Shuler opposes health care legislation, but says “we’ve got to have reform”

Rep. Heath Shuler was in Asheville on Aug. 28, fielding questions from citizens on the radio and speaking to local businesspeople. He reaffirmed his opposition to health-care-reform legislation currently before the U.S. House of Representatives but said, “We’ve got to have reform.”

The whip for the caucus of conservative Blue Dog Democrats, Shuler spoke at a lunch of the Council of Independent Business Owners and took questions from callers on Matt Mittan’s radio show on 570 AM.

“It’s emotional; health care is something that we all need,” Shuler said. “I want to see a way we can do this through encouraging a better lifestyle.”

Shuler reasserted his opposition to HR 3200, the health-care-reform legislation currently before the U.S. House. That bill would require all Americans to have health care, would set up a federal insurance program aimed at driving costs down by competing with insurance companies,  would ban insurance-company practices such as denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions and would levy a surtax on households making over $350,000 a year to help pay for it all.

But Shuler said that the bill would increase the deficit too much, doesn’t do enough to reduce health-care costs and also doesn’t provide enough incentives for individuals to live healthier lifestyles.

“I’ve sat in front of the Speaker [Nancy Pelosi] and pleaded my case to her and the House leadership about prevention, wellness and disease management,” Shuler said earlier that day to 200 local business owners at the CIBO luncheon. “We can lower the health costs of this country because we’re going to be more responsible for our health care.”

However, Shuler did note that achieving a healthier lifestyle would be difficult for low-income families. He recalled taking on the “Welfare challenge”: spending no more than $1.15 on each meal for a week.

“I wouldn’t have made it without McDonald’s cheeseburgers,” he said.

Shuler touted the Asheville Project – an initiative that combines education, patient care and pharmaceutical advice to improve the health of those with chronic conditions, thus reducing overall premiums – as a model for health-care reform.

During his 2008 re-election campaign, Shuler received $130,852 in campaign contributions from the health-care industry, more than any other Democrat in the state’s delegation. But when a caller brought that up on Mittan’s show, Shuler denied that financial backing has affected his decision to oppose the bill.

“No one buys my vote,” he replied.

Despite his opposition to the overall bill, Shuler told Xpress after his radio appearance that he supports a list of eight restrictions that limit health-care companies. These restrictions, called for by the White House and part of HR 3200, include prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage based on pre-existing conditions, requiring companies to fully cover regular checkups and capping a consumer’s annual out-of-pocket expenses.

“We’ve got to reform the system,” Shuler said. “When someone changes jobs because of a down economy, they’ve got insurance, but once their COBRA [a form of temporary insurance] runs out, then they get denied. That’s wrong.”

While Shuler has spoken to business and civic groups in the area, he has pointedly declined to hold in-person, public town halls on health care, instead opting for “tele-town halls” where constituents call in questions. He defended that decision on Mittan’s show.

“A colleague of mine held a town hall meeting, answered 25 questions in three hours, [and] because they had to stop to take time out, people were yelling and screaming,” Shuler said. “In just a little over an hour, I answered 24 at my first tele-town hall.”

He called the tele-town halls “much more civil” and asserted that by using mass media, he’s reached far more people than he would with a standard public forum.


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34 thoughts on “Shuler opposes health care legislation, but says “we’ve got to have reform”

  1. Piffy!

    [b]Shuler gets my vote. [/b]

    if you knew how to find the polls, that is…

  2. entopticon

    There is no coming back from this for Shuler. There is nothing that he could do to redeem himself. I have nothing but contempt for him left.

  3. Bjorn

    Heath Shuler looks like you’ve fumbled & dropped the ball again, when you could’ve scored a winning goal for the People of NC & The USA! We clearly see where your loyalty lays!

  4. Bjorn

    Looks like Heath Shuler is addicted to feeding at the trough of Insurance Companies! He’s completely fumbled & dropped the ball again. It’s hard to care about others isn’t Heath, especially when they’re not filling your feeding trough– full of special interest dough! We clearly see where your loyalty lays!

  5. Question Authority

    Rep Shuler is wise enough to represent the views of his constituency. And we are conservative blue dog democrat. That means we believe in hard work and a man’s right to keep most of the fruits of his own labor. A man’s right to as much personal freedom of choice as possible. And that certainly includes freedom from a socialist government takeover of healthcare. Thank you Rep Shuler. Don’t mind the complaints of the few liberals in Asheville. WNC is with you!

