The top national Republican leader on Friday visited Las Vegas to
criticize what he called President Barack Obama's "socialist-style"
health care reform, saying the 2-year-old law has increased costs,
hobbled the economy and put government in the way of private
A group of a dozen protesters held up pro-Obama health care signs as Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus had a news conference outside a doctor's office with Nevada's Republican U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei.
Priebus welcomed the demonstrators and said he hoped the 2012 election would center on whether Obama's health care reforms are helping or hurting Americans and Nevadans.
"I hope it is a referendum on Obamacare because we'll win in every battleground state in America," Priebus said. "And we'll fire Barack Obama and help save the country economically."
Priebus choose Nevada to attack Obama's Affordable Health Care Act because of its status as a key battleground that could determine whether the president wins a second term. Obama easily won the Silver State in 2008 but since has become less popular partly because of the divisive health care law.
The news conference comes before the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday starts hearing several days of oral arguments on the question of whether the law is constitutional. The most controversial part of the law would require every American to have health insurance.
Obama allies and Democrats argue the law already is helping millions of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Nevadans get better, and in some cases cheaper, health care.
Insurance companies no longer can deny coverage to people with "pre-existing conditions," and men and women younger than 26 years old can be covered by their parents' insurance under the law.
Prescription drug costs for seniors have gone down. And insurance companies no longer can require deductibles or co-payments for preventive care such as mammograms and colonoscopies.
Michael Ginsburg, one of the protest organizers, said Republicans have offered no health care solutions, while Democrats and Obama are working to help seniors, the disabled and others.
"They don't have any answers," Ginsburg said of Obama's GOP opponents.
Priebus argued that the law remains unpopular. He cited a recent national poll that suggested two-thirds of Americans would like to see the law or parts of it repealed as Republicans want.
Asked about consumer-friendly portions of the law that seem popular, Priebus acknowledged Republicans do support certain elements of Obama's health care reforms but overall reject the law.
"There were certain provisions that Republicans did agree with, but this idea of a big Obamaworld, socialistic-style health care policy for all Americans - putting the power in the bureaucrats and away from the patients - is something that we totally reject," Priebus said.
Obama visited Southern Nevada earlier this week, stopping at a Boulder City solar plant to promote his energy policy. But he didn't talk about the health care law he signed two years ago on Friday.
"It's no secret why he's avoiding the topic," Priebus said, adding the law is "wildly unpopular."
GOP presidential front-runner Mitt Romney signed a similar law when he was governor of Massachusetts, making him vulnerable to arguments he is like Obama when it comes to government involvement in health care. Priebus dismissed such comparisons, saying a broad federal insurance mandate for all Americans is different than a state approving its own law.
"He promised again this morning that he would repeal the federal mandate if he's elected president," Priebus said of Romney. Other GOP contenders have vowed to do the same.
Heller slammed the law, saying he voted against it several times and voted to repeal it. He said the cost estimate of the law's provisions have gone from$900 billion to $1.7 trillion. At the same time, insurance premiums have gone up by 25 percent in the past two years, Heller added.
"There's one guarantee in the president's health care bill, and that's to guarantee every American, every Nevadan, has the same bad health care," Heller said. "That's the purpose of this bill."
In a teleconference with reporters Thursday, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., defended the health care law. He was joined by a Hispanic nurses organization and a woman battling breast cancer.
The Obama administration also has sent statistics all week, touting benefits to Americans across the country and to Nevadans specifically. Some 477,000 Nevadans got preventive coverage with no cost-sharing thanks to the law. As well, seniors saved a total of $12 million on prescriptions, and some 22,640 young adults gained insurance coverage as a result of the new law, it said.
Nevada Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange on Friday praised the president for making history by reforming health care to ensure Americans from all walks of life are covered one day.
"Two years ago with the stroke of a pen, President Obama achieved what no other president had accomplished for decades - comprehensive reforms that improve access to affordable health care coverage for all Americans and end the worst insurance company abuses," Lange said in a statement.
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