Feb. 21 (Bloomberg) -- New Hampshire Democratic Governor Maggie Hassan said in an interview with Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend, that President Barack Obama’s health-care law is overcoming its troubled rollout and accomplishing its goals.
(This is not a legal transcript. Bloomberg LP cannot guarantee its accuracy.)
AL HUNT: We begin the program with New Hampshire Governor Maggie Hassan. Governor, thank you so much for joining us.
GOV. MAGGIE HASSAN: Thanks for having me.
HUNT: Let’s start off with health care, because every state is affected by that. Your state has -- you’re going to have the Medicaid expansion, buy private insurance. I think you’re going to sign that bill. The rollout of Obamacare was really, really flawed. How’s it going now?
HASSAN: Well, we were all frustrated by the rollout of the website. And it wasn’t acceptable. But in the meantime, as you just talked about, we’ve been working in New Hampshire to make sure that we could expand health-care coverage through Medicaid, but then very quickly on to private insurance, something that was important for a bipartisan coalition in our state.
And so we are looking forward to having that new health-care expansion, a New Hampshire-specific model, signed, and meanwhile our enrollments on our exchange, which is a federal partnership exchange, because our last legislature passed laws that prohibited the state from setting up its own, the enrollment is really going very, very well and is due to meet projections or even exceed them.
HUNT: So do you think Obamacare is going to be, I guess, politically popular or will it remain controversial? Or is it going to change as it takes effect?
HASSAN: I think that, again, the rollout was frustrating and unacceptable. I think people are trying to understand how it affects them. But what’s important, as we improve it and as we get the mechanics of it to work better, is to remember what the Affordable Care Act is really doing for the people of my state and the country. We wanted to make sure people who’ve never been able to have coverage before have it.
So the people who are getting this health-care expansion through the Medicaid program and then to private insurance, that’s about 50,000 people in my state who haven’t had access to health care. We had people who had pre-existing conditions who now have access. We have young people who can stay on their parents’ health insurance...
HUNT: You sound like an optimist about Obamacare.
HASSAN: I’m an optimist about it, because, again, it’s about getting coverage, because we all know that a healthy population creates a healthy workforce and a healthy economy, because people will have access to private and -- primary and preventive care, and that will bring costs down.
In our state, we’ve had high health-care costs and high health-care premiums for a long time, even for people who could get insurance, and we know that a family plan in New Hampshire - - about $1,000 a year of that cost was for uninsured. So we’ll see uninsured go down. We are going to have some challenges implementing this. Every new project is like this, I think. But we are confident that the bipartisan nature of the agreement we’ve just reached is a very good foundation for us to move forward.
HUNT: Let me turn to another issue, the minimum wage. You’ve called for an increase in your state, I think, to $8.25.
HUNT: And then...
HASSAN: Well, what I’ve done -- New Hampshire -- the Tea Party repealed our minimum wage altogether in the last session, so I’ve called for a restoration of our minimum wage, which used to be tied to the federal minimum wage. I think we should increase it. I’m encouraging workers and businesses to come to the table to engage...
HUNT: So you don’t have a number yet?
HASSAN: ... in what the number should be, right.
HUNT: Right. You know, there was a CBO report out last week that did say it would lift people out of poverty and increase the minimum wage, but also it could lose -- they estimated -- as many as 500,000 jobs. That would probably translate into a 1,000 or so in New Hampshire. Does that worry you?
HASSAN: No, because I really don’t think the CBO has it right. If you look at the Federal Reserve in Chicago, for instance, they estimate that it will increase -- I think it was GDP by -- or our economic growth about 0.3 percent. What’s important to think about here -- and we have a lot of experience with the minimum wage in the United States -- first of all, the basic principle is that people who work really hard, 40 hours a week or more, should be able to sustain their families without public assistance.
Right now, the minimum wage -- a single earner earns $14,000 a year. And when you travel throughout New Hampshire, you’ll have people say, nobody can live on $14,000 a year without help. Secondly, though, is when people have the financial security that an increase in the minimum wage would bring, a raise would bring to most families, then they have the confidence to buy more goods and services, so businesses have more customers, and that spurs economic growth. I think that’s what you’ve seen a lot of Nobel laureates say in response to the CBO report.
HUNT: There are many things that are special about New Hampshire, but one of your signatures is the New Hampshire primary, which...
