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VOL. 125 | NO. 197 | Monday, October 11, 2010

Health Care Remorse

Bredesen’s new book details concerns over Care Act

By Andy Meek

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In his new book out this month titled “Fresh Medicine,” Tenn. Gov. Phil Bredesen criticizes health care reform as a “stunning disappointment.” (Daily News File Photo/Lance Murphey)

Gov. Phil Bredesen thinks it’s “probably a good thing” he was passed over last year when Kathleen Sebelius was tapped as the nation’s new secretary of health and human services.

“I think I would have been very unhappy there, and they would not have been happy,” Bredesen, who was reportedly on the short list for the job, told The Daily News by phone from Nashville. “What I think needs to be done (about health care) is different enough from where the Congress and congressional staffers were that it just would have been a problem.”

If anyone would like him to elaborate, they can peruse a new book he’s written. “Fresh Medicine,” released this month, is full of his ideas about the nation’s health care system – why he thinks it’s broken, what he thinks needs to be changed and how he thinks it can be fixed.

Some of Bredesen’s strongest criticism is reserved for the controversial health care reform legislation Congress passed earlier this year, which Bredesen sums up in the first chapter this way: “What a stunning disappointment.”

He goes on to describe it as a misguided attempt at reform by adding millions of uninsured people into a system that he believes remains broken and in danger of wrecking the nation’s finances.

About the contention from supporters of the bill that it will “bend the cost curve” of the nation’s debt, Bredesen writes, “When you’re in a boat that is taking on water fast and may sink, you don’t try to ‘bend the curve’ of how much water is coming in. You try to plug the hole and start bailing.

“The cost control provisions of the Affordable Care Act don’t plug the hole we already have, punch a few new ones for good measure, and bail with a paper cup.”

Comments like those make Bredesen’s one of the most prominent national Democratic voices to oppose the current direction of health care reform, a stance characterized by an almost exclusively Republican rallying cry against big government and public spending.

In some circles, Bredesen’s tenure in the governor’s mansion will be remembered for his championing of new industry recruitment by the state. More recently, he led Tennessee to become one of two states to win the first round of Race to the Top federal education funding.

In other circles, Bredesen will be remembered for his trimming of TennCare’s rolls and benefits, something he says was tough and necessary but still “only bought the state about a decade.” He thinks the next governor will face even tougher choices because of the health care reform bill.

Bredesen’s proposed solution: a financing model built like the one for Social Security, where the program is funded outside of general government revenues by something like a payroll tax. A trust fund is set up, and benefits are funded from that.

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