NASHVILLE -- The Supreme Court decision upholding the federal health care law quickly worked its way into Tennessee's 4th District congressional race between Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais and state Sen. Eric Stewart, a Democrat.
DesJarlais' campaign on Friday demanded to know Stewart's position, noting the congressman, a Jasper physician, opposes the law and backs its repeal.
"The people of Tennessee's 4th Congressional District deserve to know where Eric Stewart stands on Obamacare," said DesJarlais' campaign manager, Brandon Lewis.
"In the past, Mr. Stewart has sung the praises of this job-killing bill that will wreck our economy and explode the deficit," Lewis said. "Because our efforts are focused on reducing the debt, creating jobs and getting the economy back on track, Dr. DesJarlais has pledged to repeal the bill with his vote."
In an interview Friday, Stewart, an insurance agency owner from Belvidere, countered that repeal would kill a provision that fills in a gap in Medicare drug coverage for seniors known as the "doughnut hole."
It also would allow insurance companies to deny coverage to people with pre-existing conditions.
Parents wouldn't be allowed to keep children on their own plans until age 26, as they can under the law, he said. And insurers would be free to put lifetime caps on payouts.
"Given all those great things that are in it, no, I wouldn't vote to repeal it," Stewart said. "Now, it still needs some work. ... What we need are leaders who can go up there and do the job they were sent to do and that's work together and solve the problems."
"Nobody's willing to do that right now" in either party, he said.
Asked what areas need work, Stewart said, "If there's a way to do it and pay for it without the individual mandate, I think that's certainly something we need to look at, we need to work together on."
He pointed out that GOP presumptive nominee Mitt Romney, when he was governor of Massachusetts, implemented a similar mandate and defended it as "the personal responsibility principle."
Lewis said Sunday that DesJarlais favors federal legislation that would "encourage national competition" among insurance companies by removing states' restrictions on out-of-state companies selling health insurance.
DesJarlais also backs "meaningful tort reform" and trading incentives for health savings accounts, Lewis said.
Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...