Bill McCollum opposes insurance “public option’
Bill McCollum, the likely GOP candidate for governor, said he opposes a government-run “public option’ for health insurance.
BY STEVE BOUSQUET
Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau
TALLAHASSEE — Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum is eager to inject healthcare into the 2010 race for governor by blasting a government-run health insurance option and chiding his Democratic rival for not doing the same.
“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,” McCollum told reporters Tuesday.
McCollum, who served in Congress for 20 years, would face Alex Sink, the state’s chief financial officer, in next year’s election to succeed Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for the Senate.
Sink has not taken a stand on the public-option question and did not respond to a request for comment. Instead, her campaign issued a statement criticizing McCollum as having been an ally of insurers, not patients, while in Congress.
That prompted McCollum’s campaign manager, Matt Williams, to criticize Sink’s “disgraceful ducking of this critically important issue.”
“How can she lead our state when she won’t answer the most pressing question of the day?” Williams said.
McCollum also cited a “huge problem” of high malpractice insurance premiums as a festering issue in America’s healthcare system. He also opposes any provision that would expand Medicaid enrollment because some costs could be shifted to cash-strapped states.
McCollum, however, did say he supported the politically popular and government-run Medicare and Medicaid programs.
Floridians’ unease over federal healthcare reform proposals is reflected in a recent Quinnipiac University poll that showed an 11-point drop in President Barack Obama’s popularity in the state to 47 percent.
Major labor unions that are important players in statewide politics in Florida strongly favor the public option, backed by leading Democrats in Congress who say it would be a way to provide competition for private insurers.
McCollum also announced the formation of a 13-member Health Care Advisory Council to guide him on health policy during the campaign and, he said, after he would take office. The panel includes doctors, nurses and a managed-care company executive.
Florida has the nation’s highest percentage of Medicare patients and a large and politically active elderly population.
AARP’s Florida director, Lori Parham, said in a statement that she hoped McCollum “will look not only to doctors and insurance executives but also to ordinary Floridians with and without insurance. They are the true face of the current health reform debate.”
Sink campaign spokesman Paul Dunn issued a statement that said: “During his 20 years in Congress, McCollum voted eight times to cut Medicare by at least $650 billion, voted to raise the eligibility age for Medicare and Social Security and voted to make it harder for government to crack down on healthcare fraud. Bill McCollum is in no position to question anyone else until he answers for his decades-long record.”
Asked what he did in Congress over 20 years to improve the nation’s healthcare system, McCollum said: “Look, you’re asking me to cover many years being in Congress. I’m not going to do that this morning.”
The Florida Democratic Party cited more than a dozen cases in which McCollum voted to slash funding for Medicare and Medicaid, programs that serve Florida’s elderly, poor and children.
Steve Bousquet can be reached at email@example.com.