Health care continues to be a top issue for Americans, but it’s not getting much attention from Congress. Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., a urologist, brings a unique perspective to the health care debate. Read a lightly edited transcript of the interview, posted below, or listen to the podcast:
We also cover:
- Why Chick-fil-A’s surrender in the culture wars is so depressing.
- What happened during Tuesday’s impeachment hearings.
- Why college students protest economist Art Laffer.
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Rachel del Guidice: We’re joined today on The Daily Signal Podcast by Congressman Greg Murphy of North Carolina. Congressman Murphy, thank you so much for being here with us today.
Greg Murphy: Thank you so much for having me.
del Guidice: So, you’re a freshman in Congress, and before serving in Congress, you worked as a urologist. Can you tell us a little bit about your road to Congress?
Murphy: My road Congress is an interesting one. Four years ago, I was fully employed as a surgeon in Greenville, North Carolina. I was chief of staff of our trauma center, our thousand-bed medical center, and the opportunity availed itself to serve in the General Assembly in North Carolina.
We had a vacancy in the North Carolina House, and I was asked by the community to see if I would serve. And I put my name forward, and then two and a half terms later, by the grace of God and all other things involved, I ended up in the United States Congress.
del Guidice: … Looking back a little bit, what led you to become a medical doctor? What was that journey like?
Murphy: That journey began, actually, when I was very young. My father was a physician, although, he really only practiced for about a year and did some other work in research, so I became acclimated a little bit and experienced with the medical field.
But I think the thing that drew me most to medicine was the fact that on the most basic level, you are caring for another person—oftentimes, in their hour of need and their deepest time. And I was really attracted to that, really to try to make a difference in people’s lives.
How I turned into a surgeon is a different story. Once I got into medical school, I really enjoyed working with my hands and dissection and stuff, and so the two married themselves very well together and that’s how I became a surgeon.
del Guidice: As a doctor, given the years of experience you have in the medical field, what do you think of our current health care system right now in this country?
Murphy: I think in the United States we have the best health care system in the world. We have a lot of problems with it. We have a delivery problem, we have an access problem, we have a pricing problem, and while we have the highest level of technology available in the world, we still have a lot of problems with infant mortality, with access to care. There are a lot of problems that need to be fixed in the United States health care system.
del Guidice: What reform in health care would you say is needed first and foremost, if you could single out one thing? [What is] one thing that you say would need attention the soonest?
Murphy: That’s a hard question to ask because, to be honest with you, that’s a two-hour lecture because there’s so many different push points that need to be attended to. But I think one of the biggest problems is access to health care, and access to health care involves not only being able to get in to see a physician and getting taken care of, but also being able to afford your medications.
And that’s really become a pinnacle issue, the unaffordability of medications in the United States, especially compared to Canada or Mexico, our congruent countries, and something needs to be done about that and soon.
del Guidice: Looking back at what happened in the past years with President [Barack] Obama mandating the Affordable Care Act and Obamacare, how would you say Obamacare changed health care?
Murphy: I think it devastated health care, and I said that soon after it was brought forth. It was a massive bureaucracy that was ill-conceived, miscalculated, pushed upon the American people. It’s created a coverage gap for individuals that can’t afford insurance.
The great lies that you would be able to have cheaper health care and keep your doctor are readily apparent now. It needs to be thrown out, and a new system needs to be worked through.
del Guidice: … One of [Democrats’] talking points that we hear a lot in the news is that Republicans don’t care about preexisting conditions. And given your passion in health care working in that space, what do you see as ways we can address preexisting conditions?
Murphy: To say that Republicans don’t care about preexisting conditions is utterly false. It is not true. We have addressed that issue. We will continue to address that issue.
It is through no fault of someone’s own, if they walk in to get insurance one day and God forbid they find out they have a kidney cancer a week or two later, that that should not be covered or treated. So, to say that about the Republican cause is simply not true.
del Guidice: Something else we’re seeing today, a different up-and-coming, I guess, [is] political celebrities like [Rep.] Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, [Sen.] Bernie Sanders—this isn’t anything new for him. They’re all pushing “Medicare for All.” How do you think something like Medicare for All would change medicine?
Murphy: Well, first of all, I question the fact that they’re celebrities because they’re not experts in this field. They’re experts in emotion, and when we start making rules and statutes and laws based upon emotion, we’re going to end up in a horrible state in this country.
Medicare for All, if you look at our VA system, let’s look at our VA system, the government-run health care system, which is horribly inefficient, horrible when it comes to access of care. That’s what Medicare for All looks like. It would be a single-payer system, and it would be something, to be honest with you, the American public would not tolerate.
del Guidice: So, I know that a passion of yours is lowering prescription drug prices. What do you think is the best way to go about doing that?
Murphy: There are several different ways. Again, that’s part of my two-hour lecture. One of my pet peeves, to be very honest, is the fact that we are one of two countries in the world that allow direct-to-consumer advertising, and 8 out of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in this nation, their No. 1 cost is advertising. And that’s paying for Super Bowl ads, that’s paying for television slots on the news programs.
As a practicing physician, one of the things that oftentimes would bug me the most is when patients came in with a scribble downed article about a medicine that they heard about, and I have to spend time explaining to them that what was presented in the advertisement really wasn’t correct and how that medicine is not new for them.
I’m all about companies advertising to those of us who prescribe it so that we can be educated and prescribe the correct medication, but I think that is a total waste of patients’ money to have that out on the airwaves.
del Guidice: So, before coming to Congress, you worked in the opioid epidemic when you were a state lawmaker in North Carolina. What needs to be done on that front?
