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Tribune Star - GOP Senate Candidate Dan Coats Supports Repeal of New Health Care Law

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Location: Terre Haute, IN

By Howard Greninger

Dan Coats, Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, on Wednesday told a Terre Haute group of about 20 health care providers, including physicians and community leaders, that he supports repeal of the new national health care law and starting all over.

"I think this package is unmanageable and fatally flawed," he said during a campaign stop in Terre Haute at the Holiday Inn. Coats has previously staged health care discussions in Valparaiso, Seymour, Fort Wayne and Crown Point.

Coats said to be realistic, as a repeal requires two-thirds of both the House and Senate to overturn a presidential veto, health reforms must also be considered.

"I don't think it is an either-or, but a both-and," Coats said of repeal and health reform.

Coats said Indiana is among several states trying to repeal the new national health legislation as unconstitutional.

Coats said he advocates putting "sensible non-bank-busting policies in place that provide quality care and access for people that control costs."

One solution is tort reform, Coats said.

"Doctors practice a lot of defensive medicine and their [insurance] premiums are extraordinarily high. It is the plaintiffs' lawyers that are driving up those costs and we need tort reform on a national basis. We also need to give people more access to competition in buying policies."

Dr. Zenaida Contreas, a pediatrician, told Coats she thinks "there should be universal vaccinations" for children and ways to improve coverage for education and medical treatment for problems dealing with obesity.

Dr. Kayur Patel, chief medical officer at Terre Haute Regional Hospital, told Coats that childhood obesity "will become a bomb down the road" in Indiana and be a leading cause of death.

After the discussion, Coats commented on Contreas' idea.

"What she has suggested is more mandates out of Washington and I don't necessarily think that is the right thing," Coats said. "Bottom line is, this doctor is interested in children's health and we ought to be interested in children's health. There are a lot of things that can be done short of always running to Washington and having some kind of mandate on that."

Vigo County Coroner Dr. Roland Kohr, a forensic pathologist, told Coats he spent his early medical career in a veterans hospital. "My experience in a veterans hospital, in the absence of medical students and residents [physicians] who are providing free care, it is a house of cards about to fall down.

"If I heard it one time, I heard it 100 times, when you ask someone to do something, they say "it is not in my job description' because that was the federal employee mentality. I am afraid if that is the model for what regular health care is, we are in big trouble," Kohr said.

"We can't have that civil servant mentality. I encourage you, ask doctors about their experience in a VA hospital, if it was a positive one or an unpleasant one," Kohr said.

Pat Carney, vice president of employee benefits at ONB National Insurance, said 500,000 more will be covered in Indiana when the new health laws take effect in 2014, with more than 30 million nationwide. Carney questioned whether there will be enough physicians to handle new patients.

Dr. George Bittar, a cardiologist, said most of those numbers include healthy people age 20 to 30, a majority who will not come into a doctor's office. "I don't think by 2014 we will have a crisis of people coming to see a doctor. I think that is somewhat exaggerated. The point is that we need to do some fixing."

Carney added that an employer with 50 or more employees can pay a $200,000 penalty under the new health plan.

"We sat down with a manufacturer of 100 [workers] spending $1.3 million, with his part $1.1 million, so employees are picking up $200,000," Carney said. "He said if this economy doesn't turn around, he can drop his group health insurance, pay his $200,000 a year and be in the positive by $900,000 and his employees, with health conditions, can now go into the exchange."

Bittar, after the campaign discussion, said, "I think there are very good elements in the bill. I am here to see if any better options are being presented. We needed this bill because what was done before was not sustainable. Let's see what are the weaknesses and if it can be modified."

Coats said options such as a self-insurance plan used by Safeway Inc., which includes health incentives, should be put into a new health bill.

"I want to build in patient responsibility and build in incentives for people to live healthy lifestyles and disincentives for people who don't," Coats said. He gave an example of car insurance premiums being higher for someone with a speeding violation, but insurance is less-expensive for drivers without violations.

"If you can demonstrate that you are pursuing a healthy lifestyle, as opposed to an unhealthy lifestyle, that ought to give you a better break. Those kinds of personal responsibility and incentives are not baked into this plan," Coats said.

Coats first outlined his health plan options in April. They can be viewed at www.CoatsforIndiana.com.


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