In a midday phone conference on Tuesday, Gov. George Allen discussed the looming health care bill currently before the U.S. Senate ... and his disappointment of that bill based on feedback from many voters around the Commonwealth. He also revealed that his family and employees take part in health care savings accounts, a plan he advocates and also promoted by John Mackey of Whole Foods.
Introduced by RPV's Communications Director Tim Murtaugh, the call offered an opportunity for the Governor to express his concern about issues in D.C. in today's economy. Gov. Allen bluntly said what was on the minds of many Americans ... "What the heck is going on in D.C. with health care?"
Traveling the state, he said he has heard from folks who are scared about the future quality of government health care. They wonder why Democrats are trying to push it through now with high unemployment, inflation on the horizon, and mountains of unprecedented debt which will cause a weaker dollar and higher interest rates. Many are struggling to make ends meet.
How, he asked, can we spend another $1 trillion that we don't have? No one can forecast the economy next year so now is not the time to take a gamble by spending $1 trillion to experiment on government health care. There needs to be serious health care reform but this Obama-Pelosi-Reid plan is not what is needed.
In VA, he added, issues in DC really resonate with local voters - cap-and-tax and all the additional costs associated with that including sky-high electricity prices -- private ballots for unions, and health care. Folks in D.C. should be listening to the people who are saying the government needs to focus on jobs and the economy instead of pushing a plan that is not wanted by Americans.
Small and large businesses are not hiring due to the uncertainity of future taxes and costs and looming health care mandates, Allen said. Even if they drop the "Medicare buy-in" option, there are still many more issues concerning the bill before the Senate including small business owners burdened with tax increases; half-a-trillion-dollar cut in Medicare; health care that is more expensive with more regulations and mandates (he used the example of John Mackey with Whole Foods who proposed using health savings accounts, something the Governor said he and his family and employees use), and government boards that will ration health care. Medicaid expansion is an unfunded mandate that will particularly hurt Virginia as legislators try to balance the budget and, he said, the last thing they need is an unfunded mandate from D.C.
Follow-up questions came from the Washington Post, WMAL Radio, and the Richmond Times Dispatch.
WMAL asked about accusations that the GOP is not concerned about health care reform because they want to keep the health industry executives wealthy and, if not true, why didn't the GOP do something about health care while Bush was president.
The Governor responded that the GOP is trying to make health care more affordable instead of having it dictated to people by remote bureaucrats. Options have been offered by Republicans in the Senate but they didn't have the vote. The ideas and principles of the GOP is to empower individual families to afford quality health care and have choices, not take choices away from them. Physicians in Republican ranks have introduced bills but they are in the minority and get no where. The Republican Party, he said, is for taxpayers, small business owners, and families to afford quality affordable health care while Democrats want greater dependencey on government at a huge expense including spending $1 trillion that we don't have.
The Washington Post commented that recently there have been stories that Republicans on Capitol Hill are hoping Virginia Sen. Jim Webb will be an unexpected vote for them on health care, and wondered if the Governor had a message for those Republicans.
Gov. Allen responded that all senators count when it comes to the vote whether it's Olympia Snowe or Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman ... all are needed to defeat this vote.
Perhaps the Times-Dispatch's closing question was what was on many minds with the comment that with all the Governor's work with the American Energy Center, with Paul Goldman, and standing up against the health care bill raising his profile, did he plan to run against Jim Webb in 2012?
Laughing, Gov. Allen said as long as he was breathing, he felt it was important and would continue to advocate positive ideas for the citizens of Virginia who hold a very special place in his heart.