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Rep. Roe: 'I think it's good that everyone should be on health insurance' [Bristol Herald Courier, Va.]

By Roger Brown, Bristol Herald Courier, Va.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 16--U.S. Rep. Phil Roe expects the Supreme Court to overturn the federal government's health care law.

"I think it's good that everyone should be on health insurance," Roe added, during a meeting Thursday with the Bristol Herald Courier's editorial board. "But I don't think it's constitutional [to require it]."

In April, the Supreme Court heard arguments on the constitutionality of the act, which was proposed by President Obama and eventually approved by Congress. The nine-member court is expected to issue its decision in the coming days.

"I hope the ruling is 6-3, either way," Roe, a Johnson City Republican and former practicing obstetrician/gynecologist, said regarding the upcoming vote. "That way, it's a decisive decision."

Roe, 66, was first elected to Congress in 2008 and announced earlier this week that he'll seek re-election in November.

The current health care law, Roe said, is cumbersome and has largely worked to keep driving up health costs.

"When you write a 2,700-page bill, there are unintended consequences to it," he said.

The two-term congressman said the health care law -- which has been labeled "ObamaCare" by critics of the Democratic president -- has also had a chilling effect on the private sector.

Roe noted a recent business survey that suggested 75 percent of firms aren't adding new jobs or expanding because of concerns about future health care costs.

"They are not hiring because of the uncertainty over the Affordable Care Act," he said.

If the law is overturned, the congressman said he and other Republican lawmakers would move to produce new health-care legislation aimed at giving Americans more freedom to choose their coverage -- while encouraging market competition and reducing the current law's red tape.

"We're proposing to go back and make it more patient-oriented and market-driven," Roe said. "Give people more freedom to make their own choices. The market needs to work."

Roe's criticism drew a sharp response Thursday from Brandon Puttbrese, a Tennessee Democratic Party spokesman.

"Congressman Roe, like many Republicans, are better at complaining than they are at offering realistic, workable solutions on health care," Puttbrese said.

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He added that since becoming law two years ago, the Affordable Care Act has given millions of Americans health insurance that they previously lacked -- including huge numbers of seniors in Tennessee.

'What is Congressman Roe planning to tell those people who didn't have health insurance before [ACA] and do now, because of it?," Puttbrese said. 'That they don't deserve it? He and other Republicans are clearly guilty of playing politics on this issue."

In other comments during his interview with the Herald Courier and WJHL Channel 11, Roe:

--Praised the deep level of cooperation between congressional Republicans and Democrats in addressing veterans issues. A former Army medic, Roe is a member of the House's Veterans Affairs Committee.

"We ask [veterans] to preserve our freedoms -- the least we can do is take care of them," Roe said. "And I believe there's a bipartisan understanding of that."

Roe noted that while federal spending has been cut dramatically in numerous areas, funding for veterans-related programs has increased.

--Said jobs and the economy remain the major concerns of Tennessee voters -- and criticized Obama's approach to addressing those priorities.

"The president's idea is that we can expand the public sector and expand the economy [that way]," Roe said. "He's got it backwards. What you want is a growing private sector. Get the boot off of the private sector."

--Admitted to some frustration that many believe Republican lawmakers -- particularly the GOP-majority House -- are blocking Obama's efforts to improve the economy for political purposes.

"We've sent [numerous] appropriations bills to the Senate, which will not act on them," Roe said of the House. "We're doing our job. I don't know what else I can do. It's frustrating. And then the president blames us for not moving things along."

--Said that during the first three months of 2012, his area congressional staffers handled some 1,000 cases on behalf of 1st District constituents -- such as helping an elderly and poor diabetic resident receive donated supplies of insulin.

"This is probably one of the most fulfilling things we do," Roe said regarding his office's local outreach efforts.

rbrown@bristolnews.com

(276) 645-2512

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(c)2012 the Bristol Herald Courier (Bristol, Va.)

Visit the Bristol Herald Courier (Bristol, Va.) at www2.tricities.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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