Former Senate GOP Leader: 'I would end up voting for' the healthcare bill

Former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) on Friday said if he was still a senator, he would vote for the healthcare bill.

"I would end up voting for it. As leader, I would take heat for it...That's what leadership is all about," Frist, who is a physician, told Time's Karen Tumulty in an interview. He also said he believes Congress will pass a bill, but did not say if it would include the controversial public health insurance option.

Frist told Tumulty that he strongly opposes certain elements of the bill. He believes the legislation does not do enough to bring costs under control and thinks it will not provide insurance to enough Americans, only 20 million extra under his count.

He appeared to signal support for a "trigger" mechanism that would have a public health option go into effect if private insurers do not meet certain benchmarks. Frist noted a similar system was used when Republicans moved prescrition drug legislation through Congress.

The ex-senator said that he does back individual mandates that require Americans to purchase health insurance and provisions that bar insurance companies from denying coverage to people based on pre-existing conditions.

Frist also blamed some Republicans for introducing hyperbole into the healthcare debate. "Clearly, the death panels and public plan arguments have been overblown," he said.

He also advises President Barack Obama to stay "nimble" in the debate and be ready to adjust as difficulties arrive.

Frist left the Senate after 2006 and was once thought to be a presidential candidate in 2008.