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Johnson, Gill Differ On National Health Plan

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Johnson, Gill Differ On National Health Plan

The candidates for the state's 15th Congressional District sparred Thursday over whether the U.S. should have a universal health-care system.

All Americans should have access to medical care, but creating a system run by the government will not accomplish that goal, U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, a Republican from Urbana, told a gathering of lawyers and doctors Thursday night at the Bloomington Country Club.

But Democratic challenger Dr. David Gill said other nations with universal health care - Canada, Japan and Great Britain to name a few - have higher life expectancies for their citizens and lower infant mortality rates compared to the U.S.

"It would be over-bureaucratized," Johnson said of a universal health-care system. "It would be costly. The average citizen would feel the pinch. Government never does things as effectively as the private sector."

While acknowledging the current system is far from perfect, Johnson argued the U.S. still provides its citizens with the greatest health care in the world.

"We do have the best health-care system here in America," Gill said after Johnson finished speaking. "If you can afford it."

Gill, medical director of the emergency room at John Warner Hospital in Clinton, supports a proposal in the U.S. House that would create a national health-care plan that is a single-payer-system insurance plan.

Requiring co-payments for those who use the system would help curb abuse of the system, Gill said, responding to concerns raised by several doctors during Thursday's event.

Johnson, who beat Gill for re-election to his seat in 2004, left the event after he finished speaking Thursday and did not stay for his opponent's presentation.

Fixing the current system incrementally should be the focus of lawmakers rather than copying what other nations have done, Johnson said.

"Our system right now is not a bad system. It's a good system. It's important we recognize that," Johnson said. "To throw out a system that's worked very well for this country ¦ is not something we should do."

But with 46 million out of 300 million people in the U.S. not having health insurance coverage, Gill said the system is beyond repair.

Gill pointed to Social Security, Medicare, fire, police, sewers and roads as examples of services effectively taken over by the government. Health care should be next, Gill argued.

"I'm not talking about perfection," Gill said of the universal health-care system. "I'm saying let's put it in place and have health-care people work on its implementation."

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