Healthcare Townhall in Houston

Just a week ago, President Barack Obama spoke in Chicago to the American Medical Association.

"If we do not fix our healthcare system, America may go the way of GM — paying more, getting less and going broke. When it comes to the cost of our healthcare then, the status quo is unsustainable. And when I hear people say well why are you taking this on right now, you've got all these other problems — I keep on reminding people I'd love to be able to defer these issues but we can't."

The president's plan to overhaul the healthcare system could start moving through Congress in a few weeks.

But Republican Senator John Cornyn, on a visit to the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, says Congress should take a cue from the medical profession and first do no harm.

"This thing is moving so fast and will have such a dramatic impact on healthcare delivery in this country and on the quality of care that we need to take our time and get it done right."

Cornyn was joined by Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Leader, and by Arizona Sen. John McCain. The three men spent about an hour addressing questions from the audience.ξ McCain took the lead throughout the event, saying the system is broken, but a government-run healthcare program may not be the solution.

"It's not the quality of healthcare in America that we're worried about. The quality of healthcare in America is the best in the world. It's the cost that's out of control, it's the inflation, it's the unfunded liability of some $40 trillion in Medicare which our children and grandchildren will have to pay."

McCain suggested consumers should be able to shop for health insurance across state lines, something that's not currently allowed. He also proposed a $5,000 refundable tax credit to help pay for health coverage. He says those measures would create competition in the insurance industry and bring costs down.

While the Republican proposals may not fall exactly inξline with the administration's plan, the senators and the president agree on one thing.

"I know there's been much discussion about what reform would cost, and rightly so. This is a test of whether we, Democrats and Republicans alike, are serious about holding the line on new spending and restoring fiscal discipline. But let there be no doubt, the cost of inaction is greater."

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
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