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Boustany Hits Obama on Public Option, Urges New Start

Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.) on Wednesday night criticized President Barack Obama and Democratic leaders for refusing to scrap the controversial public insurance option and urged them to start over with a new health care reform plan so that a bipartisan plan can be passed through Congress.

In the Republican rebuttal to the president’s prime-time address about health care reform, Boustany said the public option would eliminate private insurance companies entirely, ultimately raise the cost of care and would cut Medicare by $500 billion.

“That’s not just my personal diagnosis as a doctor or a Republican; it’s the conclusion of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office — the neutral scorekeeper that determines the cost of major bills,— he said.

“The president had a chance tonight to take government-run health care off the table,— Boustany said, speaking from a room on the Senate side of the Capitol. “Unfortunately, he didn’t do it.—Boustany, a little-known Representative, was selected by House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) to give the Republican response because of his 20-year career as a cardiovascular surgeon and for his work on health care since he was elected to Congress in 2004.

“I read the bill Democrats passed through committee in July,— said Boustany, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. “It creates 53 new government bureaucracies, adds hundreds of billions to our national debt and raises taxes on job-creators by $600 billion.—

While the bulk of the speech was critical of the proposed Democratic health care reforms, Boustany listed four areas where Republicans believe they can agree with Democrats on health care reform, including eliminating denial of insurance based on pre-existing conditions, allowing small business to join together to get health insurance at a lower cost, providing access to doctors to those who cannot afford it and incentives for “wellness care and prevention.—

“We do have ideas the president hasn’t agreed with,— he said.

Boustany also offered cautious praise for Obama’s commitment to reform medical liability reform.

“We’re grateful the president mentioned medical liability reform, and we hope he’s serious,— he said.

Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) delivered the Spanish-language response to Obama’s speech. The GOP was criticized in January for failing to have a Spanish-language response with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s rebuttal to Obama’s address then. The effort to have a Spanish-language response to a presidential address was started by the Democratic National Committee in 2003.

The Democratic campaign committees spent Wednesday circulating information assailing Boustany’s record as a legislator and as a physician

“Congressman Boustany’s no votes on issues ranging from providing health insurance for children, to fighting pandemic flu, to keeping the doors open at community health centers makes him a credible voice for special interests, but not for hardworking Louisianans who struggle with health insurance companies,— Jessica Santiago, a spokeswoman for the DCCC, said in a release Wednesday afternoon.

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