Mitt Romney speaks in St. Pete on health care
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11/27/07 Seán Kinane
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

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Tomorrow evening is the Republican CNN/YouTube debate at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg. This morning, one candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney spoke about health care to about 20 health care workers and the media at St. Petersburg’s All Children’s Hospital.

Romney is leading the polls in New Hampshire, which will hold the country’s first primary election on Jan. 8.

Romney said 47-million uninsured Americans don't have access to health care. Romney said uninsured people are a drain on the economy and if more people were insured, they wouldn’t get what he called "free care" by going to the emergency room. Romney addressed the problem in Massachusetts by requiring residents who did not have health insurance to purchase it.

“If we took the money that we’re using to give out the free care and use that instead to help people buy insurance, well, then, we’d have enough money.”

Because of his plan, Romney said the cost of health insurance for an individual went from $350 per month to $180 per month. If elected president, he would prefer that all states adopt a plan similar to the one in Massachusetts.

Romney said he spoke a year ago with former Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman, who predicted that health care would be the most important issue of the 2008 presidential campaign.

Romney said three of the leading Democratic candidates are advocating government-run health care. He said when times are tough, such programs would lead to the government cutting back on reimbursement rates and decreased health care quality.

In fact, none of the leading Democratic candidates are advocating a single payer universal health care system.

According to a 2004 report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a universal single payer healthcare system would save more than $200 billion a year, more than enough to provide healthcare to the country’s uninsured.

But Romney compared government-funded health care to its notoriously poor response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Romney touted Medicare Part D, a troubled program that was supposed to bring low cost prescription drugs to seniors but has made it more expensive for many.

A member of the audience asked what Romney would do about his mother, who has Medicare {art D and private insurance yet still spends $500 per month on prescriptions. Romney said he didn’t want to allow Americans to import prescription drugs from other countries because of drug safety and he wanted to protect the patents of drug companies to raise the price of foreign drugs.

“And I would rather make a much greater effort on our part to get other countries to abide by our patents and our intellectual property.”

Romney was asked about spending on veterans’ healthcare and he said he would increase government funding on healthcare for veterans and for the military in general.

The Republican CNN/YouTube debate will be held at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Pete at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

Photo credit: Seán Kinane/WMNF

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