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Tim Johnson at CIRA
U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson, R-Urbana, talks to reporters Friday, Jan. 7, 2011, at Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington. (The Pantagraph/David Proeber)

BLOOMINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tim Johnson admits health care reform is needed, but he said Friday he would like to see the law passed last year replaced with a more thought-out, market-based version.

“We’ve got to address the critical issue of health care and do it constructively, but you don’t do it by essentially nationalizing our health care, kicking seniors to the back of the bus and killing jobs,” Johnson said. “So we’re going to go back, repeal that monster, and start all over again.”

Johnson made his remarks Friday during a stop at Central Illinois Regional Airport in Bloomington.

Earlier Friday, Johnson joined the GOP majority for a 236-181 procedural vote, largely along party lines, that sets the stage for the House to vote next week on repealing last year’s law.

Johnson, an Urbana-based Republican representing the 15th Congressional District, said rules have been set up for a full day of debate on the issue Wednesday.

“We’re not going to act in a vacuum,” he said. “We’re going to have seven full hours of debate, with a week’s notice, which they (the Democrats) didn’t give us when they passed this.”

But Jim Duffett of the Campaign For Better Health Care in Champaign said there has been years of discussion on the health care issue.

“This was a debate in the 2008 election, and in the Clinton election. It wasn’t like we woke up and found 50 million uninsured (people),” said Duffett.

Even if the GOP-controlled House approves repeal, the effort is expected to fail in the Democratically controlled Senate.

Johnson argued that the best way to reform health care is to work with the free market, but he said the law passed last spring relies too heavily on government intervention in the industry. For example, the law will require most Americans to carry health insurance, either through an employer, a government program or by purchasing their own.

Duffett, contacted after Johnson’s appearance for comment, said Illinois residents are already benefiting from some provisions of the law such as better pharmacy benefits for Medicare clients and a provision allowing people up to age 26 to remain on their parent’s health insurance.

“Instead of wasting all this time, they should be working on getting more jobs out there,” said Duffett of the repeal effort.

The Associate Press contributed to this report.


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