JOHN HOCKENBERRY for The Takeaway: : Joining us, we are thrilled to have Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm on the phone from Michigan, who we’re speaking with because she met with President Barack Obama yesterday on the issue of healthcare, the issue that got a little bit buried in the Sanford coverage. First of all, Governor Granholm, thanks so much for joining us.
GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM: You bet, thanks for having me on.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: How was the meeting with the President yesterday? What are his concerns? There’s really a collaborative effort there between Washington and statehouses on the whole issue of health care reform.
GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM: Well, governors are the ones who see it happen on the ground, who implement Medicaid, who have to deal with the cost of Medicare and so the President met with a bipartisan group of governors, part of a group of nine governors who hosted regional health care forums around the country in March and April. We wanted to go and share with him what we learned from not just the forums, but from our experience as governors. There’s just so much, I know you hear a lot about what’s going on in D.C. and the Republicans and the Democrats and they’re at odds. The governors, we’re very pragmatic and we have a whole array of things that we agree on. So we really went to underscore the importance of urgency and of making sure our voices are in the mix because we really want to see health care reform, and we want it now because it affects the economy as well.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Governor, let’s break out some of those issues, because I want people to understand firmly what the centers of power and policy are in statehouses. Let’s take the concerns about costs for Medicare and Medicaid. What is the chance that this whole reform process is going to saddle states like Michigan with mandates they can’t afford right at the time when their fiscal house is so rickety to begin with?
GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM: That’s one of the things that we wanted to bring to make sure that he is committed to not putting more costs on the states. Of course states have to balance their budgets. We don’t have the luxury of what’s happening in Washington. And so as we go through this reform transition, reform is not going to happen overnight. We want to make sure that if they expand populations, for example, of people who are eligible for health care, that they don’t put that burden on the backs of states, which are having to lay people off, having to cut police and fire, having to cut lots of things to make sure that we balance. That was one of the things we certainly all agree on. And I think that will be part of, I believe very strongly that will be part of, both the House and the Senate versions.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Michigan is in a special category. And far be it for me to say that a 14.1 percent unemployment rate in Michigan is any kind of a policy opportunity, but many have described that one of the obstacles of health care reform is many people tend to stay with their coverage. In Michigan, with the enormous numbers of unemployed and the rising uninsured, does the state have the opportunity to sweep up these uninsured with proper resources from the federal government, and really take a stab at making a state wide, state pool of insured to deliver health care reform?
GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM: Certainly. If you think about it, we’re the poster child for this now. The reason why our economy is in such a difficult position is because of the auto industry. The auto industry had to compete with countries, companies in countries, where they provide health care. Last year, before the auto meltdown, there were more cars that were being built in Ontario, Canada than in Michigan for the first time. And they were going there, those auto companies, because healthcare was provided. So if you’re going to compete on a global playing field, you have to make sure that our job providers get some relief for this and not put the burden on the back of business. That’s one reason why we are in this fix. And the other thing is we have, it’s sort of a morbid, I don’t want to say joke, but we have a saying that the auto companies are really health care companies who make cars to pay for it. We don’t want to see other companies or other states go through what Michigan is going through. We could be the example of why this is so important, and why it’s so important right now. Yes, there is an opportunity to provide larger degrees of coverage, maybe you have skinnied down benefits. But what you really want to do is give people, if they’ve got good health care you want to give them the choice of keeping that. There’s so much waste in the system right now.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Let me just ask you one quick question, under 15-20 seconds here because we have to go: you can actually pool your resources and make things cheaper at the state level. Give me one example of how you’ve done that.
GOV. JENNIFER GRANHOLM: Yes. Economies of scale are very important. We’ve done the same things we prescription drugs, significantly reduced the cost for those who want, in our state government, in our state employees as well as senior citizens. We can do that across the country.
JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Buying in bulk. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, contributing to the national debate on health care reform. Thank you so much.