  6. BusGreg

    If the final bill does not include single payer or public option then it is not reform and shuler will not get my vote. The basis of the democratic party’s platform has always been health care for all Americans. If shuler can’t get get that in his head he should run as a republican, his voting record is more in line with them anyway.

  7. entopticon

    Speak for yourself “Question Authority.” There are a whole lot of us who sure as hell aren’t blue dog Democrats here. It really is funny how people from the areas that take far, far more than their proportionally fair share from the government tit, such as this one, are so often the very same ones to rant about socialism and “a man’s right to keep most of the fruits of his own labor.”

    Healthcare nightmares are far and away the leading cause of bankruptcy in the US. There was a time when fire departments worked for profit too. It was not uncommon for them to show up at your house while it was on fire, and haggle over saving it while it burned to the ground. There was even a time when law enforcement was private, and that was even more of a nightmare. And healthcare for profit is even more ridiculous than either.

    There is a country with virtually no taxes or government services… It’s called Somalia. I am sure they would be happy to have you.

    This short animation video might help a little:

  8. John

    If the primary concern is to make sure everyone has health care, why not just expand medicare and medicaid? Why create a whole new mega army of civil servants that are just going to duplicate a lot of what the Gov’t is already doing?

  9. John

    Cecil, do you know why Shuler is a BCBS Democrat? Because BCBS is who provides congress and the rest of the Fed Gov’ts health care. They do an awesome job. So awesome in fact that Congress refuses to put itself first in line for the public option and leave BCBS. The exact same Congress who wants you and me on a plan they won’t use themselves.

  10. John

    Just to clarify .. I’m referring to the 46 million ‘uninsured’ when I talk about expanding medicare and medicaid.

  11. Question Authority

    John, good points. In their quest to “fix” healthcare, our more liberal friends are not paying attention to the detail. This is a very big step. It is every citizen’s responsibility to understand the entire legislative proposal. Of course, if Obama hasn’t read it, and himself doesn’t understand it, then why is he asking us to support it? And if obamacare is such a good idea, WHY DON’T THE CONGRESS AND THE PRESIDENT WANT TO BE ON THE SAME PLAN AS THE REST IF US?

    I support Rep Shuler’s opposition to this particular bill. Come up with another bill and this time don’t let Nancy Pelosi be in charge of getting lawyers to write it. Get medical professionals closely involved in any other plan. Leave the lying lawyers out of it completely. Ooops, that’s right, then the politicians would be left out of the writing of the bill. Hey, a good idea! Shakespeare was right about the lawyers!

  12. evolved

    Shuler sounded like he was taking diction lessons from Sarah Palin, she must have spoken at a K Street professional development seminar, and Shuler took notes. He actually said that health care is a right to “some people”– like children, senior citizens, and veterans. So… lower, middle class parents of children? They don’t have a right to health care? Well, I hope he feels justified, when a parent puts off medical visits because they can’t afford it. That’s hardly a service to our children!

  13. Frank Ricci

    “Cecil, do you know why Shuler is a BCBS Democrat? Because BCBS is who provides congress and the rest of the Fed Gov’ts health care. They do an awesome job. So awesome in fact that Congress refuses to put itself first in line for the public option and leave BCBS. The exact same Congress who wants you and me on a plan they won’t use themselves.”

    Yes John. I want the same heath care policy that Congress and the president have.

  14. BusGreg

    While I consider WLOS to be nothing more than a bunch of propaganda swill merchants, their recent online poll is revealing as to where the local people stand when it comes to public option.
    72.54% want the public option, which is in line with much of the country. Shuler DOES NOT represent us, we are not blue dogs and all this clown does is represent Blue Cross Blue Shield!

  15. John

    BusGreg – online polls are statistically junk. That is why poling companies don’t do them.

  16. John

    Cecil – Medicare is a fiscal disaster and always has been. Their operations are tragically flawed and they are continuously on the verge of bankruptcy. Why would you predict success with that model? Thom knows nothing of the inner workings of Medicare or Medicaid.

  17. Frank, Question, Nam Vet or Cullen – will you please combine your multiple personalities into one online persona? It makes it terribly difficult to ignore your post.

  18. J

    I think there may be something to the whole “start over” approach that a small handful of elected officials have advocated.

    Clearly, this bill is too much for everyone to digest and be happy with. While the need for reform is urgent, a stand off is not going to help anyone.

    Piecemeal approaches may be more feasible, it’s better than trying to shove the whole Sunday meal down the disposal.

