President, Republicans Far Apart on Health Care

By: The Associated Press
By: The Associated Press

Some congressional Republicans say President Barack Obama squandered a chance to build bipartisan support in his health-care address to Congress.

Cong. Gregg Harper of Mississippi's third district called on President Obama to "go back to the drawing board".

“Republicans continue to seek constructive solutions to making quality health care coverage available, affordable and accessible for every American, regardless of pre-existing health conditions," said Harper in a written statement. "But the truth is, if the Democrats wanted a bipartisan bill, they would produce a bipartisan bill.

Harper said the Democratic leadership insists that a public option must be in the bill, in order for it to pass the House of Representatives. He says a "government-run public insurance option is unsustainable, places unnecessary burdens on our small businesses and would saddle Mississippi with unfunded mandates in the form of substantially higher Medicaid costs."

Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker says he had been hoping to hear Obama "flesh out a middle ground, but instead we heard platitudes and campaign rhetoric."

They say the problem is his continuing support for a government-run plan for the uninsured.

In his speech to Congress, President Obama said an option to private insurance should be part of any health care overhaul. He says it would keep insurance companies honest and the government-run option would be part of an insurance exchange for last-resort coverage.

Obama said the Congressional Budget Office estimates that less than 5 percent of Americans would sign up for the option. He said the public option would not be subsidized by taxpayers, but would be self-sufficient and rely on the premiums it collects.

He said the public option is a way to ensure affordable health care through competition, but he's open to other ideas.

In his GOP response to the Obama speech, Republican congressman Charles Boustany said that "replacing your family's current health care" with a government-run program is "not the answer."

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