HUNT: ... which many of us have gone to for many, many years. If Hillary Clinton runs next time, is it all over before it begins, no point in holding a Democratic primary?
HASSAN: Well, no, I -- I really have been focused on being governor of New Hampshire...
HUNT: Yeah, I know.
HASSAN: ... which is one of the greatest jobs in the world.
Hillary Clinton is obviously somebody who’s done so many things and is so qualified to be president, but what I think we all need to focus on is making sure that our state is hospitable to all candidates who are interested in running for the presidency.
HUNT: So you wouldn’t think it would be an uncontested contest?
HASSAN: I think that New Hampshire -- the New Hampshire primary’s hallmark is that all candidates can come, big-name candidates, candidates who many people haven’t necessarily heard of yet, and they can engage with one of the most engaged citizenries in the world in a wonderful state where we want to vet people from the ground up.
HUNT: Let me try one more time, and that is you don’t -- I guess what I’m asking is, does she clear the field, if she should choose to run?
HASSAN: I really have just been focused on being governor, and I haven’t really...
HUNT: So you’re not -- I’m not going to get you to bite on that, am I, Governor?
HASSAN: I am...
HUNT: I’m trying.
HASSAN: I am really -- I want to make sure that our process works well I have a saying that we do democracy better in New Hampshire than anywhere else, and that’s what I’m committed to doing.
HUNT: One thing you do is elect women, because you have a woman governor, you, you have two women senators, two women members of the House of Representatives. Your other party, the Republican Party, even though one of those is a Republican, has real problems with women voters. Why is that?
HASSAN: Well, I think what we’ve been focused on as Democrats is making sure that every American has opportunity, understanding that when we leverage the talent and energy of everybody, not only is it wonderful for individuals, it’s wonderful for our economy and for our civic life.
And I think when you look at the kind of problem-solving agenda that Democrats have led on -- and I take my inspiration on this and my model for this from the people of my state, who solve problems together without regard to difference all the time -- I think when you look at those kinds of -- or a problem-solving agenda, and you look at an agenda that says, let’s make everybody’s on equal footing to compete and contribute, then you welcome women in.
One of the issues that we’re really championing right now, because it’s important to so many women and families, is making sure that women and men are paid equally. An equal day’s work deserves an equal day’s pay. We know that women who work full-time generally earn $0.77 on the dollar for men who work full-time. And what’s interesting is, we also know that when women earn more, men and women and their families succeed. So I think those are the kinds of initiatives that people care about, because it matters to them.
HUNT: Now, I’m going to do what I said I wasn’t going to do a minute ago. I’m going to go back to presidential politics for a minute, because Rand Paul a couple of weeks ago said that if Senator Clinton would run -- she’s a woman, she’d appeal to women voters -- but that the Bill Clinton dalliance with an intern would hurt her with women voters. Do you believe that?
HASSAN: I think women and men care about having the opportunity to succeed, to contribute economically, to build their families.
HUNT: And that’s the issue, not the other stuff?
HASSAN: And that’s the issue. I think, you know, we spend a lot of time trying to divide issues into women’s issues or not. Women’s issues are economic issues They’re people issues.
HUNT: I think you’re telling me that that wouldn’t be an issue.
HASSAN: I think women care about having the same opportunities as men do.
HUNT And think they’re more important.
HUNT: One final question. New Hampshire primary, the Republicans are moving up their dates. They’re going to still give New Hampshire a carve-out, but they’re going to kind of compress the schedule. Does that threaten to diminish the importance of the New Hampshire primary?
HASSAN: The New Hampshire primary has the distinction and advantage of being a place, as I talked about a few minutes ago, where everybody can compete and be vetted in a real grassroots democracy. As long as we can be first, which is important for us, again, because we are not a big media market kind of primary, real people meet candidates, test candidates, ask questions. It’s all done openly. It’s very transparent.
I think it’s a very important start, because it evens out the playing field. Money isn’t as important as it is further down the road. We’ll do just fine because of the quality of our primary. But I will fight very hard to keep the primary first and to make sure we have enough lead time to maximize the value of the primary for the American people.
HUNT: Governor Hassan, best of luck at the Governors Association meeting in Washington this weekend.
HASSAN: Thank you very much.
HUNT: Thank you for joining us.
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