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While U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss said he applauds President Barack Obama for making health care reform a priority, the Georgia Republican is in no way interested in supporting a bill that creates a public health care option.
Chambliss, like most Republicans, said he did not believe the government should get involved in the health care system "in a major way," when he spoke to Gainesville’s Kiwanis Club Tuesday.
Obama’s plan would take control of about 17 percent of the nation’s economy, Chambliss said.
"Let’s don’t forget one thing — and I’ve told (the president) this directly — we live in a country that has the best health care system in the world," Chambliss said. "We are the envy of all other parts of the world when it comes to health care delivery."
The senator from South Georgia said he wanted to find a way to provide health care to those who could not afford it, but not the Democrats’ way. The Democrats’ plan, he said, would lead to rationing of health care.
He also said he defined "uninsured" differently than the Democrats.
Chambliss stood next to a chart titled "The Uninsured Are Not All the Same," and told Kiwanians that 6 million of the nation’s uninsured residents are illegal immigrants. More than double that number are eligible for state-sponsored health care programs such as Medicaid and PeachCare, he said.
"There are that many people across America who just don’t take initiative to go to the DFCS office or whatever the Collateral office in New York, or other states is, and sign up for it," Chambliss said. "It’s available to them. The government will pay for it today, but they don’t take advantage of it."
Chambliss said creating preventative programs that would help people avoid so-called lifestyle diseases, bills that would allow people to purchase health insurance in other states and insurance pools for high-risk patients are better attempts at reform than a "universal" health care option.
"I think there are a number of things that we need to do that will be real meaningful reforms, and we’ll drive down the cost of health care," he said after the Kiwanis meeting.
Like his Republican counterparts in the House of Representatives, Rep. Nathan Deal and Rep. Phil Gingrey, who spoke on health care in Gainesville on Aug. 12, Chambliss told Kiwanians tort reform also is integral to health care reform in the nation.
He said it already has helped control the cost of health delivery in Georgia, though he later said more minimal tort reform could be more effective.
Chambliss said constituents across the state have asked him not to mess with the health care delivery system they have now, but he said some of the reaction to the bill in the U.S. has been caused by misinformation spread by representatives and senators from both parties.
"I think there’s been a lot of misinformation on both sides," Chambliss said. "I have tried to be factual and certainly am willing to stand by anything I’ve said in any of mine."