, Senator Kyl, Republicans are somebody trying to stop the president in his tracks?

Sen. KYL: No, of course not. That, I gather, is a political ad. The point of slowing it down is to do what the majority of the American people want to do, according to the public opinion surveys, which is to try to get health reform right rather than to do it quickly. So, when they talk about slowing the momentum down, I actually think that its not a bad idea, and especially to give our constituents the time during the month of August when Congress is ordinarily back home to meet with us, to talk to us and tell us what they think we should do with regard to health care reform. I think when they do that, well come back in September with a much clearer picture of what our constituents really want.

WERTHEIMER: The president has argued that the status quo for health care in this country is not sustainable. Do you agree with him on that?

Sen. KYL: Well, it depends what you mean. Ninety-one percent of people, according to a Rasmussen survey, say that they have insurance, and 84 percent of them rate their insurance as excellent or good. From that standpoint, the first thing you dont want to do is to upset that which is working in our system today.

The two main problems that we have are A: The cost of insurance continues to go up, making it more difficult for small businesses in particular to provide it to their workers and for individuals to obtain it. And there is a segment of our population that is not covered. Now thats not the same as not receiving health care. They do receive health care, but it would be better not to go to the emergency room, but rather to be insured.

Those are different problems, though, with specific solutions to them, solutions that Republicans have proposed, and it doesnt require a complete transformation or government takeover of our system. And I think thats what concerns people.

WERTHEIMER: So considering what is on the table, as you say, would you prefer to see no health care overhaul than those proposals?

Sen. KYL: Well, than the proposals that are out there, absolutely. Those are inimical to patients choice. Its hugely costly, the debt that this country will have at the end of this health care proposal would be not sustainable.

WERTHEIMER: And do you think that would be worse than the current situation?

Sen. KYL: Absolutely. Thats not to say that we shouldnt try to deal with the two issues that I specifically mentioned. But I really believe that over the month of August, the American people are going to sort this out, tell their representatives that they dont like these costly bills that potentially jeopardize their health care, that they would prefer to do something that is more narrowly tailored to address specific problems.

WERTHEIMER: Senator Baucus has said he wants to see the shape of a bill by the 15th. Hes set a deadline of September 15th for himself.

Sen. KYL: Mm-hmm.

WERTHEIMER: And I wonder if you think that whatever it is that the Congress decides to do will be something we can look at by that date?

Sen. KYL: Hes set several other deadlines, too, and he hasnt been able to meet them. And I worry a little bit that by setting that deadline, he could be setting himself up for not the best situation. Lets put it that way. If there is no bipartisan agreement by that time, then he would be putting a partisan bill before the committee, and most people, I think, in the administration and on Capitol Hill dont see that as the best way to get this done.

WERTHEIMER: Do you think were going to have health care overhaul?

Sen. KYL: I think we will have some changes, hopefully by the end of the year. But I also think that itll be easier if we try to do this kind of one step at a time, tackling specific problems with specific solutions rather than trying to overhaul the entire system.

WERTHEIMER: Senator Kyl, thank you very much.

Sen. KYL: Youre very welcome.

WERTHEIMER: Senator John Kyl of Arizona. Hes a member of the Republican leadership in the Senate.

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WERTHEIMER: You can get updates on the health care debate at NPR News Blog, the Two-Way. Its all at the new npr.org.

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WERTHEIMER: Youre listening to MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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