Leahy Challengers Oppose Health Care Reform Bill

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(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy’s vote for the health care reform bill has drawn criticism from his two challengers in this year’s U.S. Senate race.

Both say they strongly oppose the legislation, but as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, the candidates disagree with Leahy for different reasons.

(Kinzel) The legislation includes insurance reforms, a mandate that all people have insurance, subsidies for individuals who can’t afford coverage and additional funds for community health centers.

Senator Leahy says it’s not everything he wanted to see in a bill but he says it’s a start:

(Leahy) "I would much prefer a public option I will always support a public option but I’m not going to let perfect become the enemy of the good I’d like to get this passed and then keep working for a public option."

(Kinzel) Woodstock businessman Len Britton is seeking the Republican U.S. Senate nomination. He opposes the bill and has vowed to try to repeal it if he’s elected in November:

(Britton) "When the Federal government mandates and tells people that they have to have an insurance policy or they’re going to get a fine or tax from the I.R.S. I think that that is certainly the government reaching in and intruding into people’s lives."

(Kinzel) Instead, Britton says he supports a plan to allow individuals to purchase insurance from any  state in the country and to let consumers choose what kind of coverage they want.  He says this competition will make insurance more affordable:

(Britton) "If you’re young and healthy and probably don’t want to spend as much on your health insurance you get a catastrophic policy if you’re of a certain age or have issues that you want to make sure you’re covered for you could get a more expensive and more inclusive policy and I think that again the free market might offer solutions to that that we have yet to explore."

(Kinzel) Meanwhile, Wilmington physician Dan Freilich is challenging Senator Leahy in the Democratic primary.  Freilich says he would have voted against the health care bill because it’s much too weak:

(Freilich) "Overall I think it’s kind of like winning some battles but losing the war and it puts back true reform dramatically so I don’t think in the long term it is to our advantage to pass this bill."

(Kinzel) Freilich supports a single payer health care system and he says he’s very disappointed that Democratic leaders in Washington didn’t engage in a full debate over the pros and cons of a single payer system:

(Freilich) "So I think it’s incredibly misleading of the leadership in our party and the executive not to have at the very least at the very least even if it’s not enacted but a discussion with the American people about what are the potential options and when you have one it has the possibility of having the best moral framework because it covers everybody and the best economic basis for it because it actually saves money and it saves a lot of money."

(Kinzel) Freilich says he would be willing to consider efforts to reform medical liability laws as part of a package that would include a single payer system.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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