By James D. Wolf Jr.
Health reform legislation and its ramifications topped the list of concerns as Dan Coats, Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, met with Valparaiso community leaders Friday.
Those concerns began and ended the meeting of about 36 business and civic leaders.
Coats, who served as a representative for eight years and a senator for 10, wanted to hear what issues concern them.
"I'm not here to talk to you. I'm here to listen," he said. But he started with his own concerns.
"The debt is unstoppable, and we're going to pay consequences," he said.
He also said health reform is needed, but "those reforms do not need to be made in a one-size-fits-all."
In response to what could be done to the recent health care reforms, Coats said, "I think we can put up amendments that can modify or improve (it)."
He agreed with Porter hospital officials that the new plan will complicate the shortage of general practitioner doctors, which could mean the 20 million people using emergency rooms for primary care will end up back there because of waiting lists.
Coats also voiced concerns about doctors retiring earlier and fewer becoming general practitioners because they'll have to work until age 50 to pay off student loans.
On finance reform, Coats said that Congress is sweeping the good firms in with the bad.
There's a need to protect the 401(k) plans, but there should be room for people that want to take risks.
Too much regulation will mean no one wants to give credit to start-up businesses, he said.
"My concern in Washington is that they're trying to make us a risk-free country," Coats said.
That's not how to get innovation, he added.
When asked about education and the recent problems with teachers being laid off in Indiana, he said he views education "as an essential to future prosperity" but as a local and not federal issue.
But local governments "shouldn't stifle the ability to go experiment," Coats said.