Kline's Rx for health reform: Start over

Congressman Kline
U.S. Rep. John Kline, a Republican, represents Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District.
MPR photo/Tom Weber

U.S. Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., has a prescription for breaking the impass in Congress over health insurance reform: Start from scratch.

"What we ought to do," Kline told Minnesota Public Radio News, "[is] start with a blank piece of paper. Get Republicans and Democrats to sit down and say 'What's a good idea that you have?'"

Kline complained that the process thus far has not been bipartisan.

"Republicans were entirely excluded from the drafting process," he said. "So we have a bill that was drafted by Democrats that now Democrats ... are finding [it] very difficult to explain and defend."

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Kline is opposed to a government-run public health insurance program, raising concerns that it would lead to lower quality care and long waits for procedures.

And he is "very suspicious" about an alternative Democratic proposal to create private, nonprofit health insurance co-operatives modeled after Minnesota's HealthPartners.

"It depends upon what you mean by a co-op," Kline said. He and other Republicans have long supported a reform that would let small businesses band together to buy health insurance to broaden their risk pools and negotiate for lower premiums.

Kline said he needs more information about the Democratic co-op proposal, but he does not like the idea of offering $6 billion in government money to help member-owned insurance companies start up.

If Kline were writing the health bill, he said he would let children stay on their parents' health plans until they turn 25. He estimates that would extend insurance to 7 million of the more than 45 million Americans who don't have it.

He also supports regulations that would allow people to purchase health insurance regardless of pre-existing conditions.

Kline will hold a telephone conference call with constituents on Aug. 31. He says telephone "town hall meetings" allow more people to participate than traditional ones. They are also less susceptible to protests, which have disrupted such meetings across the country this month.

"When you go to one of the big circuses, which I think both parties have recognized have been hijacked by partisan activist groups, what you get is a venue for protest and shouting," Kline said.