    Debates with narrower focuses, such as what we want our insurance market to look like, and just who and what should government cover in terms of health care, would allow for a more specific debate without having to cover so many bases at one time.

  19. Bert

    “We do have the best medical care in the world. We do not want to change this high qualioty. We just want to try to make it more available to lower income people.”

    And how does this availability to lower income people occur without a public option, may I ask? And please don’t tell me the private insurance companies will do it out of the generosity of their hearts; they’ve had half a century and more and it hasn’t happened. Reagan told us the private sector would solve our problems and yet we still have all these uninsured people.

    We did win a commanding election last November, people. It’s our turn to govern now, and if you don’t like it you need to win elections. Make Palin or Cheney your nominee in 2012 and take your best shot.

  20. John

    “And how does this availability to lower income people occur without a public option, may I ask?”

    I’m glad someone finally asked.

    The answer is very simple. The gov’t is going to pay for these people regardless of where the coverage comes from right? The whole point of universal coverage is to get the 46 million covered by somebody right?

    One way to get them covered is thru Medicaid or Medicare. Expand them into those programs … Existing Gov’t health care entities.

    The other way is for the Gov’t to just pay the premiums for these people if they get their coverage from the insurance industry. Do it thru tax credits or some other model.

    Was that so hard? The Public Option and getting people covered are two completely different issues. The creation of a new mega gov’t entity is totally unnecessary to getting people covered.

    Your class warfare arguments are a distraction.

    Next question?

  21. J

    Gosh, Bert, this is sort of awkward. The President is not insisting on a public option; so if you look behind you, the crowd of support for the public option is really dwindling. Be sure you’re not the last one standing there.

    “It’s our turn to govern now”. That’s terriffic. Are you going to stand by the wayside if your party loses in 2010? After all, Republicans are more trusted to deal with health care than Democrats:

    Be careful what you wish for.

  22. Bert

    OK dude then I want to see Heath Shuler and Richard Burr introducing legislation that expands medicare and medicaid to include all uninsured people in the USA. This will spend the exact same amount of money as the public option, so I’m not sure how you think you have a zinger of an argument.

    And because your “plan” will spend the exact same amount of money as the public option, you aren’t going to see conservatives pushing for it at all.

  23. Bert

    “Gosh, Bert, this is sort of awkward. The President is not insisting on a public option; so if you look behind you, the crowd of support for the public option is really dwindling. Be sure you’re not the last one standing there.”

    Dude, I could seriously give a crap about popularity. I don’t support reform because its the popular thing to do, but because it’s the right thing to do.

  24. Bert

    And yes, Obama has waffled on this. But I didn’t support him because of his personality but because of what he campaigned on. And he explicitly campaigned on the need public option and managed to win the state of NC in the process, so go figure.

  25. faerie

    Not much to say except I find shuler to be a republican in democrat’s clothing. ugh.

  26. entopticon

    Shuler’s disgraceful attempts to spin the facts for the insurance and pharm industries will not go unnoticed in the next election. It is a fact that countries with universal healthcare spend far less on healthcare, not more. The huge percentage of the money that we spend on healthcare that goes to lining the insurance and pharm industries’ pockets with enormous fortunes is pure waste.

    Next election, I will support any candidate that supports universal healthcare who runs against Shuler, Republican or Democrat.

  27. BusGreg

    John McCain, Mitch McConnell and Roy Blunt, all republicans, all claiming that the Govt is no good and inefficient at running healthcare and that it should be the insurance companies calling the shots have one other thing in common.
    All three had surgeries at Bethesda Naval Med Center, a wholly government owned and run health care facility! It is not about who paid for it in this case or whether they are entitled to the best care available to them. On one hand the deride govt health care, and then avail themselves of it. With their incomes – McCain doesn’t even know how many homes he and his multimilionaire wife own – certainly could have paid the premiums and enrolled with BCBS or Aetna.

  28. GabrielV

    Just take a peek at and you will see who is contributing to the campaign funds of our politicians. Some people call these donations, others might call them bribes. Either way, we can see why it is said that our government is the best that money can buy.

    Our representatives (regardless of political affiliation) no longer represent our interests (even though we pay their salaries)…because we don’t send money along with our requests for assistance. It’s amazing how quickly they sell their minds and bodies to special interests that flash a roll of cash.

    If Congressman Shuler isn’t the politician you want in Congress, remember that he is up for re-election next year and your responsibility as a citizen is to be active in the elections to have the “right” individual elected.

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