News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

September 4, 2009

Ellsworth stays central on health care reform

Congressman says he favors changes, won’t back bill that increases deficit

TERRE HAUTE — EDITOR’S NOTE: On Friday, 8th District Congressman Brad Ellsworth conducted his second conference call with constituents to discuss health care reform. Media were allowed to listen in, but were not permitted to participate. Reporter Arthur Foulkes did so, and filed this report.

U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth, D-Indiana, is walking a cautious line regarding still-developing health care legislation in Washington.

In a one-hour “town hall” conference telephone call with constituents Friday, Ellsworth said he will not support a health care bill that increases the federal budget deficit or forces private insurance companies out of business.

“I don’t want to eliminate private health insurance companies,” Ellsworth told about 90 residents of Indiana’s 8th District during the conference call. “I don’t want a single-payer plan.”

On the other hand, Ellsworth said he favors some important health care changes. He wants to prevent insurance companies from refusing coverage to people with pre-existing medical conditions and wants to guarantee Americans can keep their insurance even if they change jobs. The second-term congressman also said he favors lifting restrictions that prevent insurance providers from competing for customers across state lines.

“My number one goal in this … is to protect what works and fix what doesn’t,” Ellsworth said. “Doing nothing is not an option.”

Ellsworth is one of about 50 moderate to conservative “Blue Dog” Democrats in the House of Representatives. The Blue Dog Coalition has expressed concern about some features of President Barack Obama’s health care proposals. According to the New York Times, Blue Dog Democrats represent conservative districts and “have the most to lose if a Democratic [health care] bill spurs a backlash.”

Ellsworth was careful to leave his options open during his phone conversation with constituents. He emphasized that a final version of a health care bill has not yet taken shape on Capitol Hill. He also said he would not have voted in favor of a proposed bill prior to congress’s now-concluding summer recess.

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