In an exclusive interview Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 am to 8:00 am – host Michael Patrick Leahy spoke with Dr. Manny Sethi in-studio to discuss why he’s running for Tennessee Senate.
During the third hour, Sethi explained what his top priorities would be if elected Senator. He stressed how important healthcare pricing transparency, insurance, and prevention was and his commitment to those as his first priorities if elected.
Leahy: Carol Swain is with us and special guest and good friend in for the second time in the studio, Dr. Manny Sethi who’s running for the Republican nomination for the Senate here in Tennessee. Manny, welcome to The Tennessee Star Report.
Sethi: Thank you so much, Mike. Thanks for having me on brother. I appreciate it.
Leahy: We were talking about how hectic your schedule is. You are an emergency room surgeon.
Sethi: I’m an orthopedic trauma surgeon at Vanderbilt.
Leahy: Yes. And you’re doing that job as well.
Sethi: I’m still trying to practice yeah.
Leahy: So, how many events do you have a day? And how often do you go in and practice?
Sethi: Well you know, I’m in the hospital trying to be there for at least a day during the week. But we’ve been all across Tennessee. Almost all 95 counties. We do about six to seven events every day talking to people. Crowds are growing.
More people are hearing about a conservative outsider whose parents were immigrants and lived the American dream in Tennessee. They just want something different. It’s been incredible to travel the state and share a message with folks.
Leahy: We’re hearing a lot of people in the grassroots are resonating with that message. You’re very popular with the grassroots folks and have a good demeanor with them. We get a lot of positive comments about that. But the big question for the race is the following:
Your main opponent is the former Ambassador to Japan Bill Hagerty, and he’s been endorsed by President Trump. Donald Trump, Jr. came in last week and gave a rousing endorsement at a personal level of Bill Hagerty.
I look at this on the issues and I think for most people it’s hard to distinguish on the issues where you differ from former ambassador Hagerty. And then, Donald Trump, Jr. says, my dad, says this is my guy. So how do you address that? How do you in the voter’s mind distinguish your own candidacy?
Sethi: Well look, I love the president and I respect the president. I know you do and your listeners probably do. And the people across Tennessee love and respect the president. First of all, I don’t think people want to be told what to do. I think choosing your senator is like choosing your doctor. People don’t want a Washington insider. They don’t want someone that’s affiliated with Mitt Romney.
Leahy: So you went there with the Mitt Romney affiliation.
Sethi: And I think the policy differences, it’s hard to really, I can just tell you about mine. Mine are about creating a free market for the government. Tackling this opioid epidemic where the federal government has a one size fits all solution. And we need to empower local communities.
I know something about that because I created a non-profit that has empowered local communities. And finally, look, I’m a child of two legal immigrants who came here to rural Tennessee to help people make a difference as doctors to farmers.
And I just think this illegal immigration problem we have people are sick and tired of it, and they want a change. That’s why I’m running. Now, I’m not here to talk to you about another candidate or what their views are or aren’t. But I think ours are very clear.
Leahy: On the issue, a listener wants to say, well, do I go for former Ambassador Hagerty or Manny? Where do you differ on the issues from Ambassador Hagerty? What’s the one big, the main issue where you’re different than Bill Hagerty.
Sethi: Well I think there are a couple of issues. First of all, he hasn’t really talked much about the issues that are really on folks’ minds in Tennessee. But I will tell you, and again, when you support a presidential candidate or you’re his national finance chair, and they support universal healthcare I don’t really know where he stands.
Leahy: What exactly do you mean by that?
Sethi: I’m just saying that effectively I don’t know where he stands on healthcare. But where I stand is that I believe you need a free market climate for healthcare. But more importantly and also on the issues, I think that I am pro-life period.
I think his views are a little different. I just think there are multiple places where my views comes from real-world experience and not Washington. Taking care of patients for a decade. Being the kid of two legal immigrants. That’s what I have to offer.
Leahy: So, if you get elected to the United States Senate you’ve been sworn in. What will be the first bill you would introduce as the United States senator?
Sethi: The thing I’m hearing a lot about as I travel the state is healthcare. I mean, people now have premiums that are $24,000 a year with a deductible of about $10,000. And that’s just not right. And I think that the Republican establishment has not done right by not really repealing and replacing Obamacare with a sensible solution.
So my first bill would be just that. It would be a new bill that creates a new healthcare plan around three concepts. The first would be pricing transparency. You’ve got to know what you’re paying for. The second part would be to create a powerful insurance market that tries to move in a different direction to give people more insurance options and more choices.
And finally, it would be a program that focuses on changing the way that we pay providers to think about promoting wellness and not just treating disease. Because that’s why we’re facing a lot of the healthcare problems we have. But if I’m your next senator, my commitment to Tennessee is that we fix healthcare day one.
Leahy: Healthcare is your wheel house.
Leahy: So you’ve had a lot of experience with it. To follow up on that, how do you envision the kind of senator you would be? We have two models here in Tennessee. We have Marsha Blackburn on one end. And then sort of on the other end of the spectrum would be Lamar Alexander. Would you be more like Marsha Blackburn or Lamar Alexander?
Sethi: I think in my legislative philosophy I would be more like Marsha in the fact that I’m very conservative. But here’s the thing. If I do this and I go to the swamp to try to make a difference, I have a wife that I met when I was 16, and she was my first and only girlfriend. I have 2 children that are six and four and I’d be giving up a practice. And the reason I’d be going is to make a different kind of difference. So every day that I wake up, that’s how I’d govern.
Leahy: Carol Swain has a question for you.
Swain: I have several questions. Have you ever met, Donald Trump?
Swain: Where did you meet him?
Sethi: I met him in 2017. He invited me to the Oval Office to talk about Healthy Tennessee and what we were doing. I met him sort of at a round table and the Oval Office. What was so funny about it was when I met him, he couldn’t remember Manny, so he nicknamed me Tennessee.
Leahy: (Laughter) You look like Tennessee.
Sethi: And then I spoke at one of his rallies.
Swain: Ok. And as far as healthcare being your priority, I know that there are several bills that are being pushed by conservatives that are already under consideration. Do you see any of those as being part of the solution to fix healthcare? That’s one question. The other is since so many legislators have promised to reform healthcare and they’ve all failed, why should we believe that you’re going to be successful?
Sethi: That’s a great question. I think that there are parts of the bills that were good. There were parts of the Grand Cassidy that I thought were effective. But the bottom line, until you create a bottom line where there is true transparency in healthcare pricing and you need to focus on prevention.
I think those are two really important things that these bills have not had. That’s what I think we need to center on. Now to answer your second question, as a trauma surgeon there are frequent times when you have about two minutes to make decisions that impact life and death in your patients. And you have to work with people who have a lot of egos. Brian surgeons. Vascular surgeons. General surgeons.
I see people live and die every day. Hit by cars. Life is just so fleeting and it’s like a candle, it can be gone. So for me, I don’t have much of an ego. What I do best is to bring people around a table and make decisions. And I think that’s what makes me very different than most folks that go up there. I know how to cut through things to build relationships and get things done.
Now can I promise that it will happen? Absolutely not. But what I can promise you is that I’m a kid that grew up in rural Coffee County and I have lived the American dream in Tennessee. And my desire is to help people in this state and make a difference and I think we can get it done.
Listen to the full third hour here:
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