EXCLUSIVE: Warner: Obama misplayed health care debate

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EXCLUSIVE:

Freshman Sen. Mark Warner, Virginia Democrat, said Tuesday that President Obama has misplayed his attempt to reform U.S. heath care by focusing on insurance coverage instead of explaining that the current system is headed toward a financial meltdown.

“I wish the president would have started the debate by explaining to the American people that our current health care system is not financially sustainable, for even another decade,” Mr. Warner said. “Driving down health care costs should have been the focus of the debate.”

Mr. Warner, 54, made millions investing in technology ventures before he became Virginia’s governor from 2002 to 2006 and helped cut the state’s $6 billion deficit through a tax package.

On Tuesday, he told The Washington Times’ “America’s Morning News” radio show the key points of the debate should be that the largest contributor to the U.S deficit is federal spending on health care, Medicare will go bankrupt in the next seven years and the average American family will spend 40 percent of its disposable income on health care insurance.

He also said the cost of insurance on U.S. businesses is increasing their costs, making them less competitive in the worldwide market.

“As a former business guy, I believe America has to stay competitive in the global economy,” Mr. Warner said.

The effort by the Democrat-controlled Congress to fulfill Mr. Obama’s goal of reforming health care in his first year began this summer, with contentious debates on Capitol Hill, then in town-hall-style meetings across the country.

The House last week passed a reform bill, but the Senate has yet to hold a full vote. Among the major issues are cost, a potential government-run system and now abortion funding.

Mr. Warner also said Tuesday that he, along with some Republicans and fellow Democrats in Congress, think the economy will never fully recover from the recession unless the roughly $1.4 trillion federal deficit is brought under control.

He said old methods are not working and advocated for a bipartisan commission to make a new set of regulations on which Capitol Hill lawmakers could vote only “yes” or “no.”

“I’m a new senator, but I don’t see how we’re going to get the deficit under control if we do it through the regular order in the Senate in which people can add and protect their own programs.”

He said some Democrats also are saying they might not vote to extend the ceiling on the debt without a commitment to create the commission.

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