McCain criticizes Senate health plan

11-24-09 McCain
Sen. John McCain held a health care town hall meeting with several Valley doctors at North Phoenix Baptist Church on Monday.(Nikolai De Vera | The State Press)
Published On:
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
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U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., on Monday criticized the health care reform bill that was approved for Senate debate on Saturday, saying it raises government spending to unsustainable levels.

“Americans are frustrated and angry because we have accumulated and continue to run up a … deficit of unprecedented proportions,” McCain said.

Speaking at a town hall meeting at the North Phoenix Baptist Church to an audience that included doctors and care providers, McCain said he also feared the prospect of health care being rationed by the federal government.

He cited a controversial report released by the Preventive Services Task Force last week that recommends against mammograms for women under 50 as cause for particular concern — a provision in the Senate bill would allow the Secretary of Health and Human Services to modify benefits to follow the recommendations of the task force.

“One of our greatest fears is health care rationing,” McCain said. “We don’t want the government deciding which procedures would be allowed and which wouldn’t.”

The crowd was made up largely of McCain supporters. During the public comments portion of the meeting, Arizona Medical Association President Beth Perdy criticized mandates that would require small businesses to provide their employees with insurance or pay a penalty, a measure she said would hurt her own practice.

“We ran the numbers, and [the bill] would increase our burden 2.5 times,” Perdy said. “We can’t bear that burden.”

The $848 billion reform bill reached an important procedural landmark Saturday, when the Senate voted 60-39 to open up floor debate. The bill includes a public health insurance option and a provision mandating all citizens purchase health insurance.

McCain criticized the Democratic majority as being uncooperative in bipartisan negotiations and ignoring Republican alternatives to the bill that include a provision to give families tax credits for medical care.

“We’ve had alternatives, but we just haven’t been able to get our message through,” he said.

Economics senior Todd Phillips said he feels the fears surrounding government-rationed health care are unfounded because coverage is already rationed by insurance companies.

“Government-rationed health care is really a misnomer because we already have health care rationing now,” Phillips said. “We already have the markets rationing, [and] we already have insurance companies rationing health care.”

McCain, however, argued that the bill goes too far, which has produced a high level of public backlash in the form of demonstrations and declining support demonstrated by the latest Rasmussen Reports poll. A report released Monday said 38 percent of voters approve of the plan, down from 47 percent last week.

“It’s out there,” McCain said. “The question is, will the Democrats understand that the people don’t want this?”

Reach the reporter at derek.quizon@asu.edu.