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McCollum Pulls Health Care Debate into Governor’s Race

Republican Bill McCollum weighed in Tuesday opposing efforts by the Obama administration to overhaul health care, warning that a “government-run health care option” is dangerous to state residents, particularly older Floridians.

Instead, McCollum announced that his campaign for governor is forming a health care advisory board to provide recommendations in coming months.

McCollum also signaled that the board’s proposals would likely center on a GOP-styled blueprint of more limits on lawsuits, more competition among private insurers, and urging Floridians to take better care of themselves.

“Today, while you might have the most vulnerable people on Medicaid and Medicare, you’re now proposing that everyone have a public option,” McCollum said of the Democratic-led Congress. “You’re proposing that everyone have a socialized government plan that limits my choice of a patient and doctor, my choice of insurance, and limiting the care you’re going to get.”

With polls showing voters nationwide growing more wary – or at least confused – about the health care initiative, McCollum clearly is trying to pull controversy stemming from the Democratic initiative into the Florida governor’s race.

McCollum called on gubernatorial rival, Democrat Alex Sink, to unveil her stand on the health care plan. Sink has said she is still studying the wide-ranging Congressional proposals, sidestepping questions about the controversial public-option feature.

One of McCollum’s chief criticisms of the Democratic-backed health care plan pivoted on its push to reduce Medicare spending by $500 billion by cutting annual increases paid to hospitals and trying to improve home care so seniors are not hospitalized as frequently.

McCollum said the move will result in a reduction of care for older Floridians. Florida Democrats, however, pointed out that while a member of Congress, McCollum voted seven straight years in the 1990s to reduce Medicare spending, shield nursing home operators from lawsuits, and opposed patients’ rights legislation backed by Democratic lawmakers.

Congress this week renews debate over Obama’s push to create a new nationwide health plan, aimed at reining-in the rising cost of federal Medicare and state Medicaid programs while expanding health insurance to the millions of Americans with no coverage.

The president is scheduled to speak Wednesday to a joint session of Congress. McCollum added his voice Tuesday to the rising chorus of Republicans opposing Obama’s continued support for a government-operated insurance plan.

“What I’m opposed to is a government-run public health care insurance option that would cause, in my judgment, a diminishment of private insurance,” McCollum said.

More than 4 million Floridians are uninsured, one of the highest populations in the nation, according to Families USA, which annually surveys insurance coverage. McCollum offered no steps for extending insurance coverage, saying he expected to his advisory board to come up with some proposals as the governor’s race continues.

McCollum’s 13-person board includes seven doctors, including a past president of the Florida Medical Association, Dr. Karl Altenburger, and current head of the Florida Osteopathic Medical Association, Dr. Robert Blackburn.

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