Murphy: There’s a lot that needs to be done nationally. We really did great things in North Carolina to try to address the opioid epidemic. I look at it at times, really, as a three-legged stool. We work very hard. I was the primary sponsor of something called the STOP Act, which was aimed at, essentially, prescribers like myself trying to dial back the number of pills that we prescribed. And we were met with great success.
It took us awhile, but in North Carolina, over the last three and a half, four years, the number of prescription opioids has gone down 40%. That’s one leg of the stool, oversupply.
The other part is the illegal, illicit drugs, which are really now becoming the worst problem, is that people are getting cheap fentanyl through illegal means. And the HOPE Act, another bill that I sponsored, dealt with helping law enforcement deal with illegal activity.
The final leg is really where the most effort is going to be made, and needs to be made, and that’s going to be assistance with mental health.
People need to understand that addiction is a disease. It is a change in the chemistry of the body. It is a change in the chemistry of the brain, and that does not go away without treatment. Oftentimes, lifelong treatment, and if we’re really going to be able to make a dent in this horrible plague that’s hit the country, that’s where the final push needs to go.
del Guidice: You’ve also worked as a medical missionary. Can you tell me a little bit about that experience working as a missionary serving people, and did any experiences particularly linger with you?
Murphy: Yes. I feel like that’s been the greatest experience of my life, being able to serve people in other countries.
Actually, I started when I was only 20 years old, and I spent a summer in India working in a leprosy hospital in the northeast corner. … Since then [I’ve] operated in multiple countries throughout Africa, have worked in Nicaragua over the last 15 years. But the pinnacle of all those experiences was in Haiti right after the earthquake in 2010.
I took a group of 17 doctors, nurses, and personnel down into Port-au-Prince, only about six and a half, seven days after the earthquake. And to be very honest with you and very frank, it was truly a descent into hell. There were still bodies all around. People were living out in the streets because they wouldn’t go into dwellings because of aftershocks.
I met the most remarkable person I’ve ever met, Father Rick Frechette, a Passionist priest, a Catholic priest from Connecticut who’s been working in Haiti for over 30 years. And seeing him and his dedication to the poor and caring for the poor and the downtrodden, just is a daily lesson for me in priorities and trying to keep life on an even keel and really understanding what’s important and what’s not so important.
del Guidice: Thank you so much for sharing that perspective. So, looking at the countries you’ve been to, seeing their systems, did encountering these other countries’ medical systems change how you saw the United States medical system at all?
Murphy: Definitely, definitely. If you look at some of the, obviously, the poorer countries that we go to, and in some instances there is some government-run health care, but we’re talking about only for extreme emergencies and poorly functioning, at best. And in those countries, essentially, if you can pay for health care, you get it. If you don’t, you’re out of luck.
I mean, there are a lot of countries still in this world that if your kidneys fail and you need dialysis, you don’t have a choice. You die. You aren’t able to get dialysis. And God forbid we would ever have that in this country, but people need to understand that this does exist in the world.
There are some other countries, Australia for example, that runs a two-tier system, where there is a basic level of care afforded to everyone, but if you wanted a higher level of care, then you purchase insurance. Now, right or wrong, that’s a system that works for them.
They have a fairly homogeneous population. We don’t in the United States. That’s why some people talk about health care in Sweden and Finland being so good. Well, No. 1, it’s gone bankrupt. And No. 2, they have a very different population in needs than we do in our country.
So, where we’re going to move to is probably a hybrid of those. We’re going to have to take care of those who don’t. We have a patchwork system that does that now. It does what it does, but it’s really truly not effective [at meeting] people’s [needs], especially their preventative needs.
del Guidice: Just looking at, you mentioned Finland, Sweden, these other countries where their health care systems have gone bankrupt. … We hear all of the positive things, but then when you look at the numbers, like you’re mentioning, they’re not adding up. So, what do you think is behind that?
Murphy: Well, it is what it is. I think part of our media bias loves to be able to report things that are very pro/for socialism and socialistic policies, but they’re not willing to report the horrible parts of socialism and socialistic policies. And if only we had a truth meter on every media article and every newscast, it would be wonderful to have that for the American people so they can really find out what the truth is.
del Guidice: So, we just celebrated Veterans Day, and I know that your district has a very strong military presence and that’s something that’s really important to you. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Murphy: We had a fantastic experience on a Veterans Day. I was in a parade in Morehead City down on the coast. I celebrated with two cities in Pitt County, one in Greenville and one in Ayden [during] their Veterans Day celebrations, and it was just fantastic. And just coinciding this, recently the Marines celebrated their 244th birthday, and it was fantastic to celebrate both with the Marines at Camp Lejeune and then at Cherry Point.
del Guidice: Last question to wrap up. I know that your district has a market interest in coastal issues. What are some of those issues and how are you wanting to represent them in Congress?
Murphy: [In] eastern North Carolina, we celebrate our coastline, we celebrate our water. Commercial fishing, recreational fishing, tourism, all those are [an] over $3 billion industry to eastern North Carolina.
There are a lot of issues that are affecting our coast right now. Obviously, with these storms and hurricanes, we’re having a lot of challenges both with infrastructure and just with daily living and tourism, so being here in the United States Congress to support them is a good thing. Something of which I take very seriously and [I] will advocate for them tremendously.
del Guidice: Well, Congressman Murphy, thank you so much for being with us today on The Daily Signal Podcast.
Murphy: Thank you for having me. I appreciate the time.