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Health care heats up — first with Hill, then RNC chair


September 09, 2009
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele visited Floyds Knobs Thursday to briefly speak about the issue that has the entire country up in arms: health care.

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Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele visited a doctor’s office in Floyds Knobs about what he said were problems with the plan presented by Ninth District Congressman Baron Hill and his fellow Democrats. Photo by Ross Schulz
"No matter how you dress that pig up, no matter how much lipstick you put on it, it's still a nationalization of the health care system," Steele said. "It's still taking control out of your (health) and putting it in the hands of the federal government. That's not what the American people want."

Steele targeted Indiana Ninth District Congressman Baron Hill, a Democrat who has shown support for the current health care bill on the table in the House of Representatives.

"You've got representatives who play a conservative back home," he said. "Then, in Washington, it's a whole different ball game. Baron Hill is one of those."

Steele criticized Hill for his attitude toward citizens during town hall meetings.

"You don't push back; you shut up and listen to what they have to say," Steele said. "But, Baron can't do that."

The small suite at the Physician Associates of Southern Indiana in Highlander Point was packed with supporters of Steele, who didn't take long to address solutions for health care.

He said first and foremost, to reduce the cost of health care, the government should embrace tort reform. Tort reform would potentially limit the circumstances under which injured people may sue and limit the amount of money juries can award to injured people — generally referring to malpractice lawsuits in health care.

"President Obama had tort reform on the table for about 12 hours," Steele said. "I guess he had a conversation with the trial lawyers."

Steele said another reform opportunity that would vastly improve the system is health insurance portability, or being able to cross state borders for a more competitive insurance plan. If someone moves from state to state, Steele said, they have to start over with the health care options.

He also said small businesses should "pool" together to bargain with insurance companies so employee costs are not astronomical.

Steele attacked the proposed plan, which includes taking $5 billion out of the Medicare system to pay for the new program.

"I asked the Democrats what impact that would have on seniors," he said. "Crickets. No answer."

Steele said he hoped President Obama's address to Congress, scheduled for tonight (Wednesday), includes Republicans' ideas as well instead of pushing them away.

Steele was introduced by Dr. Dan Eichenberger, who invited the chairman to use the facility.

Eichenberger said what the Democrats and the Obama administration are planning is appalling.

"I think you'll find the Republican Party has good reason to oppose this health care legislation," he said.

Steele did take a few questions after his statement, one of which asked whether the plan can be tax neutral.

"No way, no how. Every single American who earns a pay check will pay," he said.

Steele went on to refute the claim that 95 percent of taxpayers will see a deduction.

"That's not happening," he said.

Steele said the Obama administration has already put more than a trillion dollars on a "credit card," and the planned health care bill will add another $1.3 trillion.

"Gee, who's going to pay for it?" he asked. "It's not a deficit-neutral proposition."

The morning stop was the first of four on a two-state "barnstorming" tour through Indiana and Ohio.

Corydon resident and former Harrison County Councilwoman Rhonda Rhoads said she thought it was a great opportunity to hear the national chairman.

"He's an eloquent speaker," she said. "I think he's going to be able to take the party in the right direction."

Not everyone at the event was on Steele's side. Less than 10 protesters stood outside of the building with signs, one of which read, "Republican health plan: Don't get sick." Another asked, "When does the greed stop?"

One such resident, Sandra Orlandi of Floyd County, said she's on Medicare and has no problem with it. "It works so easily; there's no paperwork," she said.

Other signs supported a single-payer plan.

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