New Member of the Week: Heck targets healthcare reform replacement

Dr. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) campaigned in 2010 with a “repeal, repair, replace” mantra for the federal Affordable Care Act, using his unique position as an osteopathic doctor to criticize the legislation.

He was an emergency room physician, has trained medical first responders during 9/11 and still commands an Army hospital as an Army reservist.

Heck said now that the GOP House has voted to repeal the federal healthcare law, he wants to speed things up in terms of replacing it. He has plenty of ideas.

“The approach I have is patient-centered, it’s not the requirement to buy a certain package from a certain vender and you’re dictated what kind of coverage you must have,” Heck said.

Heck commended President Obama’s three goals of securing insurance for people who already have it, providing an option for people without insurance and bringing down healthcare costs, but he disagrees with the president’s methods.

“‘No preexisting condition’ exclusions have merit,” Heck said. “Same things with no lifetime caps, not being kicked off the day after you get sick and extensions of coverage for dependents.”

But Heck believes Americans should be able to purchase insurance across state lines and that insurance pools should be regional so that costs for individuals can be reduced by placing them in larger pools. He disagrees with state health exchanges and instead thinks the high-risk pools should remain intact rather than be replaced with exchanges in 2014.

Heck serves on the Education and the Workforce and Armed Services committees, and was selected by House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRestoring fiscal sanity requires bipartisan courage GOP congressman slams primary rival for Ryan donations Speculation swirls about Kevin McCarthy’s future MORE (R-Ohio) as the only freshman on the Intelligence Committee.

He is a colonel in the Army Reserves and has been called to active duty three times, including a deployment to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in January 2008.

He said he is most concerned that if the protests in the Middle East spread to Saudi Arabia, it will have a devastating effect on the U.S. economy and on gas prices. But Heck did not think the United States should have gotten involved in Libya.

“I think we’re still prosecuting military activities on two fronts,” Heck said. “I don’t believe our military can sustain another front.”

Heck also has strong opinions on the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, saying democracy in the region will never happen but that we should still fight to give the people a government that is people-centered, not ruler-centered.

“If success was instilling a democracy, I don’t think we’ll ever be successful,” Heck said. “I don’t believe you’re going to instill democracy in places that have millennia of tribal fighting.”

Heck also disagrees with the administration’s public timetable for withdrawal, and said that civilian leaders should listen to military leaders for direction on when to remove troops.

“I don’t believe the civilian power should have the timeline for withdrawal,” Heck said. “I think that when a general says ‘I can let a brigade go home,’ that’s when the brigade goes home, not because somebody says this month so many brigades are coming out, next month so many brigades are coming out.”

Heck is gearing up for a political war of his own to keep his House seat in 2012 after beating former Democratic Rep. Dina Titus by less than 2,000 votes in one of the country’s most populous congressional districts.

His southern Nevada district is mostly suburbs of Las Vegas and leans Republican, but barely. With Nevada gaining a district, that new district likely will take a big bite out of Heck’s.

“I have the most populous district in the country, about 1.1 million people, and I know I’ve got to give up 400,000 people to get to that target around 700,000, so yeah, my district is certainly not going to look like it does today,” Heck said.

The Las Vegas Sun reported that Nevada Democrats are considering redrawing the district lines to make Heck’s seat more Republican to ensure the new seat goes to a Democrat. That could make Heck’s reelection easier than the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee hopes.

Heck has shown he is prepared to buck his party in order to vote for programs that benefit his district. He was the only Republican to vote to continue the Federal Housing Authority Refinancing program and one of two Republicans to vote against terminating the Home Affordable Modification Program.

Heck said nearly 390,000 homeowners in his southern Nevada district are “underwater,” meaning they owe more than their houses are now worth.

“There is an opportunity for them to refinance their mortgage and get a lower payment, we’re not looking at giving them a principal reduction, nothing crazy, just doing a refi[nance] so they can get a lower payment due to a lower interest rate and save $400-$500 dollars a month,” Heck said. “To me that’s the kind of program that does make sense.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story included incorrect information.