Health care reform is a hot topic in political races across the country this year. Having a cardiologist, a neurosurgeon and a dentist in the race leading up to Georgia's 9th District special election Tuesday only pushes the topic more to the forefront.
Dr. Lee Hawkins, Dr. Chris Cates and Dr. Bert Loftman all have touted their experience in the medical field, but other candidates also have brought their ideas to the discussion around the district.
Six Republicans, a Democrat and an independent will be on the ballot Tuesday to replace former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, who resigned to run for governor. All the Republicans and the independent want the recently passed health care package repealed completely.
Gainesville dentist Dr. Hawkins, who has been criticized in television ads for not signing the Club for Growth's Repeal It pledge to rescind the national health care law, said the recently passed health care legislation has "too many wormholes" and needs to be repealed.
He said the bill sets up too many people managing health care and not enough people delivering it. He also faults the legislation's price tag, saying the finances don't add up.
"It doesn't take a financial expert to figure that out," Dr. Hawkins said.
Creating more competition is the key, said the former state senator. Insurance should be sold across state lines, he said, and people should be able to buy policies through groups such as churches or Rotary Clubs.
Dr. Cates, a cardiologist from Blairsville, agreed that more competition is needed. He said insurance needs to be portable, with people owning their own policy rather than tied through employment. Businesses should be allowed to pool together to get a better rate, and insurance needs to be sold across state lines, said Dr. Cates, who brought a copy of the bill in two wide binders to candidate forums.
He also said patients need to have more of a financial stake in their treatment. He said if patients had to pay a higher percentage on the cost of prescriptions, they would be more likely to look for generics or discount drugs rather than letting insurance cover expensive brands without a second thought.
The other doctor in the race, Dr. Loftman, said the U.S. Constitution doesn't give the federal government any authority to perform the duties outlined in health care reform, which he calls Obamacare. He said the entire package needs to be repealed and other measures installed to make the insurance industry more competitive.
He said patients need more choice and echoed Dr. Cates, saying patients need more of a financial stake in their care. Competition between doctors when patients start shopping around would drive prices down, he said.
Sticking with his platform on other issues, Dr. Loftman said the country's current tax code is anti-savings and should be reformed to give people more incentive to save for medical emergencies.
But not all of the candidates want to repeal the bill. Mike Freeman, the lone Democrat in the race, said there's work to be done to the health care bill, but repealing the whole package would be a shame.
"It is not perfect by any means, and it needs a lot of work," said Mr. Freeman, a former Episcopal minister from Oakwood, Ga. "There are no simple answers once you get away from the Republican solution, which is to get rid of it."
He said the reform does such good things as giving more people coverage, closing the "doughnut hole" in drug coverage and giving older college students coverage through their parents.
He admitted that Congress needs to "tighten it up a good bit" and that some of the system's cost projections are "overly optimistic."
That cost, as well as the intrusiveness of the reform, worries Bill Stephens, a candidate from Cumming.
"It would take quite a bit of surgery to extract all of the bad parts of this bill," said Mr. Stephens, a former state Senate majority leader.
He pointed at the problems in health care for veterans as an example of how the federal government handles medicine.
Mr. Stephens, the president of a communications firm and former banker, said reform is necessary and it should do something about pre-existing conditions and put an emphasis on preventative care. He also said lawsuit reform is necessary.
Ranger real estate developer Tom Graves claims to be the third person in the United States to sign the Club for Growth's Repeal It pledge, which now features signatures from more than 300 candidates.
He said part of the solution involves cracking down on illegal immigration because illegal aliens drive up the cost of health care by using services but not paying taxes. He also said individuals need the same tax deals corporations get in terms of insurance.
"There are plenty of solutions out there that don't involve a government takeover," Mr. Graves said.
He criticized the three candidates with medical backgrounds, saying they may know health care but said they're "one-dimensional" on other topics.
Chickamauga resident Steve Tarvin echoed the sentiments of other candidates, saying doctors and patients need to be in more of a "buyer-seller relationship" because that would promote competition.
As a business owner, he said the new system could save his company $500,000 per year but employees' coverage wouldn't be as good.
He said he objects to the reform because it oversteps the government's duties.
"The federal government has no power to tell people to buy anything," he said.
Independent Eugene Moon agreed, saying the federal government should only exist to protect life and liberty. He said each citizen is responsible for himself and family and there should not be any federal rules in regards to health care.
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