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McConnell: Health Care Public Option A "Non-Starter" For GOP


Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said President Barack Obama's plan to include government-backed health insurance for the public is a "non-starter" for most Republicans considering health care reform.

Appearing on CBS' Face The Nation Sunday, McConnell told host Bob Schieffer that Mr. Obama's plan for a government health insurance plan would essentially crowd out other insurers from the private market, eliminating competition.

"We can make incredible improvements in American health care, but I don't think having more government — in effect putting Washington between you and your doctor — is the way to go."

Schieffer countered McConnell's contention that the Obama plan would choose (or deny) which treatments a covered individual may get; the White House is not proposing any kind of rationing board, he said. He also repeated the administration's assertion that a public insurance plan would give people another option. "If they want to keep their private insurance, that's OK," Schieffer said.

"I know they say that, Bob," McConnell countered, "but if the government is in the insurance business there won't be any other insurers, it's inevitable."

"All of that really ought to be put aside if we want to get a truly bi-partisan proposal," he said bluntly.

The Republican leader said the United States already has the best healthcare in the world, albeit expensive, and said the focus should be on wellness programs and litigation reform.

In a statement Saturday, President Obama appealed to Congress to pass legislation which would increase the efficiency of health coverage for Americans to avoid higher cost treatments and hospital stays. "If doctors have incentives to provide the best care instead of more care, we can help Americans avoid the unnecessary hospital stays, treatments and tests that drive up costs," the president said.

Schieffer said that the option of taxing employer-based medical insurance is alive and well in the Senate (despite Mr. Obama's rejection of the idea during his campaign), and that the White House says nothing is off the table.

McConnell said the Senate Finance committee is grappling with how to pay for an expansion of the already-too-expensive government-run health care options.

"Let me tell you what I would do if I were in charge," he said. "I would equalize the tax treatment between companies and individuals," meaning he would give individuals paying for their healthcare a tax deduction.

The Obama administration is discussing reducing subsidies to hospitals. Schieffer asked if the senator thought that was feasible.

"I think that is going to be extremely controversial," he said. "You are going to hear from every hospital in America, and virtually every doctor, pushing back."

More from Face The Nation (6.14.09):

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  • Schieffer: Remembering Tim Russert
  • Read The Complete Transcript> (pdf)

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