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Warner urging changes in ACA

U.S. Sen. Mark Warner said Friday during a stop in Fredericksburg that Congress never gets it right the first time.

He was opining about the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which he said has positive attributes but also a lot of negatives.

“There’s some on the Democratic side who say, ‘Oh, we can’t touch a word of it,’ ” Warner, D–Va., told a gathering at the Fredericksburg Expo & Conference Center. “There’s some on the Republican side who say, ‘Let’s repeal it for the 54th time.’ But what I think we need and what’s kind of more the American way is, let’s keep what’s good, and let’s fix what’s wrong.”

Warner, who is running for re-election, was the keynote speaker at the annual meeting of Germanna Community College’s Workforce Advisory Board.

The Affordable Care Act is expected to be the main issue surrounding this year’s midterm elections. President Barack Obama this week announced that 7.1 million people have signed up for private insurance under the new law, a better-than-expected outcome after a rocky start.

Warner gave a wide-ranging speech but didn’t delve into health care reform until a Culpeper Chamber of Commerce rep asked him about Medicaid expansion, which is part of the new law.

The Virginia General Assembly is at a political stalemate over whether to expand health care for the poor. Many Republicans say they don’t trust the federal government to live up to its commitment to pay for the expansion.

Warner, who was Virginia’s governor from 2002–06, said he understands that concern, but added that “you could make that same comment about any federal government program.”

“From a plain old business standpoint, I just don’t like the idea that we’re sending five million bucks of our tax dollars away to Maryland or New York or Illinois, particularly when these folks who don’t have coverage still show up on the hospital door ” Warner said.

Advocates of expanding Medicaid say Virginia would receive what amounts to about $5 million per day from the federal government.

Addressing the health care law as a whole, Warner said: “Lord knows, this law’s got some good things in it and some bad things in it. But I don’t think we’re going to go back as a country to a time when people with pre-existing conditions couldn’t get health care coverage.” He noted that he has a daughter with juvenile diabetes.

Among the changes he said he’d like to make to the new law are more choices for health care coverage. Warner is pushing a proposal that would add a cheaper level of Affordable Care Act plans.

“If somebody wants to have cheaper rates and have a higher deductible, they ought to have that choice,” Warner said.

Republicans have seized on the fact that people have had their policies canceled for not meeting the higher benefit requirements of the Affordable Care Act.

Ed Gillespie, a Republican strategist who is Warner’s likely challenger, said the senator “voted for Obamacare after promising Virginians he wouldn’t vote for health care reform that takes away the coverage that we like.”

“Now he thinks we should keep it and tweak it,” Gillespie continued in a statement to The Free Lance–Star. “I opposed Obamacare, warned of its negative impacts and would repeal and replace it. Virginians will have a clear choice in November.”

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402