Rep. Jim Hagedorn, R-Minn., is passionate about health care policy. His state is home to the headquarters of the Mayo Clinic, which he calls “the preeminent institution of medicine in all the world.” Hagedorn also is receiving treatment at Mayo following a diagnosis of kidney cancer. We discuss health care policy and why “Medicare for All” isn’t the answer.
Also, former Rep. Dave Brat of Virginia joins the show to talk about his transition from the public sector to the private sector and his perspective on the education system given his new role as the dean of Liberty University’s School of Business.
Rachel del Guidice: We’re joined today on The Daily Signal Podcast by Congressman Jim Hagedorn of Minnesota. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us today.
Jim Hagedorn: Ah, yes. It’s great to be with you, Rachel.
Del Guidice: Well, thank you for being here. To start off, your district includes the Mayo Clinic and you’re very passionate about health care, free markets, and how Mayo Clinic has been able to grow there because of the free markets that you have. Can you tell us about that and why socialist policies would harm the progress that is there?
Hagedorn: Sure, yeah. Southern Minnesota is home to many great institutions of medicine. We have some fine rural hospitals, including … the Mayo Clinic, which is the preeminent institution of medicine in all the world.
The quality that we have in the United States for medical care is second to none and I don’t ever want to see that degraded and the opportunity that we have to receive bio-pharmaceutical cures that are literally saving people’s lives and letting people live the best life possible.
It’s just happening every day. All these cures that are coming out. Making sure we protect that is really important.
The Mayo Clinic also has, and a lot of our hospitals across the country, an enormous economic effect in and around them. We have like 40,000 people that work at Mayo in Rochester every day and there’s 100,000 people across my district directly and indirectly employed by medical care. It’s really something.
Del Guidice: You’re particularly passionate about Mayo Clinic and the care they give because personally, for you, you’ve been receiving cancer treatments there. Can you tell us a little bit about that and why you are so passionate about Mayo Clinic?
Hagedorn: About a year ago I was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer and I’m very fortunate that they found it before I had any real symptoms. And since then I’ve been receiving treatment at Mayo Clinic and my doctor, [Lance] Pagliaro, [is] just a terrific oncologist.
All the people there, the technicians, the doctors, the nurses, [are] very caring folks and it’s like that, again, like I said, at all of our rural hospitals across the district and many fine institutions across our country.
But to have that opportunity to get in quickly, to be able to start treatment quickly, and then have pros that know what to do, it’s been something, [it] saved my life.
The treatments are going well, cancer’s disappearing, going away. I never missed a day of my job in the last year. And some of these immunotherapies, which is what I’m on, are just game-changers. The treatment allows my body to identify the cancer and then have my own immune system go in and kill it.
So, like I said, very little side effects. I’m very fortunate and the people out there have been so supportive and I appreciate that.
Del Guidice: Thank you so much for sharing that with us. Looking at the good work Mayo Clinic does, how would that be hampered by more socialist policies coming into your state? For example, “Medicare for All,” that lawmakers both from the House and Senate support, and how would that be hampered by the good work Mayo Clinic does?
Hagedorn: Good work. I think of all of our institutions of medicine in the United States, really when you look at Medicare for All and things like the public option, that’s going to put more and more people on government insurance and government insurance reimburses our doctors and hospitals at a lower rate.
Usually for Medicaid it’s about 25 cents on the dollar. Medicare up at about 40 cents. But the way hospitals and doctors make up the difference is they have people on private insurance that come in and pay more.
And so Medicare for All public options is going to lead to more and more of this government and it’s going to take away, ultimately, health insurance from people who get it through the private sector—180 million people, that’s not good.
It’s going to take money out of the system for our doctors and hospitals. That’s not good. That’s going to degrade care.
It’s going to force people to have longer waiting systems. We’re going to end up like they are in many other countries like Canada and the United Kingdom.
I bring up the United Kingdom because the drug regimen that I’m on that was approved by the FDA within the last year, that’s not even available in the United Kingdom. They rejected it due to cost. And so there are lots of people around the world who are suffering, not even able to get the most advanced treatment because of socialism.
And then on top of all that, when you look at the difference between socialists’ systems of medicine and our free market system, which is, unfortunately, very bureaucratic and highly regulated—some of that due to Obamacare—but the difference is a person in my situation can get diagnosed by a specialist and receive treatment within weeks.
In these socialist countries, it can be months and months. And often by the time the treatment starts it’s too late. It’s just terrible.
Del Guidice: Given that reality, what would you say to people, maybe young people who are fans of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who think this Medicare for All will be a wonderful solution. What is your message to them?
Hagedorn: Well, the VA system that we have in the United States is the closest that the Medicare for All would resemble. We’d ultimately get to that point and we want people to have choice.
If you don’t have choice and options and you have to rely on the government—which doesn’t always do a very good job in a lot of areas, being efficient and responsive—you’re going to be in a position where people aren’t going to have much choice and they’re not going to have much hope.
What we want in the United States is if there’s a problem with somebody, we want to treat that problem and do everything possible to give people long life and the best life possible, and that isn’t the case in these socialist systems.
I think once people kind of look at that and feel it a little bit and talk to people that have been in circumstances like mine and many, many millions of others across the country, they might come to a different conclusion.
Del Guidice: What do constituents in Minnesota think about these policies when they hear people talk about Medicare for All? I’m sure some of them have received really great care like you have at Mayo Clinic. Are they skeptical of it because of how well Mayo Clinic is doing? That’s a shining example of what the free market does for health care.
Hagedorn: When you look at what’s going on in Rochester, Minnesota, with Mayo, we have hundreds of thousands of people from around the world that travel there every year for care because it is the finest care in the world.
