Congressman addresses health care at forum
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Even if President Barack Obama's health care overhaul is eventually repealed, the issue will continue to occupy the nation's attention as Congress addresses spiraling costs and the uninsured, Republican U.S. Rep. James Lankford said Tuesday.
"This is going to be a battle for a while," said Lankford, who fielded questions about the future of the bill at a citizen's forum.
The congressman said he disagrees with supporters of the law that the federal government can manage the nation's health care needs better than the private sector.
"There are real issues here," he said. But the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling that largely upheld the law means it will continue to go into effect, including crucial elements that will not become effective until after the presidential election in November.
Lankford said the U.S. House's GOP majority has voted to repeal the health care legislation 26 times since it was signed into law by Obama two years ago but that the Democratically controlled Senate has blocked the measure. Another repeal vote is scheduled on July 11, he said.
"This is a Senate issue," Lankford told the more than 60 people who attended the forum.
Speaking to reporters after the forum, Lankford said coverage of a patient's pre-existing conditions by health insurers and the transferability of insurance policies from one employer to another are key reforms in the law that he supports. One of the least popular aspects of the law is the requirement that most people have health insurance or pay a penalty.
The law calls for states to create online marketplaces where people can shop for and buy health insurance. In those that don't, the federal government may step in and take over.
Lankford said he takes no position on whether Oklahoma should create its own health insurance exchange.
"That's an Oklahoma decision. I try to stay out of an Oklahoma decision," Lankford said.
Earlier this year, Oklahoma's Republican-controlled Legislature rejected $54 million in federal money to help set up the exchange, largely because of resistance from conservatives who claimed the plan would link the state to new federal requirements.
Addressing the nation's budget issues, Lankford said it will take years to reduce the nation's rising debt level that is nearing $16 trillion.
"If you haven't heard, we're in serious budget trouble," Lankford said. He said the U.S. budget deficit this year will be about $1 trillion, about $300 billion less than last year. He says House Republicans have developed a plan to dramatically reduce the debt over 10 years.
"We've got to get started on it," he said. "We're so far out of balance."
Lankford blamed the Obama administration for exacerbating the nation's debt crisis but conceded that the country experienced deficit spending as high as $458 billion a year under the administration for former Republican President George W. Bush.
"We spend too much," Lankford said.
Lankford was first elected in 2010 to the open 5th Congressional District seat that includes nearly all of Oklahoma County, along with Seminole and Pottawatomie counties to the east.
Lankford was the only one of Oklahoma's four incumbent Republican congressmen who did not face a primary challenger this year. He will face Democrat Tom Guild and two independents in November.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.