Leading Blue Dog: Covering uninsured not top priority of health reform

Rep. Mike Ross (D-Ark.) said on Wednesday that providing healthcare to uninsured Americans is "not what this healthcare reform debate is about."

In making his comments, Ross, who is the centrist Blue Dogs' health reform point man, questioned one of the primary healthcare goals of the White House and Democratic leaders.

"That is a side benefit to healthcare reform and an important one," Ross told the Arkansas Educational Television Network. Instead, the fifth-term congressman said the bill should focus on "cost containment."

The Energy and Commerce Committee member reiterated that he wants to pass a health reform bill by the end of this year, a desire that may irk some Republicans who supported his effort to slow the bill before August recess.

"The extreme right had a two-week love affair with me," Ross said. "The extreme right, simply, they do not want healthcare reform. And so, they saw me as killing healthcare reform because I put the brakes on
healthcare reform."

The influential fifth-term Democrat identified several provisions that would prevent him from voting for the bill.

On the public option, Ross said he would not vote for a plan that would "force government-run healthcare on anyone. Period." But he also said that the House bill contained a public plan that is "strictly...an option."

Providing government subsides for abortions, coverage for illegal immigrants, rationing of care, and deficit increases comprised Ross' deal-breakers.

"I've got the extreme right and the extreme left angry with me so I must be doing something right," he said.

Ross said the bill should reduce costs by allowing the Medicare to negotiate prices with drug companies and by dropping co-pays for preventitive doctors' visits.

In the end, Ross acknowledged that the House version may not make up the bulk of the final bill. He estimated that 90 percent of the conference committee bill would come from the Senate Finance Committee's version.


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