But again, we have all these wonderful institutions of medicine, the rural hospitals, people are getting quality care across the United States.
I think people, when they understand what can happen with socialism and more government control, they realize, “No, that’s not the route we want to go.”
Can it be expensive care? Can pharmaceutical products be expensive? Yes. And we can deal with costs through competition across state lines or nationwide association plans, price transparency, which helps people shop to drive down the cost of health care.
And then things like high-risk pool so everybody in our country, no matter their condition—they could have expensive preexisting medical needs—they’d get timely, quality medical care, but not everybody else would have to pay for it through their premiums.
Those types of things that we can do more market-oriented make a lot of sense.
But right now the Democrats and Republicans, they both agree on this: Obamacare hasn’t worked. Republicans said it hasn’t worked from the beginning. Democrats say you need to go further.
And what the Democrats offer with the Medicare for All in the public option is going to destroy the quality of medicine that we have. And [it] is going to, unfortunately, hurt people and curtail people’s lives down the road.
I’m going to fight that every step of the way. I’ll never vote for it.
Del Guidice: Thank you for your leadership on that. Switching gears a little bit to trade, you attended the signing ceremony for the USMCA [United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement] at the White House and it passed both the House and the Senate and there was bipartisan support. What is your perspective on how this will foster free trade?
Hagedorn: I’m glad that the bipartisan support materialized at the end, but people like myself, I was out there fronting for a USMCA for about 10 months.
We carried our little sign in parades and everything else. [We] had the secretary of agriculture out to Farmfest in Minnesota and he held up our sign.
We just wanted everyone to know that 48% of trade in Minnesota, [agricultural] trade, goes to either Canada and Mexico. To augment that in any way, it’s going to be a good deal, especially for our dairy farmers who weren’t even included in the original NAFTA [North American Free Trade Agreement].
But I also thought that a passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada free trade agreement was going to help us build momentum for other deals with countries like China. And we’ve seen that with China Phase One, we want to get to Phase Two.
We hope they buy our [agricultural] products and President [Donald] Trump’s holding onto the tariffs to make sure that they comply and we can get to enforcement later.
But the deal with Japan on pork and beef, that was very, very good for our farmers, especially in a livestock-heavy district like mine and Southern Minnesota.
And then you’re looking at the United Kingdom, they had the vote with Brexit to get out of the European Union. That was great for freedom, great for liberty, great for our relations, but also great for trade between our two countries.
Vietnam, also [the] deal with India. The president was just in India and people say, “How’s that going to help Southern Minnesotans?” Well, India might want to purchase as much as a billion gallons of our ethanol. That’s going to create demand, that’s going to help support prices, and it’s going to help our world economy.
I’m going to continue to be pro-trade. We want good, fair agreements with other countries, but we need to open markets and have the opportunity for our farmers, manufacturers, and others to export around the world.
Del Guidice: Thank you for sharing that perspective.
You’ve also been busy working with Secretary Sonny Perdue—he’s the secretary of the Department of Agriculture—on a program that incentivizes the sales of renewable fuels and expands ethanol availability.
You mentioned ethanol very briefly, but can you tell us a little bit more about that project you’re working on?
Hagedorn: The secretary has actually been very proactive in making sure that we can continue to promote the biofuels industry. And I support that because it helps with excess production.
In many ways these additives are making things cleaner and helping the overall economy, especially in rural areas.
If there was one area of disagreement with the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] and the president’s administration, it was the way they were giving out waivers for small refiners. That wasn’t exactly what the Congress intended, he was undermining the ethanol and biodiesel program.
But the president has promised that we’re going to blend up to 15 billion gallons of ethanol and 2.4 billion gallons of biodiesel. And that’s a good thing.
And we’re going to hold the EPA’s feet to the fire and make sure that the Renewable Fuel Standard is implemented the way Congress intended and the way the president has directed.
Del Guidice: We’ve been talking a lot about trade, we’ve been talking about agricultural policy. If there was one issue additionally that you think Congress should be working on, what is that?
Hagedorn: Well, we are working on it. I’ve been leading to let people know about another virus … We all heard about the coronavirus, and rightly so, and we’re concerned and taking steps to try to protect our country and help people around the world. But there’s the African swine flu, which has devastated the hog population in China.
This has been happening over the last year. Half of China’s hogs or more have been slaughtered because of it. And it’s affecting people in Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, and it’s in the Europe now.
[It’s] a great opportunity for our country. We can export more pork products, probably poultry as well. But what a challenge. How do we keep that from getting into the United States?
We worked on a bill, the Senate passed one over to us a couple of weeks ago. I spoke on the House floor and that’s going to augment the number of inspectors and beagle brigades at our points of entry to try to sniff out, find these pork products and keep them from coming into the United States. That’s the way our pork would be effected.
People laugh at the beagle brigades, but they’re really good at sniffing out the pork. I said, “They’re so good, we should take them down to the Appropriations Committee and get to work on the deficit like that.”
But if the African swine fever makes it into the United States, it’ll affect more than just the pork producers. It’ll be our corn, it’ll be our soy bean growers. It’s going to be our packers, the truckers, everybody down the line to Main Street where they’ll have less money and then the American people will suffer because the price of our meat products will go up.
Yeah, we’re very concerned about that and want to raise awareness of it and we’re going to continue to do what we can to protect our food supply and our farmers.
Del Guidice: Well, Congressman Jim Hagedorn of Minnesota, thank you so much for joining us on The Daily Signal Podcast.
Hagedorn: It’s a pleasure to be with you. Thank you.